California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

September 2011
Hints for Beginners from a Former Native Gardening Novice
Alison Shilling

Fall is by far the best time to plant your garden in a Mediterranean climate; the soil is still warm, which encourages root formation, but days are cooler and shorter, so the plants are less programmed to put out new top growth and flowers. So, how about stopping by a nearby chapter sale and buying some native plants? Of the 7000 or so California natives, many are colorful, easy to care for, and suitable for gardens. If you select plants originating in your own ‘floristic province’ – desert, mountain, coast, central valley – they are already adapted to the local climate and soil, have resistance to local pests and provide habitat for local wildlife.

You might be like my neighbor, who finally got fed up with mowing, watering, fertilizing, and weeding his lawn and ripped it all out, but you do not need to be so drastic. If you start with a small area, it is less intimidating, and you can experiment, build on your success and have the pleasure of doing it again next year!

Continue reading here.

Plant Selection: California Native Plant Communities
Rob Moore

When designing a California native garden, plant selection is probably the one aspect people find most exciting–and daunting! At this juncture it’s good to pause and consider questions such as “What plant community do I live in?” and “How do I go about identifying this community?” This step requires one to look at the design process from a different perspective—that of emulating the natural ecosystem or plant community that existed prior to the development of the home and neighborhood where the garden is to be designed. Identifying this natural ecosystem is the first step in the plant selection process.

Generally speaking, most of the densely populated areas in California (primarily those in the southern part of the state) are located in the coastal sage scrub plant community. Inland areas in southern California such as Riverside and San Bernardino have their own version of this plant community referred to as interior, or Riversidian sage scrub. There are many other specific climates to be considered depending upon where in California you live. Examples include northern oak woodland, northern juniper woodland, central oak woodland, yellow pine forest, Douglas Fir forest, valley grassland, and Great Basin sage, to name a few.

Continue reading here.

Fall and Winter Pruning
Allison Levin

This is the fourth in a series of articles from aesthetic pruner Allison Levin. The previous articles can be found here (Part One, Part Two, Part Three). We hope they help you to achieve a healthier and more beautiful native garden. Happy pruning!

A special note about 2011: This year's unusual weather reminds us that assessing a tree's health throughout the year is a crucial prerequisite to pruning. This year, an abundance of rain and fog was accompanied by a paucity of sunny days in the Bay Area. You may have noticed trees putting out unusually large amounts of spring growth. That seems like a good thing, but the tree expends extra energy to make all that new growth. If insufficient sun follows, the energy is not recouped. In fact, in some areas around the San Francisco Bay, some of our trees are weaker for all the rain, instead of stronger.  Perhaps in your area of the state you have noticed something similar.

As a general rule, just as in summer we pruned and tidied shrubs and trees whose growing season was winter and spring, in winter we'll prune trees whose growing season was spring and summer.

In fall, many trees may be looking shaggy, overly dense, or leggy from a second, late summer's growth spurt. What kind of pruning can be done for this?

Continue reading here.

CNPS Chapter Plant Sales - Another Reason to Join CNPS!

Fall plant sale season is here! Check the CNPS plant sale calendar to see when your local chapter is hosting a plant sale. All plant sales are open to the public though most chapters offer special benefits to CNPS members such as early admission and discounts. If you are not currently a member, or if you have let your membership lapse, you can join online today and bring your confirmation email to a plant sale this weekend! Don't want to join online? You can sign up on the spot at any chapter plant sale. CNPS members also receive discounts at a number of nurseries, stores, and other businesses to help you with your garden maintenence year around!

CNPS 2012 Conservation Conference

The CNPS 2012 Conservation Conference is scheduled for January 10-14 and will provide over 220 talks by leading botanists, conservationists, and students, as well as 15 workshops, poster sessions, plenary speakers, art exhibits and events including a Public Engagement Day. Discounted early registration is open through October 31. Please see this link to learn more or to register.

Volunteers are still needed! If you are interested in volunteering, please click here.

Don't forget that you do not have to attend the conference to participate! Please see this link for more information on how you can help or enter the botanical art or photography contests. Please note that deadlines for both of these contests are fast approaching: entries for the photography contest are due October 10, and botanical art entries are due by October 15.

Important Notice to CNPS eNewsletter Subscribers

Many thanks to those of you who have already created a profile on CNPS's new web member interface and have opted in to continue receiving the CNPS e-Newsletter. If you have not already done this, please go here and create your user profile if you would like to continue receiving the CNPS e-newsletter. (If you have already created a user profile, please make sure that you have selected to receive the e-newsletter in your email preferences.) Doing this will ensure that you can opt-in to continue receiving the CNPS e-newsletter and other CNPS communications under the heading "My Email Preferences". If you do not opt-in to receive the e-newsletter through the new CNPS portal, this will be the final newsletter you will receive. We hope that you will choose to stay in touch and keep informed of CNPS events and interests!

Chapter Events

Mount Lassen Chapter

Maidu Medicine Walk, Upper Bidwell Park

Sunday, October 2, 9 AM

Meet at Horseshoe Lake in Upper Bidwell Park (Parking area E) at 9 am for a short, one-mile walk to see about 30 of the plants used by the local Maidu Indians for medicine, food, and crafts. Soaproot for cleansing suds and catching fish, elderberry for flutes and clappers, gray pine for skin ointment and food, and many others. Over by noon. Leader: Wes Dempsey 530-342-2293.

North Coast Chapter

Chapter Picnic at Big Lagoon

Sunday, October 2, 1 PM

An afternoon of good food and good company, among the sand plants, wetland plants, bog plants, and spruce forest plants in Big Lagoon County Park (Turn left off 101, 7 miles north of Trinidad). Bring a dish to share, your own item to BBQ, your own beverage, eating gear, and any friends or relations you want. Fire will be ready for cooking at 1:00 p.m. We will eat 1:00-2:30; then explore by foot or boat. Bring a canoe or kayak if it's not too windy. Camp chairs, tables, and canopies will be useful too. Plan on a cool sea breeze. $2 day use fee. In case of rotten weather, call Carol to find out where we will be instead. 707-822-2015

East Bay Chapter

Field Trip: Mount Diablo, Back Canyon, Meridian Point, Meridian Ridge Road, Hetherington trail, Tickwood Trail

Sunday, October 9, 9:30 am

This is a moderate round trip of 5 miles with 900 feet elevation gain on the way out. It will be mostly downhill on the return trip. The trip will take 5-6 hours. Bring lunch and at least 1 liter of water. We will take Back Canyon Trail, Meridian Point Trail, Meridian Ridge Road, Hetherington Trail, Tickwood Trail. We will see some late flowering species, and lots of things fruiting, like Rhus trilobata. We should arrive back at the parking lot around 4 pm. The trip leader is Gregg Weber. Call him at 510-223-3310 if you have questions. For more information or to join, click here

Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains

Program: How to Wild Your Garden with Native Plants

Tuesday, October 11, 7:30 - 9:00pm

Presented by Barbara Eisenstein , this talk will present practical approaches to transitioning from traditional resource-intensive yards to more natural, interesting and fun gardens featuring low-water use, native plants. There will be tips on landscaping and gardening with native plants, and examples of a variety of sustainable native plant gardens. First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th Street, Santa Monica.

Marin County Chapter

Saturday, October 15, 10:00 AM – 2 PM

Trees of Gerstle Park, San Rafael

Gerstle Park is a 3.5 acre park in San Rafael. It was an estate built by Louis Gerstle in the late 1800's. In the 1950's the property was acquired by the City of San Rafael. We will see exotic trees such as a grouping of Coral Trees (Erythrina), Araucaria bidwillii, and a Camperdown elm as well as several large California tree species. Afterwards, we will walk up into the open space above the park to see one of the only naturalized Pokeweed (Phytolacca) plants in Marin. If time permits, we will then drive to Dominican University to see a variety of other notable trees. Meet above the steps at the main entrance on San Rafael Ave. between Marin St. and Clark St. Leader: Daniel Kushner,, 415-457-1211.

Contributors and Photo Credits


  • Laura Camp
  • Alison Shilling
  • Rob Moore
  • Allison Levin
  • Ted Kipping
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger


  • Alison Shilling- Garden in Fall
  • Rob Moore - Coastal Sage Scrub
  • Ted Kipping - Acer circinnatum


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