From the monthly archives:

March 2011

Native Grasses for Your Garden

by Lorraine on March 24, 2011

I mentioned in an earlier post how much I love the appearance and feel of native grasses and their use in residential landscapes.   The possibilities for garden designs and the varieties of grasses are unlimited and more home owners may want to consider utilizing them in their landscapes to create a different mood in their gardens.

“The American Meadow Garden”  written by John Greenlee discusses in great detail the endless possibilities but I would like to share the excellent article written by Rob Moore with California Native Landscape Design   where he shares his thoughts as well in the following article.

“One of the questions I always ask my clientele during the preliminary design phase is if they like California native bunchgrasses. From a design perspective, bunchgrasses offer a plethora of benefits both aesthetic and functional.  Attributes include contrast, the element of motion, habitat restoration, visual interest, and historical value.

Experts conclude that native grasslands in California are among the most endangered ecosystem in the United States. Due in most part to historical land use and introduced disease, it is estimated that less than 1% of our state’s original grasslands remain. Fortunately, as forward-thinking home and business owners, we can address this issue by including California’s native grasses in our residential and commercial landscapes.

A short list of favorites for the garden include Purple Three-Awn Aristida purpurea, Blue Grama Bouteloua gracilis, California Fescue Festuca californica, Giant Wild Rye Leymus condensates, California Melic Melica californica, Deer Grass Muhlenbergia rigens, and Purple Needlegrass Nassella pulchra (our state grass here in California). Grass-like species such as Sedges Carex spp. are a great addition to a California-friendly, native garden as well.

In their natural environment, native grasses typically occur in groups with bare ground between them where wildflowers grow. Even though some gardeners feel grasses look messy; in consideration of wildlife value, letting things go to seed and having an area that’s ‘messy’ is good for seed-eaters and butterflies.  Alternatively, hand trimming at the appropriate time of year is preferable aesthetically, and an occasional grooming to remove dead leaves and spent flower stalks or a seasonal coppice is perfectly acceptable and will keep them looking tidy.

Most of the aforementioned ornamental grasses will prefer a sunny spot in the landscape and will be tolerant of drought once established, though most species will look better with occasional summer water.

Like many native plants, grasses play an important role in providing cover, nesting materials, and additional food sources for beneficial, garden-friendly wildlife. Coupled with the addition of contrast, the element of motion, habitat restoration, and historical value, I’m confident that you will enjoy the addition of California’s native bunchgrasses to your garden!”

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Landscaping with CA Native Plants

by Lorraine on March 19, 2011

Undoubtedly, I’m not much different from many other people and have made a common mistake with my garden.

I over planted it when it was new and I bought far too many plants.   In retrospect, I’m sure that I could have used about 25% fewer plants and in the process I would have spent less money and have had less aggravation later on, as eventually I found it necessary to start digging out some that got too large or just weren’t working out where they were placed initially.

I was new to this experience and I was very uninformed about native plants.   I had no idea how quickly they can grow and that the “rule of thumb” is to give them plenty of room when you are putting them into the ground.   At least 3′ to 4′ between each plant for enough space for them to grow.

The one area were I didn’t make a mistake, was that I only purchased plants in one gallon containers as recommended.  Anything larger than that, is risky when transplanting and certainly more expensive.   So stick to the one gallon size and don’t be tempted to buy anything larger.

What is totally amazing, is that within one year, how quickly natives will grow!   So heed my warning here, pay attention to spacing and be sure to research your plant choices before you buy them and be certain that you have enough space so that you won’t have to remove any plants later on.

Here are the ones I removed or trying to manage from being invasive:

Encelia californica/CA Sunflower.   I love it the plant, but it got to be too large.

Leymus condensatus/Cyn Prince Rye.   I love the color & shape of this grass but it gets huge.   I ended up removing 6 plants.

Juncus patens/Wire Grass.   Again, I love the color & the structure of this grass, but it’s invasive & I will be digging it out next winter but I may put it into some ceramic pots.

Santa Barbara Daisies.   Very, very invasive.   They were placed in one small section of my garden, but they have been a TOTAL PAIN in the “you-know-what”…and I’m constantly digging them out.

So there you have my initial experience as a neophyte in using native plants for my landscape.   And I love the change from the cruddy lawn, have no regrets and my garden rewards me all year long with it’s beauty and the wildlife it attracts.

Just don’t over plant!   Instead, sit in your garden, enjoy it’s sights, sounds and smell along with a good glass of Merlot!

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Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers & Native Plants

by Lorraine on March 9, 2011

I recently attended the Golden Anniversary celebration for the Theodore Payne Foundation at Descano Gardens in La Canada, CA   It was a very inspiring event and I would say a rousing success, promoting the love and respect for California’s native plant population.

“Theodore Payne was born in North Hamptonshire, England and served an apprenticeship in horticulture. He came to Los Angeles in 1893 and fell in love with the California flora, dedicating his life to its preservation.

Even in the early years of this century, native vegetation was being lost to agriculture and housing at an alarming rate. He urged the use of California native plants and lectured across the state on preserving the wild flowers and landscapes native to California.

In his own nursery and seed business, which he started in 1903, native wildflowers and landscapes were his specialty. In 1915 he laid out and planted 262 species in a five-acre wild garden in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park. He later helped to establish the Blaksley Botanic Garden in Santa Barbara, planted 178 native species in the California Institute of Technology Botanic Garden in Pasadena, helped create the native plant garden at Los Angeles’ Descanso Gardens, and advised the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Orange County.

By the time he retired in 1958, Payne had made over 400 species of native plants available to the public.”   From the Theo. Payne Foundation Web Site.

The dinner celebrated his efforts and those who have followed in his footsteps, sharing their love of our beautiful native vegetation.  I felt such total enjoyment with meeting many individuals who are also passionate about nature, native plants, sustainability and providing habitat for wildlife.

A Lovely Raffle Prize

It was a beautiful evening consisting of a lovely dinner, soft music and laughter.   There also was a silent auction and wonderful raffle prizes as well.   I managed to win two of them, an expensive bottle of wine and a framed picture that caught my eye early in the evening.  It was on fabric and depicted our state flower and bird, the California Poppy and California Quail.   It looks fantastic in my home and I enjoy it’s vibrant color against a wall in my kitchen.

It’s like sharing my morning coffee with a representation of what I love most and greets me with a reminder of why I chose to create my garden from California’s native plants!

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YouTube Video

by Lorraine on March 2, 2011

Okay, since my first effort to share a video of my garden, failed due because the “file” is too large, I went ahead and posted it on YouTube.   Probably something I should be doing anyway…

I guess I will have to learn how to format videos and make them smaller, just like you have to do with photographs in order to post them anywhere on line, such as here or on facebook.

Which by the way, I am a member and post on it  a lot and I also have a Page for my garden on there too.   If you are so inclined, look me up on Facebook and “friend” me and then become a fan of the Garden page, too.

Okay, enough self promotion …What I want to do is to see if I can simply go ahead and create a link via Facebook to the video that I wanted to share in the previous post!

Let me know what you think!



by Lorraine on March 2, 2011

Okay, at last…this will be my first attempt of posting some video that I shot of my garden last month and hopefully I won’t mess things up here and I will do it correctly without too much trauma.

My garden is constantly changing each day and for a while, we had some very warm weather that triggered many plants to bloom too soon.   Then we became swamped in several rainstorms and then after that, the temperatures dropped so low that we had even a wee bit of snow.

Needless to say, all of these weather changes have caused confusion for not only my garden but for all kinds of plants and crops.   The good news for farmers who grow stone fruits, is that at least the cold weather would be good for their production but for plants that have bloomed out of their normal cycle, it could be damaging.

But, I guess I don’t really know.  However  for my garden that is filled with native plants from California, there’s been quite a bit of confusion, lately.   Bulbs were coming up and as a matter of fact some of the native Irises in my garden were sending out shoots, but not now.  Frost in the mornings put an end to that attempt to show off.

But more on that in a later post because I want to see if I can manage to a share a video that I did at the end of February of the garden. At that time the Ceanothus and Monkey Flowers were blooming and so was the Howard McMinn manzanita. 

Plus, there is a brief appearance of Theo, too!   Note his beautiful blue eyes…and his jaunty harness!

The manzanita’s flowers have since turned brown because of the freezing temperatures but the Ceanothus, Monkey Flowers, Channel Island Poppies, continue to bloom.   And there are even a few California Poppies starting to put on their show.

Well, it seems that I can’t load the video, because it exceeds the allowable size for my web site.   Drat!   Back to the drawing board, but I will learn how to do this.