Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Maybe natives ARE better after all

While I prefer to plant California natives in my garden, I do, at times, wonder whether I'm getting carried away. Take Asclepias, the butterfly weed that is a primary food source for the Monarch butterfly. What could be wrong with planting a non-native butterfly weed? After all, the most favorite hangout of the monarchs along the California coast are the Eucalyptus trees.

Still, I enjoy the rare beauty of Asclepias speciosa, a native butterfly weed. I love the flowers, and enjoy the seed pods. I even did a post only about this plant here.

So imagine my surprise when I saw an article in the  New York Times Science Tuesday section last week that came down fairly hard on the side of the natives. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/18/science/monarchs-may-be-loved-to-death.html talks about research being done that compares monarchs that feed on native milkweeds with monarchs that feed on a non-native species that is popular in the trade and therefore with gardeners.

...But the most widely available milkweed for planting, the scientists say, is an exotic species called tropical milkweed — not the native species with which the butterflies evolved. That may lead to unseasonal breeding, putting monarchs at higher risk of disease and reproductive failure.

See the article for the details. Research is still ongoing, but I'm feeling much happier about my milkweed going dormant in fall, with no danger of tempting any butterfly at the wrong time of year.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Gift that Keeps on Giving!

With help from the Santa Clara Valley Water District Landscape Rebate Program, my friend Lisa is converting her fairly large garden to natives. Of course I was very excited when I heard about it, and Ms. Country Mouse and I went for a visit during the planning phase.

"Oh, how about some Eriogonum here! And maybe two or three Mulenbergia over there?" we exclaimed. And then:" You can have some seedlings from me. And some Iris. And we can propagate some coral bells!"

That was more than a month ago and now, with the plan complete and the first gentle rain of November bringing the plants back to life, I invited my friend to come for a propagation party. For me, one of the miracles of using natives is how easy many of them are to propagate - and none of them are copyrighted either. So your garden can truly become a gift that keeps on giving. 

When my friend had arrived, I made sure to dress properly:

And to get my tools - clippers, shovel, and Hori Hori.

Lisa brought some well draining potting soil, and a collection of pots. The we went to work:
  • Dug out several Festuca Californica seedlings and put them in large pots because their roots grow long. 
  • Dug out a few Epipactis giganteum (stream orchid) - an experiment, right now they are dormant. 
  • Took cuttings of several Ribes sanguinium var. glutinosum, both the species and 'Claremnont". I'm keeping a few Claremont because it's so pretty. 
  • Took cuttings of Heuchera maxiuman, Heuchera Wendy, and a Heuchera with beautiful pink flowers. 
  • Divided white and yellow Iris - Ms. Country Mouse has already set aside some purple Iris for Lisa, so I focused on yellow and white. 
  • Dug out several Epilobium (California fuchsia), Penstemon heterophyllus, and Eriogonum grande rubescens seedlings. 
For the most part, I dug out the plants, while Lisa filled the pots with soil and put the babies in their new homes. We used rooting powder for the Heuchera - this has greatly helped me in the past.

After just a few hours, every plant was in its pot and the garden looked a little less messy. We looked at the results of our labors (about 50 plants) and were very pleased indeed. Here's hoping that by March or April, everything will be well rooted and the former expanse of lawn will become a native plant paradise, teeming with pollinators, butterflies, and birds.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Planting and Weeding and Planting and Weeding

Yes, in hopes that rain cannot surely be far off - I've been trying to get everything I've propagated into the ground. Oxalis oregana, sedges, heuchera and grasses, grasses, grasses.

And as I go I'm pulling the most persistent of the weeds before they propagate! Oxalis per caprae, weedy geraniums, and grasses, grasses, grasses!

While the warm sunny weather feels a bit surreal and quite a bit disturbing - it seems pointless not to enjoy it and it has been a great pleasure to spend time in the garden among all the fall-migrating visitor birds, as well as our local humming birds. True I'll have to hand water the new plantings - but they are babies and don't take that much.

I bought four plants at the CNPS sale - below are photos two of them. A cleveland sage, Salvia clevelandii; a scarlet flowered island bush snapdragon, Galvezia speciosa, a Phacelia californica - tough and attractive to pollinators; and most wonderful, a yellow flowered, bluish green leaved, channel island bush poppy, Dendromecon harfordii. It should grow about six feet tall and wide. It's away from deer, as is the Galvezia - not so deer resistant as the others.

Phacelia californica

Channel island bush poppy, Dendromecon harfordii

For the rest, I'm doing mostly "restoration plantings." Well, I'm planting natives that I propagated from local wild natives (within a mile or so of my home). Maybe not in the assemblages they would occur in in nature though. I figure if I get them growing and setting seed here, eventually they will naturalize where they are happiest, which is where they would naturally be.

A rush maybe Juncus patens - from locally gathered seeds.

Stipa lepida from local seed. Not as robust a grower as S. cernua, in my garden. I'm trying to get more going this year. I also planted some Iris fernaldii among the grasses - hoping that will look pretty.

Oak behind where grasses and sedges and rushes are planted (too small to see)

Heuchera micrantha, these in the pool garden. Deer have been relentlessly munching the ones outside the fence.

Rhamnus californica, from local seed, and a little Stipa cernua

I also emptied the bulb boxes of their treasures: bulbs of fairy lanterns (Calochortus albus), Fremont's star lily (Toxicoscordion fremontii), checker lily (Fritillaria affinis), and soap lily (Chlorogalum pomeridianum). I put all the bulbs in some kind of container as the critters love to eat them. Except I did try a couple of the Fremont's star lily in the ground as they are - as the name suggests - toxic. Their other common name is Fremont's death camas. Star lily and soap lily are the only ones to grow unassisted on our property. And one great year - some fairy lantern. I grew these bulbs from seeds. It takes a while. I've had flowers from them all - just not the vast quantity I hoped for - yet.

Bulbs of Fritillaria affinis

Mystery bulbs in a container! No idea what they are. Found them while planting other bulbs.

As I worked today I noticed some kinda mud bug houses on ribes stem? Any ideas?

I also noticed that the plant they were on - Ribes indecorum - is already coming into bloom!

Ribes malvaceum from cutting - beside dead R. nevidense. I don't have local wild Ribes in my garden or locally (though there are some, I just haven't found them). So I plant nursery Ribes.

Among my worst weeds are calla lilies -  garden flowers that shouldn't have been planted here. They get out into the wild and are just about impossible to get rid of.

Calla lilies keep on popping up years after I've tried to eliminate them.

Root of calla lily - this is why it's hard to eliminate them.  I took about half a big garbage bag of roots out of one small area of the garden. Well, hopefully it will knock them back a bit. But I fully expect them to rebound. GRRR!
I have a lot more projects lined up - more planting and weeding of course, and working on the long path that splits the upper from the lower slope of our "north garden" area. It's weedy and I'm going to try sheet mulching it and planting on the immediate downslope where it's slipping a bit. I just hope I can get to all of it — before the rains come!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Now That's a Green Roof!

When I visited the California Academy of Sciences a few years ago, right after they opened, I was enchanted with their green roof, which was, at the time, very new. Last week, I went back and found that the roof had matured and looked even better.

It was interesting how the coconut fiber baskets that hold the earth and plants in place are now completely invisible. I had visited Rana Creek Nursery a short time after I'd seen the green roof for the first time and was quite enchanted.

 Now, you wouldn't know there are baskets under the lush green (and some brown earth) though the drainage rocks still show this roof is planted and maintained by humans.

 It's possible to walk all the way up to the roof and enjoy the view of the roof. Educational signs and occasional presentations make the roof beautiful, a great help with energy conservation and supporting the insects in Golden Gate Park, and a teaching tool.

I found it interesting to see an area of new planting, and appreciated the choice - some native buckwheats and grasses. The sign said that over 70 different plant species have been planted on the roof, most of them native plants! 

And even in October, the golden poppies and monkey flowers made for a pretty picture (though the hummingbird sage was a little past its prime). 

Don't miss the Academy if you're in the city. It's no longer as crowded as it initially was, especially on a weekday, and there's so much to discover. And besides, this is another way to support the organizations that support our native plants!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Workshop: A Native Garden Tour - How Your Chapter Can Succeed

Readers, I'm sure you've enjoyed the reports about the Going Native Garden Tour in the Santa Clara Valley. So, I'm excited to tell you that you can attend a workshop about putting on a garden tour at next year's CNPS Conservation Conference. This is a pre-conference workshop, it is scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday, January 13.

Here's a description:
Garden tours are excellent for outreach - they spread the word about native plants, instill a sense of pride in owners of native gardens, and offer educational opportunity. Several members of the Going Native Garden Tour steering committee will present this workshop and teach you about garden selection, volunteer coordination, website development, publicity, budgeting and partnering with other organizations for monetary and in-kind support. We will teach you about potential pitfalls, the money side of garden tours, and how to keep visitors coming back year after year. Small group discussions for attendees will follow topic presentations. 

I'm one of the presenters and can tell you that we're planning on making this workshop very interactive, with lots of small group work. If you have a native garden, and know of two or three others nearby, why not consider it? Here's the workshop information:http://www.cnps.org/cnps/conservation/conference/2015/workshops.php#nativetour

Here's the registration information.  http://www.cnps.org/cnps/conservation/conference/2015/registration.php
Register by October 31 to save some money - and who knows, next year you too might enjoy meeting and inspiring many wonderful people who really care about gardening with natives.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pruning or Wildlife - a No Brainer!

I was doing a round of fall pruning, thinking about taking hedge clippers to my Salvia 'Winnifred Gilman,' when I heard some peeps and cheeps. I stood still.

Bushtits! Some of my favorite little brown birds!

They descended on Winnifred and infiltrated her twigs branches so delicately, and with terrific acrobatic style they ate her seeds.

I only had my little waterproof Canon on me so the photos are not the best, but still - bushtits! Can't lose!

Nearby, an Anna's  hummingbird was feeding on a few late blooms of Galvezia speciosa.

And as ever in the garden, the curious fence lizards kept me company too.

So - needless to say I'm not going to be trimming that salvia back any time soon!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

This is California — Fall is for Planting!

We live in California, a Mediterranean climate zone where the return of rains after a long dry summer means GROWTH and GREEN! and PLANTING!

That's why all gardeners in California should seek out your California Native Plant Society plant sales.

Opening time at the CNPS Santa Cruz County plant sale last weekend! Shoppers stream towards our beautifully set out and labeled plants...

Santa Clara Valley chapter's sale is this Saturday, October 18! at Hidden Villa Ranch (26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills, 2 miles west of I-280) from 10 am to 3 pm, with two talks:
Steve Rosenthal will talk about pollinator/plant connection at 1:00 p.m., and Kevin Bryant will talk about "Success with Native Plants for Beginners" at 2:00 p.m.
Excellent news for anyone within driving distance.  Click the link above for more details, including a plant list.

CNPS Santa Clara Valley also shares their venue with another plant sale - that of the wonderful Acterra Native Plant Nursery.

Shoppers get busy picking and choosing

My chapter's sale (Santa Cruz County) was last week - sorry - I was too busy doing publicity for it to post I'm afraid, including this article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on creating a butterfly (and caterpillar!) garden. My article also publicizes the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum plant sale, held separately but at the same time and place. I think that sort of pairing of organizations happens quite a lot - more plants attract more happy customers.

We had a special on Iris this time!

There's nothing quite like the smile of a gardener with new plants!

Get a load of these beauties!
So - sorry I'm putting out this word a bit late but hope some of you will be able to go to a native plant sale near you. CNPS Plant sales are our chapters' major fundraisers, making all the work we do possible - and you'll often find plants there that are not available at commercial nurseries too, including local natives and more.

Happy planting!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Minnesota Fall Visit

We came to Central Minnesota to visit my husband's family — and to enjoy some fall color.

Our fall color in central California is mainly provided by the radiant yellow of the big leaf maples, which are not yet putting on their display down our nearby creekside road. Maybe this is not the year for them.

But in Minnestoa, sugar maples and red oaks and other trees light up the woodlands in late September and early October.

I also enjoyed seeing some late blooming wild native plants. These Symphyotrichum laeve (Smooth Blue Aster) reminded me of our own California asters:

(I IDed the plants at Minnesota Wildflowers).

and these were everywhere too - Symphyotrichum laeve (Smooth Blue Aster) (Black-eyed Susan).

I'm not sure what this next one was - it was at my brother-in-law's lake house:

Most interestingly, my brother-in-law's wife told me about the lakeside native plant project she is undertaking, with rebates and oversight from the local government (via a landscape company I believe). The idea is to absorb runoff into the lake and prevent pollution. Fertilizing lawns, of course, is also discouraged. And these days you can't build a house closer than 100 yards from the lake shore.

I only caught a few names - one section of the area has labels:

In addition to the Carex deweyana, Dewey's sedge, I saw labels for Helianthus hirsutus, hispid sunflower and Viola cucullata, Marsh Blue Violet.

The mulch was interesting - sort of a chopped-straw mixture. As agriculture predominates in the region I suppose it's a plentiful ingredient. I think it was called environmental mulch perhaps.

Some lakes are specified as "environmental" which means, among other things, no power boats etc. The lake where we stayed was not one of those, but it was pretty quiet most of the time. People fished for sunnys, crappies, walleye and more.

Opposite their property, the view is wonderful:

In Minnesota - land o' lakes - there are about 15000 lakes. They formed during and after the ice age that dragged huge glaciers across the continent. Chunks of glacier ice were left behind, buried in the ground. They melted and — voila!