The native plants of California have incredible diversity and beauty, my hope is that more of these beautiful plants will
be included in our landscapes. It seems logical that the plants that grow here naturally should be the ones
that would be the easiest to grow. So often we try to help the plants along and fail them with our kindness. Knowing
where the plants come from and what conditions will make them thrive can make many of these plants easy choices for
including in most any garden.
The popularity of the California's Native Plants seems to wax and wane depending upon the availability of water. Much
of the garden hardiness of the xeric plants is often diminished by the excessive use of water. Due to the increasingly
critical nature of this supply, our need for supplemental water for irrigation will at some point be rationed by cost.
As more people move to the state, and they are every day,(typically half a million a year) and ancient groundwater and
farm water resources are consumed by our landscapes (as we recently saw with Coachella Valley-Colorado River water going
to San Diego) there will be an increasing pressure to use plants in our landscapes that do not need so much additional water.
The occasional El Nino may allow us to forget about water limits for a season or two but we can be relatively assured that
we will find ourselves, at some point, looking towards conservation of water in our landscape so that we can maintain
the comfort of our lifestyle in our homes.
With 5,862 species of wild plants growing in this state and 4,839 of those species being native to California, it is a
small wonder that more of them have not made it into the horticultural trade directly or in the form of hybrids. It seems
ironic that many of our native plants are more popular in Europe than they are here at home. Only 8% of our plant resources
are in protected areas. Much of this resource is at risk due to the rapid encroachment of our ever-expanding suburbs and
agriculture. The native plants are very effective at attracting our native
wildlife and may provide some limited habitat for increasingly displaced native wildlife species. Within our state
there are climatic zones that range from the very wet to the extremely dry, from coastal plants to alpine. With this range
of climatic zones there is a huge array of plants to chose from and something that can suit almost any need.
Because we have utilized this California native plant resource in such a small way we have little idea about the breadth
of the design capacity of these plants. There are natives with large dark glossy leaves, with showy flowers, and adaptations
to myriad soil types. Everything from desert effects and wildflower meadows to near tropical lushness can be achieved with this
palate of plants.
It is important to know where the plants that we use in the landscape are native to, what is the soil, rainfall and exposure where these plants live. Plants collected from the Sierra's near Tahoe or along the Monterey or Carmel coastline come from a much cooler and wetter climate than the plants from the mountains of Southern California. When choosing plants for an area that recieves less than 15 inches of rainfall and often recieves weeks of temperatures above the century mark, picking a plant from the Carmel bluffs hardly makes sense. The plants think so, Ceanothus Yankee Point looks dreadful after a week of Southern California inland heat.
Many of California's wildflowers can be used in the seeded garden, Poppies, Lupines,
Clarkias and many others are available in seed mixes. Many of the woody plants are
more easily propagated from cuttings or divisions.
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