Summer Buckwheat Blooms Bright

It is July, the height of summer in Southern California, and buckwheats are blooming with thousands of showy white flowers.

(E. Wallace)

I took a walk this morning at my favorite local park, O’Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon. Many of the spring-blooming plants are hunkering down in the 90-degree heat, but California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is just beginning to shine. Look closely and you will see clouds of tiny butterflies and pollinators flying from blossom to blossom, gathering pollen.

Gray hairstreak butterfly. (E. Wallace)

Beetles too are enjoying the buckwheat blossoms.

(E. Wallace)

In the photo below, notice the tiny fly (upper left corner) coming in toward the buckwheat flower while the Flower Longhorn Beetle forages.

(E. Wallace)

If you are looking for a summer-blooming shrub for your garden, buckwheat should be one of your top choices. Buckwheats bloom for months during the hottest parts of the year and support clouds of pollinators, butterflies, and birds. Buckwheats are easy to grow, and once established, require no supplemental water.

(K. Ethington)

Try planting a buckwheat interspersed with salvias, fuchsias, and mallows. You will get year-round blossoms in your garden and year-round butterflies too. Add a native milkweed, such as narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), and support declining monarch butterfly populations.

(E. Wallace)

Native plants are gaining popularity as gardeners learn to appreciate their beauty and importance to wildlife. Join the movement! Try planting a buckwheat and see how many pollinators are attracted to your landscape. Then add more. Butterflies will flutter, birds will sing, and you will be filled with happiness.

(S. Bressler)

Caring for Buckwheat During a Dry January

If you picked up a four-inch California buckwheat at A Buckwheat in Every Garden event last fall, hopefully you planted it and watered it deeply, then spread a light layer of mulch to keep the soil moist.

Thea Gavin and Connie Bowen plant a two-gallon California buckwheat ‘Dana Point’ at an October Buckwheat in Every Garden event in Orange, California.

We received plentiful rain in November and December. However, except for a fraction of an inch of rain in mid-January, most Orange County gardens have been cool and dry in the new year.

Sunny January day in the California garden. (Elizabeth Wallace)

It is time to check your newly-installed buckwheat to see if it needs water. If the plant is dry a few inches down, give it a deep drink using a watering can or hose with a rain nozzle to simulate rainfall.

Watering a newly-installed buckwheat. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Native plants enjoy water during the winter rainy season, and sometimes when we have a dry month like this, we may need to add supplemental water to ensure the root ball doesn’t dry out while the plant is in its establishment period.

California buckwheat. Photo by Laura Camp.

It takes about a year, sometimes more, for a California native plant to become established in the garden. Once the plant is established, it will only need monthly watering at most.  Below are a few photos of established California native plants that are flowering in the January native garden.

Verbena ‘De la mina’ (Verbena lilacina). (Elizabeth Wallace)

Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea). (Elizabeth Wallace)

Dancing tassels (Ribes malvaceum). (Elizabeth Wallace)

Sunset manzanita (Arctostaphylos ‘Sunset’). (Elizabeth Wallace)

Lester Rowntree manzanita (Arctostaphylos ‘Lester Rowntree’). (Elizabeth Wallace)

Whether it’s wet or dry, keep an eye on your new buckwheat. Send photos and let me know how your buckwheat is growing.

A pair of cactus wrens enjoy the buckwheat at the Dana Point Headlands in January. (Elizabeth Wallace)

First They Sleep

Have you heard the old adage about growing newly-installed plants in the landscape? The saying goes like this: “First they sleep, then they creep, then they leap!”

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This starter ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat is not sleeping after installation: it has doubled in size a month after being planted. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Is your new ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat sleeping, creeping, or leaping? Some homeowners who planted their free buckwheat report bunnies feasting on the tender new growth. If this has happened to your buckwheat, consider fencing it temporarily until the plant grows larger and less tasty to rabbits.

Most ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat starter plants that were planted last fall are nestled into the soil and becoming established in their new home. The rainfall has nourished the leaves, stems, and roots with pure water.

California rains soak California buckwheat. (Elizabeth Wallace)

As the weather begins to warm, the new four-inch ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants will begin to bud and eventually flower.

Budding buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

The buckwheat flowers will attract native California pollinators such as the Acmon Blue, Gray Hairstreak, Brown Elfin, Blue Copper, and Dotted Blue butterflies, as well as many species of California bees including the tiny Masked bee.

Masked bee visits a buckwheat flower. Photo by Kris Ethington.

If you haven’t had a chance to attend A Buckwheat in Every Garden event to pick up your free buckwheat, consider visiting the San Juan Capistrano Garden Club monthly meeting on January 20. The club will give away 96 ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the San Juan Hills Golf Course banquet room.

Buckwheat in flower. (Kris Ethington)

The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat is a must-have for every Orange County garden, and now is the perfect time to plant it in your home landscape. Get yours while supplies last.