By Cindy Weiner, Butte County Master Gardener, July 1, 2016.
While this more traditional style is beautiful, it is not particularly well-suited to our Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers, and therefore requires irrigation several months of the year. But there are many areas on campus where native plants are featured in the landscaping, and these areas are multiplying in tandem with changes in the built environment of the campus. New plantings of natives and compatible non-native, water-smart plants are generally added to complement new buildings (such as, most recently, the new Arts and Humanities Building) or where lawn has been removed. According to Alonzo, the goals for landscape remodeling projects are sustainability; bringing harmony to the campus; blending the contemporary look with the more traditional look of older plantings; clustering plantswith similar water requirements together in an effort to conserve water (an approach known as hydrozoning; and educating visitors about the “new” (sustainable, water-wise) California landscaping.
The Phenology Garden is located in the raised planting bed at the east entrance to Holt Hall. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life events related to climate conditions, such as flower blooming or bird migration. Planted in 2014, it is used by students to participate in research involving long-term data collection. It contains primarily native plants that require no supplemental water once they become established. Foothill penstemon, alum root, snowberry, sticky monkeyflower and western dogwood are some of the plants in the Phenology Garden.
Just a short distance away, at the northeast side of Holt Hall, a new garden was planted this spring to replace a former
lawn. Designed to resemble a forest understory layer, it contains giant chain fern, bigleaf maple, western dogwood, redbud and western columbine growing under existing mature trees.
Two large planting beds between the new Humanities building and the Performing Arts Center were also installed in the spring. These contain shade-loving natives such as coffeeberry, evergreen currant, bearberry, Oregon grape and creeping mahonia planted in long swathes.
A new planting area combining both natives and non-natives will replace some of the lawn between the Acker and Shurmer gyms and Yolo Hall and will be installed in the fall. Keep an eye on these new areas to watch these gardens grow and mature.
By Cindy Weiner, Butte County Master Gardener, May 30, 2014
It can be difficult to find plants that bloom in shade. Incorporating native plants in your garden can greatly increase the choices available to you.
Coral bells and alum roots in the genus Heuchera are herbaceous perennials native to North America. Their large lobed leaves on long stems are evergreen, making the foliage attractive all year. They have tiny bell-shaped flowers held above the leaves in airy sprays on long stems. These plants look especially nice growing in drifts under trees. They grow well in filtered or part shade and require only occasional to moderate water. Their woody rootstocks should be divided or cut back to short stubs every 3-4 years.
Island alum root (Heuchera maxima) is native to the Channel Islands. It grows one to three feet tall and has creamy white to pinkish flowers. Crevice alumroot (Heuchera micrantha) grows on rocky mountain outcrops from central California north to Oregon. It is smaller than island alum root and its flowers are white or pink. Many cultivars of crevice alum root are available in general nurseries. These cultivars have been selected for foliage with silvery, bronze or purple tones. Three of the cultivars are “painted lady,” “Blessingham bronze,” and “purple palace.”
By Cindy Weiner, Butte County Master Gardener, April 4, 2014
Spring is here, and many native plants are coming into bloom. Orange California poppies color the roadside and hills. Redbuds burst with magenta flowers. Butterflies flutter among the blue dicks in grassy areas in upper Bidwell Park and along foothill roadsides. The good news is that many California native plants look just as good in the home garden as they do in the wild.
Sages (genus Salvia) are a large group of shrubby perennials in the mint family. They come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors but all are native to dry areas of the state. Many species are also available as hybrids or cultivars. They are easy to grow in full sun and require little to no water once established. Sages thrive on neglect; applying fertilizer or giving too much water will shorten their lives. They have tubular, two-lipped flowers generally arranged in whorls around their square-shaped stems. Sage flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds, native bees and other pollinators. Their foliage is often aromatic.
- White sage has silvery foliage with white flowers that grow clustered on spikes rather than in whorls. It can be sheared lightly after flowering.
- Purple sage has gray-green leaves and pinkish-purple flowers and grows in a mound to four feet tall.
- Creeping sage is an eight-inch-tall groundcover which spreads to form a patch eight or more feet across. It has gray-green leaves with blue-violet flowers. Native to the northern Coast Range and Sierra Nevada foothills, on the valley floor it does better with some afternoon shade.
- Cleveland sage has dark green, aromatic leaves with purple flowers and grows to about three feet tall. Most sages benefit from annual pruning, especially to thin out woody centers.
Best of all, while the blooms of California natives can make valuable contributions to your spring garden, they also attract all kinds of pollinators, so your vegetable patch and fruit trees will benefit, too.
By Eve Werner, Butte County Master Gardener, February 21, 2014
Lawns make an unbeatable playing surface. But many lawn areas, especially those in front yards, are rarely tread upon. Too often, they are grown by default for their reliable greenery. Keeping them lush and healthy expends resources in addition to water. Pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides sometimes when applied to lawns can pose health risks to humans and leach into waterways. Gas-powered lawn mowers produce as much as 5% of the nation's air pollution each year. Native gardens, in contrast, provide beauty that is truly “green”.
The following three steps can guide you in successfully converting your lawn into a native garden.
First, observe. What existing trees and plants do you want to keep or remove? What are the sun and shade patterns? What types of grass grow in your lawn?
Next, kill your lawn. Homeowners can use either of two eco-friendly methods to kill their lawns. Solarizing involves heating the soil by covering it with a clear plastic tarp for four to six weeks during summer. It works best on fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass, and with limited success on Bermuda grass. Sheet mulching is a method of layering materials (one of which is often cardboard) in order to inhibit the growth of weeds or (in this case) turf grass. Sheet mulching can be started any time of the year, takes six to eight months, works in sun or shade, and is effective on all grasses, including Bermuda grass. The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management program website, http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu, has information and instructions for both methods.
Finally, replant. Whichever method you choose, time implementation so that you are ready to replant in the fall. The cool temperatures and moist soils of October, November, and December allow native plants to develop the healthy roots they need to thrive with little water during the heat of summer.
Select a mix of trees, grasses, perennials, and shrubs for your native garden. Trees such as Western Redbud and Desert Willow add shade, privacy, and colorful blossoms. Dramatic bunch grasses like Deer Grass, California Fescue, and Blue Gramma grass enliven with texture and movement. The flowering evergreen shrubs Ceanothus ‘Concha,' Cleveland Sage, and California Buckwheat provide definition and screening. Perennials such as yarrow, BOP Penstemon, Naked Buckwheat, and California Fuchsia bring pizazz and pollinators into the garden. Sticky Monkey-flower and Hummingbird Sage brighten part-shade areas beneath existing trees. And, for those who miss the year-round green of their former lawn, there are evergreen groundcover manzanitas such as ‘Emerald Carpet' and ‘Green Supreme.'
It's a beneficial equation! A native garden can add a great deal to your garden while subtracting a chunk from your water bill.
On Monday, March 10, the Butte County Master Gardeners will present a workshop on this topic at the Chico Library, located at the corner of First and Sherman Avenues, from 10 to 11 am. The workshop, “Replacing Your Lawn,” will present techniques for lawn removal; it is one of a series of workshops the Master Gardeners will present on Mondays in March to help home gardeners deal with the present drought situation.
By Cindy Weiner, Butte County Master Gardener, January 24, 2014
Most of California has a Mediterranean-type climate with cool, rainy winters followed by hot, dry summers. Many of the plants for sale in nurseries need help to survive in this climate, and often require a lot of water during the summer. However, plants native to California (meaning that they were present prior to the arrival of European explorers and colonists) have adapted to this climate with a variety of strategies that allow them to live with no water for long periods of time. One of these strategies is to bloom and grow during the rainy season and go dormant during the hottest part of the summer.
Manzanitas (scientific name Arctostaphylos) are one group of California natives utilizing this strategy. Their small, urn-shaped flowers, appearing during winter, range from white to pink and are followed by reddish fruits resembling tiny apples. In fact, the word manzanita is Spanish for “little apple.” Manzanita flowers are a good source of food for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, and many other birds eat the fruit. Manzanitas come in a wide variety of sizes and growth habits, from groundcover to tree-like, but all are evergreen, with leathery leaves and smooth, mahogany-colored bark providing year-round interest. They generally require good drainage, enough space around them to allow for good air circulation, and little to no summer water.
Another reliable manzanita for this area is the cultivar ‘Dr. Hurd.' It grows from ten to fifteen feet tall and as wide and can be pruned as a small tree. The contrast between the dark reddish bark on the spreading branches and the gray-green leaves is quite striking, becoming even more beautiful with age. White flowers bloom in the winter. ‘Dr. Hurd' prefers full sun and little summer water although it can tolerate some irrigation and heavier soil.
Pipevine (scientific name Aristolochia californica) is native to foothills and valleys of northern California. It grows in both lower and upper Bidwell Park, usually near water. Its ten to fifteen-foot-long vines climb into shrubs or trees or along fences without harming them. Blooming in winter or early spring before its heart-shaped leaves appear, the pale green flowers with dark maroon veins are unusual in appearance, resembling curved pipes with flared bowls. It is the only local larval host plant for the pipevine swallowtail butterfly. Pipevine tolerates just about any soil but needs part to full shade and a little water in summer. While it can be grown as a groundcover, pipevine is most effective where the flowers can dangle at eye level to be appreciated.
Planting winter-blooming natives in your garden provides both food for wildlife and lovely flowers to enjoy when most of your garden is dormant.