Ann Wright: It’s a blooming spring!
There certainly has been a good deal of excitement around recent super blooms. Having lived in the high desert of southern California there were a couple of expected heralds to spring activities: one, the opening day of baseball, the other — the poppy bloom. It was always a welcome sight to see masses of orange colored fields in place of the usual, rather drab landscape.
The arrival of wildflower season has been anticipated for these many months of rainy weather and is so welcomed again this year. So, the recent super bloom piqued my interest. What exactly is a super bloom, and might we expect one here?
In a general sense, a super bloom is a phenomenon that happens every so often (over years) in arid regions, deserts and on hill sides where serpentine or volcanic soils reside. When conditions are just right – such as the amount and timing of rainfall – annual wildflowers bloom in abundance with color palates that cause enthusiasts to swoon.
Super blooms have been the center of attention this year as well as back in 2017. Recently, super blooms have occurred in a number of desert regions of southern and central California such as the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in the Mojave Desert, north of Los Angeles, Carrizo Plain National Monument north of Bakersfield and Anza Borrego State Park in San Diego County. Sometimes whole mountain ranges are covered with flowers, hence a “super bloom.”
Locally, wildflowers are blooming, but at a slower pace than some years. Along the Buttermilk Bend trail at the South Yuba River State Park, the wildflower season is in full swing, but the flowers are not at their peak, and may not be as plentiful as last year due to cooler temperatures and more spring rain. Although it is gratifying to see a nice variety of flowers starting to show, it is not likely we will have a super bloom here – due in part to the amount of rain we’ve had and cooler temperatures, but also due to the over-growth of non-native grasses that compete with the wildflowers. Later in the summer in high mountain meadows, super blooms might occur this year. Likewise, there may be flowers in bloom that we may have not seen before, or are rarely seen.
On a recent hike to North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Butte County near Oroville, the conditions seem to be favorable for a super bloom. The lupine is abundant as is the yellow carpet (Blennosperma nanum) and the goldfields (Lasthenia californica). California poppies were starting to open, and Ithuriel’s spear (Triteleia laxa) are in bloom. For those who have wildflowers on their radar, there is still plenty of time to view some beautiful blooms.
Closer to home, spring is time for planning and planting. The Union’s 34th Annual Spring Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, is scheduled for April 13 & 14 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley. Come visit the Nevada County Master Gardeners at the booth and bring your home garden questions or just stop by to say hello. For those planning vegetable, herb and flower gardens this year, consider the Master Gardener’s Spring Plant sale, May 11 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Demonstration Garden. Dozens of varieties of edibles and flowers will be offered for sale. Check out the list of plants on the website, ncmg.ucanr.org/files.
Other tips for early spring gardening include:
Divide summer and fall blooming perennials if they are crowded, or if the bloom was sparse. Lift clumps with a spading fork and make clean cuts with a spade. Use the outer portions of the clump and discard the center growth.
Trim ornamental grasses as new shoots appear. Cut shorter grasses no lower than four inches from the ground. Cut taller grasses six to 10 inches from the ground, depending on the species. Dethatch with a tined cultivator.
If lawn alternatives are planned, now is a good time to dig up old grasses, and try more water efficient ground covers such as thyme, low-growing salvias, yarrow and some low-growing grasses such as fescue that need less frequent mowing.
If your yard looks like a “super bloom” of weeds, start weeding now – consider what plants are weeds and which are not to be tolerated. Pull and discard or place in a pile separate from the main compost pile. The weedy organic material will break down, but the unwanted seeds may still be viable and not wanted mixed in with the vegetable garden compost. For more information on suggested control for weeds, consult the Universoty of California, Davis Integrated Pest Management website at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu and click on the “Home, Garden, Landscape, and Turf Pests” box and look for the weed link.
Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.
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