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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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Thanks to our very dedicated volunteer, Steve Rosenthal, of the CNPS Santa Clara Valley Chapter, videos from our conservation conference last January are now online. You can view them on the Santa Clara Valley Chapter’s You Tube page. There are 71 videos in all, ranging in topics as varied as the conference sessions themselves – from conservation efforts in California and Baja, efforts to “clean up” the native nursery trade, lichens, rare plants, public policy, restoration, climate change, environmental justice, and more.

Lowes

photo credit: Ecowatch website

 

According to Lowe’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report, “Lowe’s is committed to regularly reviewing the products and information we offer customers and we’re taking the following actions to support pollinator health:

  • Including greater organic and non-neonic product selections
  • Phasing out the sale of products that contain neonic pesticides within 48 months as suitable alternatives become commercially available
  • Working with growers to eliminate the use of neonic pesticides on bee-attractive plants we sell
  • Encouraging growers to use biological control programs
  • Educating employees and customers through in-store resources such as brochures, fact sheets and product labels”

This looks like it either could be one of those entrapment-type of interviews, or an early April Fools joke. I had to watch it twice before I started to believe it might actually have happened. My brother-in-law sent me the link to this article, with an embedded video at Huffington Post: “Monsanto Advocate Says Roundup Is Safe Enough To Drink, Then Refuses To Drink It

The Monsanto advocate, Dr. Robert Moore, does seem t make some odd statements. I wonder if we saw the whole interview, unedited, it might be less sensational.

Monsanto’s rebuttal restates this: it isn’t appropriate to drink any concentrated substance such as dishwashing liquid, shampoo or Roundup.

one of Maria's illustrations, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library site

one of Maria’s illustrations, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library site

Today is the birthday of Maria Sibylla Merian, born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1647. She was a VERY early explorer and explainer of botanical end entomological processes. I had never heard of her until I read about her at the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s blog site, where they write, “Maria’s illustrations were important and revolutionary for a number of reasons. The observations and evidence they displayed helped overturn the prevailing theory of the time that insects spontaneously generated from mud. Additionally, Maria drew her subjects from life in their natural environments. Most naturalists of the day illustrated species from dead, preserved specimens, which contributed to a lack of knowledge about the true life cycle and origin of insects. Finally, Maria also portrayed the host plant for the species she studied and even illustrated the damage the insects left on the plants.”

So, there we have it! The early days of exploring how insects and plants interact. I love the idea that she helped verify that insects do not simply spring up from the dirt. But what really captured my attention was her work to figure out that certain plants played a key role in the lifecycle of specific insects. This is something that, hundreds of years later, we are just scratching the surface on.

 

 

Jens Jensen

image courtesy jensejensenthelivinggreen.com

 

Deirdre Kennelly, our CommunicationsDirector, passed along this interesting item:
The film Jens Jensen The Living Green, will be screened in  Los Angeles on April 27th, with Earth Day.
Jens Jensen pioneered the use of native flowers and plants in his designs for midwestern parks and became known as the Dean of Landscape Architects. Today his story resonates on a high level as cities struggle to deal with expanding populations and decreased green space, water and many issues here in California.
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