It’s a Cabbagey time of year, but not in the way you might expect! Though I do have a soft spot for sauerkraut and odd ornamental kales (last year we celebrated “Take Your Cabbage to Work Day” and a magnificent head of ‘Filderkraut’ attended our staff meeting), I mean instead to wax ecstatic on the wild, NATIVE cousins of our vegetable friends.
May we introduce Caulanthus inflatus “Desert Candle?” It’s the only annual I can think of that’s grown for its STEM, which is curiously inflated and bright yellow. It’s only during the first few months of the year that we’re able to grow this bizarrity, and after real sunshine starts to hit our part of the world, up, up it goes, like a banana that’s been bred with a balloon and we can no longer offer starts. So sad! So seasonal! If I could grow this annual year round, I would, but it doesn’t grow that way. As the common name suggests, it’s on loan to us from more arid parts of the state and it’s biological clock tells it to bloom like there’s NO TOMORROW before the scorching sets in. Given a milder climate, luxurious soil and more ample agua, some desert wildflowers carry on for much much longer than they would in the wilds, but Caulanthus inflatus keeps the window tight. Thus my very special public service announcement: should you like to grow this truly strange cabbage cousin for yourself, you must get them in the ground pretty much NOW. Go go go!
Another of our native cabbages that looks more extraterrestrial than local is Streptanthus farnsworthianus. Subtle in color, but so strange in form! The appeal is not so much the flowers, but the foliage, which starts as a tuft of ferny green and elongates and ages as the plant comes into bloom into strange winged purple forms with a pearlescent sheen. It’s very hard to capture and document properly and even our best photos seem to miss the whimsy and oddity of the plant. You must grow it and see for yourself!
Last and hardly least comes Thysanocarpus radians, whose delicate stems carry some of the prettiest seeds I’ve ever seen. Held many to a stem, they look very much like elegant jewelry. A translucent wing surrounds each seed and if you’re careful with your meadow maintenance (mind your Sluggo and keep the weeds at bay) you can get a little patch going that will reseed and return every year! This is another plant that we cannot offer late, so plant soon or you’ll miss your chance!
Here are a few other colorful cabbages of note floating about the nursery:
Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’ – Heirloom and exclusive! Also the most decadent “Money Plant” around.
Heliophila longifolia – Airy, barely there foliage builds into a frothy bouquet of beautiful blue.
Streptanthus albidus peramoena “Most Beautiful Jewel Flower” – Lovely, showy, ENDANGERED. What more can be said?
Erysimum capitatum ssp. capitatum – New this year! I’ve fallen in love with this orange flowered CA native on the side of the road many times. I’m excited we can finally offer it for sale in the nursery!