Native buckwheats buzz with activity and come in a range of colors and sizes, so you could have an interesting garden with only buckwheats. After all, you have approximately 500 varieties and cultivars to choose from.
The plants generally have a mounding form, and the sizes of the most common varieties range from foot-wide cushions to imposing 7-foot-tall shrubs. Whitish and grayish leaf colors predominate, though a range of greens also occurs, often with leaf edges outlined in silvery-white and felted undersides. Flower colors run the gamut from white to pinkish-white (often aging to russet tones), deep pinks, reds and yellows. Leaf shapes can be needlelike, like rosemary, but are more often cupped ovals ranging from a fraction of 1-3 inches long.
But you’ll need to choose other plants to get sagey aromas, blue flowers, spring blooms and plants that tolerate overspray or regular watering.
In the wild, many other natives grow with buckwheats. Following are some natives that like the same conditions as buckwheats and grow well with them. Pete Veilleux, whose East Bay Wilds Native Plant Nursery stocks a dazzling variety of buckwheats, offered these recommendations at a recent talk sponsored by the Gardening with Natives group of the California Native Plant Society.
• Woolly Blue Curls likes the same dry conditions as buckwheats and offers a delightful leaf fragrance, blue-purple flowers and a long bloom time. Foothill Penstemons also contribute blue-purple to the palette.
• Wayne Roderick Seaside Daisy, a drought-tolerant variety, is an easy-to-grow plant whose lavender flowers complement many varieties of native buckwheats.
• Conejo Buckwheat, with yellow flowers and soft, white velvety leaves, pairs well with fluffy mounds of Mendocino Reed Grass.
• In a hot, dry garden, use buckwheats with Golden Fleece and other goldenbushes.
• The large-scale St. Catherine’s Lace looks good with the tall, red-flowered Catalina cultivar of California Fuchsia.
• The pom-pom flowers of Rosy Buckwheat combine nicely with the silvery leaves of Canyon Prince Wild Rye, and with native grasses in general. Deergrass makes a nice background for a variety of native buckwheats.
• You can plant low-growing manzanita or ceanothus varieties with buckwheats next to them or growing up through them. The sturdier stems of the ground covers keep the more brittle buckwheat stems from being broken by passersby. Anchor Bay Ceanothus, for instance, is a neat-looking, deer-tolerant ground cover. Bert Johnson Manzanita is a choice ground cover with dense foliage that stays a foot tall.
• Low-growing natives such as Prostrate Coyote Brush or Canyon Gray Coastal Sage can also protect buckwheats in a mixed planting and provide an attractive contrast.
• The silvery foliage of David’s Choice Sandhill Sage blends well with many of the smaller buckwheats, and its feathery texture contrasts with the leaf shapes of buckwheats.
• Prostrate Coastal Goldenbush grows with Coast Buckwheat in the wild and flowers at the same time.