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Garden Plotting: Tarheel Tips for SoCal Seed Sowers

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It's 83 degrees where I've parked myself and the laptop. It's a little muggy from a marine layer burn off--this could be a sleepy version North Carolina with bad bar-b-que. But it's So Cal. We can pretend awhile with the next invited garden writer and her 2011 planting list favorites. It's Helen Yoest [Twitter] of Tarheel Gardening. She generously shared her must-haves from her own backyard planting scheme.

I noticed Eschsholzia california right away, and even this ADHD-prone, remedial learner knows that that's the California Poppy. It's an excellent choice for "gardeners in Silver Lake that would rather be drinking a PBR" as it is self-sowing. Self-sowing means that shit plants itself, yo! So you don't have to keep reading weak-ass Martha Stewart garden columns like this one for inspiration. And while we haven't overtly offended the California Native Plant Bee-atches, the Theodore Payne Foundation would be quite happy if you followed Helen's Tarheel lead and plant the Golden State's state flower.

Also on the list: Popaver sonniferm. That's the "unofficial national flower of Afghanistan" so maybe my hipster with PBR in hand will, after all, have a reason to continue reading this column. In California, state law allows you to grow, but not "harvest," this botanical, educational specimen. Okaaaay.

I've had experience, mostly good, with all of Helen's selections. And her actual herb list tells me I want to go to her casa for dinner. Basil IS ready RIGHT NOW for sowing outside on your balcony or window sill as seedling starts. Parsely: the same.

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Culinary Fennel, unlike its feral, unwanted invasive cousin, is available from the stellar duo at Winnetka Farms. Our SoCal climate is nearly identical to, um, the land of the Olive Garden, Tuscany. So from a plants perspective we are Italy. And their weeds... are our weeds. Almost all of you see fennel on a daily basis off the 101. It's a little yellow flowering 6 foot, shrubby thing (hey, so am I) weed that just loves freeway offramps and vacant lots. It's classified as an invasive species in California, so no matter how much you suck at gardening... you can do fennel!

Nicotiana, as you also might glean (nicotine) has something to do with tobacco. It's not where Marlboro Light cigarettes come from and, sorry, hippie freaks it doesn't double as a natural patch. It's a gorgeous mid-height annual with sticky/fuzzy leaves and little white trumpet flowers. And for a Jesse Helms' state gardener, like Helen, why would you not want to grow the flowering, ornamental cousin to the RJ Reynolds variety? It's a great plant in SoCal. -Almost a tender perennial, and it self-sows! No more garden writers? Awesome!

2011 Seed list for my home garden, Helen’s Haven:

Senna Alta - If I can find it.
Nicotiana sylvestris
Cleome ‘Lindie Armstrong’ - If I can find it.
Cosmos sulphureus
Castor Bean ‘Carmencita’
Zinnias - All kinds
Polygonum orientale
Popaver somniferum
Meconopsis betonicifolia
Eschscholzia california
Schizachyrium scoparium

Plus, dill, fennel, parsley, basil, purple basil, French Cinderella pumpkin

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Glean what's useful. Comment. Discuss.

Helen Yoest also blogs at Gardening With Confidence.

Previously: Garden Plotting: City Dwellers Get Country