By Eve Werner, Butte County Master Gardener, December 11, 2015.
Fall and winter are the perfect seasons to plant a native pollinator garden. Pollinators are the buzzing, flying creatures responsible for the formation of many of the fruits and vegetables that we humans love to eat. Planting for pollinators is a colorful way to attract interesting and beautiful birds, butterflies, bees, and insects to your garden while increasing the productivity of many edible plants.
Pollen is found in the flowers of plants. Different pollinators prefer variously shaped flowers to accommodate their personal anatomy. Selecting an assortment of California native plants with diverse flower shapes and staggered bloom times ensures that a wide variety of native pollinators will thrive in your garden.
Hummingbirds, for example, reach into tubular flowers with their long, thin beaks. Zauschneria californica (California Fuchsia; also known as Epilobium canum) is a perennial native to Butte County that is covered with brilliant orange-red tubular flowers from mid-summer through fall. This plant is a hummingbird magnet! Zauschneria ‘John Bixby' and Zauschneria ‘Calistoga' are especially attractive and well-behaved varieties of California Fuchsia. Plant Zauschneria in part- to full-sun areas of your garden. Water once or twice a month during the dry season. To keep it looking tidy, cut this perennial to within a couple inches of the ground annually in late fall/early winter.
To attract a miniature zoo over a long period, pair early-summer-blooming Salvia ‘Winnifred Gilman,' (Winnifred Gilman Sage), with late summer-blooming Eriogonum nudum, (Naked Buckwheat) or Erigonum fasciculatum (California Buckwheat). Plant these beauties in full sun. Water the sage once or twice a month. The buckwheats need no added summer water after the first year but can tolerant semi-weekly watering. Sit quietly and watch numerous species of tiny (non-stinging) native bees and wasps harvest nectar from the ball-like flower clusters of these plants. See if you can spot one-quarter-inch-long metallic green sweat bees among the crowd.
Mimulus (Diplacus) aurianticus (Sticky Monkey Flower) offers deep, wide tubular flowers that provide a helpful ‘landing pad' for several species of butterflies and bees. Hummingbirds love them, too. The soft orangey-yellow blossoms light up part shade gardens in the spring. Water Sticky Monkey Flower once or twice a month during the summer. It is stress deciduous, so it will lose its leaves or look wilted during the heat of summer.
Planting for pollinators is an easy and fun way to add a new dimension of interest to your native garden!
By Cindy Weiner, Butte County Master Gardener, October 17, 2014
By fall most summer-blooming plants have run their course, while summer-dormant plants are just beginning to start their new growth for the season. You may feel your garden needs more color. Luckily for the gardener, there are some native plants which continue to bloom well into the fall and others which begin to bloom in late fall.
Native to many plant communities throughout California, including Butte County, California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) is a powerhouse that deserves a spot in every garden. This spreading perennial in the evening primrose family is available in low-growing forms that reach around six inches and upright varieties that can get up to three feet tall. The narrow leaves of the California fuchsia can be green, gray-green or gray and its trumpet- shaped scarlet flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. It blooms from early summer until the weather turns cold, requires little water and grows in full sun. Its branches should be cut back in late fall after flowering is finished.
Chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum) is a shrub of the gooseberry and currant family native to foothills in the Coast Range. In the wild it can grow in full sun but may do better with part shade in our area. It grows to five feet tall with an upright form. Its dull green leaves are hairy and lobed and are deer-resistant. In the wild it is summer dormant and will lose its leaves. Once established, it requires no summer irrigation but will stay green longer with some supplemental spring watering. It begins growing again in the fall and will bloom from around October until March. Chaparral currant has pink flowers growing in drooping clusters two to six inches long. The flowers are a good source of nectar for resident hummingbirds when few other plants are in bloom. Its blue-black fruit attracts many other birds. Because it requires little supplemental water, it can be planted under native oaks. It requires little pruning.
Fall is the best time to plant natives as they have time to get their roots established before the heat of next summer. If you plant some fall-bloomers now, you'll have some great color at this time next year.