Here in California, a spring garden’s most vivid blooms often are those of succulent ice plants. Aloes, bulbine and numerous arid-climate companions are bright and beautiful from March through mid-May. Increasing temps tend to put the kibosh on delicate spring flowers. If you live near the coast, you’ll enjoy a longer spring, but you may not get the sun and heat that makes many flowers blaze.
Spring is the season of flowers, so get outside and enjoy them. Soon enough, come summer, those hot colors will fade and your garden will go back to being mainly shapes and textures—which of course succulents do best. What many people don’t realize is that flowers are ephemeral—they flash and fade, and then you’re left with foliage. (I like to say that sentence in my talks. Try it. The alliteration is luscious.)
Above: A normally uninteresting corner of my garden is stunning in spring because of all the flowers. Red ones at center are Sparaxis tricolor, a bulb from South Africa. Easy-grow shrub daisies (Euryops pectinatus) echo the yellow margins of Agave americana ‘Marginata’—which though nearly engulfed, still makes a bold statement.
California poppies pop in spring. These bright orange annuals reseed every year. Behind them is Drosanthemum floribundum (rosea ice plant). Adding contrasting form is spineless opuntia. Almost incidentally, fruit on citrus trees repeat the poppies, and elevate their color to eye level.
Scilla peruviana, returns every March. It produces large, purple-blue snowflake flowers and then disappears for nine months. It was planted by the previous owner and I don’t do a thing to keep it going. But like all bulbs, it leaves behind droopy, messy foliage which you need to leave because it feeds the bulb for the next g0-round.
And as for ice plant, don’t plant just one variety. Combine several—not curbside, though, lest they cause an accident.
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Flowering Plants in My Spring Garden: Inland Southern CA, Zone 9b
Spring (peak): mid-March to early April
Annual: California poppies
Babiana stricta (baboon flower)
Bulbine frutescens ‘Hallmark’
Delosperma congestum ‘Gold Nugget’
Gazanias (African daisies)
Rose, climbing: ‘Altissimo’