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California Native Plant PR

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

An Incoherent Landscape

Walking around my neighborhood can be very frustrating for me. Sure, the houses are lovely for the most part, and owners do a good job of keeping their homes clean. I appreciate all that.

What gets me down is the plant chaos. It is such a hodgepodge of everything from tropical to asian to east coast and beyond. There is little to no logic to how the plants are chosen. They just seem to be crammed in randomly.

If I were to be plunked down in the middle of one of these gardens, I don't think I'd be able to tell where I was. The mixture of greenery is utterly confusing, incoherent.

I'm going to write more on this topic. I just wanted to get it out while it was at the top of my mind.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

More Pix (taken by me) of Plants in Bloom at Rancho

Mimulus (don't know exact species)

Ceanothus crassifolius

Mimulus 'ruby silver'

Arctostaphylos (don't know species - any ideas?)

Recent Pix (taken by moi) of Plants in Bloom at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Salvia leucophylla (I think)

Dendromecon rigida

Ceanothus 'Concha' (I think)

Dendromecon rigida

Black sage (Salvia mellifera) new and old, January 28, 2006. Photos by Mike Bauman.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Black Sage Making a Comeback

While on a quick hike with the dogs and hubby at Griffith Park yesterday, I noticed how beautiful the black salvia (Salvia mellifera) looked. It's re-emerging with a vengeance from a summer/fall slumber.

The leathery, textural, medium-green leaves that had gone a little crispy to conserve energy and water are plump once again. And new leaves are appearing on brown branches.

Other favorites making a resurgence include: Ribes, Rhus, Artemisia, Romneya and more. With the clear, cool air to entice us out of our cocoons, there is no excuse not to explore the open air galleries (parks, botanic gardens) of California plant life, which works in concert with our special climate. When other parts of the country see little to no green this time of year, here in our state, rain and cooler temps are re-awakening so many indigenous species.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

February 2006 Los Feliz Ledger Column, “Sensible Substitutes Series – Focus on Manzanitas”

Photos of Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn' courtesy of Barbara Eisenstein

In considering what to write about this month, I decided to showcase a seasonally appropriate genus (group of plants) while keeping the theme of substitution in mind. Manzanitas went right to the top of my list. Now is a great time to consider these magnificent natives. There are plenty to choose from, given that California boasts more than 40 species plus numerous cultivars (varieties of plants selected and grown for particular features).

Bestowed with a Spanish common name for small apple-like fruits that appear in bunches a couple months from now, manzanitas (Arctostaphylos) are in glorious bloom this time of year. For about six weeks starting in January (and earlier for some species), dangling clusters of small, upside down urn/bell-shaped subtly scented flowers ranging in color from white to pink adorn curled red, purple or burgundy-colored branches.

A great place to experience this diverse group of evergreen California native plants is Rancho Santa Ana Botanic in Claremont. There you’ll see low-growing ground covers to large shrubs that reach about 20 feet high.

Manzanitas are happiest when planted in well-draining acidic soil that is low in nutrients, rocky and sandy being the most preferable. Definitely do not fertilize and always give new plants ample air circulation.

Manzanitas are versatile when it comes to sun exposure. The popular ‘Howard McMinn’ hybrid of Arctostaphylos densiflora takes full sun or part shade/sun and is an easy, garden-tolerant (accepts a fair amount of moisture but doesn’t want to sit in water) shrub that matures at about 5 to 7 feet high and 6 to 10 feet wide. Beaucoup blooms of dainty pale pink flowers and light green, upright leaves are lovely attributes of this variety.

Its edible fruit is a magnet for many animals and birds. Birds also appreciate the dense twisting branches for shelter; while butterflies, hummingbirds and honeybees are drawn to the flowers’ nectar.

Try ‘Howard McMinn,’ its cousin, ‘Harmony,’ and relative ‘Sentinel’ in place of non-native hedge plants such as Buxus (boxwood), Escallonia, Ligustrum (privet), and Rhaphiolepis.

Most Arctostaphylos species are highly drought tolerant once their root systems have been established. You can help them reach that stage by regular, careful watering (don’t overdo it) after planting. Avoid drip irrigation; it kills manzanitas and many other natives. Within a couple of years, you should be looking at minimal to no supplemental watering.

Wild manzanitas have dwindled significantly (some species are endangered or threatened), so I can’t recommend them highly enough for the home garden. They’re such a valuable plant to wildlife and the ecosystem.

Try the following two species native to Southern California in exchange for invasive exotics and non-natives consuming our landscapes and feel great restoring a bit of the original California.

‘Frazier Park’ big berry manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca cultivar) takes full sun, has gray foliage and white flowers, grows to about 3 to 4 feet tall, sports red bark, does well in pots and in the ground, is deer tolerant and attractive to birds and butterflies.

‘Los Angeles’ big berry manzanita (A. glauca cultivar) is native to the Santa Monica Mountains. White flowers, light green leaves and smooth red bark grace this 4 to 12 foot tall plant. Birds and butterflies love it. Deer don’t care about it. It takes full sun or part shade.

For more information on manzanitas and other valuable natives, check out the Las Pilitas website, the Native Sons website and "California Native Plants for the Garden," the new book by California’s three premier horticulturalists – Carol Bornstein (of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden), David Fross (of Native Sons Nursery) and Bart O’Brien (of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden). There are more resources than you may realize. Set aside some time and enjoy the search.