By Cindy Weiner, Butte County Master Gardener, June 3, 2016.
The Alice B. Hecker Native Plant Garden at Chico Creek Nature Center was planted in the late 1980s. While some plants have been replaced over the years, many are original and were propagated by members of the Mount Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. Some of these, like leather oak and California nutmeg, are rarely seen in gardens. The garden beds represent different local habitats, such as foothill or riparian. Fully-grown Oregon ash, elderberry and redbud trees provide shade for California bush anemone, Western bleeding heart, pipevine and mock orange. Spreading daisy, soaproot and several species of sage grow in sunnier areas. This garden demonstrates how a native garden will look after a couple of decades of growth.
The gardens at the Gateway Science Museum (at 625 Esplanade in Chico) include a native plant pollinator garden planted in 2013. These plants were chosen especially for their value to birds, butterflies, bees and other insects. Many of the plants provide nectar or pollen for the adult pollinators. Some insect larvae feed on leaves. The garden includes many different species of sun-loving sages and buckwheats. Showy milkweed is the host plant for larval monarch butterflies, and several monarchs go through complete metamorphosis in the gardens each year. The Gateway Gardens have been so successful at attracting both honeybees and native bees that it is one of 60 gardens in the state chosen to participate in the Urban California Native Bee Survey conducted by the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab. This is an established, but still young and developing, garden.
Public native gardens such as these are an excellent resource for anyone planning a more water-wise home garden.