Native Plants Featured at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show!

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Look for this sign – and see a native shade garden

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Photos courtesy of Kathy Kramer

This year the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show is giving a lot of showtime to water-conserving native plants.  In the main garden showroom are three beautiful native plant gardens. They were designed by Pete Veilleux of East Bay Wilds; Ryan Cummings of The New Leaf; and Terra Ferma.

On Saturday, March 22, there will be an entire day of talks given by noted native plant experts.  Michael Thilgen of Four Dimensions Landscape Company; Bart O’Brien (co-author, with Carol Bornstein and David Fross), of “California Native Plants for the Garden”; Kathy Kramer, coordinator of the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour; Kelly Marshall of Kelly Marshall Garden Design; and David Mizejewski of the National Wildlife Federation will all be giving talks about native plants. The talks are free, once admission has been paid.

Admission to the Show is $20.  The Show runs March 19-23, at the San Mateo Event Center.

Bringing Back the Natives – 10th Annual

I received my announcement invite from Kathy Kramer yesterday – the tenth anniversary of her tour is taking place this may. Here is some info on what’s happening and how to register:

Bringing Back The Natives Tour

Registration for the Sunday, May 4, 2014 Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour is now open! This year’s tour will fill; register now to reserve your place.

variety of bird- and butterfly-friendly, pesticide-free, water conserving, low maintenance gardens that contain 60% or more native plants will be open on Sunday, May 4, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at various locations throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. More than 40 garden talks will be scheduled throughout the day.

Music in the Gardens -This year, to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Tour, a Music in the Gardens feature has been added. Come and hear the Appalacian dulcimer, lutes, flutes, banjos, guitars, Renaissance and folk music, and the a cappella Berkeley Community Chamber singers. Free, of course!  See the garden guide for details.

Plant Sales – Native plants will be sold at numerous locations over the course of the week-end of May 3 and 4 during the Tour’s Native Plant Sale Extravaganza.

Workshops – In addition to the Tour and plant sale, a series of workshops will be offered this spring.  Learn how to sheetmulch your lawn away, or how to design a native plant garden that contains color throughout the year. Judy Adler will be leading three tours of her amazing Walnut Creek garden (think chickens, pond, rainwater harvesting, native plants, fruit trees, seed collection, and more!).

Volunteers are needed to spend a morning or afternoon greeting tour participants and answering questions about natives.  Complete the Volunteer section of the registration form if you would like to help out this year. Benefits to volunteers include invitations to Garden Soirees, in which tour gardens are open to hosts and volunteers; a pre-tour meeting with the owner and private tour of the garden you will be staffing; a guaranteed tour reservation for the half day you are free; a Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour t-shirt, and, perhaps best of all, heartfelt thanks for helping to educate the general public about the many pleasures and benefits of gardening with California native plants.  Prior to signing up to volunteer, browse the gardens to choose the garden you would like to be assigned to. Click here for more information on volunteering.

2015 Tour -Applications for the 2015 Tour are now being accepted. You can download the application form from the Tour website.  Garden visits will be made in May and June.  (Please note that gardens must contain at least 60% or more native plants.)

Donations – This year, please join your fellow guests in supporting the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour. Given decreasing public agency support, we find it necessary to turn to Tour participants to help keep the tour going and to keep it free for those who cannot afford to pay. Please follow the instructions in the registration form to make your contribution, or you can donate here.

Facebook – “Like” the tour on Facebook!  This spring the Garden Tour’s Facebook page will run articles such as “What to do in your native plant garden each month;” and “What’s in bloom now?;” describe the spring workshops; feature specific gardens; show you before-and-after garden photos; and just generally provide a behind-the-scenes look at the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour. 

Know of any other native plant Garden Tours coming up? Let us know.

Matilija Poppy, “Queen of California Flowers”

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Romneya ‘White Cloud’ – Matilija Poppy

Matilija Poppy has been called the “Queen of California Flowers.” In the words of Mary Elizabeth Parsons, from The Wild Flowers of California, 1897: “The Matilija poppy (pronounced ma-til’li-ha) must be conceded the queen of all our flowers. It is not a plant for small gardens, but the fitting adornment of a large park, where it can have space and light to rear its imperial stems and shake out its diaphanous flowers. It is justly far-famed, and by English gardeners, who now grow it successfully, it is regarded a priceless treasure, and people go from many miles around to see it when it blooms. It is to be regretted that our flowers must go abroad to find their warmest admirers.”

Matilija Poppy, unique and distinct, is one of the most recognized and beloved of California’s native plants. The large white blooms are the size of a saucer.  The petals look like wrinkled crepe paper, the center is a bright yellow disk.  Some have likened the flower to the appearance of a fried egg.  A solitary bloom is a very fine thing, but a large stand of Matilija in full bloom is a sight to behold!  Hundreds of huge white flowers borne at eye-level on long straight stems, contrasted by attractive blue-green foliage… a real show stopper in late spring/early summer!

Matilija poppies are only found in a few locations in California.  Within their range, they prefer gravelly soil, sometimes on the sides of stream banks or alongside a road.  Their appearance always seems a surprise, as they are not common. They can be found in sunny chaparral and coastal sage scrub in coastal and inland regions of southern California.

ImageWhile easy to grow in the garden, in the nursery, the species (Romneya coulteri and R. trichocalyx) are difficult to propagate.  Seeds will not germinate unless they have experienced the flash heat of wild fire.  At Tree of Life Nursery, pine needles are ceremoniously burned across the tops of the freshly sown seed flats.  Germination usually begins within a few days. Seedlings are tiny and they are vulnerable to the elements.

The best garden variety is a supposed hybrid between the two species.  Theodore Payne first discovered it in a southern California nursery in 1940.  The selection he made had much larger blooms, attractive lush foliage and a slightly more compact habit than the species forms.  He introduced it as ‘White Cloud’ and first offered it for sale sometime before 1956; the exact details are now lost in history.

At one time the hybrid plant was all but lost in California horticulture.  In the early 1970’s, Art Tyree (who had worked with Theodore Payne in the 1960’s) knew of a stand of ‘White Cloud’ growing in a private garden in Pasadena. Tree of Life Nursery obtained permission to secure a few small root cuttings.  Since ‘White Cloud’ is a cultivar, it must be grown vegetatively. Seed would not be suitable and stem cuttings are practically impossible. From those few cuttings thirty years ago Tree of Life Nursery has planted and maintained large stands of mother plants, of the exact clone that Payne had selected almost seventy years ago.

ImageMatilija poppy is a clumping perennial with long, upright blue-green stems and foliage. Plants reach 5 to 8 feet tall and spread by underground stems to form large colonies. The plants can be difficult to establish in a garden, but once established will thrive. Don’t plant anywhere where the vigorous spreading from underground runners would not be welcome.

Transplant carefully in cool weather to avoid disturbing roots and provide monthly watering and well-drained soil. The plant is drought tolerant and will not survive continually wet roots, such as in the middle of lawn (yes, this has been attempted). Matilija Poppy looks beautiful in roadside and parkway plantings, along fencelines, on slopes, in large scale planters and borders, and as an accent for entrances.  Cut it back hard after flowering (September-October) to remove old stems and allow for new spring growth.

Article adapted by Laura Camp with permission from Tree of Life Nursery, californianativeplants.com

Feeding Frenzy-Manzanita and Friends

Every year in my garden, and in the garden at Tree of Life Nursery where I work, and maybe in your garden, too, the earliest Manzanita to bloom is Arctostaphylos refugioensis.  Last year it had plentiful flowers at Christmas, but this year it’s quite early and in full bloom in time for Halloween.

Arctostaphylos refugioensis, Refugio Manzanita, late October

On Saturday, October 30th, I attended a talk by pollinator and native plant expert Bob Allen at the nursery, and in the course of a talk about gardening for butterflies he mentioned that manzanitas are good nectar plants for adult butterflies and moths. When I arrived home later that afternoon, lo and behold, two Monarch butterflies were fluttering high around my front yard, and further observation showed that their target was the profuse blooms of my Refugio manzanita. Guru Bob strikes again! Continue reading

Seasonal Color – February

The month of February has rushed past us already.  Here are a couple of California native plant color highlights from the past month….

Pink-Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum, Photo: Laura Camp ©Tree of Life Nursery

The Gooseberries and Currents, Ribes spp., have continued their color show that started in January.  Pictured here is one of the stunning cultivars of Pink-flowering currant, Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum, Continue reading

Seasonal interest in the garden-January (2 of 3)

Continuing my look at plants that are blooming or providing other seasonal interest in the southern California garden in January, next up is Ribes, the gooseberries or currants.

Ribes species are varied and great for the shade garden.  Ribes malvaceum, R. sanguineum, R. aureum are among the currants, which have no thorns.  They have wonderful flowers in white, pink or yellow in early spring and generally are summer dormant.  Ribes indecorum, the White-flowering currant, is the earliest to bloom in Southern California.

Continue reading