Buckwheats Around Town

A Buckwheat in Every Garden was created with the hope that sharing a free native plant with gardeners would help improve habitat for birds and pollinators in home landscapes throughout Orange County. We recently reached out to people who picked up a free buckwheat to see how their new buckwheat plant is growing.

Here’s a sample of what people are telling us:

  • My buckwheat appears to be doing well. It is on a SW facing mini-slope at the base of a young Engleman Oak, near where our driveway and sidewalk meet. I appreciate this outreach program and hope that my yard and I can become ambassadors for natives!–Brian
  • I’m happy to report that the buckwheat I received at the Fullerton Arboretum is alive and well. It’s about 2-3 times the size it was when I picked it up… It’s in full sun, right in the middle of my butterfly garden.–Carla
  • The buckwheat plant is doing very well. It is over 15” high at this time and looks very healthy.–Albertus
  • The buckwheat in my garden is thriving.–Trina

We also received some important questions:

How often should I water my buckwheat now that the rainy season is over?

We recommend watering your fall-or winter-planted buckwheat twice a month on a cool morning (60 to 75 degrees). If your buckwheat was planted early last fall, and has tripled in size, you can try watering it once a month deeply when it’s cool.

Why water only when it is cool? 

For the best success with your new buckwheat and most native plants, water ahead of the heat wave. It doesn’t rain in Southern California from May through September–these plants are built for our long, dry, and hot summer. Do Not Water Every Day!

How do I water a brand new 4-inch buckwheat I picked up in May?

If you just picked up a new starter buckwheat plant, water it very deeply as soon as you plant it. Then water deeply once a week or every five days if it’s really hot. After the first month or so, soak your buckwheat once every two weeks (on a cool morning) until the rainy season begins.

(R. Moore)

My buckwheat is already 15 inches tall. How big will my buckwheat get?

Your buckwheat can grow to be three feet tall and three feet wide. Your buckwheat will soon start blooming and attracting pollinators. Most people prune their buckwheat in December after the blooming period has ended.

(K. Ethington)

Is this a coastal plant? Will it get as big as a tree?

The ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is selected from a buckwheat that grows in the coastal Dana Point Headlands. It can grow up to three feet wide and tall, but it can also be pruned to the ground in December to refresh it and keep its growth in check. It will not get as big as a tree. This buckwheat is a shrub. Buckwheats grow inland and along the coast.

Is California buckwheat edible? Can I make buckwheat flour out of it?

California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) cannot be made into flour. Buckwheat pancake flour is made from California buckwheat’s Eurasian cousin, the crop plant, common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum).

Are these buckwheat plants sold in any nursery?

Yes, you can find the ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat at Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano.

My buckwheat died, what should I do?

We have good news: You are invited to try again! Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar and Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano are giving away a free four-inch California buckwheat to anyone able to stop by the nurseries during operating hours. Check their web sites for current hours of operations.

Thank you to everyone who sent photos of their new buckwheat and shared their buckwheat stories and questions. There is still time to plant a new buckwheat before July. Stop by Roger’s Gardens or Tree of Life to get a new plant and install it in your yard to help animals, pollinators, and birds thrive in Orange County.

(K. Ethington)

Powered by Insects

Did you know that most birds gather insects every day to nourish themselves and feed their offspring? Many people believe birds can survive eating seed from bird feeders, but most birds need insects to provide digestible protein for energy, migration, and breeding. A baby bird’s tender digestive system needs soft, fat-filled proteins from insects and caterpillars to fuel its growth.

Bushtit collects insects. (K. Ethington)

The photo above shows an American bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) gathering all sorts of insects, including aphids, from a salvia in a Southern California backyard. A bushtit is a tiny bird, smaller than many hummingbirds, weighing about .19 ounces. Despite their diminutive size, bushtits still need plenty of insects to feed themselves and their babies in the nest.

Birds are having a hard time finding enough insects to eat. Scientists have estimated that 40 percent of insect species are threatened by extinction. Insects are integral to the food web, eaten by everything from birds to mammals and fish. Insects also pollinate crops that produce one-third of the world’s food supply, and they break down waste.

Insects for breakfast. (K. Ethington)

Bird populations have declined along with insect populations. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, bird populations have declined by 2.9 billion birds since 1970. The decline is due to habitat loss, invasive plants, pesticide use, and more.

Breakfast. (K. Ethington)

Each of us can do our part to help increase bird populations. If we plant vegetation that is native to where we live, we won’t need to use pesticides or herbicides. It may seem counterintuitive to encourage insect life, but they are a valuable and necessary part of our food cycle.

More breakfast. (K. Ethington)

The next time you need to replace a plant in your yard, plant a native! Your soil health will improve (without amendments or compost), you won’t need to use pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, songbirds will come to nest, and butterflies will appear.

Roger’s Gardens and Tree of Life Nursery are offering a free California buckwheat to homeowners who want to try starting a native plant garden in their home landscape. Stop by their garden centers to pick up a free buckwheat plant while spring is in the air.

Garden While Spring is Here

Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano and Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach are open and have free buckwheat plants available for pick-up (while supplies last).

When you go to pick up your free buckwheat, consider buying a few extra native plants to install in your garden this spring. Tree of Life Nursery is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, closed on Sundays. Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. everyday.

New native plants. (E. Wallace)

I visited Tree of Life Nursery last week to purchase a dozen native plants to replace non-native ferns that grew in a small planter. I removed the ferns and installed monkey flowers, yarrows, coral bells, and dudleyas before the rain poured another 3 inches on my garden. The finished installation is shown below…the hummingbirds and bumblebees now have more plants to provide nectar.

New natives. (E. Wallace)

Featured below are a few recent photos that illustrate what happens when you install native plants. Birds, bumblebees, and other pollinators flourish and multiply.

Bushtits. (K. Ethington)

Rufous hummingbird.  (K. Ethington)

Swallowtail. (K. Ethington)

Hoverfly. (E. Wallace)

Gray Hairstreak visits buckwheat. (K. Ethington)

Stop by Roger’s Gardens or Tree of Life Nursery and pick up your free buckwheat plant while supplies last. Enjoy your time in the garden. It is one of the safest places we can be right now. Stay safe and be well!

Buckwheat Buddies

Some folks who planted their free California ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat are searching for plants to keep their buckwheat company. This is a great idea because California native plants help each other thrive as they share micorrhizal fungi through their roots. When California native plants share space, it makes life easier because they don’t need much water once established: just a deep soak once a month will do.

Photo of a ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat along with native plants sharing the space in a home landscape. (Kris Ethington)

It can be tempting to crowd new plants close together for an instant landscape, but this will cause problems in the future. Give your California native plants plenty of space to grow into their full size in a year or two. Use a light layer of mulch between the plants to keep weeds out and soil moisture in.

Brand new native plant installation with a swale to harvest water. Plants wisely spaced. (E. Wallace)

Buckwheats begin their super bloom in late spring. To maximize your garden’s flower time, consider pairing your buckwheat with early spring bloomers like mallows and

Buckwheat paired with a mallow (Abutilon Palmeri). (Kris Ethington)

sages such as white sage (Salvia apiana), ‘Bees Bliss’ sage and

Close-up of a Bee’s Bliss sage blossom and a hover fly. (Kris Ethington)

Bush sunflower (Encelia californica) and

Encelia californica paired with buckwheat in early spring. (E. Wallace)

Yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei) or a Dudleya species for structure.

Hesperoyucca whipplei (yucca) just about to bloom. (Dan Songster)

One of the most important things to consider when adding native plants to your garden is their eventual size. Bees bliss sage grows low but it spreads eight feet wide! Dudleyas are small succulents that can be tucked into small spaces in your garden.

Flowering chalk dudleya in a home landscape. (E. Wallace)

If you have room for taller plants, consider adding a manzanitaCalifornia lilac, and a Western Redbud to the mix.

Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) and California lilac (Ceanothus ‘concha’) in full bloom. (E. Wallace)

You can find many of these plants at Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano. Before you make the drive, check to see if the plants you are hoping to install are available. Local nurseries and Home Depot garden centers are beginning to stock a small selection of California native plants. The popularity of native plants is increasing as the public gains an understanding of their beauty and importance to wildlife.

Butterfly visits a mallow. (Kris Ethington)

With the COVID 19 virus on everyone’s mind, why not spend some time in the garden? The garden is a safe space, and you will see some amazing sights in your own backyard especially when native plants are providing nectar and food for the butterflies and birds.

American Kestral perched in a backyard garden. (Kris Ethington)

Upcoming A Buckwheat in Every Garden giveaway events have been impacted by protective measures for the COVID-19 health crisis. We are discussing safe ways we can distribute free buckwheat plants to people who want to install them in their garden. We will announce plans for future buckwheat giveaways soon.

California peony growing with buckwheat in the background. (E. Wallace)

Best wishes for your safety and good health.

 

Growing Buckwheat in the Garden

When cooler winter temperatures arrive in Southern California, residents wear sweaters and scarves to stay cozy. Buckwheat changes in the winter too, as the creamy white flowers turn a reddish brown when the flowers go to seed.

‘Dana Point’ buckwheat graces a garden in winter. (Kris Ethington)

The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat has a compact nature suitable for the home garden and is fairly easy to grow for first-time native gardeners.

Buckwheat mixes with other natives in the garden. (Kris Ethington)

More than a thousand buckwheats were distributed last fall, and if all went well, the plants that were given away may have doubled in size by now. Thanks to abundant rains over Thanksgiving and Christmas, the new buckwheat plants should be off to a good start.

New ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat planted in late November has doubled in size. (Elizabeth Wallace)

How is your new buckwheat growing? Have you experienced troubles or success? Let me know with a comment on this blog, and share a photo if you have one. I would love to hear from you.

And if you haven’t had a chance to pick up a free buckwheat, you can pick one up at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar on January 14, 15, and 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (while supplies last).

Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar. Photo from Roger’s Gardens.

Buckwheat in Winter

Pictured here is a large expanse of California buckwheat growing healthy and wild in O’Neill Park in November, just before the rainy season began. Notice how the flowers have turned a rusty reddish brown as this shrub reflects the changing seasons.

Field of buckwheat, oak trees and clouds in November before the seasonal rains began. (Elizabeth Wallace)

The buckwheat flower is turning to seed as winter approaches. California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is distantly related to the Eurasian crop plant common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), which is used for pancakes, bread, and porridges. Unlike its European relative, the seed of the California buckwheat is not commonly used as a grain but instead feeds local birds and wildlife. If you trim the reddish flowers in winter, lay them on the ground for wildlife to enjoy.

California Buckwheat heading into the fall season. (Elizabeth Wallace)

Author Michael Wilken-Robinson reports in his book “Kumeyaay Ethnobotany” that native Baja Californians cook buckwheat flowers and leaves with water to make a tea to calm nerves. Others report using California buckwheat to cure digestive disorders. Medicinal uses for buckwheat are widespread among the Kumeyaay people.

Kumeyaay Ethnobotany by Michael Wilken-Robinson

In the spring and summer, California buckwheat is an important source of nectar for bees and is prized for the fragrant honey produced from the flower. Buckwheat honey has a delicate flavor and aroma.

Honey bee visiting buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

More honey comes from pollinated buckwheat than any other native plant in California. Visit your local farmer’s market to purchase local buckwheat honey and enjoy its sweet, rich flavor throughout the year.

Buckwheat honey. (Elizabeth Wallace)

It’s hard to resist the allure of the iconic California buckwheat and all of the benefits it will provide in your garden landscape.

More Buckwheat, More Butterflies

When you plant California buckwheat in your home landscape, you bring immediate relief to butterflies and other pollinators searching for nectar and shelter.

California native bee, solitary and docile, visits a California Buckwheat. Do you see the bee? Photo by Kris Ethington.

California buckwheats flower for months, enrich the soil with their tiny leaves, are easy to grow, and are evergreen. Buckwheat is a foundation plant for any garden.

Buckwheat graces a suburban garden. (Elizabeth Wallace)

The California Native Plant Society Orange County (OCCNPS) chapter is partnering with the Shipley Nature Center to give away 200 California ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants at the Holiday Crafts Faire on Saturday, December 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.

Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach.

Visit Shipley Nature Center this Saturday to pick up a free California buckwheat, select from 70 California native plants to purchase, and see 18 acres of restored wetlands, woodlands, and pristine coastal sage scrub habitat. Shipley’s address is 17851 Goldenwest Street in Huntington Beach. See you this Saturday!

Bernardino Blue butterfly on California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasiculatum). Photo by Chuck Wright.

Buckwheat with a Side of Natives

The Shipley Nature Center of Huntington Beach is partnering with STEMscopes students to host the final Buckwheat in Every Garden giveaway of 2019.

Restored coastal sage habitat at Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach.

The December 7th Shipley Nature Center buckwheat giveaway is especially exciting because along with the 200 buckwheat plants being distributed for free, Shipley will offer 70 additional California native plants for sale.

California native plants and books about gardening with natives. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Located in an 18-acre fenced natural area within Huntington Beach Central Park, the Shipley Nature Center is owned by the city of Huntington Beach. Several years ago, the Friends of Shipley Nature Center and the city of Huntington Beach joined together to remove invasive plants, upgrade the trail system, improve wetland areas, and install 50,000 California native plants.

Shipley Nature Center field of poppies.

This Shipley garden event will help OCCNPS supply northwest Orange County homeowners with buckwheat for their home gardens and fill in the Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map. One buckwheat plant is given to an Orange County homeowner in exchange for the homeowner’s street and city to plot the buckwheats as they are planted across the county.

A Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map showing 975 buckwheats planted across Orange County as of November 29, 2019.

Join us at the Shipley Nature Center, 17851 Goldenwest Street, Huntington Beach, on Saturday, December 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to pick up your free buckwheat and buy some California natives too. While supplies last, see you December 7.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly on Red Buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

Buckwheat Giveaway in Dana Point

The city of Dana Point is partnering with the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society (OCCNPS) on an ambitious 200-plant Buckwheat in Every Garden giveaway this Friday, November 15 at the Dana Point Community Center.

Four-inch ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plant is ready to be planted in a new Orange County home landscape. (Elizabeth Wallace)

OCCNPS and the city of Dana Point will give away 200 four-inch ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the Dana Point Community Center at 34052 Del Obispo Street on Friday, November 15.

Buckwheat giveaway earlier this month. Photo by Thea Gavin.

Tree of Life Nursery selected the ‘Dana Point’ California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) from a buckwheat plant growing at the Dana Point Headlands. The ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat is a long-flowering shrub that grows one-foot tall and three-feet wide, making it well-suited to smaller home landscapes and gardens.

‘Dana Point’ buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

One ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plant per homeowner will be given in exchange for the homeowner’s street and city. OCCNPS is mapping the buckwheats as they are planted across Orange County home landscapes on the BIEG iNaturalist map. A recent version of the iNaturalist map is shown here with nearly 700 buckwheats planted across Orange County.

A Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map.

Please join us this Friday and help make Dana Point’s namesake buckwheat giveaway a success. The plants are ready to go into the ground. Get yours this Friday, November 15, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Dana Point Community Center at 34052 Del Obispo Street, Dana Point, California.

Newly installed ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat. Photo by Rob Skinner.

How the Buckwheat Campaign Began

California buckwheat. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

The idea for A Buckwheat in Every Garden was hatched in July 2019 when board members of the California Native Plant Society, Orange County chapter (OCCNPS) met for their annual strategy meeting. The goal of the campaign: To encourage Orange County homeowners to install California native plants in their home landscapes to support healthy urban environments.

OCCNPS committee members defined the goals of the campaign: Distribute 1,500 California buckwheat ‘Dana Point’ plants, one plant per Orange County homeowner, from October 2019 through February 29, 2020, or until all plants are distributed. Plants are given in exchange for the homeowner’s street and city address, so the plants can be mapped on A Buckwheat in Every Garden iNaturalist map.

The committee worked with Tree of Life Nursery to support the cultivation of 1,500 ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants in decorative four-inch containers. The committee also worked with Roger’s Gardens to help distribute and promote the buckwheat campaign.

California buckwheat ‘Dana Point’ variety. Photo by Laura Camp.

OCCNPS committee members created a blog and a web page and began an Instagram and Twitter account. A new iNaturalist mapping program was created specifically for the campaign and added to the OCCNPS web site.

A Buckwheat in Every Garden is funded by OCCNPS’ small treasury and is operated with all volunteer labor. OCCNPS is a 501(c)(3) California non-profit organization. Upcoming buckwheat give-away outreach events are listed below (while supplies last):

OCCNPS gives away California buckwheat ‘Dana Point’ at Acorn Day in O’Neill Regional Park. Photo by Ian Morrell.

  1. San Clemente Garden Club,  Wednesday, November 6 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., San Clemente.
  2. Laguna Beach Garden Club, Friday, November 8 from 9:30 a.m. to noon, Laguna Beach.
  3. Sherman Library and Gardens, Friday, November 8 from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., Corona del Mar.
  4. The city of Dana Point, Dana Point Community Center, 34052 Del Obispo, Dana Point, Friday, November 15 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. This event is ambitious: We hope to distribute 200 buckwheats in four hours. Help us make that happen. We will see you there.

Fullerton Arboretum event on November 1st. Photo by Maryanne Mayeda.

If you haven’t had a chance to pick up your free buckwheat yet, join us at one of the four events listed above, and share your address with us so we can plot your new buckwheat on the iNaturalist map. The plants go quickly, so arrive early.

Fairy bee visits buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

 

Buckwheats Buzz

Most people recognize the common honey bee as a social creature that lives in hives and makes honey. However many people don’t know that honey bees are non-native insects, introduced from Europe.

European honey bee visiting buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

There are 1,600 species of native bees in California, ranging in size from one-inch long to less than one-quarter inch long. California native bees are often solitary, living in wood or underground tunnels, and most do not make honey. They are important to the existence of our wild lands, and serve as food that supports other species.

Fairy Bees visit buckwheat blossoms. Photo by Kris Ethington.

California native bees love buckwheat’s profusion of blossoms. If you look closely at your California buckwheat when it’s in full bloom in the summer, you will see hundreds of tiny bees and butterflies scattered throughout its blossoms.

Fiery Skipper butterfly visits buckwheat. Photo by Kris Ethington.

If you would like to learn more about California native bees, visit the website for UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.

And if you would like to support our native pollinators, join us as we give away California buckwheat plants (while supplies last) at three upcoming events in November:

  1. The Fullerton Arboretum is hosting A Buckwheat in Every Garden give-away on Friday, November 1, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  2. Roger’s Gardens is giving away four-inch California ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Corona del Mar on Friday, November 1.
  3. The San Clemente Garden Club is hosting a buckwheat give-away on Wednesday, November 6 from 1 to 3 p.m. Brad Jenkins, President of the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society, will be presenting that afternoon as well.

    An Urbane Digger Bee in flight. Photo by Kris Ethington.

    OCCNPS gave away more than 400 ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat plants in October. Visit our iNaturalist map to see the hundreds of buckwheat plants that have gone to their new Orange County home landscapes.

Buckwheat Builds Soil

California buckwheat is an evergreen plant with small leaves that occasionally drop to the ground, forming a natural mulch. The fallen leaves enrich the soil around the plant and allow the plant to grow and spread in its own loamy mulch.

California buckwheat leaves and stem. Photo by Ron Vanderhoff.

If you are an Orange County homeowner who hasn’t picked up your free ‘Dana Point’ buckwheat yet, stop by Roger’s Gardens at 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona del Mar on Tuesday, October 22 through Thursday, October 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is the only three-day giveaway we have planned, so take advantage of it if you can.

Rogers Gardens is participating in the A Buckwheat in Every Garden campaign.