The Coastal Gardener: Native plants can be added now

November 05, 2010|By Ron Vanderhoff
  • Blue-eyed grass is like an old friend, it says “California” as well as any plant can and it is perfectly adaptable to almost any local garden
Blue-eyed grass is like an old friend, it says “California”…

Sunday morning I'll set off early. Soon, I'll be rolling down Laguna Canyon Road, then heading out with my pack, a couple of quarts of water and a sandwich. I'll hike up Bommer Ridge and then drop down into Emerald Canyon for the long, slow, beautiful walk all the way to Laguna Beach – then back. During those 10 miles on the trail I'll re-connect with where I live and where I garden, California.

In the gardening paradise of California it's easy to forget where we are. Our gardens are hosts to plants from Africa, Asia, South America and Australia. Tropical and desert plants co-mingle in this botanical Shangri-la that we call home. How fortunate we are.

Trumpet vines, boxwoods and lavenders are fine. Fuchsias, begonias and geraniums pay the bills. But, just so I remember where I am when I wake up each day, a little dose of sprouting fiddleneck, California sunflower and blue-eyed grass will be well received on Sunday. I will welcome the sight of elderberry, toyon and sugar bush, something like the smile and good feelings I get when reacquainted some old friends; friends who I haven't seen in a while.


The resinous aroma of sagebrush filling the air, the coarse touch of scrub oaks brushing my arms and legs, the sticky foliage of monkey flower on my fingers, the twisted architecture of old sycamores; the lush, soft greens of polypody ferns and the taste of miner's lettuce will be talking to me. They speak a language that is unique and sometimes subtle, but needs no interpreter. The conversation will be silent, but the message will be clear: This is California's Garden.

Right now is the perfect time of the year to plant California's native plants and reconnect with where you live and where you garden. The cool, moist months that lie ahead will ensure their planting success, allowing the young native plants to be thoroughly rooted before our warm, dry summer arrives.

If you are considering incorporating some of California's plants into your own garden here are a few simple rules to follow:

1. Plant in the fall and winter. Since our local native plants are predominately cool-weather growers, this is the best season for planting.

2. Mulch liberally. A surface mulch is useful for just about all the plants in your garden, and our native plants are no exception. Shredded redwood or cedar bark is certainly my favorite. Use it liberally, about three or four inches over the surface of the soil.

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