Full disclosure, I never specified this plant on a project, so it is very unfamiliar to me despite being a California native species. It is rare for me to specify annuals on a design, since my focus rarely includes seasonal color. Now that habitat restoration and native species are not just trends but support a collective need, I am looking into species unfamiliar to me. On the home front, I am considering seeding N. menziesii to replace all the non-native Nigella that keeps cropping up every year. Both have pale blue flowers and are of similar size. So, what do the books and other sources say?
The first search popped up an all-women punk band from Japan, encouraging me to broadcast seeds more aggressively. Can you imagine? Blaring, heavy guitar action while gardening...does anyone do that? Seeds ordered. More to report on performance.... seeds, not the band.
My go-to website for natives is the California Native Plant Society's Calscape. Their website has a handy map that illustrates where various species were observed in the wild. For N. menziesii, or baby blue eyes (awww), the species appears to be widespread throughout California. Its sun exposure and watering requirements appear to conflict in references; where Calscape lists the species as requiring full sun to part shade and low moisture, Sunset Western Garden Book (2012) states the "plant is quickly killed by heat and humidity," while the reputable grower, Park Seeds, lists only part shade and moist conditions for its success. Has anyone out there planted this species in the Bay Area?
Botanical Name: Nemophila menziesii
Nemophila: Greek, nemos, and phileo, for woodland glade and to love, respectively. According to the Gardener's Botanical, the reference is linked to the species' preference for a woodland glade habitat (p. 212).
Menziesii: Honoree, Archibald Menzies
Common Name: Baby blue eyes
Family Name: Boraginaceae
Origin: California, southern Oregon
Positioning: Foreground, potted
Garden Themes: Woodland, shade, coastal (protect from wind), pollinator, meadow
Uses: Border, mass, container, slopes
Type: Annual, spring
Size: 6" tall and 12" wide
Outstanding Feature(s): Flower
Stem: Medium green, fleshy, hairy
Shape: Linear, oblong, to ovate
Margin: Entire, serrate, deeply lobed
Color: Medium to bright green
Flower: Showy. Cup shape, five petals, bright blue with white center. N. menziesii var. atomaria has white flowers.
Fruit: Green capsule with black, wrinkled seeds, inconspicuous
cultural requirements, tolerances & problems
Sunset Zones: 1-24
USDA Zones: 7-10
Light: Full sun (cooler zones) to part shade
WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Unlisted. Other sources say low to moderate
Texture: Sand, loam
Moisture Retention: Well-drained
Tolerances: Unknown at time of posting.
Problems: Intolerant to heat and humidity
Branch Strength: N/A
Insects: Unknown at time of posting.
Disease: Unknown at time of posting.
citations & attributions
Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.
Calscape. "Baby Blue Eyes: Nemophila menziesii." California Native Plant Society. Accessed on September 30, 2023, from https://calscape.org/Nemophila-menziesii-().
Jepson Herbarium. "Nemophila menziesiiBABY BLUE-EYES." University of California, Berkeley. Accessed on September 30, 2024, from https://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=34542.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. "Nemophila menziesii." The University of Texas at Austin. Accessed on September 30, 2023, from https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=NEME.
Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc. (See Nemophila menziesii, pg. 453).
Park Seed. "Baby Blue Eyes Seeds." Park Seed. Access on September 30, 2023, from https://parkseed.com/baby-blue-eyes/p/01416-PK-P1/.
Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on September 30, 2023, from https://ccuh.ucdavis.edu/wucols-db.
Feature flower detail: "Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii)" by Chris Gladis is licensed under Creative Commons by 2.0 Deed, Attribution by 2.0 Generic.
Super bloom: "Baby Blue Eyes" by katorisi is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.