Fast-Growing Flowers

I visit New Mexico every year and
I’m always enchanted by the perennial Maximillian sunflowers growing along the
side of the road and in front of adobe homes. Although these flowers are native to the Southwest, they also flourish
in California soils and are well-suited to California’s dry summers. The plants bloom from seed in the first
year, forming a dense hedge with their branching habit and small, starry
flowers. Although they are not as
prolific a seed producer as Mammoth Greystripe and other garden varieties, they
are wild, carefree plants that will come back year after year. 

For a brilliant, fast-growing
display of bird-friendly plants, I recommend building a quarter-circle of
flowers in a sunny corner of the garden. Start with Maximillian sunflowers, sowing seed in a four-by-four foot
square in the corner. Around them,
plant a wide swath of purple coneflower, another great seed producer whose
flowers will contrast well with the yellow sunflowers. Purple coneflowers are widely available from
wildflower seed sources, although you might want to buy some seedlings from the
nursery to get things started early. Cosmos also work well as a seed source and an attractive contrast to the

Finally, in a quarter-circle around
the purple coneflower or cosmos, plant a perennial salvia that works well in
your area. Cleveland sage is a popular
native; Mexican sage is another drought-tolerant favorite. Most salvia attract hummingbirds and
beneficial insects, and provide good cover for foraging. Scatter a few California poppy seeds over
the whole area; they’ll help fill in the empty spots during the first year and
provide a good food source when they go to seed. You’ll have a bright, vivid display of yellow, pink, purple, and
blue that will be irresistible to birds and butterflies, and will also provide
you with plenty of summer bouquets to enjoy indoors.

But above all, remember: when it comes to gardening, patience is a
virtue! Buying smaller trees and shrubs
will not only save you money, it will provide you with plants that have not
lived in pots so long that they have become distressed and root-bound. Plant them now, give them lots of room, and
in a few years, your patience will be rewarded.