Spring is still hanging in there!


This past week and a half, I’ve been to the Kern chapter and in the Bay Area. Signs of spring are still around…the poppies above were on the north side of the UC Berkeley campus.

The Cloyne coop has some native plants in the front garden, plus a nice strip on the back filled with Artemisia and others.

The weather has been variable, so keep an eye on your soil conditions.


Monterey Flower Show stats


This note is from Brian LeNeve, Monterey chapter of CNPS on their successful Wildflower show: “I am still having a hard time getting my head around the number of people that attended this year.

According to the counter on the front door there were, 4,800 people cross the door during the three days. The museum does not account for people going in and out multiple times or two people entering at the same time, but it is the same system used for quite a while and it reflects the same inaccurate counting every year so we can use it as an indicator. The best year before this the counter showed 3,000. I still do not have an accurate count of taxa in the show but my hand count showed 667 and I am usually off 5 or 10 either way. The final count will be when we count the cards.”

Congratulations to the team. It was a beautiful show.



Plumeria Society Talk

I just got some snapshots of a recent talk I gave to the Southern California Plumeria Society…what was I doing there??

One of their members heard me speak about native plants and the penny dropped for her: maybe there is a way to combine plumerias – mostly native to Central America and Mexico – with California natives in order to create a more sustainable garden. So, the challenge was on: show how the plumeria culture and California native plant culture match/mismatch and what to do about it. 

We had a crowd of around 200+ and they were lively! My position: use more garden-friendly natives to surround the plumerias, don’t use artificial irrigation in the winter, and, here was the really controversial part for this group: no chemicals…plumerias are “known” to be heavy feeders.  

Plumeria growers have a challenge in winter: their dormant plants will rot if they get too much water. So, planting them amidst turf or species like agapanthus that require year-round irrigation leads to trouble. Of course, using our natives that thrive on our modest amounts of winter rains makes perfect sense: plumerias don’t get overwatered, and natives get their fill.

Then, in the summer, the native species can tolerate a bit of artificial irrigation. Gardeners can run the plumerias on a separate drip system that delivers water to their root zone. Voila! You have a nice potential match.

But what about that “heavy feeder” issue? I tell them: foliar organic sprays only on the plumerias. This is a bit iffy and we are waiting to see how it actually plays out. I’ve got some interested gardeners who might be willing to give it a go.

But the side light was that so many of the audience were so open to our message and were ready and willing to think about using native plants in their gardens – replacing lawns and on slopes. Notice in the picture above I was showing them a Ceanothus in bloom. Most of them had never heard of this plant.


All in all, a good day. 







Fudge Words?


Karen Paulsell from Friends of Sausal Creek sent me this note that I wanted to share:

“I read the National Weather Services “forecast discussion” in addition to looking at the forecast icons and temps.  I know this doesn’t sound very encouraging, but it’s the best I’ve seen for ages:


Them weatherfolks, always using fudge-words!”

Winter Frosts: Preparing the Garden for Weather

Native plants can be harmed by unexpected cold weather, including large amounts of snowfall, just like their exotic counterparts. In a completely natural setting this would rarely occur, since these species are adapted to the variable temperature range. However, in the built environment, frost damage is increasingly likely since we frequently use native plants from other regions. Gardeners should look first to their locally native plants as much as possible, since they have evolved to suit local conditions. Plants that originated in Southern California, the Channel Islands or in our low deserts look lovely in gardens, and when winter comes, they may be at the edge of their cold-tolerance range. Continue reading

Dry but blooming

San Diego continues to be dry. My relatives in town from Washington D. C. and Boston are loving it. Yesterday we drove down through Baja into the Valle de Guadelupe and it was gorgeous and warm – sunshine abounded.

My Salvia spathacea is starting to bloom, in spite of the lack of rain. Maybe we will have a bit of rain soon? Heaven forfend, not on January 1, but some time soon.

for blog

Salvia spathacea starting to bloom

California Native Sage Shortbread

I love shortbread – crumbly and rich – it is perfect for the holidays. Now that most of you have recovered from the Thanksgiving feasts, it’s time to start on making some treats for all the upcoming parties and celebrations.

This recipe is not too sweet and you can use any of several varieties from your garden. I love hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) for this.



  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Five California native salvia leaves, grown organically, washed and dried
  • Extra granulated sugar for sprinkling on top, if desired


Pick five to seven sage leaves. All California native sages are edible for culinary purposes. Sage is not commonly considered to be a plant that people are allergic to, but be safe. Ensure you (and other consumers of this treat) are not allergic to any herbal materials before using.

Wash the sage leaves under cool tap water and pat dry. Chop into small mince and hold aside.

Preheat the oven to 300 – 325 degrees. I like to use a cooler temperature and cook for longer – easier to avoid burning the bottom or edges that way.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and the two sugars until they are nicely combined. Add the vanilla. Sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Add chopped sage. Stir in by hand, at first. Once the mixture is lightly combined, mix on low speed until the dough starts to stick to itself in a ball. Scrape out the dough onto your work surface which has been dusted with flour. Shape the dough with your hands into a thick, flat disk. Wrap or store in a container and chill for 30 minutes.

Bring the dough out of the refrigerator and, before it starts to warm up, roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut into 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped rectangles. Place the cookies on an un-greased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.

Watch carefully to avoid burning, especially if you use the higher temperature. Pull the sheet from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Allow to come to room temperature.

Serve warm from the oven, room-temperature or chilled, whatever is your preference.

Alternatively, you can press the dough into a round pie tin, score the dough with a knife and then break into pie-shaped wedges once they return to room temperature.