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Fall is here – Time to Plant California Natives!

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Submitted By Carolee James:

On Saturday, October 13th 2007, the Westamerica Bank parking lot in East Sonora will be filled with an abundance of native California plants just waiting to be bought and planted in foothill gardens. The Sierra-Foothills Chapter of the California Native Plant Society will drop the rope at 9:00am and the ‘early bird´ shoppers will have their pick of beautifully grown native plants.

For those of you who haven´t been to a sale or planted native plants, this is your opportunity to come see what is available for your garden. I know that some of you think native plants are boring…that they´re not colorful. Well, we´d like to change your mind about that. There are so many beautiful natives to choose from that you´ll be astounded. For example:

In the Master Gardener demonstration garden, the native plant team planted yellow sticky monkey flowers (Mimulus aurantiacus) next to a blue flowering penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllis Margarita B.O.P.) and the combination was dynamite!! Just across the garden bed are two California fuchsias (Zauschneria sps) with gray green leaves and red, trumpet shaped flowers. The white flowers of the yarrow (Achillea millefolium) add another dimension to this flower display.

In the shade garden, Columbine (Aquilegia Formosa) shows off pink, white and yellow flowers. In another section of the garden, bush anemone (Carpenteria californica) produced delicate white flowers this past spring; at the back of the garden a flannel bush (Fremontodendron sps) had its first crop of yellow-orange blooms.

This fall more colorful perennials will be added to the garden including ‘Bee´s Bliss´ sage (Salvia) which is a low growing, gray-leaf plant with whorls of blue flowers on upright stems. Bleeding heart (Dicentra Formosa) will enhance the shade garden with its nodding, pink, heart-shaped flowers. Buckwheats (Eriogonum sps), coral bells (Heuchera sps) California wild rose (Rosa californica), and more California fuchsia will be added to the garden this fall.

This is just a small sampling of the many native plants that can bring color to your garden. Boring? I think not! All of the above named perennials and shrubs and more will be available at the sale including the widely popular Pacific Coast hybrid iris.

Now, if you´re looking for a bold statement in your garden, then look no further than the flannel bush. This large evergreen shrub requires no summer water and flowers as mentioned above. And what garden wouldn´t love to have a patch of Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri). The ‘Fried Egg´ plant—so called because of the large showy white flowers with yellow centers—is drought tolerant and requires room to roam!

One of my favorite shrubs is wooly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum) because of the fragrant soft blue flowers. You have to touch them to believe their softness! Then there is western spice bush (Calycanthus occidentalis) whose wine colored flowers and leaves have a spicy wine barrel scent to them and the delicate desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) with trumpet shaped ‘Burgundy´ flowers that hummingbirds love.

In my garden a coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica ssp. Tomentella) has grown to be a spectacular specimen with no summer water. With its gray-green leaves it makes a nice contrast to the oaks and cedars. Another gray leafed bush that I like is the silverbush lupine (Lupinus albifrons). I can´t wait for spring when it blooms with its royal blue flowers and best of all….it also does not require summer water.

A foothill garden must have at least one ceanothus planted and there will be several good species to choose from at the sale, from the low growing (3´) ‘Yankee Point´ to the larger (up to 18´) ‘Ray Hartman´ and a couple in between. Other native shrubs to consider are: western mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii)…(I have one by my back door and the orange citrus scent is heavenly in the spring), any one of the currents (Ribes sps), snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus), foothill blue elderberry (Sambucus caerulea) and Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia).

And don´t forget the grasses. Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) is a stunning grass with its tall spike-like flowering stems held stiffly vertical. I have a hillside dotted with this grass and it is really lovely. Also available at the sale will be Pacific reed grass (Calamagrotis nutkaensis), purple needle grass (Naesella pulchra) and Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis).

The tree section will feature a sale on incense cedars (Calocedrus decurrens), which can be a beautiful accent tree, or when several are planted in row make a great screen. Oaks will be represented by blue oak (Quercus douglasii) and black oak (Quercus kelloggii). There will also be species of pine and cypress available as well as quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides).

In the Mother Lode, autumn is the absolute best time to plant natives, as the plants have an opportunity to settle in, put down roots, enjoy our rainy season (let´s hope we have a better one than last year!) and get ready to put on a show in the spring. Whether you are looking for trees, shrubs, grasses or perennials, the sale will have all of the plants mentioned in this article and many more. Come early for the best selections. Knowledgeable CNPS volunteers will help you make the right choice for your garden.

Carolee James is the Plant Sales Chairwoman for the CNPS Fall Native Plant Sale and she assures us that this sale will offer a great variety of native plant species to the community. There are plants for every type of garden and gardener in the Mother Lode.