By Brent McGhie, UC Master Gardener of Butte County, May 18, 2018.
The Butte County Master Gardener program began in 2008, and in 2013 the organization formed a partnership with the Patrick Ranch Museum. As a result of this partnership, the Patrick Ranch Museum dedicated about an acre of land for the Master Gardeners to develop a series of gardens that demonstrate sustainable gardening practices and highlight climate appropriate plants for the home gardener.
Most of California, including Butte County, is in a Mediterranean climate zone. From a global viewpoint, Mediterranean zones are relatively uncommon. In addition to California, Mediterranean climates exist only in limited areas in Chile, Australia and South Africa and around the Mediterranean Basin. These areas have a climate that is characterized by hot, dry summers and cool moist winters. It is our hope that by showcasing California natives and other plants that are adapted to this climate, we will inspire local gardeners to incorporate them into their landscaping plans. Master Gardener Kay Perkins has headed the Demonstration Garden project from its inception. She says “… a drought tolerant garden does not need to be rock and bark chip and cacti; you can have a beautiful garden that will attract wildlife as long as you choose native and Mediterranean plants that are adapted to our hot summers.” Click here for a list of Climate Appropriate Plants.
In 2017, Master Gardeners installed an herb garden within the Backyard Fruit Orchard and in the early spring of this year we planted a Summer Dry Garden. The Summer Dry Garden consists of plants that, once established, should be able to survive with just the water provided by winter rain. This garden should be a great resource for those who want to keep water usage at a minimum! Our most recent addition, just completed on May 9th of this year, is the Berm Garden. To create this garden, we built a retaining wall with repurposed material and backfilled it with topsoil. The resulting artificial embankment illustrates an effective alternative method of landscaping when you are faced with poor soils.
Master Gardeners are a volunteer organization, so all costs associated with plants, materials and labor that go into creating the Demonstration Garden are dependent on donations from individuals and local businesses, fundraisers, and countless volunteer hours. However, it's a labor of love and we encourage you to visit the gardens for landscaping ideas, or simply to enjoy the pleasant, tranquil garden environment we are establishing. The gardens are accessible for viewing whenever the Patrick Ranch Museum, 10381 Midway (between Durham and Chico), is open. Although Master Gardeners do not have regularly scheduled hours at the Demonstration Garden, they are often there planting and maintaining the grounds and are always happy to answer any questions you might have. Many of our educational workshops also take place at Patrick Ranch and workshop attendees often tour the gardens while they are there. For more information, please visit our website at: ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg. Garden questions can be directed to the Master Gardener Hotline at 530-538-7201.
If you would like to support the Demonstration Garden and other Butte County Master Gardener educational projects, you can make a tax deductible donation here.
By Alicia Springer, UC Butte County Master Gardeners, August 11, 2017.
We Californians understand the concept of summer dormancy: “Those hills aren't brown, they're beautifully golden!” We know that the cycle of seasons plays out a bit more dramatically across our hot, dry countryside than in locales where the landscape stays predictably green throughout the summer.
The dog days of summer are a muted, in-between time in the native garden. Dry-climate plants have developed strategies for coping with high summer, whether on a rocky ledge in the foothills or in your back yard. Spring-blooming species stop producing new flowers and greenery and put all their energy into seed production. Late bloomers haven't yet hit their stride. Once-vibrant foliage looks faded and the vivid flowers of spring are a memory. Even long-blooming garden favorites such as sages, buckwheats, and sunflowers might take a breather from profuse flowering, and resume blooming when temperatures are a bit milder.
This doesn't mean that the late summer native garden lacks beauty or interest. To a native plant lover, the architectural punch of a milkweed pod bursting with silky seed is more than a match for the pink and orange zing of a zinnia. The deep red of a manzanita branch, revealed as the dry outer bark peels away, is as rich as any rose. Our native garden selections show off their wild origins with a more natural effect than conventional garden hybrids bred for tidy flower production, but native plant enthusiasts embrace and accept a wilder aesthetic.
A visit to the Butte County Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden at the Patrick Ranch shows how various species hold up through a valley heat wave. Both the California Native garden and the Native Habitat garden are zones planted solely with natives, and natives are incorporated into several of the other garden zones, including the Mediterranean garden and the Butte All-Stars. How do they look now at the height of summer? The California Native garden's collage of green, silver, and tawny shades; the varying heights and textures; and the abundant sprawl of stems, branches, and seedheads make a pleasing whole. Some specimens in the two native gardens look positively snappy—the manzanita ‘Louis Edmunds' (Arctostaphylos bakeri ‘Louis Edmunds'), the redbud (Cercis occidentalis), the ceanothus ‘Blue Jeans' (C. maritimus ‘Blue Jeans'), the canyon sagebrush (Artemisia californica ‘Canyon Gray'), and the coffeeberry ‘Eve Case' (Frangula californica ‘Eve Case') all look like their answer to heat is “no sweat.” The deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) and California fescue (Festuca californica) still look pretty lively and illustrate why grasses are indispensable garden features. Bees are feeding on the fragrant pitcher sage (Lepechinia fragrans ‘el tigre'), the snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), and the goldenrod (Solidago velutina ssp. californica), which are still blooming a bit; soon the California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) will begin to bloom, pleasing the hummingbirds.
Most other species in the two native gardens look exactly as they should right now, exhibiting varying degrees of browning leaf edges, a mix of fresh and dried blooms, seedheads (some left unclipped for the birds), and fresh-to-fading greenery. The showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) and narrow-leafed milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) display fat and burst pods, respectively. The wilting California rose (Rosa californica) is left un-deadheaded so it can develop its tiny hips. There are several different species of penstemon in the two gardens, with bloom times ranging from early spring to midsummer; they have finished flowering for the season, but are holding on valiantly to await another summer. The snapdragon bush (Keckiella antirrhinoides), coyote mint (Monardella villosa) and gum plant (Grindelia camporum) are well on their way to complete dormancy, right on schedule.
The watering regimen applied at these zones of native plants in the Demonstration Garden is a useful general guideline for drought-tolerant native species. We use a drip system with one two-gallon emitter on each specimen. We turn on irrigation in mid- to late June as the summer heats up, and water once every two weeks for 30 minutes, delivering around a gallon to each plant. Plants are watered throughout their first two summer seasons; for their first summer, newcomers planted in the fall or spring get additional hand-watering so they are watered weekly, and for the second summer, they receive the twice-monthly automated drip. After two summer cycles, emitters are removed from the most xeric specimens and they get no further scheduled irrigation. With this regular but spare watering, plants retain garden-worthy flowers and foliage longer than they would in the harsh outback.
- Don't overwater. No amount of irrigation can coax a summer-dormant plant into bursting forth anew with fresh blooms and foliage. In fact, the best way to kill a heat-struck plant is to withhold water for weeks and then suddenly shock it with a midsummer flood. Take care to research the specific water needs for the particular plants in your own garden; not all natives are drought-tolerant.
- No stress, please. Peak summer is not the time for overzealous pruning or fertilizing, both of which can force the plant to put out new growth when it's least likely to survive. Deadhead spent blooms (or let seed heads develop for birds), but resist the urge to completely whack back leggy growth and browning foliage. You can tidy up in the fall.
- Mix it up. Many non-native garden favorites from compatible dry-summer climates have been cultivated over time to bear up under heat stress. By all means, mix natives with non-natives, perennials with annuals—just be sure to group plants with similar water needs together.
- Plan for succession. Early-season perennial bloomers, such as redbud, ceanothus, and bush lupines, give way to summer penstemons, salvias, yarrows, buckwheats, and a host of other beauties which provide color and interest well into late fall. Good places to start your research include the California Native Plant Society gardening website http://www.cnps.org/cnps/grownative, and our Butte County Master Gardeners website http://ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg/resources/drought.
By Laura Lukes, Butte County Master Gardener, January 20, 2017.
These workshops are designed for the home gardener interested in creating sustainable landscapes, starting plants from seed, harvesting rainwater, learning propagation and composting techniques, and much more. A total of nineteen workshops are scheduled between February 9th and June 14th. All workshops are free of charge, with one exception: there is a small materials fee for the May 9th “Building Compost Bins” workshop.
“We are particularly excited about the new topics we've added, and the quality of our presenters,” added Ms. Perkins. “In addition to our knowledgeable Master Gardener speakers, this year we have partnered with local experts” for the workshops on worm composting at the Durham Worm Farm, hardscape materials at the Sutherland Landscape Center, and the Native Plant Walk on the CSU, Chico campus.
The primary venue for these workshops is the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden, located at the Patrick Ranch Museum on the Midway south of Chico. The Demonstration Garden features plants that thrive in a Mediterranean climate, and are particularly well suited for our conditions in Butte County. All of the plants in the Demonstration Garden do well in hot, dry summers with little water, and provide habitat for local wildlife, especially various pollinators. The Audubon Society has certified the Demonstration Garden as a wildlife habitat. In addition to the Demonstration Garden location, some of the workshops will be held inside Pat's Barn at the Patrick Ranch Museum, and a few will take place at private residences. Details are available on the website.
The workshops are listed below. Registration is required at www.ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg/events/workshops. Due to space considerations, registration is limited.
- Thursday, February 9: Worm Composting, 1 – 2:30 PM
- Saturday, February 11: Mason Bees, 10 – 11:30 AM
- Saturday, February 11: Removing Your Lawn, 1 – 2:30 PM (NEW)
- Wednesday, February 22: Weed Identification and Treatment, 1 – 2:30 PM (NEW)
- Wednesday, March 15: Practical Rainwater Harvesting, 1 – 2:30 PM (NEW)
- Thursday, March 16: Propagation, 1 – 2:30 PM
- Friday, March 17: Hardscapes in the Landscape, 10 – 11:30 AM (NEW)
- Wednesday, March 29: Drip Irrigation, 10 – 11:30 AM
- Thursday, April 6: Espalier Demo Garden, 2 – 3:30 PM (NEW)
- Monday, April 17: Composting, 10 – 11:30 AM
- Thursday, April 20: Grafting Fruit Trees, 10 – 11:30 AM (NEW)
- Saturday, April 29: All About Backyard Fruit Orchards, 10 – 11:30 AM
- Thursday, May 4: All About Backyard Fruit Orchards, 10 – 11:30 AM
- Saturday, May 6: Native Plant Walk at Chico State, 1 – 2:30 PM
- Tuesday, May 9: Building Compost Bins, 10 – 11:30 AM
- Wednesday, May 10: Prune Demo Garden Orchard, 10 – 1:30 AM
- Wednesday, June 7: Basic Garden Design, 10 – 11:30 AM (NEW)
- Wednesday, June 14: Raised Bed and Hoop House, 10 – 11:30 AM (NEW)
Butte County Master Gardeners are University of California-trained volunteers whose purpose is to extend research-based knowledge and information on home horticulture, pest management, and sustainable landscape practices to the residents of Butte County. California's Master Gardener Programs are part of the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Butte County Master Gardeners offer garden advice and assistance through their Hotline at 538-7201, at select community events, and at the farmers markets throughout Butte County. Please visit their website to find out more about them and their educational programs: www.ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg.
The Master Gardeners look forward to seeing you at their workshops, tours, plant sales, and other educational events and venues!
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.