Photo Courtesy Carol Dukes, Flower Hill Farms

Photo Courtesy Carol Dukes, Flower Hill Farms

The message about Monarchs is spreading across the country. I recently came across this blog post by Carol Dukes. Carol is an artist and farmer, who lives on her “Vegetarian and Eco-Friendly” farm in Western Massachusetts. She writes about “Monarch Migration Milkweeds and Monsanto” with beautiful photos to compliment the serious message.

I think that people are getting the picture, aren’t they? Do you have any examples of people who have changed behavior due to our preaching a message about the need to remove synthetic chemical support systems from the gardening tool bag?

Please let us know.


We need to help the California Department of Food and Agriculture change this picture!

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has  the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which is an annual competitive solicitation process designed to enhance the competitiveness of California specialty crops. And guess what? California native plants qualify as “specialty crops,” so we are applying for a grant to help the Horticulture Program stay funded.

The Department is looking for qualified individuals to join the committee that reviews, evaluates, and makes recommendations to them on proposals submitted for California Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding.

We’d love to have some native plant experts apply for the job. Here is the process:

Individuals interested in serving on the Technical Review Committee should submit their applications via email to grants@cdfa.ca.gov before December 8, 2014. Applications must include a letter of interest, short biography, and statement of qualifications identifying the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding category related to the applicant’s area of expertise. For a description of the funding categories, please reference the 2015 Request for Concept Proposals at www.cdfa.ca.gov/grants. In addition, prospective Technical ReviewCommittee members will be required to disclose whether they are affiliated with any proposals submitted to the 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, whether as an applicant or cooperator. If selected, individuals will be required to complete the Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests and the Ethics Training Course.

Prospective applicants may contact CDFA’s Federal Funds Management Office at (916) 657-3231 orgrants@cdfa.ca.gov for additional information.

The funding categories they mention are: Market Enhancement, Specialty Crop Access and Nutrition Education, Equipping Current and Next Generation Specialty Crop Farmers, Environmental Stewardship and Conservation and Plant Health and Pest Management.

So, this gives broad scope to the capabilities they are looking for – and we’d love to have some native plant expertise on the committee. Please do consider applying – or let others know so they might apply.

Sierra Club homeonwner - before

“Before” garden, courtesy of Sierra Club Angeles Chapter website

Some homeowners in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles decided to convert their lawn into a more water-wise garden recently. They then published the narrative of the project, along with photos and analysis at the Sierra Club’s online website. The project is a classic before and after and they discuss the sots of doing the job, the turf rebate incentive that drew them to making the commitment and finding a designer.

The before and after photos were, apparently, the ones they sent to DWP in order to complete the paperwork for receiving their rebate, so the “after” picture” isn’t a full-grown, lush garden yet. But they did get the job done!

What intrigued me most was their set of gardening points:

•    We are working with our gardener to transition to the care of native plants rather than a lawn. There are legions of gardeners throughout Southern California who make their living cutting grass. They need help to transition to this new form of yard care. This help could come from such agencies as immigrants’ rights groups, day labor site sponsors, and city governments.
•    The retail home improvement stores give very little space to California natives and do not label their plants as such. This makes it very difficult for the average homeowner to find native plants and to get the advice they need. This needs to change.
•    Those companies who are converting lawns to a drought tolerant landscape need incentives, education, and encouragement to plant natives only.
•    The water utilities should provide a list of contractors who are approved to apply for the rebates in the homeowner’s stead and who also are committed to planting California native plants. This is essential for the large group of homeowners, like us, who are not likely to do such a project on their own.
•    City government should make it a priority to partner with community based organizations and the private sector to establish retail native plant nurseries throughout Los Angeles. This could be done in conjunction with groups such as North East Trees, TreePeople, and the Conservation Corps. Many jobs could be provided and it would be easier for homeowners and contractors to purchase native plants if there were more such nurseries available.

Sierra Club owner AFTER

“After” garden, courtesy of Sierra Club Angeles Chapter website

Their gardening points sound familiar, don’t they? And this is what the CNPS Horticulture Program is working to change throughout the state and Baja. Please continue to support our efforts to spread the word about the efficacy of native plant gardening!

smithsonian moving moutains

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian – http://tinyurl.com/leqw8fm


A reader brought this article to my attention: California’s Record Drought Is Making Earth’s Surface Rise. It was published at Smithsonian.com.

The idea is that, “The record-breaking California drought is so bad that monitoring stations used to study earthquakes can detect the drying ground rising up. Measurements of these subtle movements, made using GPS instruments, suggest that the western United States is missing some 62 trillion gallons of water, enough to cover the entire region six inches deep.”

We have a huge network (over 1000 measuring points) in the US and many  of them are focussed on us – especially the San Andreas Fault. The activity is predictably unpredictable, of course. Every once in a while someone will see a slight pattern and then scientists rally round to figure it out. Dr. Adrian Borsa, from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, noticed one of these little patterns: ‘Most of the stations have been gradually rising in the last couple of years, just when the region was drying out.”

Apparently their instruments are so sensitive that, when water, which increases gravitational pressure on the crust, drains away, the decreased pressure allows the earth to shift upwards ever so slightly. This is a slightly different result than what happens when we drain aquifers – then the ground subsides, because the surface collapses to fill in the space left behind. I am not a scientist, so this is a super-simplified explanation.

Suffice to say that when Dr. Borsa and his buddies got together and made the necessary measurements, and most of these stations in southern California had begun to rise. By March of 2014, nearly all of the stations from here through Washington and Idaho registered on his instruments. They mapped the results with maps of deviation from normal precipitation and, BINGO!, found good correlations.

How big of a difference? On average 0.15 inches, with up to half an inch in the mountains.

Golden Yarrow and Mimulus bifidus

Photo courtesy Pete Veilleux, East Bay Wilds – Golden Yarrow and Mimulus bifidus

As many of you know, In 2010, the California Legislature adopted Assembly Concurrent Resolution 173 to inaugurate Native Plant Week to celebrate California’s natural heritage of native plants. So, rolling forward to 2015, Native Plant Week will be April 11 – 19.

Drawing on a wide-ranging volunteer pool of experts and activists, we selected a group that exemplifies the broad base of supporters and enthusiasts to form the Native Plant Week 2015 committee. It consists of:

Barbara Hunt: Barbara has been a member of CNPS for several years and participated in many native plant events in her area, Santa Clara County, including garden tours and maintaining plantings.


Deidre Kennelly: Deidre is the Communications Manager for CNPS. She works to support the needs of members and chapters and expand CNPS’ reach. She oversees a team of talented people dedicated to helping chapters succeed.


Susan Krzywicki: Susan is the Horticulture Program Director for CNPS. In addition to her work with CNPS, Susan chaired Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens Programs Committee in San Diego.


Ryan Lawler: Ryan is a Botany student at Humboldt State University and a cross-country runner, as well as hiker. He is helping to bring a consciousness of native plants to college campuses.


Don Rideout: Don is an artistic and accomplished gardener and active in the CNPS San Diego chapter. His property has been on the recent Garden Native Tour and combines found art with strong botany skills.


Joe Sochor: Joe is an active member of the California Native Plant Society in San Diego and works in the craft beer industry in Southern California. He believes California native plants are proof that God wants us to be happy since they flourish in the driest of droughts and require less “gardening” thus leaving  more time to enjoy craft beer.


Pete Veilleux – Pete is the owner of East Bay Wilds, a native plant nursery in Oakland.  His firm specializes in the use of native plant material for use in residential and commercial landscapes in the Bay Area. Pete is also an avid photographer and has provided many garden images for CNPS projects.


The committee is working to leverage Native Plant Week 2015 to increase the scope of understanding and use of native plants and their positive impacts on the environment. Gardening practices are changing as experts learn more about the negative effects of over-watering and chemical-dependent techniques. Native plants are the most ecologically beneficial solution any gardener can employ. They naturally use low amounts of water; do not require chemical fertilizers or pesticides; provide a unique caterpillar-host relationship to allow for abundant butterfly populations; provide the best nectar, pollen, and habitat for butterflies, bees and birds; and give a sense of place that no other plant palette can provide.

Daniel Gluesenkamp, our Executive Director says, “We have a lot to celebrate in Native Plant Week 2015 including  our successful conservation efforts, our gardening initiatives and CNPS’ 50th anniversary.”

We’ll be telling you more in the future!

TPF Prinzing article

Debra Prinzing, of the Slow Flowers movement, wrote a very engaging article for the Los Angeles Times, which is all about native gardening’s increase in popularity.

There are some nice photos, and The Theodore Payne Foundation’s Kitty Connolly is quoted as saying. “Now is the perfect time to plant so that you will have a beautiful garden next spring.” The article highlights several Los Angeles area gardens, so do go and check it out.


Photo courtesy Silicon Valley Business Journal

Linda Ruthruff, our dedicated member from the Santa Clara Valley chapter, tells us that it has been announced to the public: Facebook has native plants in their new West Campus project. The Silicon Valley Business Journal reported on it in this lengthy article.

And CNPS helped – here is Facebook’s list of key team members: PAE, energy consultant; Brightworks, LEED tracking; CMG, landscape architect; Forell/Elsesser Engineers, structural engineer. Environmental groups consulted: Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Sequoia Audubon Society, Committee for Green Foothills, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, Save the Bay, California Native Plant Society (Santa Clara Valley Chapter), South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project.

The article explains that the project, “Located on a former industrial site across the street from the Ravenswood wetlands, West Campus will include perhaps the region’s most ambitious green roof: More than 350 trees, including mature oaks, will dot the top of the 430,000-square-foot building, which will reach completion next year. The garden will also feature drought-resistant grasses, shrubs and groundcovers amid winding walking trails. And parking? No acres of heat-producing asphalt here: It’s all tucked underneath the building at grade level.”

“From the outside, it will appear as if you’re looking at a hill in nature,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook wall in 2012, introducing the project.

This project has been a labor of love for the many environmentally-conscious volunteers who have contributed time and know-how to help Facebook make the great choices that are evident in their plans. A high-profile project like this is a great way to spread the word about the value of our native flora. Who’s next?


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