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California Native Plant PR

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Water in the Garden?

Again, I feel compelled to answer back to the garden magazine I love so dearly. One might begin to wonder why I love it so much when I am always criticizing it. I'll have to think about that one.

In any case, there is an article in its latest issue about water in the garden. I felt so despondent reading it and thinking about the messages being sent to western gardeners. The magazine was condoning the use of fountains that have large bowls of exposed water. The kicker was that they were publishing this article just as the weather is really beginning to heat up - NOT the time to start using more water.

What the heck were these people thinking? It's irresponsible to promote more water usage in our parched landscape. It's one thing to present photos and descriptions of fountains with reservoirs that are submerged beneath the ground. These types of fountains conserve water.

In a climate where we get no rain other than during the winter months, we must change the way we think about water usage in the garden. Any exposed water during the dry months is bound to evaporate quickly. This applies to re-circulating fountains as well.

While I want to be respectful of my favorite western lifestyle magazine, I have to speak up when I read articles that promote environmentally unsustainable gardening practices.

I don't understand why they don't embrace the reality of our region. What will it take for them or others seemingly unconcerned with our water shortages to change their way of thinking?

Gardening with an eye toward conservation and ecological consideration is the only way of the future. If we continue to waste our resources, there will be no more greenery. And then what will this magazine promote?

California native plants are the logical solution to our problems with drought. They work in concert with the environment. We have to educate ourselves and those around us to the beautiful symbiosis of gardening with our indigenous flora. The magazine I speak of has the obligation to promote their use every time they publish a new issue.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

July Los Feliz Ledger Column


Today's post is a copy of my first Native Harmony Column that I've written for a new newspaper called The Los Feliz Ledger. My plan is to post the columns here as soon as the final draft is available.

If you live in Los Feliz, look for the first issue on your doorstep on July 1st. Enjoy! And, please support local everything. Thanks!

Los Feliz Lovelies

In celebration of this brave new newspaper, I thought it only appropriate to have my first column sing the praises of native plants we can appreciate right in our own neighborhood.

Take a trip up to gorgeous Griffith Park and drink in the beauty of the Oak trees, Toyon, Sugarbush, Lemonadeberry, Matilija Poppies, Sages and so much more.

You’ve walked by them numerous times but may not have given them a second thought.

They stand off to the side demonstrating their strength and survival skills. It’s up to you to see them for what they are.

Off a beaten path (but not too far off – we don’t want to damage hillsides or small plants struggling to emerge big and strong) you can often find the most outstanding species of natives.

For instance, a towering Flannel Bush once snuck up on me near the top of Commonwealth Ave.—to the right of the construction yard—and nearly took my breath away. It lovingly loomed five to six feet overhead requesting recognition of its profuse, saturated yellow flowers.

On another hike, I had the pleasure of encountering Fuchsia-Flowering Gooseberry on a path friends call “Shady Glade,” just past the horse trough.

This discreet stunner seemed to be waiting for an admirer.

It arched and puffed itself up only to be lightly weighted down by pinkish-red flowers that dangled like chandelier earrings from spiny branches. Hummingbirds couldn’t resist its allure.

Humble and lovely, native plants of Los Feliz are in our midst to be discovered and, ultimately, utilized (I recommend with calculated abandon) in the home landscape. What more could we ask for than a display of them in a wild setting? It’s a plant zoo, if you will. You can look but not touch and absorb as much about them as possible.

Taking inventory of details such as sun or shade exposure, growth habit, flower color, existence of pollinators, size and shape takes much of the guesswork out of buying these plants at the nursery.

The only trick left to master is learning plant names. That is a matter of time and is where I come in.

Each month, I will provide botanical and common names, as well as written illustrations of natives, that can be viewed here in Los Feliz at nearby botanical gardens and elsewhere. By doing so, I hope you will feel inspired and confident incorporating them into your own garden.

I will also give you tips on how to grow them, what not to plant and why, when to plant, nurseries selling natives, independent plant sales, garden tours and more.

Please join me next month as we continue our journey to native harmony.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Nothing Glorious About It

Why did they name it Morning Glory? This plant is a nuisance and should be outlawed. It has taken over the neighborhood and I fear my battle with it will be everlasting. It should be called Endless Pain in the Neck!

To be specific, I am referring to plants from the Ipomoea genus. In my estimation, they are pernicious weeds. And, unfortunately, they span numerous backyards in Los Feliz showing no signs of stopping.

The sight that really puts me over the edge is it being copiously watered on a regular basis. My mind reels thinking that someone actually believes it needs help in its mission to grow everywhere or that our precious water supply should be mindlessly wasted for something so undeserving as this plant.

True, it has qualities that a novice gardener goes for: pretty blue flowers, fast-growing (ugh, I cringe when people say they want something "fast-growing."), evergreen, low-maintenance, and easy to find (THAT is the real problem).

But really, can it be that people are in such a hurry that they're willing to plant anything just to get some color or coverage for an ugly fence? I guess so. I see the evil stuff everywhere.

During a visit to OSH a while back, I managed to convince a group of people toting around one of these vixens (most likely Ipomoea indica) to forgo it for something much less aggressive. I felt good about my accomplishment but disappointed at the same time because I realized how easily people will purchase Morning Glory if no one is around to talk them out of it.

I'm not joking when I say that I'd like to see it banned. In some states, it is illegal to sell Ivy. I see no reason why we can't do the same for Morning Glory here in California (and Ivy too, while we're at it . . . and Vinca, and Lantana and other invasive non-natives). If anyone has suggestions on how I can get this ball rolling, please let me know. It will be a great day when you can't find the stuff anywhere.

There are so many excellent alternatives out there. The native honeysuckle vines, such as Lonicera interrupta, Lonicera hispidula (beautiful hot pink flowers) and Lonicera denudata are good options. Even Calystegia macrostegia, our native Morning Glory would be acceptable. This guy is a lot kinder and more tolerant of other plants than the interloper who shares its common name.

For the home gardener looking to plant a vine, all it takes is a little research to find one that will play nicely with other plants. In the meantime, we have to fight the good fight and eradicate this stuff from our landscapes. I just hope someone is out there reading . . .