Gardening Up Close--Managing Self-Sowers, Plants with Runners, and Bulbs
Roly-Poly Problems

Mendocino--Coastal Walk

This is part two of a plant photo report from our recent trip to Mendocino. The first shows some plant highlights from the Coast Botanical Garden. This one will show you some of the plants and views from a hike around the town of Mendocino on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. To take this walk, one usually starts at the south end of the town, crossing the last business street will take you down near the bluffs. Just find a trail, turn right, and start walking, pausing often for views and closer looks at the plants. If you keep walking you will pass around the West side of town and come out at the northwest corner. Then you can turn inland and walk south back down the main drag.

     The wide swath of weeds and wild flowers follows the coast. Below the bluffs are inaccessible beaches between rocky cliffs. Wild waves splash around the many rocks near the shore. There are natural arches and even a blow hole. This beach aster overlooks one of the vertiginous views. .

Beach aster IMG_7002 copy

   If you are a food gardener, one plant on the walk is instantly familiar. It's a cole crop, probably collards. These plants have escaped from cultivation to grow happily in this maritime habitat much like that of the European coasts where they evolved. The waxy coating on their leaves evolved to protect them from damp air. However, while these are definitely collards, when I collected seed, some years ago, to see what would grow, I discovered that they produced plants with rather tough leaves. They have probably drifted from the more palatable cultivated ones that farmers originally grew nearby and are toughened by the cold, windy location and low water.

IMG_7003 copy

 If you know plants and have sharp eyes, you will see that it is growing amidst a stand of poison oak, which is also common near this trail--whatch your step if you take it!

We were there at the end of May, when several iconic coastal California natives were in bloom. One is California poppy, a mid-California coastal variant, which is yellow.

Yellow poppy IMG_7007 copy

Another is Sidalcia, or checkerbloom, a low plant with flowers like miniature pink hollyhocks.

Sidallcia IMG_7004 copy

The plants I've shown so far (except for poison oak) are all ones that have been brought into gardens successfully. This last one, not so much. Castilleja, commonly known as Indian paintbrush, only grows where it can link its roots to another plant to share sustenance. To grow it you have to sow the seed next to a plant it can link to, possibly native bunch grass, or buckwheat. This isn't done often, but this wild specimen shows why it might be worth a try.

Indian Paintbrush IMG_7008 copy
Finally, we walked back to town, where the gardens include many old plants such as the ones mentioned in my book Wildly Successful Plants. This particular old cultivar of fuchsia shows no fuchsia mite damage at all, making it a good candidate for modern gardens or for breeding programs trying to bring back the old fuchsias lost to the mite.

Mendocino fuchsia IMG_7025 copy


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Charm Dreier

Wow, Pam, the photos of your coastal trip are amazing-- I have never seen such a brilliantly colored Indian Paintbrush before! Anyone that thinks CA natives are "boring" needs to get a load of these photos!

I am honored to comment on your site since you have to be the most famous bay area gardener, and I have been admiring your advice & learning from you from afar for years! I love your books, and enjoy your advice column in the newspaper. Keep up the good work of informing the rest of us out there-- thank you for sharing your extensive knowledge!!!!

Thanks, Charm Dreier

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