Norman A. Plate

Wildflowers don't need a meadow in which to shine -- they thrive in garden beds

Lauren Bonar Swezey,  –  November 11, 2004

Some of the most appealing plants native to Mediterranean climates bloom in colors that many gardeners would never think of combining–vibrant orange and lime green, for instance. As the photograph at left shows, these snappy hues translate well into garden beds.

This eye-catching, unthirsty planting, designed by Sunset’s head gardener, Rick La Frentz, pairs chartreuse Euphorbia characias wulfenii with dazzling orange California poppies. Dark green feather reed grass and gray-leafed Phlomis fruticosa form a 3- to 4-foot-tall backdrop for the flowers. Perennial blue flax and red ‘Mrs. Bradshaw’ geum mingle behind the poppies.

La Frentz planted the border in fall in soil well amended with compost. He started the flax and poppies from seed, the others from 1-gallon containers. Planting in fall allows winter rains to help get the seeds and plants off to a good start. After the first year, the bed needs only infrequent summer irrigation in mild-summer areas (more frequent watering in hot inland climates). The California poppies will reseed themselves from year to year.