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California Native Plant PR

Monday, May 23, 2005

How Could I Forget?

In all my haste to announce the creation of my Conscious Gardening movement (now a copyrighted feature of this blog - not really, just sounds impressive), I neglected to mention the one element that is just as important as size, water needs, and sun or shade requirements of a desired plant. That is, of course, make sure the plant you want works in your climate! Hello, that's why I started this blog. How could I forget so quickly!?

The thing that reminded me of my mission in life was seeing all of the tropical plants for sale hanging in the blistering sun outside Whole Foods this morning. Without exception, each plant was in serious distress: wilting and/or fading from green to yellow or brown.

The sight of these poor, climate-challenged critters cemented my belief in Conscious Gardening (not that I needed any reassurance, mind you). I thought, "Now why can't Whole Foods, a supposedly earth-conscious company, sell plants that are appropriate for the region?"

I realize that the tropical plants they're hocking are meant for indoors (I can only assume), and I'm all for a nice dracena in the house in a snazzy pot next to a lovely picture window, but it wouldn't hurt Whole Foods to throw up a few native species in some hanging baskets. Clearly their customer base is already interested in non-mainstream items. That's why we shop at Whole Foods, right? [I can only speak for myself here, so, yes, that is why I shop at Whole Foods. I want to buy products that I can't find at, say, Albertson's. And I can get a dracena at Albertson's.]

Therefore, it only stands to reason that Whole Foods should offer us something different, something earth-friendly and ecologically sound in the plant department. That, my friends, would be California native plants here in Los Angeles. In Denver, they could sell Colorado natives. What a concept!!

I hope someone from Whole Foods corporate is reading this blog. If you're out there, please consider embracing my Conscious Gardening movement in your stores. You already sell organic herbs in pots. That is an excellent start. Selling native plants is the next logical step. Go for it!!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Conscious Gardening

That's it! I've decided I'm starting my own movement.

At the point of being beyond-frustrated by seeing one garden after another packed with inappropriate plants that do not fit into the spaces where they were haphazardly planted, I cannot stay silent anymore and must devote my life to conscious gardening.

What exactly is conscious gardening? On its most basic level it is the practice of fully comprehending your garden site and the plants intended for it. That is to say, before shopping for plants, measure your garden site(s). Know its dimensions and then go to the nursery, plant sale, or farmer's market and shop accordingly.

While shopping, read the little information tags on the plants to see if what you're interested in buying will actually fit in your garden when it's fully grown and if your site has the right amount of sun or shade necessary for the plant to live.

Some information that you need to garden consciously will not be on the plant's tag. For instance, how do a particular plant's roots grow? Downward? Outward? Do the roots spread endlessly and pop up in your neighbor's yard? Does the plant continually multiply, or does its growth eventually slow and stop?

You can find out the answers to these questions by doing some research on the Internet (such as on this very blog!) and in great books like Sunset Garden Book. Devour all the resources you can find and many problems can be avoided.

That's all it takes to be part of my conscious gardening movement: a little time invested means you'll have less headaches, spend less time trimming unruly plants (because you won't purchase any), spend less money, use less water, and enjoy your garden more.

So, are you with me?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Romneya coulteri

Romneya coulteri
Originally uploaded by gardenmania.

Thanks to the hubby for this gorgeous close-up of a Matilija Poppy flower. The petals resemble crepe paper and the large, puffy, yellow center invokes the image of a fried egg. These bold, profuse plants can be seen on the hillside as you enter Griffith Park through the top of Commonwealth Avenue in Los Feliz. They're on their way out so go see them soon. If you desire to put Matilija Poppies in your garden, be sure you have the room for them and the stamina to pull up unwanted shoots. They spread via rhizomes and can be a little unruly. They're impressively tall, so put them toward the back of a group of shorter plants.

Friday, May 20, 2005

It Worked!!

Hooray! I'm posting pictures. Courtesy of Flickr, I can upload photos to this blog. How 'bout that Dudleya? It's so striking. With grayish-green, finger-like leaves and long shoots of star-like flowers, it is a lovely break amongst more traditional-looking plants. And, as I mentioned before, it is conducive to container gardening. Bees love the flowers. One could also use native Dudleya in a moonlight garden, where the plants all share a somewhat ghostly quality, i.e. they are silvery and shimmer against the light of the moon. More soon!!

dudleya hassei

dudleya hassei
Originally uploaded by gardenmania.

Not being of very sound technical mind, I have been stumbling along with the creation of this blog. It is my hope that I can include photos of the plants I rave about here.
Let's start with trying to show a photo of my beloved Dudleya hassei. I took this picture some time in 2004, I believe, while on a field trip to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Easy Native Plants

It's about darn time that California native plants get their own publicist. I nominated myself and so here I am, writing a blog devoted to everything Cal native. I want to spread the word about these under-rated plants because I'd like to see them in every nursery in Southern California, in every garden, in every median strip along our roads, and in every landscape. OK, OK, that may be a little too ambitious, but it's worth a try.
So, to that end, this blog goes out to all you SoCal gardeners looking to save some water, create habitat in your yard, re-create old California, create ecological balance, stem the tide of invasive plants, and just be responsible gardeners in general.
This blog is a space where gardeners of conscience can gather to swap ideas about using California native plants and gain new ideas.
This blog will also provide many resources for people looking to garden with California natives. In the future, look here to find out about garden tours, plant sales, nursery information, etc.
So, here's my first post:
In response to one of my favorite gardening/design/lifestyle magazines, I am offering my own suggestions for easy, foolproof perennials for lazy gardeners (like myself).
First, I highly recommend Iris douglasiana. It's striking. It multiplies. You can divide it in a few years and have more plants to spread around the garden. It needs light shade. It can be used safely under oaks (that is, once established, Iris douglasiana needs little to no water in the summer, a time when our native oaks cannot take watering). I love Douglas Iris. You will too.
One of my new favorite natives is Nassella lepida, or Foothill Needlegrass. This perennial bunchgrass has a lovely, dainty, flowy look. It gets to about 2X2 feet. It needs sun to part shade and little to no water once established.
You'll see me writing the above phrase a lot: "once established." What I mean by this is that, while many Cal native plants can boast serious drought tolerance, none are immediately drought tolerant once planted. They need some babying in the first year after they're planted. We'll get into that more later.
My third easy perenniall offering is Salvia 'Allen Chickering'. This beauty gives a one-two-three punch with its gorgeously fragrant leaves, shimmery gray green color, and eye-catching blue flowers (which, by the way are loved by hummingbirds and bees. So really this is a four-punch plant!). Size details: about 4 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Put this puppy near your garden's entrance and let it brush your pants each time you walk into the garden. Yum! 'Allen Chickering likes sun/light shade and is very drought tolerant - when? you guessed it: once established.
Onto number four. I love me some native Coral Bells. I just put Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles' (oops, actually not a native - edit: 7/6/05) into a container in our front courtyard and it is going gangbusters. It is currently in bloom. Give it well-draining soil, light shade and it'll get to its estimated foot and a half height and width. The label says it has pink flowers but they seem white to me, and that is fine by me.
Oh, my next new fave is Verbena lilacina, or Cedros Island Verbena or Lilac Verbena. This GORGEOUS perennial is also in containers in my courtyard, and, so far, it is quite happy getting part sun and part shade. Lilac Verbena looks magnificent in hanging baskets as it cascades over the sides. It has deeply cut leaves and clusters of lilac-colored flowers nearly all year in mild climates. Size: 1 foot hight by 3 foot wide or more.
Last but certainly not least, I'm going to throw you a little bit of a curveball here: Dudleya hassei. It's a stunning succulent perennial that sends out petite white flowers on branched stems. Oh do I love California native Dudleyas. They are fabulous in pots. They can take almost all day sun (probably half day in hotter areas when they are in pots). They need good drainage.
That should give you something to chew on until the next post. I'll try to put up photos soon!!
Happy native planting!!!