Gardening on the Guadalupe

After many months of searching, I am excited to have just placed a order with Yamagami’s Nursery for two matilija poppy plants (Romneya coulteri) and two Silk Trees (Albizia julibrissin Durazz. ‘Rosea’). Matilija poppies grow really big. At my old house, I had one that reached seven feet tall every summer. Each grey-green stalk bears large white flowers with yellow centers that look like fried eggs.

We live on the bank of San Jose’s upper Guadalupe River. Our big home improvement project last year was to replace the falling-down wooden embankment wall with a 170 x 4 foot wall made of concrete architectural blocks which look like old stones. For several weeks before Christmas, our yard was invaded by lots of energetic young men with loud radios, shovels, and Bobcat excavators. The resulting wall looks wonderful. It helps keep the Guadalupe out of our house. Better yet, the existing prickly pear cactus, broom, crape myrtles,and oleanders survived the construction.

Once The Wall was done, I had a big new area in my garden. All Spring, I have been planting prostrate rosemary, cotoneaster, various colors of ice plant, lavender, and other hardy plants that like it hot and dry on top of the bank. From the start, I wanted to focus the new plantings around matilija poppies but I had to find some first. These “back of the border” plants are very hard to grow from seed or transplant. Matilija poppies are not a popular nursery item because they require lots of space and they misbehave by sending out invasive runners. Our river embankment is the perfect place.

The silk trees are going into the planting strip between our driveway and our neighbor’s where they will provide a lovely source of shade. They should arrive next week. Hooray!

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