California Hazelnut – by Vivian Mazur

CA Hazelnut photo courtesy Keir Morse

CA Hazelnut photo courtesy Keir Morse

If you have a shade garden, the California hazelnut (Corylus cornuta ssp. Californica) is a natural resident. It is widespread in woodland, particularly in moist or shaded canyons. It can be found along the Coastal Ranges in Northern California, the Siskiyous, and Sierras. If you hike this time of year, you may be rewarded with a crop of nuts unless the squirrels have beaten you to them. The name, Corylus, comes from the Greek ‘coys’, meaning helmet, which refers to the sheath around the nut. The hazelnut is in the birch family (betulaceae), related the alder. It is interesting to notice the similarities between them – from the shape of the leaf to the late winter catkins.

The hazelnut is an attractive addition to the woodland garden. It is a large (12’ – 15’), spreading, deciduous shrub with graceful, arching branches. In late winter the catkins appear. Each plant has separate male and female flowers but it is the males that are most conspicuous as they develop into long, golden tassels, followed by the unfurling of soft, velvety leaves. In late summer or early fall, the nuts ripen, much appreciated by squirrels and birds.

The California hazelnut is an adaptable garden plant. It is drought resistant once established but unlike many native plants, it will accept year-round water. It is a plant that will fend for itself, needing only pruning to keep it looking attractive. Some natural companions are sword ferns, bush monkey flower, and Douglas iris.

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!

Greg Suba spotted this:

The New York Times article about our new paradigm was an interesting read.

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People are still confusing “drought-tolerant” with “native plant” and I have mixed emotions about that.  There are specific benefits to putting native plants into our gardens:

  • Heritage
  • Larval hosting
  • Soil interaction
  • Ethnobotanic connections

So, we continue to work on getting the message out. Have any ideas on how we can do that? Email me with suggestions –

Greening Your Garden — Literally!

You want to do the right thing for the environment by planting water-wise native plants in the garden, but you also want the garden to look appealing during the long, dry California summer. No matter the season, we humans like our gardens to look green. The color green evokes lushness, fecundity, life. Is it possible to have a California garden that stays green through the summer sustainably, without relying on an endless supply of water?

Yes, indeed, it is possible — through a careful selection of plants. Among California’s dizzying array of native plants, there are many that stay green through summer naturally. Here is a short list, covering the range from perennial to groundcover to subshrub, shrub, vine, and tree.

Think about introducing these to your garden and, once established, cutting back on the water. For contrast, combine them with blue-, gray-, silver-, and tan-colored plants to create an inviting display in the garden.

Plants With Summer-Green Foliage

Coastal gumplant

Coastal gumplant likes full sun and blooms in early summer

An early summer blooming perennial is the coastal gumplant (Grindelia stricta platyphylla). It grows 6” tall and 3’ wide, and is a good edging plant for full sun. Yellow daisies in June through August attract butterflies, skippers, and other insects. Contrasts well with large plants such as deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens). Continue reading

Replace your lawn!

Neighbors dislike, and homeowner associations sometimes forbid, the ‘untidy’, ‘weedy’ native plants in our suburban gardens, when compared with the neatly mowed front yards that surround them, and there is no doubt that rolling swathes of green are extremely appealing. We justify this substitution by emphasizing that the right selection of native plants requires less irrigation (in most of California where rainfall needs to be supplemented, especially in summer) and also that they provide a natural habitat for the native fauna.

Now there is a further argument for replacing lawns; a UC Irvine study has pointed out that, although grass does absorb carbon dioxide and emits oxygen, as do all plants, the treatment that the typical lawn receives to keep it that smooth green carpet all year involves so much mowing, and often leaf blowing that the emissions from machinery, combined with nitrous oxide resulting from fertilizers, cancel out the carbon-saving benefits of the lawn.