Bloom of the Month – May

New calendar is up… get out there before out valley turns into a simmering cauldron forcing us all to huddle inside with bags of frozen peas strapped to our extremities.

Before we get to the big winner I have a rare wildflower bloom alert:

Zeltnera venusta

Zeltnera venusta

Known as canchalagua, or centaury, I found these tiny pink blooms under chamise bushes on the VRP, not sure if the proximity is significant.  They don’t last long.

Let’s have a look at this month’s unanimous winner.


This is usually more of a midsummer bloom enjoyed in June-July, but I don’t argue with the flowers.  At least not in public.  Heart-leaf penstemon, or Keckiella cordifolia is a member of the Scrophulariaceae family, though the nerds-in-charge have recently changed most of the members to the Plantain family.


It is a vine-like perennial that can grow over 12 feet, clambering over nearby neighbors.  This growth habit is known as “scandent”, just so you can say you improved your vocabulary today.  They prefer at least part shade and do great under oaks.


They have very prominent stamens, the fifth looks like a brush on close inspection.  The shape and angle of the flowers make them a popular snacking stop for hummingbirds.


The leaves are opposite (occasionally whorled), toothed, and duh, somewhat heart-shaped. Somewhat dormant in late summer, fresh leaves are among the first to return after fall rains.

These have been hit or miss for me in the home garden.  A few have flourished, many more have given up the ghost or do poorly.  I’ve actually had more success with the yellow-bloomed shrub native to the San Diego area and Baja.

Keckiella antirrhinoides- Yellow bush penstemon

Keckiella antirrhinoides- Yellow bush penstemon

These are also deciduous and form handsome little bushes that don’t mind my oak shade.

Enjoy the weekend, thanks for reading.

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