Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Hidden Gem

Don't plant natives now, they won't grow!  Plan a successful garden for late Fall, and educate yourself for success.

Want to see how natives have grown in an established garden?  I've seen a number of little native gardens and school nature centers.  They are great as far as they go, but that usually isn't very far.  Imagine my surprise when, during Spring Break, I discovered a hidden gem tucked between a giant parking lot and glass-sheathed multistory buildings at Golden West College in Huntington Beach.
A shady glen at the entrance had strawberries, fescue, native iris, and two colors of monkey flowers. 
The Golden West College California Native Garden is about 1.5 acres in size and has some spectacular mature trees.  It feels like an oasis of nature in the city.  It offers a glimpse of some favorite native perennials and shrubs in their mature form, set in a park-like atmosphere.  Some corners look like a well-tended home garden.  Some are larger in scale.
White Sage (Salvia apiana) blooming like crazy in the shadow of the Math/Science Building.
Some of my favorites were shown to good effect.  Some of my favorites get a lot bigger than I realized.
See that tiny park bench in the back left?  This Catalina Silverlace (Constancea nevinii) is taller than my head.
When I visited April 1, the wildflowers were going strong: Elegant Clarkia (which would take over if allowed), bulbs like Blue Dicks, Chinese Houses, and more.
Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla)
The garden is a labor of love by many, but its guiding force is Dan Songster.  He was Lead Groundskeeper and Co-Director of the Garden for many years.  Now that he is retired, he can't stay away.  He takes the honorary title "Curator" and still coordinates the volunteer efforts, hands-on, many mornings.
Dan (left) and friends, tending the garden.
Dan has knowledge of native gardening won by long experience. When I visited, he showed me a fine Sugar Bush (tree, really) that he was pruning to reveal its twisted branches, and pointed out some favorite cultivars.
Snails ate all the blue Lupines, Dan says, but they don't eat the yellow ones.  Good to know, since they ate mine!
A little history of the garden can be found on the Golden West website.  The garden is open to visitors dawn till dusk.  It can be accessed through the northeast corner where there is no fence or gate.  Drive to the middle of the long parking lot just east of Golden West Street between Edinger and McFadden (here's a map); parking will cost you $2.  Check out this resource as you plot your native garden for fall.
Sticky Monkey Flower happily blooming between two Deer Grass, all under a giant oak.
 If you come at 9 on a Tuesday or Thursday morning, you can ask Dan your native gardening questions.  He is very accommodating.  Or just help tend the garden!
The garden has Dudleya, of course.  This Dudleya (hassei?) is set off nicely by bright green buckwheat. 

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Monday, April 27, 2015

This is Broken (Sprinklers)

Our water usage and distribution system in California is broken in many ways.  Most of them you and I can do little to fix.  Those of us who have sprinklers can do one small (or not so small) thing: adjust our sprinklers and repair leaks.  You wouldn't waste water in such an egregious way as to have a broken sprinkler or pipe spewing water all over, would you?  Or would you?  I wouldn't.  But I did.
Can you see the flood?  Neither could I.  It was behind the leftmost Cypress, and neatly draining into the bay.
When I decided to tune up my sprinklers two weeks ago (and fix the one that had a little spew from the rubber seal around the pop-up...which I noticed last summer and didn't fix...)  I discovered a break in the line that was sending a small river across the bed and straight into the drain.  It was forceful enough that the rest of the sprinklers in that zone were at half mast.  I had been wondering why my roses were drying out.  There was no evidence of the flood a few minutes after the sprinklers turned off.  It could have been going on for months.

I can repair or replace a sprinkler body.  But this job was beyond me.  I made an emergency call to a gardener who does heavy jobs for me.  He chopped out a six-inch-thick Italian Cypress root that had broken the pipe.  The system is twenty-six years old; the next break is only a matter of time.
Just another broken sprinkler.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.
Juan Garcia, Water Use Efficiency Specialist at the Irvine Ranch Water District (and a sprinkler tech geek) says sprinklers should be checked monthly.  Yeah, right. Perhaps you have a gardener or service that is supposed to be attending to these things.  If you ask them when was the last time they checked all the sprinklers...  what response do you think you will get?

At my church, whose members want to be totally PC and green, and which had been publishing "water saving tips" in the weekly email for months, I invited the maintenance folks to check the sprinklers with me.  "The gardeners do that, right?"  Yeah, right.
The ad hoc Church sprinkler maintenance team: me, Lyle and Nancy, with nifty clipboards to note and diagram problems.

This is a get-down-and-dirty kind of job.  For all but the smallest yard, it requires at least two people, one at the sprinkler controller and one checking the sprinklers, and a couple of cell phones. 
Lyle, an engineer, manned the sprinkler controller. It helps to be an engineer to operate these contraptions.  How many programs are you running for your different hydrozones?  Do you cycle and soak? Seasonal adjust?
You get to discover where all the zones are.  Twenty-four, in this case; probably close to three hundred sprinklers.  Some are set to run, but we cannot find them.  Underground?  We may never know.  We discovered two zones with such bad breaks they had little pressure.  And a couple of geysers.  About typical, I'd guess.
A minor geyser in back of the sanctuary.
A couple of sprinklers were aimed at the sidewalk or the building.  And a whole bunch of old sprinkler bodies had water welling out of them and flooding one spot or another. Nothing unusual.
This doesn't look like much water till you see it flowing thirty feet down the sidewalk. The broken sprinkler body is below grade.
We discovered some mystery hose that had drip emitters, at the base of patio trees.  The emitters emitted little or nothing, but the trees were huge, suggesting that they had broken the tubing under the patio. We have no way to repair that.  Hopefully the cement will not be undermined. Keep that in mind when somebody suggests underground irrigation.
Happy tree, useless emitter.  We don't even know which zone is watering these trees.
Even when everything is repaired and tuned, some waste is inherent in the design of our irrigation systems.
These sprinklers are working fine, adjusted fine...and watering the sidewalk anyway.
Waste is built into our irrigation in other ways.  We run our sprinklers in the wee hours, so we don't see any leaks unless they wash away a hillside.  Wealthy neighborhoods install drains in lawns and gardens, so there is no telltale puddle to indicate a break or overwatering.   Even when sprinklers are working properly, the soil saturates (in about three minutes with regular sprinkler heads), and water then goes from the irrigation system straight into the drain. I had never seen drains in home yards till I moved to SoCal. In the rest of the world yards gently slope away from the foundation of the house to the street so you can see if you're wasting water, and not have to worry about the drain plugging and your house flooding (as ours did years ago.) 
Can you see the drain?  Neither could I till I redid the landscaping two years ago and discovered drains I never knew I had.  
A few days later I met with a friendly young man named Eddie from the church's expensive landscaping service to show him our findings.  It turns out we pay extra for all repairs, which means we will let the service handle the line breaks and sprinkler body replacements, and we volunteers will do everything else.  I asked Eddie from the expensive landscaping service how often they checked for sprinkler problems.  He said that the "mow and blowers report anything they see."  In other words, never, unless there is a mudslide.

Seth Godin gave a TED talk in 2010 called "This is Broken," inviting people to point out things in our society that are designed or maintained badly, sometimes to the point of absurdity.  I nominate our obscure and labyrinthine Southern California sprinkler systems as fundamentally broken, not only  in implementation, but in their very design.

So we fix what we can.  It's time to roll up your pant legs and check those sprinklers.  Call a gardener to repair if you don't want to attempt it yourself.  If the gardener comes, you can have him show you how to work the controller so that you will  be ready to adjust it for minimum water use and minimum waste– more on that later.
It's a wet job.  I'd rather be gardening, or Beer Watering.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Volunteers Show their Stuff

The volunteers are over-performing this year!  It's amazing what a little timely rain and my neighbor's seeds can accomplish.
Everyone knows California Poppies. I dumped a seed packet on my garden two years ago and Nature does the rest.  I am deadheading so they'll last till the garden tour. This photo was during a heat wave... they were a little limp.
I inadvertently designed an excellent garden for volunteers in my front yard.  The bases of my mounds collect both seeds and moisture (from association lawn overspray), making them ideal incubators for wildflowers.  Weeds too, but it's a small area, and once the wildflowers take hold they crowd out the weeds. When they fade away in summer, the bare gravel base of the slope does not seem out of place. The trickiest part was figuring out which were weeds and which were wildflowers.
Seep Monkeyflower (from Tomaz' garden next door) was a surprise. My garden's not wet!
Perennial Blue-eyed Grass was the first colonizer of my garden.  Two plants from Tomaz became a half dozen the next year– but no blooms.  I had wondered if I got duds.  They are blooming copiously their second year, with so many new sprouts I'll be stocking my friends' gardens next year.
Blue-eyed Grass with a background of Red Buckwheat. It disappears in summer, but happily grows in, through and around just about anything, so no bare spots.
Many California wildflowers are annuals.  They sprout in winter, delight in spring, and vanish by summer.  Perhaps this is the reason they are seldom cultivated (aside from poppies).  But their seeds live on.
Life-sized photo of little Beach Primrose (Camissonia cheiranthifolia), also seeded from Tomaz' planting.
Our tallest volunteer by far is Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata), a meadow flower found widely in California.  I got the seeds, gave them to Tomaz, and one of their progeny shot up through my seaside daisies.  His side of the garden has a dozen or so two-foot sprigs. I have one monster.
Elegant Clarkia on steroids: four feet tall.  Also color coordination is out the window.  Totally worth it. 
Another Clarkia that performs well in my garden is Farewell to Spring (Clarkia bottae).  It blooms later than other annual wildflowers, and is not yet at its peak.  The selection I got from Tree of Life (in 4" pots) makes very neat round mounds.
Early blooms from Farewell to Spring.
Lighting up the unirrigated, mowed strip along the campus ring road at UCI: Desert Marigold (Baileya radiata). I hope the one I just planted produces some volunteers too!
Unstoppable native.  This Desert Marigold got mowed and came right back.
A garden is always a collaboration between humans and nature.  I like it when nature takes liberties with design.  I'm glad my garden has room for these stunning volunteers.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

April Showers

We seldom have April showers in Southern California.  With the drought, we are noticing that our indoor showers can make a big difference in conserving water.
More California Native Beer.  Can be used to promote water efficiency.  See below.
My rain gauge has been dry.  Low hanging fruit in our quest to save water is optimizing shower water usage.  So I thought I'd measure shower outputs and track water usage. Data! (I am a scientist after all.)

Sophisticated measuring equipment.  Large bucket, bathroom scale, and waterproof timer (below.)

This was a harder sell than I thought.  I guess some people don't want to know if they are wasting water.  My intent is to inform, not judge.  I want to enjoy the water I use, not waste it.  Which does require a little mindfulness, but very little effort.  I measured my own usage, anyway.  The first way I save shower water is:
  • Don't daydream while my shower is warming up.   I am a notorious daydreamer.  But I had already retrained myself to pay attention to the empty running shower.   There is some ineviable warmup water, 1.5 gallons to be exact.  This is more than most, because our pipes take the longest route imaginable from the water heater to the shower. 
This bucket isn't wide enough to catch every drop, but it stores and carries easier than the big one. The plastic handle was lost one morning when a couple of gallons of water were deposited on the bedroom carpet.
Aiding me in mindfulness is a bucket that we put in the shower to catch the "warm-up" water.  This clean water goes into my backyard fountain or a "cistern" (garbage can with lid.)  Collecting and distributing greywater (water that has a little soap or dirt in it) is not something I'm attempting.  Issues with collection, storage, distribution, and legality make it beyond my skill or interest.  Yes, a bucket in the shower is a bother.  It also lets me have my bubbling fountain, where the hummingbirds drink, guilt-free.  The next easiest water saver is:
  • Take just the length shower I need to wash, and not to meditate, shave, etc.  
Waterproof timer hanging in the shower.  Yes it's overkill, but I was curious.
Australians are way ahead of us on this.  Back in 2007, in response to a severe drought, they became "the land of the four minute shower."  To this end, my timer.  It's waterproof so I can stop the beeping without exiting the shower if I exceed my limit. I find that a five to six minute shower is relaxing; the mere presence of the timer reminds me to do my meditation elsewhere.
I'd rather meditate in my backyard to the sound of the fountain I fill up with shower warm-up water.
Apparently the average American shower is eight minutes.  Did the researchers measure, or just ask?  I wonder... I certainly had no idea till I measured.  Teenagers are known to take 30-minute showers.  I think my adult son is down to twenty, but he doesn't live here.  The Wall Street Journal actually suggested installing an electronic device that turns off your shower after a pre-set time and won't restart it for a while.  It costs around $250, not including the electrical connection!!  This seems crazy to me for home use.  If someone's mental health requires a longer shower, let them have it.  The next water-saving shower tip is:
  • Use just the flow I need for a comfortable shower.
Back in 1993, federal law required all new shower heads to have a flow of 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM) or less.  This is an imaginary number, because it depends on a standard water pressure that nobody has.  Here's the trick.  The quality of a 3 GPM flow with full bore pipe pressure from a junky shower head (the $3 model installed by the builder) is far inferior to a 1 GPM flow from a well designed "water saver" model (we have $20 and $40 "EcoFlow" shower heads from Water Pic) and variable-flow handles.  That's a factor of 3 in water savings for a BETTER shower! If I want a waterfall... I guess I should move to Hawaii. (If your shower head is clogged and producing an uneven flow, it's not the manufacturer's fault. It's your hard water.  Treat yourself to a new shower head, or if you're on a super tight budget try soaking your shower head in vinegar overnight.)
This is our deluxe "Eco" shower head, listed at 1.6 GPM; we run it at 3/4 to 1 GPM.  Very nice spray.
Changing out a junk shower head for an "Eco" model is worth the bother even if you live in an apartment: easy, cheap, and so satisfying.  Under no circumstances call a plumber for this task ($$).  If you are not handy, you can ask a handy friend to do the job, buy them a beer, and they will totally come out ahead on the deal.  This is the way beer promotes water efficiency.  Your friend can easily help you install this gadget too:
Shower shut-off valve (can be used to reduce or interrupt flow).  
I haven't gone so far as to turn off the shower while I'm soaping up, but I tried.  Turning my shower on and off is annoying; the hot-cold flow always changes, and fiddling with water temperature while scalding and freezing is the anti-meditation.  The little valve above, installed between the shower head and the pipe, should do the trick, except it doesn't fit with our current shower head.  Our shower currently puts out about 1.3 GPM at full pressure, but I only run it at 3/4 to 1 GPM.  If I had fixed-flow knobs, I would try harder to install this valve, and use it half-closed.
Chart from
The average American shower, in 1999 was 17 gallons (2.1 GPM for 8.2 minutes.)  My current shower runs 4-5 gallons.  Lucky for me, I don't like baths.  I could cut my usage further if needed but this is the comfortable efficient shower for me.  Perhaps you'd like to do a few upgrades to enjoy your April showers more for less water?
Because some parts of the garden do want supplemental water.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Let Mother Nature Do the Work

Despite our early and prolonged heat, the native hills are not dormant yet!  The non-native grasses are golden, but the native chaparral and sage scrub are still green, and wildflowers, while not abundant, can be found in the right places.  Here is a sampling.
Do you see the famous Laurel Canyon rock dude sticking his tongue out at you?
The Laurel Canyon-Willow Canyon loop in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is one of my favorite nearby hikes.  This route offers different terrains and plant communities in under five miles, and lots of wildflowers, including Datura as big as my hand.
Datura does drama.  And grows out on exposed ridges and fields.  But cannot compete with invasive grasses and mustards.
On my last trip (a week ago) I saw a number of charming wildflowers that I could grow at home... in principle... but I'll let Mother Nature do the work, and enjoy her handiwork.
Keckiella were looking so lush and lovely in the shady canyon-- they struggle in our yard.  Hummingbird pleaser.
Black Sage was all over, but near the entrance to Laurel Canyon drifts were bigger than your head. Mine is a good garden anchor that is easy to shape once a year and ignore.
Thanks to Lyle Norton for arranging Friday morning hikes, and for using his head for perspective on the monster Black Sage.
Fuchsia-flowering gooseberry is one of the most charming of our locals.  It blooms very early, and now has berries and fall-colored leaves, because it is getting ready to lose its leaves for the summer.  Yes, we do it backwards here in California.  The natives frolic in winter and spring, and lie low in summer.
Another beauty I won't try to grow at home.
Greg Rubin claims Indian Pinks make good garden plants.  I'm curious to try, because they are show-stoppers.
I'm mad about you, little Indian Pink (Silene lanciniata).
California Buckwheat is another beauty that I will leave in Mother Nature's garden.  While its spring green can be elegant and its blooms spectacular, its spent flowers are a deep rusty brown that don't appeal to me at close quarters.  Birds love the seeds though.  If I had acreage...
I love the lacy pink buds of our local buckwheat.
Bulbs are so tempting.  But I think I have a gopher.  Mariposa Lily is perhaps the best known California bulb.  Tomaz actually grew some in pots (which he left dormant in the garage most of the year.)
Elegant Mariposa Lily.  Were dotting a few hillsides.  Ahh.
I am considering trying onions, which I imagine might be a little more resistant to the critters.
A new friend, Goldenstar (Bloomeria crocea), is related to onions.  Also scattered across a field or three.
The dry brown grass you see on many foothills and plains is not native.  Cows and their accompanying weed seeds devastated California grasslands over a century ago.  Steep hills and canyons still shelter long-lived native trees and rugged chaparral plants that could be the foundation of an almost zero-water suburban landscape, if people were willing to change their water habits.  Now is the time.
California Sycamore on the left is a cheery spring green despite the heat.  In cultivation it loses its leaves repeatedly in the spring (because of too much water) and is considered a nuisance; my HOA plants non-native sycamores so they can safely overwater them.  Sigh.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Everyone Loves Howard

The young women working the registers at Roger’s Gardens were oohing and ahhing over my little bush at the checkout stand.  I agree.  It has an elegance and versatility you find in few plants, let alone natives.  Its dramatic red branches and small, upright leaves always look dressed up. It adds a dark forest green that we don’t often see in natives.  It is Manzanita ‘Howard McMinn,’ a cultivar of Arctostaphylos densiflora.
Howard, center, adding a rich green (with sunrise highlights in new stems) to the border.
Howard is subtle and well-behaved.  He never steals the show, but is the most reliable of supporting actors.   Like all manzanitas, Howard has a “fractal” branching growth pattern that continues year after year.  So Howard is not a stated size, but will slowly branch out taller and wider each year.   Alas, my little gem will not hide the air conditioner for several years yet.  Unlike most manzanitas, however, Howard is eminently prunable.  I have seen it as a hip-high sheared hedge in a parking lot in Los Gatos.

If you wait long enough and prune carefully,
you can expose the beautiful twisted dark red wood.
(Photo from Las Pilitas Nursery, used by permission)
If you don’t water Howard enough in a drought winter, he will lose a few leaves.  He would like a good soaking every three or four weeks.  If you spritz the dust off every 2-3 weeks in summer he will be content.  Really.  I’m not sure about overwater; he’s claimed to take lawn water but I wouldn’t push it.  Around here lawns can pass as swamps.  My landscape architect friend Cheryl Fields uses Howard successfully in mixed plantings that receive generic care and (over)watering.
Aren't those little flowers cute?
Hummingbirds love them.
Howard grows in shade or sun, but only flowers well (in January!) in sun.   Its flowers are tiny but can be abundant and last most of a month. Howard’s full history and stellar attributes can be seen at the Las Pilitas plant guide.  Howard is a great potted plant and Bonsai candidate.
Howard holding his own in a curb planting in my neighborhood,
though I'm not sure blue is his color.
Manzanita is a large genus; you will see species and hybrids of many sizes and shapes growing over coastal, foothill, and mountain ranges.  It is slow growing but long lived evergreen, and (depending on the variety) can endure harsh conditions. Manzanita branches are treasured by florists for their dramatic red color. But please don’t harvest wild manzanita “trees.” They may take 50 years to regrow.

Closeup of Howard's flowers, complete with Painted Lady Butterfly.
(Photo from Las Pilitas Nursery, used by permission)

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Clone Invasion

Oh no! My plants are clones! Don’t panic. If you’ve ever eaten a ‘Granny Smith’ apple, you are familiar with clones. All Granny Smith apple trees (at least the top halves) are descended from cuttings of the same plant, as are most other named fruit varieties. Plants can be cloned by division, layering, cuttings, grafts, and budding. These cloning methods have been used for centuries and possibly millennia.

The advantage of cloned plants is: you know exactly what you’re getting (growing conditions aside.) No surprises, as can happen when mama flower and daddy pollen (from who knows where?) mix it up to produce seeds of who knows what.
Hedge Nettle (Stachys bullata) is cloning all over that damp shady spot
in my backyard where nothing else will grow.  Bravo!
Plants even clone in nature. Those mints that send runners into your garden and are impossible to eradicate are all clones of that first mint you made the mistake of planting.  Giant Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) “fairy rings” are a circle of cloned “daughter” trees, sprouted around a mother tree that has since died. The little rosette that you replant from your succulent is a clone of the parent.   No worries.


Except there is no genetic diversity in clones, so no chance to adapt to new situations: climate change (that could be relevant these days,) even microclimates, or new insects or diseases.
This little fellow is Dudleya 'Anacapa' from Native Sons Nursery.
Apparently a hybrid created by Wayne Roderick.  It's darn cute.
Most of our ornamental plants are clones these days. Commercial ornamental gardeners clone for two reasons. First, clones are predictable. They’ve all got the same genes for size, shape, color, etc. Isn’t predictability what gardeners want? Second, clones can be patented, and their distribution controlled, to the profit of the grower holding the patent. A grower’s got to make a living, right?

To be fair, some plants do not breed true from seed so must be cloned. Sometimes we’re not good at growing them from seed at all. Maybe we are missing that obscure native bee that knew how to pollinate a particular plant.

Baja Bush Snapdragon 'Gran Cañon' - may or may not be a clone, but it has the same hummingbird magnet flowers as every other Bush Snapdragon, plus a growth habit out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Clones in the native garden can be problematic if:

1) They may breed with local wild populations and distort their characteristics. (So cultivars from Baja and Channel Islands natives are no problem.  Or your municipality has already planted hundreds of that cultivar in your neighborhood... say, did they ever think of this issue?)

2) They may deprive wildlife of the benefits of the wild type plant. (For instance, dwarf coyote bushes are usually all male plants, so will not provide seed to wildlife… but will still pollinate the local coyote ladies, problem #1.  But in our neighborhood, the association already planted hundreds of them, so damage done. I seem to have a volunteer cross in my yard.  I'll find a home for it.)

3) You are attempting a native habitat restoration. Those hardworking pioneers need a diverse gene pool, hopefully adapted to the local environment.

4) The clone is now so garden-docile it no longer belong in a low-water native garden, needing unreasonable amounts of water and fertilizer. (For example Manzanita ‘Emerald Carpet’ and some Coral Bells that need lots of water.)

But how do you know if your plants are cloned? Ask how your plants are propagated.  If your vendor doesn’t know, you’re at the wrong nursery.

Heuchera "Old La Rochette' by my front door last year.
How about hybrids? Pretty much the same issues, in fact many hybrids are cloned. Gotta confess, I’m nuts about hybrid Coral Bells, Heuchera ‘Old La Rochette’– it likes a bit more water than the native Alum Root, Heuchera maxima, but has far showier blooms.

Are clones always bad news for the environment? I don’t think so. Dwarf coyote bush is still a great water-saver (assuming you let it get established, and then don’t kill it by watering it like ivy.)
California Grape (partly.) They call it 'Roger's Red' for a reason.
This Fall color lasts a long time.
Named cultivars may be clones, hybrids, or selections from the wild or from someone’s garden. Sometimes it’s hard to know which without DNA testing. Sages, for instance, are promiscuous. They seem to hybridize at the drop of a hat, even in the wild.  So a “selection” from a native population may actually be a hybrid.   If a plant is markedly different than the usual type of its species, be suspicious.  For instance, DNA analysis of the popular ‘Roger’s Red’ California Grape apparently revealed that it is actually a hybrid with European wine grapes.  Oh well, I’m keeping mine.  Named cultivars may be grown from seed that grows “true to type.”  But most cultivars are cloned.

I love named native cultivars like Baja Snapdragon ‘Gran Cañon,’ Ceanothus ‘Concha,’ and Manzanita ‘Howard McMinn.’ They have unique, reliable forms, but still function as native plants, offering beauty, and flowers and seed to the critters, for little water.

Every Manzanita 'Howard McMinn' looks like every other.
Elegant and understated. OK by me.
Don’t fall for trendy plants. That’s not what a native garden is about. Native foliage offers a variety of leaf shape and color without resorting to purple. Ban white California Poppies! Eschew variegated-leaf Ceanothus!  I tried Toyon ‘Davis Gold.’  Instead of brilliant red Toyon berries at Christmas time, I got anemic orange ones.  My bad. (OK, I admit, I like red Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)  'Paprika'.)

Which Lilac Verbena do you prefer:
 The original selection from Baja's Cedros Island,
which breeds true, 'de la Miña' below?
Or the unwild-colored cultivar 'Paseo Rancho' above?
Bottom line: consider the problems listed above when choosing named cultivars, weighed against the benefits of consistency and desirable characteristics. You may be pure in only choosing plants from wild seed and cuttings, as some advocate. I choose to be moderate in selecting some cultivars (and clones) that still retain enough native properties to merit the name.

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