Clarkia amoena or, as it is commonly known, farewell-to-spring, is a personal favorite of mine. An annual plant found throughout coastal areas ranging from British Columbia to California, the showy farewell-to-spring offers color, structure, and a lengthy bloom time for a variety of uses in the garden (1, 2). It is hardy from USDA zones 2 through 11, and prefers well-drained soil of average fertility (2). The type variety features upright stems with lanceolate leaves and cup-shaped pink and purple flowers, sometimes with reddish markings on the inside of the petals (1). There are cultivated varieties widely available for purchase as well, often with more profuse and different colored blooms (1). While farewell-to-spring is an annual plant, it will readily self-seed in areas meeting its rather undemanding growing conditions (1). You can, therefore, expect to see it year after year once established. Seeds can be sown directly on the surface of the soil in either fall or spring (2).
At the North Willamette Research and Extension Center, where we are conducting our native plants study, we have observed a number of insect pollinators visiting farewelll-to-spring, as well as a hummingbird, which managed to both startle and distract me while performing pollinator observations. Another honorable mention is due to the leaf-cutter bee, which Aaron and I witnessed time and again munching off pieces of Clarkia petal and carrying them to some unknown location. The USDA lists European honey bees, native bumbles and mason bees, as well as butterflies amongst the main insect pollinator visitors (2). These species, in addition to those anecdotally observed in the field, suggest that farewell-to-spring could be an excellent native addition to pollinator gardens, providing general forage to a wide variety of species.
1. “Clarkia amonea.” Plant Finder, Missouri Botanical Garden, www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=283040&isprofile=0&.
2. Young-Mathews, A. 2012. Plant fact sheet for farewell to spring (Clarkia amoena). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Corvallis Plant Materials Center, Corvallis, OR.