Early Spring (February) in California is colored a hot, intense yellow, at least in Northern California suburbs. The plants that provide the color are all non-natives. Some are horrible invaders, like scotch broom. Others are invaders, but less horrible.
As I was driving around, I moved backwards 300 years in my mind's eye. The wild oat grass (which is most of what provides the green) is an exotic, not a native. I believe most of the native California grasses were bunchgrasses, but I rely upon the greater wisdom of the California Native Plant Society. Now, in late fall, the hills start to green up as the wild oats sprout. The timing depends upon the rains. By Christmas, usually, open meadows are bright green. The mustard starts blooming, too, and then the acacias. 300 years ago, before Europeans brought the annual grasses, spring would have been heralded by the ceanothus, first, and then the decidious oaks, which have a subtle reddish-pinkish color as the new leaves unfurl.
What is around here is probably Acacia baileyana, which is wonderful provided
- You aren't allergic to the pollen
- You don't mind the enormous amount of litter (flowers, then seeds when the pods ripen)
- You don't mind branches crashing down from time to time
(I've tried to take some pictures of the acacias on the hillsides around here, but it hasn't worked very well.)
Then there is the "sourgrass" of my childhood, which is a very invasive weed, oxalis coniculata. I misspelled it in the photo. It is everywhere. The long stems are very juicy and have a sour, lemony flavor. We would eat them by the hour when I was a kid, making forts in the mustard.
The other thing that is blooming freely is mustard, which seems to have no scientific name.
My daphne odora marginata started blooming at the end of January. I've missed the most fragrant part by being away, but I wouldn't be without it. I planted these in 1999, after I bought the house. The soil in that bed is about as bad as dirt can get and still actually grow anything. Fundamentally, it is the greasy yellow adobe. We double-dug the bed, adding lots of humus, but I am thinking that the daphne roots have probably hit the pure adobe layer.
Of course, what is spring without daffodils? (Narcissus)?
I planted a thousand on the bank below the house in the fall of 2002. I ended up with more of the trumpet varieties than I cared for (the ubiquitous 'King Alfred' being an example). The very double kinds don't do well for me. I prefer the tazettas, such as Poetaz; and the Jonquillas, such as 'Suzy'. The paperwhites bloom just after the first of January.
I should order some more of the tazettas and poeticus. Maybe I will in the fall.