Golden California poppies get all the glory, and it’s true that a hillside ablaze in spring is hard to beat, but don’t shortchange another native wildflower with the perhaps-too-cute name of baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii). Pools and puddles of these pale blue flowers drench hillsides for weeks in March and April. Up close, it’s evident that there are actually two colors at play – medium-blue petals and a white eye – so the effect from a distance is pale and watery. If you sow the seed in your garden now, your yard can swim in this amazing color as well.
The color of baby blue eyes is a hard one to beat.
Photo Credit: Robert Smaus
Try baby blue eyes next to a sidewalk.
Photo Credit: Robert Smaus
True, California poppies are the perfect wildflower. They do great in the garden, growing like the proverbial weed, blooming in spring and then again in most gardens come autumn. All you have to do is toss some seed on the ground, and bam! While most of the other spectacular California wildflowers are harder to grow than you might think, baby blue eyes is not. It’s not as easy to grow as a poppy, but it comes pretty darn close.
Baby blue eyes takes some shade, but the plant gets kind of floppy with more than a half-day of it. So before you sow your seed, find a sunny spot in your garden, remembering that shadows grow longer in winter and won’t be in the same spot come spring.
Rake and loosen the soil surface, then sow seed in October, November or even December. Keep the area damp, and the seed should sprout within two weeks. The trick is to plant just before a good rainstorm, so Mother Nature can moisten the ground. (You can also germinate seed with a gentle spray from the garden hose, but nothing helps plants sprout like real rain.)
As with all wildflowers, cover seedbeds with bird netting or a light mulch (about ¼ inch) or there will be nothing left to sprout – birds love the seed and tiny seedlings. Also make sure to bait for slugs and snails or you won’t know the seed even sprouted – the pests will eat them all in one night!
Remember not to overwater these natives once they’re growing. As with other native wildflowers, baby blue eyes does best with watering that tapers off through the season, from a good soaking twice a week in the beginning to almost none during flowering peak.
One accomplished Los Angeles gardener grew this beautiful blue wildflower under yellow daffodils, and it was a lovely pairing. In my crowded garden, I’ve grown them between slow-to-mature vegetables, such as garlic. I’ve also mixed them with taller flowers and planted them in “hopeless” bare dirt next to the sidewalk. The flowers are a remarkable color unlike anything else in the garden, so I almost always find a place for them. If not, I make sure to visit their wild brethren in the hills come spring. A year without that amazing pale blue would be a dreary year indeed!