News & Advocacy

Summer Has Arrived in the Garden at the Shotgun House

July 20, 2023

A triptych includes three garden images; a ladybug crawling on long light green leaves of coyote mint, the top branches of a desert willow with purple blooms and a bright green chrysalis hanging from the baseboard above a building's foundation.

Spring is gone except for a few straggling blossoms reminding us that we had an absolutely, gorgeous Spring bloom this year with an abundance of bright orange California poppies plus two new annual wildflowers:

  • The diminutive yellow Beach Evening Primrose. They are also called Beach Suncup and have shown us the lovely way they spread their silvery grey-green leaves to bask in the sun.
  • The taller Mountain Phlox has softly spiked stems which are each topped with a cluster of five-petaled white blossoms.

There are only a few of these annual blooms left, which tells us for sure Summer has arrived. Here are some of its vivid colors:

From the street you can see the bright pom poms of Red Buckwheat which are in front of the bushy bright red Island Snapdragon and, to the south, the shorter scarlet California Fuchsia. If red is not your favorite color, check out the tall flat tops of white yarrow interspersed with the bold plates of golden yarrow. And notice how the white yarrow has deep green foliage while the yellow yarrow has gray green leaves. They’re cousins (feathery foliage and corymb or flat-topped blooms), but they don’t dress alike!

If you’re intrigued by the garden’s aroma, pinch a leaf from the Coyote Mint that snuggles up to the front porch or crumble some of the thin gray-green leaves from the California Sagebrush on the other side of the walk. Both these plants have been nicknamed Coyboy Cologne. But only one of them makes good tea—the mint (sagebrush is bitter!).

Fall is the preferred time to plant California natives, but the Santa Monica Conservancy was able to get a couple of new additions started this Spring in weather which seemed to be endlessly cooler than normal and even gave us rain.

  • We added a Cleveland Sage next to the front porch on the south side of the garden. Sages (along with mint and sagebrush) are known for their fragrance and this one is a favorite for many people. We’ll be happy to have you brush against it as it fills in its new space.
  • We also added a Desert Willow on the south side of the house. It’s in the trumpet vine family and has showy clusters of blossoms that are a rich lavender color (adding to our rainbow of colors) and very attractive to hummingbirds.

One more thing that’s always a delight to see in the garden is the onslaught of Monarch butterfly caterpillars that happens every summer. We have a little forest of milkweed plants in the garden bed on the south side of the house. Depending on the caterpillars’ growth cycle, the plants may look full, lush and leafy green or they may look like spindly, denuded stick figures. The Monarch butterflies seem to know exactly when to lay their eggs, and the milkweed seems to be invigorated by getting an annual crew cut from the caterpillars. We often have more than 15 caterpillars munching at once. Look closely. See how many you can count.

By Hilda Weiss

Photos from left to right: A ladybug crawls on the Coyote Mint, the Desert Willow’s spring bloom, and a chrysalis hangs beneath the siding of the Shotgun House

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