Ribes in Spring

RibesArticle and photos by Jennifer Jewell

The spring woodland garden has many bright stars in the form of shrubs: ceanothus and mahonia come immediately to mind. But look a little closer and you will see how lovely the ribes are as well this time of year. The native ribes are far more soft-spoken but have equally nice things to say as their brighter companions. Continue reading

Landscaping for Southern California Gardens

Summer-dry, drought tolerant, naturalistic, Mediterranean garden with California native Acer circinatum (Vine Maple). Photo by Saxon Holt.

Summer-dry, drought tolerant, naturalistic, Mediterranean garden with California native Acer circinatum (Vine Maple). Photo by Saxon Holt.

By CNPS and Modernize

The unique environment of Southern California, while often a source of great appeal for its residents, poses distinctive challenges for anyone wishing to develop and maintain the aesthetics of their yard. The dry climate, paired with an increasingly limited water supply, means a lush green space is no longer ecologically viable. However, there are many other possibilities for creating a beautiful outdoor space.   The folks at Modernize, a website devoted to home remodeling inspirations, like to view this landscape challenge as an opportunity to create a uniquely Californian place for outdoor living.  Here, they share two approaches to this challenge- xeriscaping and hardscaping- including along the way some of their favorite California native plants for the garden. Continue reading

Styles of the New California Garden

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.

Continue reading

The Garden Host Perspective

Al Kyte at the East Bay Wilds Nursery talking about his long-standing love of native plant gardening

Al Kyte at the East Bay Wilds Nursery talking about his long-standing love of native plant gardening

Al and Barbara Kyte are long-term native plant gardeners. CNPS Horticulture Director Susan Krzywicki met Al recently at Pete Veilleux’s East Bay Wilds Nursery and was delighted to hear that he was so involved in this garden tour as well. She shared photos from Al’s garden on an earlier blog post, so you can see his own accomplishments.

‘Garden Host’ Perspective to 2014 ‘Bringing Back The NativesTour
Al Kyte

In my nine years as “garden host”on the Bringing Back The Natives tour, I consider this year’s tour as most closely approaching the “ideal”tour experience I have seen yet. Continue reading

Troubled Exotics

by Connie Beck

Some of the most reliable, popular, and therefore overused exotics that Southern Californians have depended on for years may be disappearing from our landscapes. This change creates a great opportunity to promote the planting of natives.

Oleander

Bad oleander between good ones

We’ve all noticed the Oleander scorch which is killing virtually all of the Oleanders. Lemonadeberry or Toyon would be effective replacements. Victorian Box (Pittosporum undulatum) is still being sold and recommended in nurseries in spite of the fact that the same glassy-winged sharpshooter that is killing the Oleanders is causing even mature Victorian Box to yellow, defoliate, and then die. This pest is the vector for a bacterial disease (Vilella fastidiosa) which can attack other exotics as well as grapes. Continue reading

Battle of the Pond

I wanted a natural-looking artificial pond: an elaborate lie, difficult to achieve. To create this illusion, I envisioned an irregular shape, lush ferns, towering granite boulders (I wish). Roughly fourteen feet long and one-third as wide, it would echo the proportions of the backyard. Up behind the pond, a modest cascade of recirculated water would flow down atop wide, flat stones.

Lessingia, ceanothus, grass above pond

Lessingia, ceanothus, grass above pond

Along one edge of the water would lie a sloping beach of rounded river stones, so that humans and birds could approach without muddy feet. Half-buried rocks would stabilize other edges. Thick, high-tech black plastic (EPDM, a very durable and strong material) was specified for the liner. However, the liner edge would ruin the illusion I craved unless it was carefully hidden. Continue reading

To Bee or Not to Bee

Welcoming bees into our hearts and gardens

by Debbie Ballentine

long-horned bees

Male long-horned bees sleep in groups. Photo by Debbie Ballentine.

European honeybees were my first insect love affair at the age of 8. They don’t have big brains, but they communicate with each other and work towards a common cause. This seemed otherworldly to me as a young girl. Over time native bees and pollinators took the place of honeybees in my heart. (Sorry Apis mellifera, I was only 8.) I’m far from an expert, yet I delight in these pollinators. This drives me to learn and share what I learn.

Pollinators… who are they and what do they need

Although we might not think about it much, pollinators provide important services to humans and the ecosystem. They are critical to the survival of plants, animals and humankind. The European honeybee alone is responsible for pollinating more than a third of the food we eat. Most people are aware of the honeybee crisis, but honeybees aren’t the only ones in trouble. Other pollinators are in decline including butterflies, moths and native bees. The largest negative impact on pollinators is from habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and pesticides. I believe we have the knowledge and resources to help pollinators. In my mind even the smallest home garden can play a role in our efforts to maintain pollinator populations. Continue reading