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Dreaming of Meadows

by Lorraine on February 16, 2011

I recently attended a symposium hosted by the California Native Plant Society, Channel Islands Chapter in Camarillo for an entire day.   There were several speakers but one in particular I was very eager to hear his presentation on using native grasses for landscaping.

John Greenlee is a horticulturist and the owner of Greenlee Nursery which is the oldest grass nursery in California and he is passionate about using native grasses in landscapes in lieu of the traditional and boring lawns that are typical of most suburban landscapes.

He has become a specialist in creating meadows….meadows to dream upon, feel, smell, loll upon and invite wildlife into it’s lovely realm.   I have always been intrigued by meadows and the diversity of the plants, animals and birds that use them for habitat but never thought of having one of mine own. 

 I can remember as a child, looking at them along the coast of California as we drove to San Francisco to visit my grandmother and noticing how they appeared to be like the ocean, as they waved and swirled with the current of the wind that passed over them.  They were so beautiful.

Grasses are sensual, moving and hypnotic to the eye.   In the spring they can be a beautiful shade of green and in autumn, their golden hues gleam in the sun.  I enjoy observing the Nodding Needle Grass/Nassella cernua in my own garden as the first green sprouts come up in spring and then dry out during the summer, leaving me with beautiful, tall golden strands of grass that make beautiful indoor arrangements for the house.

 It’s healthy for the environment, provides habitat for wildlife and doesn’t require fertilizers, lawnmowers or pesticides.   It’s interesting to know, that the typical suburban lawn in Los Angeles on a daily basis, contributes 22 tons of air pollution each day.   This comes from lawn mowers, leaf blowers and edgers and all the combined chemicals needed to keep it green and pest free, which of course, runs off into the gutters and eventually makes it’s way to the ocean….another problem.

Shocking!   Isn’t it?

A landscape that is made up mainly of native plants, doesn’t require wasteful amounts of water or combat to keep it healthy and looking good.   And the same can be said for using native grasses…they perform beautifully,  just as they have evolved to do so.

I picked up a copy of “The American Meadow Garden” while at the symposium which was of course, written by John Greenlee and I am just starting to read it.   The photography is gorgeous, the prose well written, inspiring and I’m relishing it and enjoying the book and the information that he provides about grasses from all over the world.

Some people want a sports car, some the latest technological gadget, a smaller nose or to be a rock star. 

I want my own meadow.

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California Native Plant Nursery

by Lorraine on January 20, 2011

My garden is growing like crazy due to all the rain we have had so far this winter and many of the plants are blooming ahead of schedule because then everything heated up to 90 degrees!

But more on that in a later post, as I am going to share a very humourous post but at the same time, informative as well, about using our beautiful native plants that we have in great abundance in California for your landscapes.  

I will post it over two days, as it’s a bit long for this space.   It was written by Antonio, one of the owners of Nopalito Native Plant Nursery in Ventura, CA

“I grew up in El Paso, home of the UTEP Fighting Miners, lots of good Tex-Mex Food and a town full of hippies. Yup, you would never know it but me and my neighbors, all 700,000 of them, were a bunch of pot-smoking, long-haired hippies.  Don’t let the flag-waving, beef-eating, football-loving stereotype fool you……Every person in El Paso was and is a hippie. 

 A quick drive around any El Paso neighborhood (or any ‘desert’ city, for that matter) will show you the same thing – Small Lawns, Lots of native and drought-tolerant plants, and malls, government properties and even huge mansions all with the same type of low-water landscaping.  Water Conservation and caring more about your water supply than how many pretty flowers you have are classic signs of a hippie community! 

 Let’s compare El Paso to the supposedly ‘green’, ‘liberal’ and ‘hippy’ Southern California.  A quick drive around the City of Ventura will reveal just the opposite of my hometown – Malls and shopping centers with almost every kind of landscaping imaginable, government properties with huge amounts of lawn (wait, maybe that’s a golf course) and huge mansions with even huger (that’s not a word!) water bills.  Average yearly rainfall in El Paso is 9 inches, Average yearly rainfall in Los Angeles is 14 inches.  Using my ridiculous math skills that means that Southern California, on average, gets 5 more inches of rain a year than El Paso!”

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