Happiness for a gardener is having a plant that begins blooming in mid-July and continues throughout the fall. That’s my St. Catherine’s lace or Giant Buckwheat (Eriogonum giganteum), a California native. Once you’ve seen it, you will not forget it. To the first-timer’s eyes, it looks like the most enormous Queen Anne’s lace ever seen. Sometimes the flower heads, comprised of lacy white umbels, can be more than a foot in diameter. The one pictured is youngish and about 4′ x 4′, now. My other, older one is at least 8′ wide. Yes, you’ve guessed it–they require a lot of space.
It’s one of my favorite garden plants because it’s spectacular looking; it attracts butterflies and bees; it thrives in dry, ordinary soil with little to no water and in full sun. It blooms for a long time, and the dried flowers can be used in wreaths or other arrangements. It’s not fussy and has few pests or predators. However, it hates soggy soil; you’ll kill it with overwatering. Another species in the same genus is Red Buckwheat, low and compact with crimson pompoms.
It grows under the same conditions and blooms during the fall, too. All
kinds of tiny pollinators climb around on the flowers. Just when I’m certain that my garden has practically gone to seed for the season, the buckwheats never let me down and break out into their magnificent blooming. Salvias have been my all-time favorite for many years, but I sure have fallen in love with the buckwheats.