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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Jul 31

Stump the Stars

Posted on July 31, 2015 at 8:21 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Early this spring I looked at the huge number of packets of seeds that have accumulated for years. Some seed packets were open, some remained sealed, while others showed evidence of some type of critter chewing on the contents (since the seeds were stored in the unsecured potting shed). In a moment of madness, I scattered all the aged seeds on the mounded soil around the blue spruces. Who knew what was still viable? And if viable, what would survive the foraging rabbits, squirrels, deer, and the elements?

I gave these seeds the benefit of raking the soil over them when they were first scattered, but thereafter they were on their own. Lucky for the seeds (and for my garden), it has rained in Lassen several evenings a week for well over a month. Seeds sprouted with hints of green appearing on the mound despite the game of "Queen of the Mountain" that Sassy and Misty, our two trusty golden retrievers, love to play in that location.

The poppy seeds popped up first. I knew they were not the indigenous poppies of our location as they were the classic orange poppy found in Marin instead of the yellow poppies we see growing here in Lassen. Next came a very pretty heart-shaped, scalloped leaf. The edges of the leaves sported hints of purple-red. The stems were almost succulent-like. And then came the flowers: beautiful blue cup-shaped flowers blooming in profusion.

Mystery plant
 Mystery plant
Jack and I both admired these beauties and shrugged. Neither of us could identify the plant. It was a humbling experience for two seasoned landscape professionals. Clearly, this is not a plant that was ordered for our old nursery years ago. Hours were spent trying to identify this plant in books and on the internet, and yet I came up empty. The old seed packets with identifying information were tossed out when the seeds were broadcast. Alas, this star is stumped.

With that said, once again, I turn the you with the question: Do you know the name of this hardy, water-conserving plant that resists deer, rabbits, squirrels, gophers, and the romping of playful pups? Am I looking at a native or ornamental? Is it an annual or perennial? Can I collect seeds to repeat this amazing display next year? Or will you all leave me scratching my head wondering what is out there taunting me every time I drive by or look out the windows?

Properly labeling plants and patience have been the lessons for this gardener in 2015. A poor spring seed showing, an impatient gardener that replanted seeds, and a hodge-podge of seedlings that finally broke through left me with borage that I thought was broccoli, Italian zucchini mixed with Ronde de Nice squash, and questions about which cucumbers would bear for pickling and for eating. The outcome is the garden of mystery and one of the prettiest this gardener has ever grown, but it sure left me with questions!

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