Posted by: gardenshf | June 20, 2012

Now Growing: Malacothamnus fasciculatus, (Bush Mallow)

The garden is a space that speaks to us to be still and feel. The longer one sits, the clearer everything becomes.

My daily walk to the greenhouse at the Gardens at Heather Farm takes me on a trail alongside a natural pond, the edges in pools of sunlight and shadows. If I stop for a closer look, the murky waters reveal schools of fish basking in the morning light and feeding on the rich algae in their underwater world.

By slowing down to observe, you engage all the senses and discover what you might otherwise pass by.

A good place to hone your observation skills is in our California natives garden.

There are many misconceptions about natives; one of the biggest is that natives don’t flower during the summer months. As some shrubs finish blooming and annuals go to seed, California’s hardy and beautiful perennials shine.

It is a great place for a quiet walk, and something always is in bloom or bearing fruit.

One of my favorites at this time of year is the silvery green leaves and pink cupped-shaped flowers of Malacothamnus fasciculatus, commonly known as the Bush Mallow, growing on the sunny hillside.

Mallows are an important habitat plant for many native pollinators. Malacothamnus fasciculatus is considered an evergreen shrub that is found in all areas of California, with the exception of the deserts and high mountains.

They grow 4 to 6 feet tall and wide, and they need well-drained soil. That makes them a perfect candidate for a sunny slope. One drawback is that they can be short-lived in the garden, but the good news is that the plant is easy to propagate from cuttings.

The entire plant has small hairs that can cause irritation to the skin for some when cutting it back. At the Gardens, we prune after blooming.

According to “California Native Plants for the Garden,” deer like mallow. Although they don’t seem to graze on it in our native garden, it might be because they have so many other things to eat.

Native mallows can be combined with other summer bloomers, including Monardella villosa, Solidago californica and Sphaeralcea ambigua, another beautiful member of the mallow family.

California natives are easy to grow with the right care. In her new book “California Native Gardening, A Month-by-Month Guide” (University of California Press, $29.95), Helen Popper shares her love of California natives and provides the reader with practical information about how to care for a native garden on a monthly basis.

Popper will be speaking with Katherine Greenberg, another expert on California natives, at 4 p.m. Saturday at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore, 2904 College Ave., Berkeley. The store has a wonderful section on gardening. For more information, go to www.mrsdalloways.com.

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Responses

  1. Bush Mallow is food for caterpillars of thr West Coast Lady and the Large White Skipper (and possibly other mallow-feeding butterflies) and its flowers draw yet other species if butterflies.


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