Januar 2006 Los Feliz Ledger Column - "Sensible Substitutes, Part One - Vines, Groundcovers & Grasses"
In December’s Native Harmony, I unveiled the truth about invasive plants in our midst and listed some of the worst offenders actively destroying our ecosystem and driving out native species.
Now is my chance to share with you tips on what to plant instead.
Since my personal plant nemesis is morning glory (Ipomoea indicia, not our native morning glory), I will begin with invasive vines and groundcovers.
I find nothing glorious about this type of morning glory and in the morning it is the last thing I want to see. Some people are still hooked on the flowers and speedy growth whereas I, knowing all-too-well the damage it wreaks, have no pleasant thoughts about it whatsoever. My husband and I are constantly battling this beast; it never stops infesting our backyard and basement from the neighbors’ yards around us.
It is with great pleasure that I offer several sensible substitutes to non-native morning glory, ivy, lantana, periwinkle, red apple, iceplant and mint – all of which should be removed post haste.
Depending on your sun exposure (research each plant before purchasing), the following native groundcovers and vines will be more suitable to our climate and thus behave more appropriately: Arctostaphylos edmundsii (manzanita) ‘Carmel Sur’, ‘Bert Johnson’ & other low-growing cultivars; Artemisia californica ‘Canyon Gray’; Asarum caudatum (wild ginger); Baccharis pilularis (coyote brush) ‘Pigeon Point’; Berberis aquifolium (Oregon grape) & repens variety (creeping barberry); Calystegia macrostegia ssp. macrostegia ‘Anacapa Pink’ (Anacapa Pink California morning glory); Ceanothus (California wild lilac) ‘Anchor Bay’ & ‘Centennial’ & other low-growing cultivars (there are many); Clematis lasiantha (chaparral clematis); Eriogonum fasciculatum (California buckwheat) & cultivars; Fragaria vesca & chilensis (woodland & beach strawberry); Salvia (sage) ‘Bee’s Bliss’, S. leucophylla ‘Point Sal’ & Point Sal Spreader’, S. mellifera ‘Terra Seca’ & more; and Vitis californica & cultivars (California wild grape).
Pampas grass, fountain grass and other non-native grasses are spreading aggressively and choking out natives in our area and throughout the state. Give them the heave-ho immediately. Keep in mind that wind, birds, animals and humans can disburse the seeds from these and other exotics so don’t even keep them in pots.
California is graced with elegant and stately native grasses and plants that resemble grasses (sedges, rushes and certain shrubs, subshrubs and succulents). They are integral to maintaining increasingly rare bio-diversity.
Try the following for a flowing meadow effect, an upright, dramatic architectural element in your garden or in a container: Aristida purpurea var. purpurea (purple three-awn); Calamagrostis foliosa (Cape Mendocino reedgrass); Carex spissa (San Diego sedge); Festuca californica (California fescue); Hesperoyucca whipplei (Our Lord’s candle) is prickly and should be kept away from walkways; Juncus patens (wire grass) & cultivars; Leymus condensatus straight (giant wild rye) and the ‘Canyon Prince’ cultivar; Muhlenbergia rigens (deer grass); Nasella species (needlegrasses); Nolina species (beargrasses); and Sporobolus airoides (alkali sacaton). These beauties will cover just about every height, width, color and shape you’re looking for. Each plant needs varying amounts of sun and water so make sure your conditions match its requirements.
As illustrated by the extensive list of sensible native plant substitutes laid out before you (this is just scratching the surface), there can be no excuse for not replacing the invasive plants that plague our native flora and fauna. Possibilities abound. We can easily transform our gardens into refuges and, in so doing, preserve a sound environmental future.
I’ll tackle invasive perennials, shrubs and trees next month.