California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

June 2011

California Native Bunchgrasses

Rob Moore
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.

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The Value of Vines

Arvind Kumar

When we think of vines in the garden, most of us think of their ornamental value (are the flowers attractive or fragrant?) or perhaps their functional value (as a privacy screen, shading a porch, or cooling a wall). We rarely think of their habitat value – what good do they do to the birds, bees, and other critters in the yard? As the vines in my garden mature, they reveal more and more of their potential in this regard.

For many years now, I have enjoyed the lovely spring blooms of the chaparral clematis (Clematis lasiantha) and more recently the showy seedheads of its female plant. This spring, for the first time, bushtits (Psaltriparus minimus) have chosen to build their sock-like nest in the clematis! Bushtits usually travel in flocks of 10 or more, passing through the garden from bush to bush, picking off tiny insects. Well before you see them, you hear an exploratory tweet here and a chirp there, and pretty soon an entire chorus follows. And before you know it, the flock has moved on to another garden, another bush. What a delight it is to see them return to the garden over and over.

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Enhancing Nature's Beauty: Pruning Series #3

Allison Levin
I began this series on pruning California natives with ideas about why a gardener might prune woody plants.  Next, I discussed proper pruning techniques. In this entry, I'll look at a number of woody California native plants and consider how pruning might best enhance each, utilizing the techniques discussed in my second article.

A reminder: Since pruning weakens plants, special consideration should be given to older specimens. Only prune healthy plants, start conservatively and take notes or pictures. Observe over the subsequent year to see how the plants respond to your work. Also, remember that pruning is a seasonal practice, with different times for different plants, and is something I'll continue to address in a future installment.

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The Coastal Native Garden

Tony Baker

Coastal California, with its temperate climate and great beaches, is one of the most desirable places to live on the planet. Gardeners who live on or near the coast are able to grow practically every plant listed in the Sunset Western Garden Book, but with varying degrees of difficulty due to seasonally cool temperatures, salt laden winds, alkaline conditions, and nutrient-poor sandy soils. For those who have the good fortune to live here and are also interested in planting a low maintenance, drought -tolerant  garden, I suggest seeking out plants that are already adapted to grow in coastal conditions rather than struggling with plants that would be happier elsewhere. Many of those plants are the same ones that have always grown here naturally in their native ha bitat. There is no need to amend the soil or add ocean polluting fertilizers and pesticides. One of perks of landscaping with native plants is the diversity of wildlife that will seek out your garden habitat.   

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Growing Natives: Inspiring & Enduring Gardens Horticulture Symposium

Arvind Kumar

Horticulture has been a vital part of CNPS since its inception, emphasizing the value of native plants in gardens and human-made landscapes – for beauty, for habitat, for conserving natural resources, and for saving money. To serve the needs of today’s increasingly sophisticated membership and the public at large, CNPS is offering high quality educational seminars and symposia. These well-attended programs are educating the public and raising funds for the CNPS Horticulture program.

Lafayette and Berkeley are the venues for a native plant gardening symposium on September 17 & 18, 2011. Titled “Growing Natives: Inspiring & Enduring Gardens”, the event features leading practitioners and professionals examining the subject from a very practical, nuts-and-bolts viewpoint: how to design, install, and maintain native plant gardens of lasting value. The symposium is aimed at professionals, home gardeners, and native plant enthusiasts.
This symposium is jointly organized by California Native Plant Society, Friends of Regional Parks Botanic Garden, and Pacific Horticulture. Members and subscribers of the sponsoring organizations receive a discount on registration fees. Space is limited and early registration is recommended. For more information, to read the press release,  and to register, visit Questions? Call Margot Sheffner 510-849-1627.

Chapter Events
A Sampling from Around the State

Bristlecone Chapter
CNPS Mammoth Region Native Plant Sale
Saturday, July 2, 9-11 am
The 107 Sugar Pine Drive, Mammoth. All plants are $4 (20 and 32 oz. containers). Don't forget to bring a box to transport your new high elevation plants! Call 760-934-2338 or email Sherry for more information.
Field Trip: Convict Lake
Sunday, July 10, 9 AM 
Come check out the best of both Sierra Nevada and Great Basin wildflowers and woody plants. Meet at 9:00 at upper parking lot near entrance to Convict Lake campground. Email Holly Alpert or call her at 760-709-2212 for more information.

Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Irrigating Native Plants: Tips & Tricks
Wednesday, July 6, 7:00-8:30 PM

The secret to succeeding with native plants is to understand their unique watering requirements, from regular, to occasional, to none at all. Lori Palmquist is an irrigation specialist who has also worked as a certified arborist, aesthetic pruner, and landscape contractor. Los Altos Public Library, 13 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, CA.
Native Plant Gardening for Clay Soils
Tuesday, July 12, 7:00-8:30 PM 

Clay soils are not the bane that many are led to believe: they hold water longer, and are rich in nutrients. Many native plants thrive in clay soils. At this talk, learn which ones are garden-worthy and easy to grow. Fremont Public Library, 2400 Stevenson Blvd, Fremont, CA.
Marin County Chapter
Cook and Green Pass Camping Trip
July 8-11

Cook and Green Pass Botanical Area near the town of Seiad Valley in Siskiyou County was described by botanist Wayne Roderick as having the most diverse plant community in the smallest area in California. Contact Brad Kelley for more detailed information and logistics. Primitive camping is available at the Pass and the nearest motels are in Happy Camp, about an hour away.

Shasta Chapter

Field Trip: Kangaroo Lake fen trail
Thursday, July 14, 7:45 AM

Join us for an all day fieldtrip to the Kangaroo Lake fen trail in the Klamath Mountains of Siskiyou County (west of Weed). This will be a joint fieldtrip with a group of about 18 botanists/naturalists from England, who will join us in Mt. Shasta on the way to the Lake. We should see wildflowers such as California pitcher plant, Scott Mountain phacelia, gentian and calochortus. We will leave Redding at 7:45 AM, from the back side of City Hall (Parkview Avenue side), 777 Cypress Avenue. Bring water, lunch and adequate hiking footwear. No dogs, please. Call Jay or Terri Thesken at (530) 221-0906 for details.

For Chapter Events in your area, please visit the CNPS Website at


Photo Credits

  • Rob Moore, Purple Threeawn bunchgrass, Aristida purpurea.
  • Stephen Rosenthal, Bushtit feeding on blue elderberry, Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea.
  • Tree of Life Nursery, Arctostaphylos 'Lester Rowntree' (manzanita).
  • Tracy Drake, Eschscholzia californica, California poppy (coastal variety).
  • Luke Hass, beautiful landscape.

  • Rob Moore, Arvind Kumar, Allison Levin, Tony Baker, Laura Camp, Tara Hansen, Stacey Flowerdew, Mark Naftzger, and countless CNPS volunteers.
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