Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour

This weekend, May 2nd and 3rd, is the "Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour" here in the East Bay. I went last year and have to say the gardens are a mixed bag. Some are awe-inspiring, like the Fleming garden that I had the privilege of seeing a week ago. The front area (1st picture) has northern exposure and is shaded by redwoods and other trees. The back (2nd picture) is very sunny.

Others gardens on the tour are not so inspiring. I was disappointed with some of the gardens last year because they looked kind of rangy and unkempt. They don't have to be, and unfortunately those types of gardens are exactly why many people are hesitant to plant natives.

One of my personal favorites last year, aside from the Fleming garden, was the UC Berkeley native bee garden. My cousin was helping with the research and gave me some info on the native bees here in the East Bay. There are some 80+ bee species native to the Bay Area. Who knew? And they of course prefer native plants. Another pic from the Fleming garden, sedum spilling over the rocks.

California Natives

So recently I've realized that most people I come into contact with are not as excited about California plants as I am. That's fine, but it started me thinking about why I am interested in them, and why other people should at least have a passing interest in them.

There is a non-profit called Terralingua that works to preserve cultural, linguistic and biological diversity. It was founded on the idea that "there is an inextricable link between cultural and biological diversity." Their idea is that indigenous cultures are tied to the places where they have evolved, and therefore have a connection to the flora and fauna of their home and a stake in conserving it. So by preserving indigenous cultures, you help to preserve nature.

I was born and raised here in California, and can remember my dad pointing out plants and animals to me on hikes and camping trips. I feel very connected to this place and it's geography, plants and animals. And many of the plants and animals here are unique to California and the surrounding regions. Most people are often inspired by the redwoods, sequoias or California condor. But there are many other things to appreciate here as well.

And if you aren't moved by a sense of place, California native plants have a practical purpose. If you do have an area to landscape or garden, they need less water, attract more birds and bees, and can be incredibly beautiful. Don't get me wrong, I'm by no means a purist. Our front yard is about 50% native and some natives I wouldn't recommend because they look like giant weeds -see yampah, the host plant for the anise swallowtail butterfly- or are otherwise not really something you want in your yard. But many like the different types of ceanothus, manzanita and artemisia (sagebrush) are beautiful and require little or no summer water.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Henry Coe State Park

I just spent 3 days backpacking in Henry Coe State Park, outside Morgan Hill. As my friend said, this is the perfect state park to April. Right now the hills are green, the deciduous trees are just leafing out, there's water in all the creeks and there are wildflowers. Lots of them. We counted almost 40 different species. The most common were goldfields, buttercups, lupines, and blue-eyed grass. Imagine fields of yellows and purples. And most of the wildflowers are easily accessible in a day hike.

This is my second time down to Henry Coe and I have been blown away both times. I constantly think that this is what much of California must have looked like 2 centuries ago. Undisturbed beauty and an incredibly diverse ecosystem.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Birth of a poppy

Huckleberry Preserve

Huckleberry is by far one of my favorite parks in the Bay Area. Despite it's small size, it has a mind-boggling diversity of native plants. It's a great place to hike in all seasons, since there is something flowering almost all year. Spring definitely puts on a show, however.

Although there are a few spots with more open views, most of the trail feels like a tunnel of green. This is great for me because I can just focus on all the plants. Here are some pics from this damp spring day.

Douglas iris bud and flower

Ribes Sanguineum and Zigadenus Fremontii (common star lily)

Fritillaria Affinis var. Affinis
(Checker Lily)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ca wildflower buds

Ifound some of my wildflowers really interesting before they opened. Here's Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila Menziesii)

Here are the tidy tips (Layia Platiglosa).

And Phacelia Tanacetifolia.

SF Flower and Garden Show

So this last weekend I went to the SF Flower and Garden Show. Last year my friends collaborated with another gardener to design a garden in the show. This year, instead of being a helper, I went as a casual observer. Some of the designs are great and inspiring, others more for people with loads of cash and the desire to have their yard look like a magazine. I did like that quite a few of the gardens had California native plants or other low-water use plants. Though there were far too many water (wasting) features for my taste.

These 2 pics are from the garden designed by mariposa gardening (see link above). The left shows a habitat planting full of natives like iris, chinese houses, purple needlegrass, as well as some non-natives and edibles. As you can see from the pic on the right, not everyone was as excited as me to be at the show. This arch was part of a beautiful dry-stack wall. More pics at drystonegarden.

This last pic is from a garden I really liked. They only used California natives. I was quite taken with this lawn alternative of carex pansa with some wildflowers (buttercups and shooting stars among others) thrown in for good measure. Many people here are trying to get rid of their lawns . Unfortunately, it looks like carex pansa is not a good candidate to replace your lawn. Fortunately, I prefer gardens to lawn anyday, unless I'm playing soccer. Trees in back are Western Incense Cedars.