Cambrian: Opinion

Museum’s blooms are pretty, but looks can be deceiving

Elephant garlic with eureopsis flowers at the Cambria Historical Museum.
Elephant garlic with eureopsis flowers at the Cambria Historical Museum. Special to The Cambrian

Cambrians are enjoying the beauteous blooms around the Historical Museum, but you may not know some are classified as weeds that threaten to strangle the heirloom roses and other plants.

The most notorious and prevalent are the Four O’Clocks, so called because the blossoms are closed early in the day, and open through the evening.

We have the traditional fuchsia-colored ones, some variegated with white, and fewer of a pretty yellow. They mainly grow along the Center Street side of the property, and the earliest plants have been established for so long their tuberous roots are as big as one’s forearms. Left to run rampant, their copious seeds spill out and migrate to other areas of the yard and strangle the roses. Yes, they are colorful and require little or no water, but we pay the price when they are not thinned out, or removed where invasive. They will be with us “for all eternity.”

Last year we were blessed with California poppies, wide-eyed and open during the day, and closed up at night. Because of the drought, they thrive when there is very little water, but fill in where we would like to have planted other annuals or perennials, so these also are a mixed blessing. When the Historical Museum was established, the yard was envisioned as the outdoor museum. Soon we will have permanent markers for the most significant heirloom roses and plants. No need to identify the old-fashioned hollyhocks and certainly not the neon orange nasturtiums, which are also running rampant where left unchecked.

Prominent about the property are the tall blooms of elephant garlic, self-propagating host to bees and other helpful insects that protect the roses from aphids. We love them also because as soon the foliage dies back, we are ready to harvest and sell the large sweet nutty-flavored bulbs which are actually in the leek family. You can “own a piece of the rock” when you purchase some to eat, cook, or plant. They began in our garden after travel from Oregon many, many years ago.

Our parlor speaker Thursday, August 3 at 5:30 is Marlin Harms, noted authority on local flora. He will do a photo illustration of San Luis Obispo’s wildflowers, including endemic, endangered, overlooked, and parasitic species. A graduate of Cal Poly with a degree in Environmental and Systemic Biology, he is also a member of the California Native Plant Society.

You may be able to reserve one of the few seats available to the public at press time; $10 admission is applicable to a $30 membership, which entitles you to free admission to these events, which include great refreshments. Call 805-927-1442.

This summer, you may have noticed our monthly activities out in the yard, featuring such things as vintage tools, crafts, games, and ropemaking. On Saturday, Aug.12 during regular museum hours (1 to 4 p.m.), our specialists will be under the big California native oak along Burton Drive to do an interactive activity with you about early day foods and cooking. At no charge but welcomed donations, we want you to bring your family and friends for this unique experience you will find nowhere else.

There is so much to do, and so much to be done, we invite your supportive membership, but also your energetic participation as a docent and/or gardener. Please join us; call Penny Church about training for inside at 805-927-1442, and Consuelo Macedo for outside at 805-927-3159.

Consuelo Macedo’s column on North Coast history and Cambria Historical Society activities appears the first Thursday of each month and is special to The Cambrian.

About the museum

The Cambria Historical Museum and bookstore at 2251 Center Street and Burton Drive, are staffed by volunteers from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday. The heirloom gardens and backyard nursery are open all day every day. Phone: (805) 927-2891. Go to, and “like” us at