Arcata Community Center Native Plant and Wildlife Garden

Arcata Community Center Native Plant and Wildlife Garden

By Pete Haggard • Garden Chair, CNPS-North Coast Chapter

Garraya eliptica.

Garraya eliptica.

One of the great pleasures of observing a native plant garden grow up over the years is seeing an increase in plant and wildlife diversity. The efforts of volunteers at the Arcata Community Center Native Plant and Wildlife Garden in Humboldt County did just that-adding 29 species of native plants. This diversity also included four species of amphibians, four species of mammals, 16 species of butterflies, and nine genera of bees including the establishment of a thriving nesting site for hundreds of Halictus tripartatus, a native bee.

The Arcata Garden was established on February 27, 1999 when volunteers from the California Native Plant Society-North Coast Chapter (CNPS-NCC) planted various species of native plants in an 0.1 acre waste field near the Arcata Community Center. This planting emerged from an agreement between the City of Arcata, represented by Dan Diemer, Parks Superintendent, and CNPS-NCC, represented by Pete Haggard, Garden Chair. The agreement stipulated that the City of Arcata provide the site and planting stock for the initial planting, and the CNPS-NCC provide volunteers for planting and ongoing maintenance of the site.

Grindelia stricta.

Grindelia stricta.

After 17 years Arcata now has a beautiful, stable natural area that requires no water, fertilizer, or mowing and very little physical maintenance by employees. As a committed CNPSer, I have enjoyed these years of tending the garden and seeing blossom into fruition.

Since the garden is located in an area with heavy pedestrian traffic, including college and high school students and people visiting the Arcata Community Center, it is an excellent place to further one of CNPS-NCC’s goals-to educate the public on the value of a biodiverse native landscape in urban areas.

As the garden matures and creates more niches in the landscape, I look forward to seeing more wildlife and native plants utilizing this site.
Both the City and CNPS-NCC have benefited from this agreement, which has provided the public with a permanent garden with natural beauty and an educational tool for the CNPS-NCC. For more information on the garden, the plants and animals that live there, or a tour of the garden, contact me!

phaggard@suddenlink.net
http://www.northcoastcnps.org

Watering Strategies from South Bay Botanic Garden

by Susan Krzywicki

Eddie Munguia, Horticultural Lab Technician South Bay Botanic Garden

Eddie Munguia, Horticultural Lab Technician South Bay Botanic Garden – Photo by Susan Krzywicki

After so much debate about how to water native plant gardens, you’d think it had all been said. Let me add some tips and techniques from Eddie Munguia, who is the Horticultural Lab Technician at the South Bay Botanic Garden, located on the campus of Southwestern College in Chula Vista. Eddie installed a native garden over four years ago and one of the key objectives of the botanic garden is to do just this sort of closely observed research and analysis.

Split Cycle Watering – preventing root zone waterlogging
Last July, after attending a professional workshop, Eddie decided to experiment with split cycling – taking the duration of watering proposed, and dividing it into two segments with a two hour gap in between. For example, instead of running a sprinkler zone for 10 minutes, he runs the zone for 5 minutes, in the early morning hours. This allows for absorption by the soil, while avoiding swamping the plant, which can lead to disease and plant death. Eddie has decided that his clear mandate is to “imitate rainfall” by providing supplemental irrigation that looks more like our natural pattern: gentle, sparse summer rains, not heavy storms. During Santa Anas, he recommends 2 minute spritz to cool the plants off. If the plant is suffering from summer stress, he doesn’t dump a lot of water on it, he just refreshes it.

The garden, which is well over 5,000 square feet, is mostly Diablo clay with native hybrid species originating in San Diego county and the Channel Islands.

A view of South Bay Botanic Garden

A view of South Bay Botanic Garden – Photo by Susan Krzywicki

Results: longer bloom times, good growth
Within two weeks of implementing this strategy in July, everything was flourishing. Coast sunflower (Encelia californica) now blooms two months longer. Bladderpod (Isomeris arborea) now produces flower for him all year round. Showy penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis) is blooming later in the year. Bush poppy (Dendromecon rigida) species doubled in size. The garden stay a little greener into summer. And Eddie even observed a third flowering cycle for San Miguel Island buckwheat (Eriogonum grande rubescens).

Advice: Experiment and adjust
Eddie says, “Don’t be afraid to experiment with your watering cycles. As long as you are not bogging them down, or the root zone is getting drenched, they will do OK.” He says he got lucky on the first try with his split-cycle low-impact changes. So, if you follow his method, note garden changes over at least a month, then adjust again.

Would you consider this for your native garden? Please let us know your thoughts, and, if you try this method, please do keep us up-to-date with your progress and observations.

This article was first published in the San Diego Horticultural Society October 2016 newsletter.

Susan Krzywicki is a native plant landscape designer in San Diego. She has been the first Horticulture Program Director for the California Native Plant Society, as well as chair of the San Diego Surfrider Foundation Ocean Friendly Gardens Committee, and is on the Port of San Diego BCDC for the Chula Vista Bayfront.

San Diego Garden Tour with Calscape Creator Dennis Mudd

The hills and canyons around San Diego are tough,  dry terrain, but hundreds of amazing native plant species thrive nonetheless. Although rugged, these hills are home to delicate flowers like Weed’s mariposa lilymission manzanita, and great horned owls. Dennis Mudd, founder of MusicMatch and Slacker Radio, wanted to recreate this same natural beauty on his six-acre property — a desire that ultimately ignited his passion to help Californians restore nature one garden at a time.

A California native plant oasis

Located in Poway, Mudd’s garden is an inspiring example of a California native garden at its best. With more than 120 types of plants, simulated creeks, rain water catchbasins, the Mudd property is not only a beautiful oasis for humans, it’s also home to many types of pollinators and more than 40 species of birds, including a resident family of Great Horned Owls.

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But it wasn’t easy at first. Like many drought-conscious Californians, Mudd launched his landscape project 12 years ago using commonly sold low-water imports like rock rose, butterfly bush, and kangaroo pods. Yet those didn’t get him any closer to the native landscapes he saw while mountain biking on the trails near his home. He then invested in a wide range of California natives, but within five years, many were dead.

Think Locally

Although Mudd was on the right track , most of the California natives he initially used weren’t native to his location. And that was Mudd’s light bulb moment.

In a state as biologically and geologically diverse as California, locality matters. What grows in the loamy soil of the Sacramento River Delta is bound to be vastly different than the arid hillsides of Southern California. And yet, many gardening enthusiasts make the same mistake — planting California natives that may be totally inappropriate to a specific region.

It was this understanding that inspired Mudd to create Calscape, a powerful garden-planning tool for laypeople and professionals alike that lets users discover which plants are truly native to where they live.  Using Calscape, people can search multiple criteria to build plant lists for their gardens, see which nurseries carry those plants and get tips for growing and cultivation. The site features a database of nearly 7,000 California native plant species with maps based on more than 2 million GPS field observations from the Consortium of California Herbaria.

Making it Easy to Grow Native

With a fresh round of recent updates, Calscape is more powerful and easy-to-use than ever:

  • Advanced Search — This new feature allows you to search by multiple criteria at once, layering in queries for location, plant type, water needs, size, fragrance, flower color and more! You can even select specific nurseries to quickly see where your plants are available.
  • “Quick Shop” — Now, you can add plants to your list without opening a new page. Build a plant list in less than two minutes!
  • Mobile Friendly — Calscape is now as easy to use by phone and tablet as on your desktop. Use it to look up plants at the nursery or reference your plant list while you shop.
  • Climate Modeling on Range Maps — Bringing more data to the tool, plant ranges are based on the actual observations for each plant, as well as the annual rainfall range, summer rainfall, coldest month temperature and hottest month temperature ranges for each plant in each Jepson bioregion.
  • Sign and Label Printing — Print with QR codes for any Calscape plant list with easy spreadsheet export functionality. Let’s you easily makes sign for each plant in the plant list, as well as comprehensive plant list.

 

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Share Your Story!
Have you used Calscape for your garden? We’d love to hear your story! Contact us at cnps@cnps.org.

California Native Plants on the Op-Ed Pages

By Steven L. Hartman

A photo of the Hartman front yard. "Palo verde trees attract birds such as nesting bushtits, hooded orioles, flycatchers, and mockingbirds...not to mention thousands of insects during blooming season." - Photo by Steve Hartman

Palo verde trees attract birds such as nesting bushtits, hooded orioles, flycatchers, and mockingbirds…not to mention thousands of insects during blooming season. – Photo by Steve Hartman

There has been a flurry of editorials and commentaries in the local Los Angeles newspapers about issues that CNPS has been focusing on for years. A Los Angeles Times main op-ed warned, “Don’t gravelscape L.A.”, with a bold color graphic. The same day, the Daily News trumpeted in their main editorial, “Turf removal programs could do much more,” arguing, “This transformative step to redefine the California landscape with at least half a billion dollars in incentives needs to do more than just eliminate thirsty lawns that gulf up about 50 percent to 70 percent of residential water use. It should help build a natural, native habitat in every yard that will adapt to the soil and feed the butterflies and birds that migrate and live in the region.”

Wow. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Los Angeles Times said, “Los Angeles would no doubt be better off with less turf. But not if we replace it with gravel or plastic.” This is an important point. A few years ago a friend mentioned that he was going to replace his lawn with plastic grass. Incredulously, I asked why. He said, “Low maintenance, no watering.” I explained that covering his yard with plastic was by no means a benign environmental action. I mentioned the lack of groundwater infiltration, elimination of habitat for native animals, and the reality that the plastic lawn will begin to look tawdry in no time and will have to be replaced- with all that plastic ending up in a landfill.

Marketers have developed the term “California Friendly” to describe xeriscape with drought-tolerant plants. Unfortunately, most of the “California Friendly” plants on sale at the large commercial outlets include Mediterranean or desert plants, and not too many California natives. It is important to remember that our native fauna (in particular, birds and insects) evolved with native plants of California, and that while “Friendly” plants may satisfy the need to reduce water consumption, they don’t necessarily provide food or shelter for our native fauna. There is a big difference between “California Native” and “California Friendly.”

Speaking of the birds and the bees, in an editorial titled, “Don’t give native bees short shrift,” the Los Angeles Times states that, “If the goal [of a proposed beekeeping ordinance] is to strengthen the bee population…the best strategy is to give residents incentives to grow more flowers and avoid treating them with pesticides.” The editorial goes on to state that, “Research has shown that farms would need to make only modest changes to attract healthy numbers and varieties of the local pollinators.” They suggest hedgerows of native plants.

Of course, this strategy works in the residential setting too.

"Gravel-covered yards with a few plants poking out epitomizes the recent spate of lawn conversions. Where is the habitat?"

Gravel-covered yards with a few plants poking out epitomizes the recent spate of lawn conversions. Where is the habitat? – Photo by Steve Hartman

As a Los Angeles resident who has been driving around and seeing the results of various interpretations of “turf replacement”, I am concerned with the cactus gardens and gravel front yards that have only a few plants poking out. Importantly, as Thomas D. Elias in an editorial in the Daily News pointed out: plants help combat climate change by pulling carbon out of the air and facilitate the recharge of ground water.

Further, as pointed out in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, plants act “as air conditioning for LA., which is only getting hotter with climate change. Plants and trees provide shade and transpire moisture to cool the air; gravel and artificial turf don’t. In fact, they create the opposite…fewer plants means more heat, and more heat means faster evaporation from watering.”

With all the newspapers jumping on the band wagon supporting the use of native California plants, it seems that CNPS has won an important battle – native plant landscaping is no longer a fringe activity; indeed it may be one of the important tools that will help Los Angeles cope with drought and climate change. However, the war has not been won until heavily watered lawns and landscapes have been replaced, not with gravel and plastic grass, but with native gardens filled with birds and pollinators.

Steven L. Hartman is a native plant enthusiast, avid gardener, desert fanatic, and President of the California Native Plant Society. He has been a CNPS member since 1974 and a CNPS Fellow since 2005.

It’s CNPS Fall Plant Sale Season!

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!