… they would surely grow leptosiphon.
When attempting to describe this little annual the only word that seems appropriate is ‘cute’. A hardy annual, native to the edges of woodland and rocky areas in the San Francisco Bay area it is one of several species, closely related to linanthus in the phlox family. The species are all similar but the only one commonly cultivated is Leptosiphon androsaceus, the false babystars.
Leptosiphon means ‘slender tube’ which accurately describes the flowers which have a long tube from the frilly calyx to the five rounded petals that make up the child’s drawing of a flower. The plants are sparsely branched and slender, forming a light tangle of threadlike stems and needle-like leaves. In the wild the flowers are usually white, lilac and pink but in cultivation the flowers are cream, white, pink and orange. I have only ever seen ‘French Hybrids’ for sale and don’t know how the French came to have developed these but I am glad they did.
This is a hardy annual that can be sown in spring or in September. It should selfseed but is easily swamped by other plants so needs to have anything aggressive pulled out. It is THE plant for sowing in gravel and in cracks in paving and when I have some I will try to get it established. Plants don’t bloom for ever and in the heat of summer they dry out and set seed but in moist climates should bloom for a few months. The flowers soon get exhausted, poor little things, and they don’t open very early in the morning and go to bed quite early in the evening.
I don’t know if fairy gardens are as popular now as they were a few years ago but there are plenty of fairy doors for sale still. This is the perfect plant for a fairy garden but they should not be used just for that. Apart from anything else they should be sown in May to fill gaps in rock gardens to provide colour after the spring fling. They are so wispy that they are unlikely to harm any but the most demanding of alpines.
You can see the size of the flowers in this photo – those huge bugs are actually tiny thrips – a common garden visitor here as the barley ripens and they move onto other plants.