California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

December 2011

The Beauty of Natives- Photography Tips from a Garden Photographer

Saxon Holt

saxon holt Iris douglasiana in CA native plant gardenAs a professional garden photographer for more than 25 years, I have seen all sorts of gardens and have learned a lot from many expert gardeners, designers, and plant enthusiasts. California native plant gardens are my favorite, but they are absolutely the hardest to photograph. The reason for both my preference and the difficulty is the same – good native gardens are so hard to find.

I am thrilled when I find a photogenic one because I know it to be an opportunity to change the aesthetic of what we expect to see in a garden photograph. Too often the media image of a garden is a lush English style garden with manicured flowers around a carpet of lawn, which is an unsustainable style, on many levels, for California gardeners.

To change the way gardens are portrayed in the media we need more good photographs of good gardens. All of you reading this are on the front lines of this effort. You are interested in the horticultural use of native plants. You know there is unparalleled beauty in natives, but perhaps your photographs don't yet capture what you see.

Continue reading here.


Garrya, Silk Tassel Bush

Vivian Mazur and CNPS Horticulture Committee

Philip Van Soelen_Silk TasselOne of the most dramatic winter flowering shrubs in California is coast silk tassel (Garrya elliptica). It is native to the coastal counties of California from Ventura County to southwestern Oregon.

Although plants can grow to 24 feet with an equal spread in the wild, they are usually smaller and are fairly slow growing in the garden. The oval, dark, evergreen leaves have a leathery texture and wavy margins. They have a bitter taste and were used by early settlers as a substitute for quinine (hence, its other common name, the quinine bush). Garrya is dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants) and it is the male that is spectacular in bloom. Beginning in December and lasting into early spring, long, silvery-green catkins hang from the branches. The most commonly available cultivars at nurseries are ‘James Roof’, a prolific bloomer with foot-long catkins; and ‘Evie’, a more compact selection with slightly shorter catkins.

The coast silk tassel is very slow to start but once established, it will make up for lost time. It grows best in the coastal counties in which it is native. In its native range it likes sun to part shade and infrequent watering, and works well as an informal hedge or screen. Some companion plants are Douglas iris, western columbine and meadow rue.

Continue reading here.

Student Travel Stipends Needed for CNPS Conservation Conference

Please consider donating to the Student Travel Stipend fund to help college students attend the CNPS 2012 Conservation Conference. Your donation will go directly to support students like Adrianna Wenzel:

I am a graduate student, a parent and a botany enthusiast. With the reduction in funds for our state schools, it has left teaching assistants like me without teaching fee waivers-- paying for a tuition out of pocket with a salary that cannot buffer the extra cost. I am grateful for the California Native Plant Society granting student fee waivers because without it I would not be able to go. I am looking forward to learning about rare plants and their communities as well as plant restoration. I am hopeful that someday I will be able to start my own native plant nursery with a focus on plant restoration in wetland communities.

To read more student testimonals, please see this page. To donate contact Josie Crawford at or call (916) 447-2677 ext 205. 

CNPS 2012 Conservation Conference Public Day

The general public is invited to attend special programming and many parts of the conference for free, on Saturday, Jan 14 from 10:30 am -3:00 pm, in San Diego. Activities, talks and workshops are geared for families with children, teachers, landscape professionals, and anyone with an interest in native plants and restoration. There will be Native American basket weavers and storytellers, nature journaling for children, how to start native gardens in schools and homes, how to teach nature journaling for teachers and naturalists. We will also have gardening workshops and talks on restoration projects.

Parts of the scientific conference will be open to the public as well, from 8:00 am-4:30 pm, including talks on: horticulture, tribal conservation and uses of native plants, citizen science programs and other forms of conservation education. We invite young people with an interest in the natural sciences to listen to university students talk about their research. Public Day participants may visit the photography and botanical art exhibitions, the scientific and CNPS chapter posters, and the Exhibitor Hall. Workshops and talks will last about an hour each and many are designed with the layperson in mind. More information will be posted soon at the CNPS 2012 Conservation Conference website.

CNPS is seeking donors to support honoraria Public Day presenters. Many expert presenters, including Native American basket weavers, storytellers, and naturalist artist/author John Muir Laws, will be paid an honorarium to present at Public Day. Any donation to help support this effort is appreciated. Contact Josie Crawford at if you can contribute.

Chapter Events

Mount Lassen Chapter

Banana Belt, Upper Bidwell Park Field Trip
Sunday, January 1, 10 AM

Meet at 10 am at Horseshoe Lake parking lot (E) with lunch and drink. Wear hiking shoes for the scramble up to the north ridge to see the first of the New Year’s flowers. With good fall rains, we may see blue dicks, purple mouse ears, goldfields, and some of the last Indian paintbrush and gaping penstemon. If the weather is supportive, we will lunch at an Indian rock shelter equipped with 30 bedrock mortars and running water. Manzanita flowers on the return down the park road. About 2 miles overall. Leaders: Wes Dempsey, 530-342-2293 and Gerry Ingco, 530-893-5123.

Shasta Chapter

Mary Lake/Westside Trail Field Trip
Sunday, January 1, 10 AM

Start the New Year off right with an easy-to-moderate 4-mile walk starting at Mary Lake and proceeding up the Westside Trail. We should see manzanita and Henderson’s shooting stars starting to bloom. We will identify many different plants typical of chaparral and oak woodlands, and get great views of Redding and surrounding areas. Meet at 10 AM at Mary Lake and Lakeshore drives. No dogs, please. For more information, call David Ledger at 530-355-8542.

Sacramento Valley Chapter

Seed Collecting Friday Walks
January 6, 13, 20, and 27, 9 AM - 11:30 AM

Leader: Chris Lewis Meet with Chris and friends for seed collecting walks along the American River Parkway trails and other areas along the American River watershed. If this is your first time email Chris for walk location.

Monterey Bay Chapter

First Saturday French Broom Weed Bash East Side of Point Lobos State Reserve
January 7, 2012, 1:00-4:00PM

Join us on these 1st Saturday of the month visits to the beautiful Monterey pine forest on the east side of Point Lobos. We’ll use several techniques to remove French broom and help restore this area that wants to thrive with native plants. Meet at 1pm in Carmel at the Rio Rd. Park n’ Ride (across from the Chevron Gas Station). All supplies provided. Bring a friend, water, and a snack. Contact Bruce Delgado at for more info.

East Bay Chapter

Field trip to Huddart County Park to see Fetid Adder’s Tongue
Sunday, January 8, 2:00 PM

Location: Huddart County Park, 1100 Kings Mountain Road, Woodside (San Mateo County) California. Meet in the parking lot just past the pay station. David Margolies ( will lead a hike on the Crystal Springs Trail where Scoliopus bigelovii (fetid adder’s tongue) blooms in early January. is a gentle trail, losing about 200 feet over about 1/2 mile to the creek. We will walk to the creek and then return the same way. It is unlikely that there will be any other flowers out this early, but the fetid adder’s tongue’s presence tells us that the new flower season has started. The area is second growth redwood and mixed evergreen forest. For more information on this field trip, see


Contributors and Photo Credits
  • Laura Camp
  • Saxon Holt
  • Vivian Mazur
  • CNPS Horticulture Committee
  • Brett Hall
  • Peigi Duvall
  • Philip Van Soelen
  • Jay Thesken
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Saxon Holt- Iris douglasiana in CA native plant garden
  • Philip Van Soelen - Silk Tassel, Garrya elliptica.


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