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Colorful virtually all year

Like most yards where the plants are primarily native, this place is at its best in the late spring. Bleeding hearts, trilliums, false soloman seal and wild ginger carpet every shady area, while wild azaleas, flowering currant and lilacs display both their beauty and their scent.

Rhodies and elderberry stretch above it all, along with a single Scotch broom I confess to harboring. Over a couple decades it sneaked up through the mingled branches of redwood and spruce to become a tree, and now appears to be a redwood with bright yellow flowers. It worked so hard and is so pretty I just can’t kill it.

While spring is best, it’s possible to have garden color in November, and I’ll bet if we compile a list of what blooms now we’ll all find plants that we like among them. They’re certainly not all native, but they’re dependable and available, which is sometimes the best you can hope for. They’re the plants we swear by instead of at.

Snapdragons are the stars of my show. This year I found gallon pots with 3 or 4 plants in each, then carefully separated them before planting. This is the sixth month of snapdragon stalks, and they show no sign of stopping. With their roots well mulched, they’ll winter over and do it again. Those who label plants as “annual” or “perennial” don’t factor in our lovely little seaside niche between the frozen north and the dry south.

The blooming idiot, a willowy mallow who earned her name by blooming for over half the year, is still sporting bright pink blossoms, though the recent storms have made her look a little weary. The young buck hasn’t been back, so the primroses he pruned in the spring and consumed in August are once again luminous in the dusk, which helps me avoid stepping on the winged blossoms of Spanish lavender.

Nasturtiums and calendula are still offering color and salad, but they’ll be gone with the first frost. Autumn joy sedum is at the deep burgundy stage and Magellanica, the fuchsia called native because it grows in ditches along roadsides, is still delighting the hummingbirds. The jasmine is nearly through blooming, just as the snowberry is beginning to bloom and buds are fattening on the princess plants and the earliest rhodies.

In a couple months brilliant deep red and purple blossoms will put on a gorgeous show backed by snowy osoberry blooms. While they illuminate the winter world, columbine stalks stretch for the sky and daffodils break ground and the snapdragons bloom once more. Before we know it we’ll have a brilliant palette of color to rival Monet’s finest work.

With very little effort and the blessing of living in a ecosystem that provides sufficient warmth and water, we can have colorful blooms virtually all year. Somehow that makes winter a bit easier on those of us who develop cabin fever early in the season and go stark raving stir crazy in February.

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