Jan 30, 2010

Buck Everlasting

Our native buckwheats are reliable and appreciated for their ability to add floral color to semi-dormant, late summer California native gardens, and their endurance as cut flowers is well-known too. I didn’t appreciate either until experiencing it.

My native yard is still pretty young, and still developing, but one of the earliest things I planted was a couple Eriogonum fasciculatum. True to their reputation, they did punch out flowers through late summer and fall, but for some reason mine were very leggy and floppy and the flowers sort of cowered near the ground among other plants. Then around mid November I decided it was time for some fall cleaning and took a clipper to the garden. Even though the floppy little buckwheat blossoms were welcome little puffs of color, I decided to cut them back, hoping the plants would make a denser, less leggy comeback. But as I was taking my armload of green waste to the bin, I couldn’t bear to dump those sweet little pale pink powder puffs, so I gathered them up and put them in a little vase on the kitchen windowsill. (I would like to display garden cuttings more conspicuously, such as in the center of the kitchen table or a coffee table, but those places are too noticeable to the two cats’ Chomping Fangs of Doom.)

Well, seemingly a second later, November is December and I succumb to the yearly compulsion to replace anything in a vase with little pine boughs, so out go the powder puffs. But they were still too sweet to put in the bin, so I just set them in a little bucket (dry) by the door. When January came around and the pine boughs got booted, I looked in the bucket to find the Eriogonum powder puffs essentially unchanged. A little rusty, I guess, but still perfectly acceptable as a subtle winter vase occupant. So back in they are and showing no signs of changing.

I’m really looking forward to the expansion of my buckwheat population this year. I’ve added quite a few Eriogonum grande rubescens, and the ones that were in last year are now happily raising little seedling families. I’ve also added several Eriogonum nudum, which I’m hoping will reach for the sky a little and add height variation. I also added Eriogonum cinereum and parvifolium, which I haven’t seen in action yet. For sunny spring color I have some Eriogonum crocatum and umbellatum, which I adored last year. Hope they perform as admirably this year. The umbellatum has rust-burgundy leaves at the moment. It’s a delight when it flowers, because the blossoms start with an orange-red center that gradually turns lemon yellow.

Overall I find buckwheats to be one of the handiest, easiest options for long-term color, both outdoors and in. Would love to hear what buckwheats others grow and recommend.


  1. Quite a buckwheat collection. Can't wait to hear which ones you like best. For me, it is coastal buckwheat (E. fasciculatum). Hopefully yours will become less floppy with time.

  2. I agree, buckwheats are fun! Do you have a giganteum as well? They're quite nice while they're small, though I'll have to pull mine before it reaches 8 feet....

  3. Oop, I forgot to mention my giganteum, or Catherine, as I call her (St. Catherine's Lace). She is in a large ceramic pot and grew practically before my eyes last winter, but then had a really tough time getting through the summer and dropped a ton of leaves. So she's a bit spindly now, with leaves only on the outer portion of the stems. I was hoping the inner portions would refoliate this winter, but so far, no dice.

    Thanks for comments. Yes, I do like me some kitty knick knacks...

  4. The buckwheats are a great California everlasting. You vase looks terrific. After living with the dead flower heads on my giganteum I finally cut them back about 3 weeks ago. It was amazing having the dried flower display outside on the plant, I thought. I'm sure through all this, however, the neighbors were wondering when I'd cut the dead stems off!