The day we left Germany, the snow had really come down. The trees and shrubs all had sparkling white coats and looked rather magical. That made it all the more surreal to arrive back in California and find that spring had definitely arrived while we were gone.
As we landed in Sacramento and drove about the Bay Area, we were welcomed home with lovely daffodils and the delicate pink and white blossoms of fruit trees. The beautiful mustard was blooming on the hillsides as well. It was breathtaking.
I was eager to get home and see what was happening in our own yard. Sure enough buds were swelling and things were thriving. I was pleased to see the first blossom on my Geum chiloense, also known as Chilean Avens.
I had never even heard of Geum until a few years ago, when the Master Gardeners put in a Children’s Garden at the County Health and Social Services offices on Beck Avenue in Fairfield. We put in a wonderful plant with deep green leaves and perky orange flowers that bloomed all through spring and into summer. I was smitten.
At the following UC Davis Arboretum plant sale, I found one to purchase, a variety called “Totally Tangerine.” It did well in my side yard. Over several years it has increased to about two feet across and 18 inches tall, which is about its maximum.
Last year I bought another plant, but I can’t recall whether I got the yellow “Lady Stratheden” or the darker orange “Blazing Sunset.” (This is a good example of why you should always write this information down. Trust me, you will forget.) I suppose I will find out once the plant starts blooming. This plant is still quite small.
Geum tolerates sun and in the hottest locations, half sun. In our area, it keeps its lovely green leaves all year long. It grows into a sort of mound of leaves. The plant likes moderate water, but needs good drainage. It can be grown in Sunset Zones 2-24.
The flower growing guides from Cornell University mention that the plant can have problems with downy mildew, powdery mildew, and fungal leaf spot, but I have not had a problem with any of these. The blooming season will last longer if you deadhead, or pinch off the spent blossoms. At the end of the season you might want to leave a few of these spent blossoms on the plant, however, as they become interesting seed heads.
You can increase your number of plants by digging up and dividing the root ball. Geum can also be grown from seed. It is classified as a short-lived perennial. Sunset.com lists Geum chiloense as one of its top 20 perennials. That is a pretty impressive recommendation.
Try it and see what you think, and Happy Spring!
Karen Metz is a Master Gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Fairfield. If you have gardening questions, call the Master Gardener’s office at 784-1322.