I've had the great good fortune to spend the last five days at Tassajara Hot Springs, one of my most favorite places in the world. Before I left, I tried to find the perfect photo for the Gardening Gone Wild Photo Contest -- the topic for May is Spring Fling. But nothing was quite right.
Then, while in Tassajara, I compared Mother Nature's design for the year with mine, and realized the spring fling was there, with photo opportunities everywhere.
In June 2008, the Basin Fire, which burned down a significant part of the Los Padres National Forest, almost burned down Tassajara, and engulfed most of the surrounding chaparral. Last year, the wildflowers were amazing, and I wrote about them in several posts. This year, with above normal rainfall, the show was even more incredible.
Stunning masses of wildflowers were everywhere, but I was most impressed by Mother Nature's design when I walked on the Flagrock trail. Here, the manzanita and chemise had completely burned to dried sticks, and those stick were being used as trellises by tens of thousands of Calystegia purpurata (chaparral morning glory).
As I walked the trail, the view opened (do click the picture to see the flowers). It was simply incredible and, as I found later, fiendishly difficult to photograph.
As I walked, I heard the constant hum of native bees and other insects enjoying the abundance of flowers, and the chirps and twitters of birds enjoying the insects (below a little ladybug).
A bit later, I came across the flowers shown in my contest picture above, Dicentra chrysantha (golden eardrops). I'd never seen them before, and was floored by the color and abundance.
"This is it!" I thought. "Spring Fling. A little overplanted maybe, but impressive nonetheless."
As I walked on, the path became more and more difficult to find. At the same time, the plants became more and more tantalizing.
When, after another ten minutes of difficult walking, I saw a woolly blue curl (Trichostema lanatum), one of my most favorite California native plants -- and one I'd never seen in the wild before -- I saw that as a sign. I made a photo, took another look around, and another, and then turned back.
I only got lost a little, and made it back in good time for a delicious lunch and a restful soak in the hot springs, dreaming of the Mother Nature's garden.