CNPS (1)On September 14, CNPS and partners celebrated the launch of Save Our Water’s “Fix It For Good” public education campaign by breaking ground on the Capitol landscape conversion project with a sheet mulch demonstration on the East Lawn of the Capitol. The event was put on by the California Department of General Services to showcase their commitment to rethinking the landscape on the Capitol grounds by converting lawn and other high water use areas to water-wise landscapes featuring California native plants. The goal of the demonstration is to teach the public about sheet mulching, an environmentally friendly lawn conversion technique that removes your lawn, creates a weed barrier, and fortifies your existing soil all without having to haul material off to the landfill. The demonstration was accompanied by a small water conservation expo where partner organizations hosted educational activities and information booths.

2015-09-14 22.50.15CNPS had a table set up with a beautiful array of native plants, all which were grown by the Sacramento Valley Chapter’s Elderberry Native Plant Nursery, making the table an instant hit by all passersby! People stopped to tell stories about their own landscape projects, asking for tips on gardening with California native plants and local native selections. This was an ideal opportunity to refer them to upcoming CNPS Chapter plant sales. A plethora of resources were distributed to encourage the blooming interest in native plant horticulture and excitement was rallied for the upcoming California native plant gardens.

The launch of the ‘Fix it for Good’ campaign also celebrates CNPS’s partnership with Save Our Water– California’s official statewide water conservation education program. CNPS and Save Our Water are joining forces to teach Californians about the numerous benefits of gardening with California native plants and how they play a critical role in conserving water in the landscape. CNPS developed content for their Gardening with California Native Plants page and wrote a guest blog post on CNPS’s drought resources. This partnership will allow CNPS to reach a wider audience, greatly expanding our outreach efforts on a statewide platform.

CA Hazelnut photo courtesy Keir Morse

CA Hazelnut photo courtesy Keir Morse

If you have a shade garden, the California hazelnut (Corylus cornuta ssp. Californica) is a natural resident. It is widespread in woodland, particularly in moist or shaded canyons. It can be found along the Coastal Ranges in Northern California, the Siskiyous, and Sierras. If you hike this time of year, you may be rewarded with a crop of nuts unless the squirrels have beaten you to them. The name, Corylus, comes from the Greek ‘coys’, meaning helmet, which refers to the sheath around the nut. The hazelnut is in the birch family (betulaceae), related the alder. It is interesting to notice the similarities between them – from the shape of the leaf to the late winter catkins.

The hazelnut is an attractive addition to the woodland garden. It is a large (12’ – 15’), spreading, deciduous shrub with graceful, arching branches. In late winter the catkins appear. Each plant has separate male and female flowers but it is the males that are most conspicuous as they develop into long, golden tassels, followed by the unfurling of soft, velvety leaves. In late summer or early fall, the nuts ripen, much appreciated by squirrels and birds.

The California hazelnut is an adaptable garden plant. It is drought resistant once established but unlike many native plants, it will accept year-round water. It is a plant that will fend for itself, needing only pruning to keep it looking attractive. Some natural companions are sword ferns, bush monkey flower, and Douglas iris.

liliesFall is the right time to prepare your garden for spring!

When is your local chapter hosting a plant sale, presentation, or native gardening workshop? The CNPS Horticulture Events Calendar is searchable by CNPS chapter and type of event, including “Plant Sale” to help you plan for regional CNPS Chapter plant sales. The calendar is frequently updated, so be sure to check back for events in your area, or follow the CNPS Facebook page where we are posting many of these events as well. There’s never been a better time than now to transform your yard into a water-thrifty, habitat-extending, native garden!


Our fantastic new garden signs have gone bilingual! You now have a choice of English or Spanish when you purchase a CNPS “Native Plants Live Here!” sign for your garden!

ditchyourlawnSponsored by the California Department of Water Resources, CNPS is pleased to announce free residential landscape conversion workshops for homeowners. No experience required! Anyone with an interest in replacing water-thirsty lawns with beautiful native plant landscaping are encouraged to attend. Workshops will be held in Modesto, Chico, Redding, and Sacramento this July and fall, with the first classes in Modesto and Sacramento coming up July 18 and 19th, respectively. For more information, to view the dates, or to register, click here. Classes are limited to 50 attendees, so be sure to sign up in advance.

Southern California homeowners, we haven’t forgotten about you either! A two day “Ditch Your Lawn” workshop will be held October 29-30 in partnership with Southern California Garden Clubs in Encino. There is a fee for this class, but CNPS and SCGC members receive discounted registrations. Click here to learn more about the Encino “Ditch Your Lawn” workshop, or to register today!


Jessica Dowell

Plant Basin-flat3

Diagram of a “Castle and Moat” plant basin by Jessica Dowell.

Have you tried dumping dish water on your plants just to watch the water flow away from the plant? If so, try using the castle and moat plant basin method. Whether watering your garden by capturing water from your kitchen sink or installing drip irrigation, good plant basins make a big difference. Basins capture water, rain or otherwise, and allow it to sink in around the plant’s roots. It is conceptually similar to mulch basins used for “Laundry-to-Landscape” grey-water systems or rain gardens. With the continuing drought it makes sense to give our plants all the tools we can to make the best of the little water available.

Example of a Castle-and-Moat plant basin on a slope by Jessica Dowell.

Example of a Castle-and-Moat plant basin on a slope by Jessica Dowell.

When working with people unused to building basins when installing plants, I like to compare the structure of the basins like a castle surrounded by a moat. The moat is then backfilled with mulch. The mulch leaves space for water to fill up and soak into the soil around the roots. Basins can take a variety of forms depending on your soils and slope. For example, if you have heavy clay soils then your plant should be set on a hill about one inch overlooking its moat above the surrounding soil. For most soils though, the plant should be set at the same elevation as the soil around it and the moat is dug 3- 12 inches from the root ball depending on the size of the plant and your soils. I like to dig my moats wider than deeper but adjust to the space available and your site. Castles and moats work for sandy soils too. In that case, the organic matter backfill ends up being the source of moisture holding. The most important thing is to avoid putting your plant at the bottom of a bowl. Even with the little water available, it can rot your plant. The same is true if your soils are poorly drained and are left to create a berm, impeding water flow.

For illustrations of this method, I like Caltran’s details for plant basins (2010 Standard Plan H3 ). They are simple and available to the public.  You can also find out more at the Arbor Day Foundation  and from Master Gardeners. In fact, here is an El Dorado Master Gardeners slide presentation  (link opens as a large pdf) on harvesting rainwater and greywater use from CNPS El Dorado Chapter president Alice Cantelow.

As always, experiment and adapt to your site and needs.

Peyton Ellas, Quercus Landscape Design

It used to be that a California native garden meant only a wild-looking, informal garden, or that you could add some California native plants among your existing non-native (exotic) plants in standard planting beds. California landscaping has gone through a phase where a dry creek had to be part of a native-plant garden, and I still add dry-creeks and similar water-theme features in some of my landscape designs, but it’s no longer mandatory. We’ve seen wildflower meadows and native-grass-as-turf-substitute styles come and go.

The new California garden seems to be developing along the following basic styles. See if any of these fit with your yard or goals.

A Cottage style Garden with a mix of native and non-native species to ensure year-round interest. Visalia, CA.

A Cottage style Garden with a mix of native and non-native species to ensure year-round interest. Visalia, CA.

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