Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Contemplating a Native Garden?

**Note: This is my first blog post in... um... a long time.  The garden is doing fine, and I will soon be moving back to California.  More to come...
Not my garden... goldfields in the UCI preserve.
It rained this year!  But drought will come again.  If you are thinking about going native, now is a good time to plan, and to learn about the unique requirements and habits of California native plants.  You have missed the low-water planting season, so you have time (till October...) to catch your breath and learn.  You might want to visit native gardens in the summer to see how they hold up during summer dormancy.  Some California natives are evergreen, some disappear in the dry season, and some get a bit scruffy.  Best to know in advance what you can put up with. 

Natives are different.  They don’t want soil amendments; in fact most will happily grow on a mound of decomposed granite.  They don’t want fertilizer.  They never need pesticides.  They don’t want watering more than once or twice a month, but they do want deep watering.  Most of all, THEY DON’T WANT SUMMER WATER.  Natives evolved in a climate where it almost never rains six months of the year, and they have no protection from root rot in warm damp soil.  If you must water in summer, just hose off the foliage every week or two.  Planting natives is different too.  And no practical native ‘lawn’ exists; we have to think outside that lawn box to avoid not only the water use, but the pesticide and fertilizer runoff that pollutes our bays and oceans.  (lush weed-free lawns are one of our biggest sources of water waste and pollution!)

My garden, back in the drought years, at the end of summer.  With just a little beer watering!
Buyer Beware. Know what you are planting and what it requires to thrive.  Few staff of regular nurseries understand how to grow natives.  Some even think ‘native’ is the same as ‘low water.’  Turf Terminators don’t have a clue.  Sadly, neither do most commercial landscapers or gardeners.  If you are shelling out for professional help (design or upkeep), make sure you see a 3-5 year old native garden that person has created and/or maintained.

Get to know the natives.  Las Pilitas Nursery’s extensive website will tell you more about these eco-friendy plants, as will my blog,  Orange County residents can visit Tree of Life Nursery, or the friendly volunteers at Golden West College’s Native Garden. Here are some of my favorite natives for coastal Southern California.
Hedges and Shrubs: Coffeeberry, Manzanita Howard McMinn, Ceanothus ‘Concha’.
Perennials: (all great for butterflies and hummingbirds!) Cleveland Sage, Baja Fairy Duster, Island Bush Snapdragon, Lilac Verbena.
Ground covers for sun: Dwarf Coyote Bush, Dwarf Sages (Dara’s Choice, Bees’ Bliss)
Ground covers for shade: Hummingbird Sage, Catalina Perfume.
Trees:  California Bay Laurel, Toyon, Catalina Cherry, ‘Mexican’ Elderberry.
And don't forget California's cutest succulents: Dudleyas!
(These are Dudley Farinosa, at Tilden Native Garden in Berkeley.)
Be patient.  Natives root deep, and take a while to express their potential.  They go dormant in the summer.  They feed native birds and animals.  On a minimum of water and no fertilizer or pesticide, their subtle beauty offers a deep connection with the rhythms of nature that feed the soul. 

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1 comment:

  1. Wow, that is really good and informative post, I loved it specially the images you shared here with us of flowers. Thank you for sharing it with us.