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California Native Plant PR

Monday, February 27, 2006

Soka University Spring Native Plant Sale on March 11th

Soka University in Calabasas is having a
"Native Plant Clearance Sale"

Saturday, 9:30 to 11:30 AM
March 11, 2006:
Limited supplies / Spring Clean-Out.

26800 W. Mulholland Hwy.
Calabasas, CA. 91302

Don't Miss the Theodore Payne Foundation's 3rd Annual Native Garden Tour on April 1st & 2nd

Here are the details, straight from the Foundation:

"31 gardens show how easy & satisfying it is to garden
with California native plants

- Native plants use less water
- They attract birds, hummingbirds and butterflies
- Require no pesticides or chemicals

(Los Angeles) – Interest in gardening with California
native plants is growing every day. More and more
Californians are learning how to garden with natives
to reduce their outdoor water use, create a backyard
habitat for wildlife such as birds and butterflies,
and reduce the use of pesticides and chemicals in
their lives, among other goals. In the process,
Californians are discovering that native plants are
beautiful, breaking the stereotypes they may have
about them.

Los Angeles and Southern California residents will
have a chance to explore their growing interest in
natives at 31 private and public gardens during the
third annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour
on Saturday and Sunday, April 1 and 2, from 10 a.m. to
4 p.m. Gardens throughout the Los Angeles Basin will
be featured, from Monrovia to Santa Monica, from
Madrona Marsh in Torrance to Quail Hollow in Tujunga.

Tickets are $10 per person. Ticket and garden
information, including plant lists and photos of
gardens, can be found at the Theodore Payne website. Tickets may also be purchased
by calling (818) 768-1802.

One of the key and unique features of the tour is that
gardens will be hosted by garden owners and docents
who share their passion and knowledge of gardening
with natives with tour attendees. Most garden tours do
not include the people who actually create and take
care of the garden.

The gardens reflect a range of styles and ages. Some
gardens on the tour follow a traditional or formal
design, while others allow their natives to reach
their wild potential. Some of the landscapes are
mature and reflect years of experience in gardening
with natives, while a few are developing gardens two
or three years old. Garden owners and docents at each
location will offer unique advice to gardeners of all
skill levels and interests.

“The tour gives attendees a unique opportunity to talk
with garden owners and see firsthand how they dealt
with particular garden conditions, like shade or
erosion or a lack of water,” said Keith Malone, garden
tour coordinator. “If you were thinking about
gardening with natives and not sure where to begin,
this is a great way to start.”

The gardens are located throughout the Los Angeles
Basin, including Downey, Culver City, Beverly Hills,
Mid-Wilshire, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach Torrance,
Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Sun Valley, Tujunga,
Granada Hills, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, South
Pasadena, Altadena, Monrovia, Highland Park, Echo Park
and Atwater Village.

For more than 40 years, the Theodore Payne Foundation
for Wild Flowers and Native Plants, Inc. has dedicated
itself to helping Californians discover the beauty of
California native plants. The Foundation operates the
Theodore Payne Nursery in Sun Valley, which offers
more than 400 native plant species for sale to the
general public. It is the only nursery in Los Angeles
County devoted exclusively to native plants. In
addition to the nursery, the Foundation has gardening
classes and operates a wildflower hotline every March
through May. The Foundation and nursery honor the
legacy of Theodore Payne, who opened his first nursery
in 1903 in Los Angeles. In his lifetime, Mr. Payne
introduced more than 400 species of native plants into
cultivation for public use."

Monday, February 20, 2006

March 2006 Los Feliz Ledger Column, "Demystifying Native Plants"

It occurred to me recently that I have not yet taken the opportunity to define the term “California native plants.”

Boiled down to their essence, they are plants that have grown here naturally - without human intervention - since before the Europeans stepped foot on this soil.

This astounding array of indigenous flora survive symbiotically with the environment but, strangely, are not used to their potential. The majority of plants populating the sides of our freeways, parks, botanic gardens and home gardens are from everywhere else but here (“exotic”).

Natives grow under many different conditions, as California is climatically and geographically diverse. There are plants that naturally grow near or in streams and other waterways, in high altitudes, deep within dense forests, along sandy bluffs, in dry deserts and on rocky cliffs. Not all are “drought tolerant,” a blanket term often mistakenly ascribed to all California native plants.

The concept that all natives are able to withstand prolonged dryness and intense sun is one of the biggest misnomers about them. “Native” doesn’t equal water-free.

Another puzzling perception is that all natives look like weeds or completely dry up in the summer. This is false. During the hottest months, only a small percentage of the thousands that have grown here over the ages go dormant to conserve energy for survival.

A large portion are evergreen. Many native groundcovers, vines, perennials, shrubs and majestic trees - like the coast live oak - always have leaves on their branches. But this is not to dismiss the outstanding plants that happen to be deciduous. Even without foliage, several plants have unique shapes and look divine during dormancy.

Natives provide gorgeous flowers – something not always acknowledged about them. If the right species are chosen, it is possible to have a completely California garden that will bloom throughout the year.

A giant myth I’ve encountered is that a native plant can be put in the ground and survive without any water or is somehow indestructible just because it is native. Wrong!

Natives require a lot of water when first planted and on-going T.L.C. for at least the first year (sometimes longer) to become “established,” i.e. getting to the point where roots have grown into the soil and are strong and long enough to acquire moisture and nutrients on their own. Some will still need regular waterings throughout their lives while others will be OK with limited supplemental irrigation. All thrive with minimal maintenance – occasional pruning and dead-heading (removing spent flowers and their stalks) and yearly mulching. Fertilizing and amending soil is generally not advised (but research each plant to be sure).

Lastly, it’s crucial to put a plant in the right place at the right time. A sun-loving native simply will not survive in an all shade location and vice versa. Also, each plant must be given the appropriate soil type and drainage ability. And most should be installed in the cooler months (with a few exceptions).

Understanding native plants may seem complex but it really just boils down to a few guidelines: they come in many different shapes and sizes; they’re in short supply in public places and home gardens; and they require a lot of the same things given to non-native plants. Once they’ve had the initial care they need, natives that have adapted to drought can be practically forgotten about and the rest need occasional attention. However, we cannot expect miracles; they’re not superheroes of the botanical world. They’re special and integral to the ecosystem and must be understood in order to be successful. Given the right conditions and correct amount of water, they’ll outshine any exotic interloper, hands-down.

To shop a wide assortment of native plants, visit the spring sale at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden on Sat., April 1st.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Lupine Sighting

I can never remember when I start seeing wildflowers. I guess I'm always surprised when they pop up and think that it's much too early.

Such was the case this past week when I was getting on the 5 north from Los Feliz Blvd. As I looked down to my right, I spotted beautiful Lupine flowers growing just off to the side of the road.

Another place I find the quirky purple blossoms each year is to the left of the road, just past the Glendale Blvd from heading north on the 5 freeway. They're literally growing in a crack on the curb.

Noticing details like that gives me good ideas of where they'd flourish in my garden.

Where do you see wildflowers in the city and elsewhere around this time of year?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mad About Mulch!

I have one word for gardeners of all stripes out there: MULCH!

Mulch is the key to keeping weeds at bay, saving water and making a garden look more polished. I cannot for the life of me bear to see bare ground around plants. Empy dirt surounding shrubs and perennials is so drab.

There are many different kinds of mulch available at garden and hardware stores. Make sure you do some research into what would work best with the plants in your garden. For instance, some desert natives want an inroganic mulch that won't break down. Those plants do well with gravel.

Popular among native gardeners is "gorilla hair" mulch, which is just shredded redwood bark. It looks great, is easy to apply and most closely mimics what many of our native plants would have surrounding them in the wild.

If you can get ahold of leaves from coast live oaks trees, certain plants will have a field day.

I've noticed that cocoa mulch doesn't do well with natives and I have ethical problems with it due to the overwhelming amount of slave labor used in cocoa farming on the Ivory Coast. (Side note: best to purchase fair trade, organic chocolate to support human rights.)

So, mulch your heart out. Your plants will be much happier, weeds will start to disappear and you won't have to turn on the hose as often. Plus, it'll look prettier too!