SUPERBLOOM! Flowers Everywhere, Guest Post by Gretchen Woelfle

California poppies, Antelope Valley
My friend and fellow children's book writer Gretchen Woelfle, a frequent contributor to The Intrepid Tourist, recently went to see the amazing burst of wildflowers blooming in the Southern California hills and deserts this spring. Here is her report.
Southern California has made the national and even international news again this spring. No fires or floods or earthquakes this time, but a Superbloom in the hills and deserts, and in small native plant gardens like my own. Just add water and anything will grow in So Cal.  Add lots of it and you get a Superbloom!
Poppies below, gawkers above at Antelope Valley. Poppies open in mid-morning and close at sunset.
The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, fifteen miles west of Lancaster, outdid itself this year. This desert grassland, with eight miles of looped trails, offers close-up and long views of whole hillsides of poppies, interspersed with lupine and other colorful blooms.
Desert garden at Anza-Borrego Visitor Center.
 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, a 600,000 acre state park north and east of San Diego, comes alive with winter rains. The visitor center near Borrego Springs is staffed with friendly rangers who can guide you to the best flower-viewing areas, as well as camping and hiking sites.
A desert bouquet.
The park is a refuge for the rare and endangered bighorn sheep. I didn’t spot any on this trip, but the flower display on the Alternate trail up Palm Canyon was the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. 
Indigo bush in full bloom.
Tiny flowers carpet the ground, bigger ones entwine with mounded flowers to create a natural bouquet. Tall shrubs like the indigo bush and ocotillos sport brilliant blooms as well.
Ocotillo against the mountains.
My own native plant garden, designed by my son back in 2001, has evolved over the years as certain species have thrived and others not.

Native chaparral grasses in my garden.
This year, soft mounds of sages (black, white, and California), California brittlebush (bush sunflower), manzanita, California buckwheat, penstemon, poppies, and tall chaparral bunch grasses make the walk from the sidewalk to my front door a botanical adventure.
White sage, California sage, bush sunflowers in LA.
The painted lady butterflies loved the record rains too. They staged an invasion this spring, as they migrated north. Millions were seen along California's highways, byways, and gardens.
Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa carduii)
I couldn’t capture a photo as they flew by, but Caroline Arnold supplied a photo for me, taken in my garden when she was working on her latest book, Butterflies in Room 6.
Viva la lluvia!

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=627
For Caroline's report of her visit to Anza Borrego State Park in 2013, click HERE.

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