Canchalagua, Centarium venustum is our local member of the Centaury group. This picture came from local mesas near Miramar Naval Air Base.
Photo: Clayton Tschudy.
If you are looking to dive into plants not just native to California, but native to San Diego to give your garden a truly local character, this spring offers you many opportunities to see what is possible with local annual and perennial wildflowers. Things are popping out everywhere following the big April rain. You only need to go to your local canyon or mesa top to see exceptional examples of fabulous flowers that virtually no one uses in their gardens. And even better, if you see something growing in a conservation area near your property, that plant is likely perfectly adapted to your gardening conditions. Some of these plants can be hard to find, but your local chapter of the California Native Plant Society, or even an Internet search, could yield seed or plant sources.
Canchalagua, Centarium venustum is our local member of the Centaury group and is surely one of the most spectacular wildflowers in the West. It often appears as a low carpet of hot pink, though individuals can reach almost a foot tall in ideal conditions. It can be found throughout coast San Diego and well into the foothills around Ramona.
Splendid Mariposa Lily, Calochortus splendens is one of the famous Mariposa Lilies of California. Photo: Clayton Tschudy.
Splendid Mariposa Lily, Calochortus splendens is one of the famous Mariposa Lilies of California, long-lived bulbs that disappear during summer, but give a big spring show. Splendid Mariposa is widespread, and one of the easiest to grow in gardens. You may need to start it from seed, but it is worth the wait. Excellent combined in a drought tolerant meadow with low bunch grasses.
Dwarf Checkerbloom Sidalcea malviflora is a low version of more familiar checkerblooms. Photo: Clayton Tschudy.
Dwarf Checkerbloom, Sidalcea malviflora is a low version of more familiar checkerblooms. Its sprightly pink blossoms appear to float among other plants, and it is a great filler with other small perennials. An easy, rhizomatous (spreading), perennial that needs no special care.
Peak Rushrose, Crocanthemum scoparium is in the Cistus family. Photo: Clayton Tschudy.
Peak Rushrose, Crocanthemum scoparium is in the Cistus family and closely related to Heliathemum, a common garden perennial. You can think of this sunrose relative as the super tough version of those plants. It takes very thin, dry soils, and in fact needs those conditions to thrive. Fantastic for a south facing rock garden. Not in bloom the plant looks grass-like and tends to mostly disappear in summer dormancy. Not great in typical garden conditions, but a real problem solver in tough conditions where other perennials fail. A real stunner, and quite surprising, when in bloom.
Clayton Tschudy is the Executive Director of San Diego Canyonlands.