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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Plant of the Month (June) : Farewell-to-spring – Clarkia amoena


Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) in Mother Nature's Garden of Health


Right now, some the prettiest flowers are in Mother Nature’s Garden of Health; in fact, it was hard to choose between them.  But the showiest by far is Farewell-to-spring, Clarkia amoena.  Of the three Clarkias we grow, this is the latest to bloom – truly ‘Farewell-to-spring’ or ‘Summer’s Darling’.  To learn about our other Clarkias see: http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2013/01/plant-of-month-january-purple-clarkia.html and http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2014/05/plant-of-month-may-elegant-clarkia.html.

Farewell-to-spring is native to the coastal plains and ranges of Northern California north to British Columbia, Canada.  It generally grows in drier areas of its native range, making it a good choice for local gardens.   Like our more local Clarkias, this species is an annual wildflower.  Many annual wildflowers like the Clarkias adapt well to garden life, even outside their native range.
 

Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) - growth habit

Farewell-to-spring germinates in our garden in spring, when the weather begins to warm up.  The plants are many-branched with an open, somewhat stiff upright habit.  The leaves are narrow, alternate and usually a medium green.  The entire plant is 1-3 feet tall; in our garden Clarkia amoena is more robust than the Purple clarkia and more branched than the Elegant clarkia.

Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) - Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

In its native setting, Clarkia amoena blooms from June until August – sometimes even well into fall along the Northwest coast. It usually flowers when other wildflowers and cool-season grasses are turning brown (see above).  In Southern California gardens, it may begin blooming in May and will continue well into June or even July.  Flowering seems to depend on warm conditions, so a warm dry spring promotes earlier flowering.  The bloom season can be prolonged by summer water.

Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) - range of flower colors

This is perhaps the loveliest of the native Clarkias.  The flower color ranges from pale pink to bright magenta, ‘hot pink’, red and lavender.   The four petals are most commonly pink with darker magenta splotches towards the center. The flowers in our Garden of Health (below) represent this common form.

Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) - close-up of flowers

The flowers are approximately an inch across, with four petals characteristic of the Clarkias.  The petals are satiny/shiny and extremely vivid and lovely;  photographs rarely do them justice.  The 8 stamens (male organs) are divided among four short and four long forms (the long ones are obvious in the left flower above; they appear to be ‘striped’ with pollen).  The four fused stigma (female organs) are usually white and extend beyond the stamens (see the right flower, above).  Bees are the most common pollinators (see native bee in above photo), although flowers attract other insect pollinators and hummingbirds.
 
Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) - seedlings

Like many native annuals, Clarkia amoena is not fussy about soil type, doing equally well in sandy or clay soils.  It blooms well in full sun, light shade or even part-shade (several hours of sun a day).  It does need moist soils from the time of germination until it’s nearly ready to bloom.  In dry winters, you’ll need to supply some extra water.  

We sometimes (particularly when seeds are limited) start annual wildflower seedlings in pots.  Clarkias can be tricky; plant them out when they are 4-6 inches tall and only when the soil is moist and temperatures are cool.  Then be sure to keep them well-watered.    It’s often easier to just sow the seeds directly in the garden.   Plant them in winter, just before a good rain storm.  Barely cover them, as they need light to germinate.  And don’t worry about thinning the seedlings; they actually grow best when crowded (as they are in the wild).


Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) - Mother Nature's Garden of Health


We let Farewell-to-spring self-seed in our garden.  We allow the soils dry out as flowering ceases; then simply leave the seed pods on the plants to open and naturally reseed.  A thick layer of mulch is a common cause for decline of wildflowers over time.     All Clarkias need bare ground, a thin gravel/sand mulch or a very thin organic mulch to come back year after year.  We pull many a Clarkia amoena seedling from our decomposed granite (DG) pathways, which provide the perfect conditions for this annual.

Like other native Clarkias, the seeds of Farewell-to-spring are tasty and can be parched and eaten as a pinole or used as a seasoning in baked goods, on salads, etc.   The young plants can also be used as cooked greens (see  http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2013/02/california-gourmet-native-plants-for.html  and http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2013/03/california-gourmet-recipes-for-native.html ).


Pink Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) with yellow Gumplant (Grindelia camporum

In summary, visitors enjoy Clarkia amoena each year in our garden.  It provides a splash of bright pink color during the transition between spring and summer, when floral color can sparse.   Like all annual wildflowers, it’s a useful filler plant, particularly in young gardens where larger plants have yet to reach mature size.  And all Clarkias make wonderful cut flowers; in fact, some gardeners grow them for just this purpose. 

Consider including Farewell-to-spring in the summer flower garden, where it adds an old-fashioned charm.  If you need a spot of summer color on a porch or patio, grow it in a container (at least 12 x 12 inches).   Include it amongst the native grasses, where it contrasts so perfectly with the golden foliage.  And consider including it in the vegetable garden; it will dress up the garden while attracting insect pollinators to your summer vegetables. 
 


For a gardening information sheet see: http://www.slideshare.net/cvadheim/clarkia-amoena


For plant information sheets on other native plants see: http://nativeplantscsudh.blogspot.com/p/gallery-of-native-plants_17.html



 


We welcome your comments (below).  You can also send your questions to: mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com
 
 
 

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