Native plants makes gardens glorious

And local resources abound for the fall season

California leads the nation in biodiversity. With many ecoregions and high mountain ranges at its borders, a range of distinct and attractive plant life grows here—and the lawns of the past are getting nervous.

But that’s no reason for you to fret: The endemic species you can purchase at nurseries and native plant sales have grown to tolerate droughts, attract pollinators, and thrive in diverse soil types.

The California Native Plant Society is promoting their Bloom! California program to help people bring more native plants onto their property.
Not only do Native Plants require less water [than lawns], they stand up to other factors that can make gardening a challenge: clayey soils, strong winds, heavy sun.

At Solano Land Trust docent Maggie Ingalls’ backyard in the Benicia hills, she contends with all three factors. And she has dealt with this by bringing in hardy plants local to our region as well as those which survive in the sunny, windy environments of one of California’s truly distinct places: the Channel Islands.

Santa Cruz Island buckwheat grows profusely here. Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) displays tiny white flowers. A variety of sages, sagebrush, and coyote mint deliver delightful aromas. Mt. Diablo looms in the background, and it’s a natural north-south boundary line for some plant species Maggie grows, such as black sage.

Maggie is stricter to regional fidelity with the plants she and other volunteers have grown and monitored along the ponds of King-Swett Open Space. A key species here are Johnny Jump-ups (Viola pendunculata) which is the only food source for the larvae of endangered Callippe Silverspot Butterfly.

But in the east of the county, soils may run richer, and wildflowers can be a great success. Executive Director Nicole Braddock’s Vacaville yard displays a delightful carpet of Lippia. Yarrow displays lovely petal clusters and has uses in traditional medicine. The umbels of a tall elderberry shrub produce berries that make great preserves.

Planting natives helps keep California a leading state in biodiversity. We may have the most plant species, but over 30% of them are at risk. Conserving open spaces is of foremost importance, but even a small space in your front yard can be part of the solution.

If you are not ready for a full replacement of the lawn, native plants can still suit your landscaping needs, halt erosion, and provide habitat for the good insects who consume pests. And though we ask that seeds and plants stay on our properties, open spaces are great places to gather ideas. Visit the native plant garden at Rush Ranch or join a guided hike to see wildflowers and shrubs that could grow in your property.

The CNPS’s Willis Linn Jepson Chapter’s Fall Native Plant Sale begins soon. Online sale 9/19 to 9/25, In-person sale, 10/1 10AM to 2PM, Heritage Presbyterian Church.