California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

December 2009

Alternatives to Lawns

Deva Luna, Sustainable Landscape Contractor, EarthCare Landscaping, Cupertino, Ca

Lawns have their place—there’s nothing like them for kid play, for croquet, for walking barefoot on the grass—but that doesn’t mean they should be all over the place!

Perhaps you are tired of mowing your lawn. You want to save water and create habitat for native birds and butterflies. And stop using fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. You want to do all that good Earth-friendly stuff.

Many people have no idea what to put in place of their lawn, so here are some ideas to get you started. First think about your personal style. Any of these can be executed using California native plants: Asian/Japanese/Zen, Modern/Contemporary, English Cottage/Perennial Border, Woodland, Formal/European/Italian/French, Mediterranean, and (my personal favorite) Eclectic.

Click here to continue reading this article on the CNPS website.

Deva Luna works for a sustainable landscape contractor, EarthCare Landscaping, in Cupertino, California, and loves to replace lawns with native plants.

Create a Native Planting Your Neighbors Will Love

Ellen Zagory

As a believer in gardening with California native plants I am sometimes affronted by the comments of non-believers about our native plantings. Comments I have heard include “why didn’t you get rid of those plants when they died?” and “when are you going to mow that messy area?”. Although I appreciate the golden grasses and seedheads left for birds, others sometimes see what simply looks to them like an untidy planting.

Tidiness has never been high on my list of priorities but perhaps we need to consider it if we want others to accept native plantings. Highly visible front plantings, especially, can benefit from thoughtful plant selection and timely maintenance. Use of evergreen shrubs for backbone and structure is a good first step. Toyon, coffeeberry, California lilac, dwarf coyotebrush (male clones won’t seed) and Oregon grape are easy as an evergreen backdrop that provides flower and color in season. Placed correctly to accommodate their ultimate size, they should need pruning only to train for structure or remove an occasional broken or wayward stem.

Click here to continue reading this article on the CNPS website.

Ellen Zagory is Director of Horticulture at the University of California, Davis Arboretum. Ellen serves on the CNPS Horticulture Committee.

Education Program Update

From the Education Program—
Wishing you a warm holiday season

CNPS 2010 Plant Science Training Workshops are now posted here to register for (most) 2010 workshops.

Rare Plant Treasure Hunt: go eco-caching for conservation this spring! Visit this page to find out more. Sign up to volunteer now by emailing us at   

Please support the Northern California Botanists Symposium, Botanical Treasures of Northern California: What’s at Stake? Jan 11–13, Chico. To register and find out more go to

Please register to attend the Channel Islands Chapter, Native Landscape Symposium, in Camarillo. For full details and registration go to

Two temporary botanist positions are now open in the CNPS Vegetation and Education Programs. Vegetation program Botanist/ecologist position and Education Program Botanist/volunteer coordinator. Act fast.


Pacific Coast Native Iris

How to grow native plants in the home garden—PCN Iris
Liz Parsons

Lovers of California native plants are lucky to have a special native iris. If the tall bearded iris is the queen of the garden, the natives are the pixies. The showy flowers emerge in the spring to add delight to the garden. Members of the Iris family section Californicae, PCN’s are a part of a special beardless iris group, which includes Siberians, Spurias, and Japanese iris. PCN’s have a diverse color range from cream, buff, apricot or golden yellow to orchid, lavender, deep purple‐red, blue violet, and rarely blue and white. The flower structure is arranged in three’s with three falls (sepals that curve downward), three standards (upright petals), and three style crests (protecting the style and the stamens) on top of the falls.

Click here to continue reading this article.

Liz Parsons has been the chairman of the annual Milo Baker Plant Sale for 30 years and has propagated and grown many of the plants for the sale each year. Liz is also a CNPS Fellow, a designation of high distinction bestowed upon CNPS members who have accumulated extraordinary accomplishments towards the understanding, appreciation, and preservation of California native plants.


Growing Natives for a CNPS Plant Sale

A Fun and Rewarding Contribution to CNPS

Vince Scheidt

Did you know that just nine of our San Diego Chapter CNPS members grew and donated more than 27 species of native plants for our annual fall plant sale? This is a remarkable contribution, and growing plants to donate to the sale is fun and very rewarding! Most native plants are easy to grow from either seeds or cuttings, and you don’t need any special skills or talents, just a little space and the inclination to spend a little time getting your hands dirty. I particularly enjoy growing rare and uncommon species—plants that are not readily available anywhere—other than at our CNPS plant sale. And remember that every plant grown for donation means one less that the CNPS has to purchase for resale. So even the most common species are gratefully accepted! In the photo, Julia Groebner with Eriogonum Molle grown from seed.

If you think that this is something that you might enjoy doing, there are plenty of resources out there to get you started. The internet has lots of useful information—just Google “Growing California Native Plants” or something like that. Also, most of our chapters sell books and booklets on this subject, such as “Easy-to-Grow” by the CNPS San Diego Chapter (only $2.00), “Propagation Secrets for California Native Plants” by Jeanine De Hart, “Seed Propagation of Native California Plants” by Dara Emery, “Growing a Native Planting Guide” by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden, and others.

 Finally, come to your local chapter meetings and ask around. This is probably the best place to get information, while at the same time becoming infected with enthusiasm for growing natives. We have horticultural professionals in the society that love to meet other plant growers and potential growers! Seeds are usually available for free or for purchase, as is ample advice on how to become a successful amateur plant grower for the CNPS!

Pictured is Candleholder Dudleya (Dudleya candelabrum), a rare insular succulent currently found only on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Island in the Channel Islands National Park. I collected a single specimen in 1985 (still alive today), and have propagated this species from seed for several years. Candleholder Dudleya occurs mostly on steep, north-facing slopes where it produces an unusually-shaped inflorescence with pale yellow flowers.

Also shown is Cedros Island Buckwheat, an outstanding but almost never—seen perennial shrub. I did not propagate this specimen—it was obtained from the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden. Seeds from this very rare species were collected decades ago on the north end of Cedros Island off central Baja California, where it occurs on rocky cliffs and bluffs.

Vince Scheidt lives in San Diego, where he owns a small private environmental consulting firm specializing in biological studies and endangered species surveys. He enjoys propagating native plants, specializing in rare Dudleyas, and maintains a diverse native plant garden filled with dozens of uncommon species.  Vince serves on the CNPS Board of Directors.


Desert Renewable Energy and Native Plants 101

Since this month’s edition of the CNPS eNews will reach many who may be unfamiliar with what has become a primary conservation issue for CNPS over the past year, we thought it a good idea to provide a brief synopsis of the story.

The problem: how do we build up to a million acres of wind and solar energy projects in the Mojave desert while preserving the intact, functional ecosystem of wild lands in the Mojave? The answer: build on already disturbed lands. Currently, political momentum in Sacramento and Washington D.C. has been behind "fast-tracking" large projects on sites that will fragment and degrade undisturbed public trust lands. CNPS and other conservation organizations have been working to relocate some proposed projects to alternative sites. Our message emphasizes the need to; 1) site wind and solar projects on disturbed lands (private and public) through a regional desert conservation planning process, 2) develop more distributed ("rooftop") and smaller-scale energy generation facilities, and 3) promote energy conservation measures. CNPS continues to work for a better solution that will allow for increased renewable energy generation while preserving California's native landscapes.

You can find more information on the CNPS website, here. Also, two recent New York Times articles provide a summary the issues, and describe newly proposed legislation focused on protecting public lands in the Mojave.

Chapter Events

A Sampling from Around the State

Shasta Chapter
Saturday, January 23, 2010, 9:00am, 9:00a
Fieldtrip:  Swasey Recreation Area, west Redding
Get to know the native plants and habitats in Redding’s own backyard, with a 2.7-mile loop hike on the Wintu Loop trail in BLM’s Swasey Recreation Area off Swasey Road in west Redding. The loop hike has a 300 to 400-foot elevation gain, and is located in an area of approximately 1,500 feet in elevation. Try your hand at identifying our native vegetation in the winter, or if we’re lucky, find very early bloomers! Meet at 9:00 AM at the Redding City Hall parking lot, on the back (south) side of the building, next to Parkview Avenue. City Hall address is 777 Cypress Avenue. Or meet at the Wintu Loop trailhead if you know where it is, at 9:30 AM. Bring good hiking shoes, water and lunch. Heavy rain (or snow!) cancels. Call Jay or Terri Thesken at 530/221-0906 for more information

Santa Cruz Chapter
Sunday Jan 17, 1–3pm, UCSC Arboretum

Workshop:  How to make cordage from native plants
Join Ellen Holmes at this introductory workshop/playshop to learn how to make rope, twine, cord, string, or thread from an assortment of California native plants. The basic technique is easily learned in few minutes, and is surprisingly fun to do. The hard part is preparing the fibers to twist together- often removing them from the stem or leaves of the plant, and then cleaning the outer "bark" off as well. We will start with something simple like Cat-tail leaves, which can be used whole. Inspired people can then try one or more of the following: Iris (Iris), Dogbane (Apocynum), Indian Hemp (Hoita) or Milkweed (Asclepias).

If you have any cordage material, feel free to bring it. You might also want to bring a decorative piece of yarn, ribbon, beads, or other objects to combine with your earth-toned native creations. (I like to keep a piece tied around my water bottle.) Children accompanied by adults are very welcome! RSVP appreciated, so we know how much material to bring. Limit 25 people. or 831-684-2363

Arboretum directions: From the intersection of Bay and High Streets, continue up High St about ½ mile and look for the sign on the right. NOTE: if you simply enter "Arboretum, UCSC" into a GPS or routing software, you will probably be directed to 1156 High Street. That is the main entrance to campus at Bay
and High

For Chapter Events in your area, please click here


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