Mountain Stories: In a Dry Spring, Chasing Wildflowers Anyway


We gardeners are generally passionate, generous, respectful — and envious. Maybe worse. Ok, competitive too.  Ever since I read Scott Calhoun’s book, Chasing Wildfowers: A Mad Search for Wild Gardens I’ve wanted to find some of Southern California’s goldfields.


This is my year.

Fields of gold is the small annual herb of California; it’s at peak RIGHT NOW. When a friend said they were perfect and prolific LAST year, I’m fell into a brief funk.

Last year, you see, there was a late, heavy snowfall in early April up here in the San Jacinto Mountains and in the Garner Valley (only 12 miles from Idyllwild, south on Route 74). The moisture was perfect, the bloom was perfect, and the fields were indeed gold as far as the eye could see. (Or so I imagine.)

But it’s been a dry winter and spring. Here’s what the Garner Valley goldfields looked like late yesterday afternoon:

I wouldn’t even know about fields of gold had I not read Scott Calhoun. (See his fascinating Website, and his other books: I can assure you, that whatever his topic, he brings such passion to it you can’t resist wanting whatever he is having that instant.

Lasthenia californica. At least in the Garner Valley, the plants are only about two inches tall this year, alas, alas. (They grow four inches or more — when well-watered by nature.)

The shadows were lengthening. It was almost time to leave. Another good quality of most gardeners: patience. I’ll try again next year.

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This is the 12th in the series, Mountain Stories. Text and photos copyright Paula Panich, 2013