California Native Plant Society

CNPS eNewsletter

December 2015

Gardening in Deer Country, Part 2

By Charlotte Torgovitsky

A Paradise ruled by Queen Calafia Two major human caused environmental disasters drastically changed the natural world of a land that was long ago described as a mythical island; a terrestrial paradise ruled by a statuesque and beautiful queen named Calafia.

The first major changes came with the Spanish missionaries who first brought European livestock into California, along with an accompanying host of European annual grasses and forbs. The additional grazing herds were the beginning of tremendous pressure put on our native ruminants, and resulted in permanent changes in the ecology of native grasslands and oak savannahs.

Continue reading here.


Planting in Winter

Toyon berries in the snow. Photo by Nancy Gilbert

This article first appeared in the Porterville Recorder on 12/5/15

Our season of fall planting is nearing its conclusion. But if you need to finish off the landscape this year, or are like me and want to add "just a few more" new plants to the garden, here are some ideas and tips to ensure success with your new transplants. In fact, there are some growers who love to plant in the winter, as long as these tips are followed.

How do plants react when temperatures drop?

Most foliar growth slows or ceases in winter. Pines are one exception. As foliar growth slows, root growth speeds up. Even in deciduous species that lose all their leaves in winter, plant growth continues below the surface. And for new transplants, we actually want the most activity to occur in the root zone so that the plants can become established sooner and better able to withstand stress. Stress in winter includes frost, wind, dry soil (drought), wounding and some (limited) root damage from rodents. At any time of year, transplanting itself is a stressor to the plants and damages fine roots, which make up the bulk of root density and are the ones responsible for water and mineral uptake. Larger roots are mainly for stability and storage.

Soil is a great insulator, so instead of the twenty or thirty degrees difference between night and day air temperatures, the soil temperature changes only slightly from day to night, and is generally warmer than average air temperatures. But eventually, even root growth slows as soil temperatures lower beyond a certain point.

There are many species variation, even among California native plants, but in general, root growth is greatest when the soil temperature is in the low-to-mid 60's Fahrenheit, which is late February through April in our low elevation gardens. Below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, almost all growth ends, but we don't have soil temperatures that low. For instance, our Porterville CIMIS (California Irrigation Management Information System) station reports that soil temperature on December 2 was 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about as cold as it's likely to get. This measurement is taken by a sensor six inches below the surface of a flood irrigation grass pasture; the temperature is likely to be warmer at lower depths and may be warmer or colder by a few degrees in your own garden. But it does give a general picture. CIMIS is a free public resource from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). The Porterville station, number 169, can be accessed for both recent and historical soil, air and precipitation data. CIMIS is the system that most wireless smart irrigation controllers use. It's not perfect, but it can give some idea of what's going on in our climate.

In order to protect your late fall and winter transplants, cover the soil with some layer of mulch. Even a layer of old (disease and pest-free) leaves or a thin layer of wood bark is helpful. Perhaps leave the cool season weeds around the new plants if you have nothing else, for they will insulate the top layer of soil somewhat. Slopes can be hard to mulch, but as warm air rises naturally up slopes, there is some protection in that way from the coldest temperatures.

Keep the soil moist but not saturated during periods of frost warnings. Wet soil is colder than dry soil, but root growth is greater if there is some soil moisture throughout the cool season, and flowing water will melt any ice crystals. Water your plants in the morning or early in the day, after the air temperature is over 32 degrees Fahrenheit. During warmer (non-frost periods), don't add irrigation unless more than the first few inches of soil dries out, just as we would do at all other times of the year. You can often measure the soil temperature at depths down to your wrist or so pretty easily in good soil. If the soil below the surface feels slightly warm in the early morning, those are perfect conditions for your new transplants.

Avoid fertilizing your plants or adding any amendment to the planting hole. You don't want to encourage any foliar growth during winter. Even with frost-hardy plants, new growth can suffer frost damage. These winter stresses don't often show their full effects until the next warm period, and sometimes not until next summer, at the first drought stress. Take care of your new transplants now for the healthiest plants next summer. If your plants seem to just sit there, not growing, but otherwise look fine, don't worry. The plant is most likely growing roots. Which is perfect.

Peyton Ellas lives in Springville and is the owner of Quercus Landscape Design, specializing in California native plant-based and eco-habitat gardens. Read her blog and contact her at: or at


Landscaping for Southern California Gardens

The unique environment of Southern California, while often a source of great appeal for its residents, poses distinctive challenges for anyone wishing to develop and maintain the aesthetics of their yard. The dry climate, paired with an increasingly limited water supply, means a lush green space is no longer ecologically viable. However, there are many other possibilities for creating a beautiful outdoor space. The folks at Modernize, a website devoted to home remodeling inspirations, like to view this landscape challenge as an opportunity to create a uniquely Californian place for outdoor living. Here, they share two approaches to this challenge- xeriscaping and hardscaping- including along the way some of their favorite California native plants for the garden.

Continue reading here.


Native Plant Garden Signs

Native plants garden signIt's been just over a year since CNPS launched the "Native Plants Live Here" sign. Perhaps you've had the pleasant surprise of coming across a yard or preserve that bears one of the signs? If not then keep your eye out because we have already distributed over 700 signs, both in English and Spanish! This includes custom signs developed for partners such as Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Tree of Life Nursery, and CNPS South Coast Chapter, and more are being posted every day.

The signs are the most visible part of the expanding CNPS effort to engage and support Californians in native plant gardening.  In the coming year you'll be seeing more signs, as we roll out a few new initiatives. For example, this spring and summer, we will be reaching out to make sure these signs grace publicly visible gardens across California, so that people can understand why they are special and learn more about native plant gardening.

Walking a Sacramento neighborhood, Dan Gluesenkamp spots another "Native Plants Grow Here" sign gracing a drought-tolerant garden –and perhaps shaming it's overwatered neighbor? Photo credit Dan Gluesenkamp.

These gardens will also be given outreach tips so that they can serve as ambassadors and help their neighbors start their own drought-tolerant, pollinator-friendly native plant gardens.  Once "signed," many gardens will be added to an online map integrated with CNPS's Calscape plant finder, so gardeners can find nearby demonstration gardens, develop a list of plants for their own yard, find the local retailers that sell those plants, and even find professionals to help design, install, and maintain the gardens. 

This work is supported by a very thoughtful anonymous donor, and by CNPS South Coast Chapter's Elaine Conze bequest, and will literally put native plant gardening on the map.  Working with partner organizations, homeowners, and local public gardens, this and other outreach projects will help make thousands of interested Californians connect with the resources they seek, moving us several steps closer to a California in which our yards and urban gardens are an important part of the conservation solutions we need.

Buy your Native Plant Garden Sign today! Available at the CNPS Webstore.


Chapter Events - A Sampling from Around the State

To connect to your local chapter, or to find other events in your region, see this page for a list and map of CNPS chapters. Even more events from CNPS chapters and partners can be viewed on the Horticulture Events Calendar.

Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Welcome the New Year at Ano Nuevo State Preserve
Friday, January 1, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Join us as we celebrate a Chapter tradition of welcoming the New Year with a walk and picnic at Año Nuevo State Preserve on the San Mateo County coast. The preserve is located south of Pescadero on Highway 1, just north of the Santa Cruz County line. Meet in the parking lot ($10 day use fee) at 10am. Latecomers will find us on the trail in the coastal prairie. We’ll enjoy sea cliff vegetation, raptors, songbirds and maybe marine mammals. We will face a moderate low tide at noon, but should be able to picnic on the beach (in the area in which seal tour reservations are not required). As this is a day to have fun at the beach with fellow Chapter members, the ending time and depth of botanical discussion may be extended depending on participants. We will finish at the visitor center. Bring binoculars and layers for variable conditions including wind, sun and fog. Heavy rain cancels. For more information, contact Trevlyn Williams at (650) 823- 3227.

Marin Chapter
Plant ID Workshop
Friday, January 1, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Would you like to join other people interested in a closer look at Marin plants? Then come to the monthly Plant ID Workshops at the College of Marin. Upcoming workshops will be on the first Friday of each month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Room SMN 112 on the Kentfield campus. Bring curiosity, as well as plants and a copy of the Marin Flora if you have them. Paid parking is in Parking Lot #9 (P9), and the SMN building is just over the pedestrian bridge that crosses Corte Madera Creek. For more information, contact Paul da Silva at

San Luis Obispo Chapter
Leaning Pine Arboretum
Saturday, January 9, 9:00 AM

The gardens at Leaning Pine Arboretum focus primarily on the world’s five Mediterranean climate regions: Australia, Chile, the Mediterranean basin, South Africa, and California. The California garden is designed to resemble many of the natural plant communities found throughout the state. The Arboretum is located within the Cal Poly campus on Via Carta, and visitors must buy a parking permit at either the vending machine on Highland Drive, shortly after entering campus, or at the Cal Poly Visitor Information Center. For more detailed directions, please see the chapter website listed below. For more information on the event, contact Bill Waycott at, or (805) 459-2103.

Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter
Why are there so many Manzanitas? An Ecology & Evolution Journey
Tuesday, January 12, 7:30-9:30 PM

Tom Parker will be presenting a free talk, open to the public, on the ecology and evolution of Manzanitas, which are found within an incredibly diverse array of habitats all over the state. This talk will take place at the Sepulveda Garden Center in Encino, located at 16633 Magnolia Blvd. Refreshments will be served.

Bryophyte Chapter
Bryophyte Walk and Workshop
Saturday, January 16, 8:45 AM-lunch; 12:45 PM onwards

Bring a hand lens and brunch. We’ll start at Caballero Canyon (near the south end of Reseda Blvd, across from Country Club Place), meeting at 8:45 am to collect in the field. We’ll continue after lunch at CSU Northridge (3rd floor of Chaparral Hall 5335; parking $6) at 12:45 pm with microscopes. Participants may attend one or both segments. Led by Kirsten Fisher and Paul Wilson (

Kern Chapter
Annual Potluck
Thursday, January 21, 6:00-9:00 PM

This event will be both the Kern Chapter’s monthly meeting and its Annual Potluck! Dinah and David Campbell will be presenting on Isle Royale National Park. Monthly meetings take place on the third Thursday of every month at the Hall Ambulance Communication Room, at 1031 21st Street (Corner of N and 21st Streets) in Bakersfield.

Milo Baker Chapter
Mushrooms of Ragel Ranch Regional Park, Sebastopol
Thursday, January 21, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM

Celebrate all the rain by searching for mushrooms. Learn to identify the most common with Darvin DeShaz, Science Advisor to the Sonoma County Mushroom Society. We’ll enjoy a stroll through lovely oak woodland and other areas of Ragel Ranch looking for these little beauties. We will not be picking mushrooms, so to see the gills, bring a mirror and a hand lens, if you have one. Also, bring lunch, raingear, pencil and something to write on. Trip goes rain or shine. Rain is mushroom weather. RSVP to Betty, or 595-1463. Trip limited to 10 people, so we can all see.

East Bay Chapter
Member Photo Night!
Wednesday, January 27, 7:30 PM

Our first members’ photo night brought in gorgeous and fascinating photos of plants and landscapes, insect behavior, field trips, and restoration projects. Come to the Garden Room of the Orinda Public Library to share your images or just to enjoy those that others bring, along with tasty refreshments. Nonmembers are most welcome to present and/or enjoy. Contact Sue Rosenthal at or (510)-496-6016 by January 20 if you’ll be bringing images or if you have questions regarding the event.

El Dorado Chapter
Bi-monthly Chapter Meeting
Tuesday, January 26, 7:00 PM

Chapter meetings are free and the public is always invited to attend. Meetings usually include a show-and-tell about one or more seasonally notable plants, announcements of upcoming chapter events and projects, and a speaker presentation. Meetings are held at the Planning Commission Room, Building C of the County Government Center, 2850 Fairlane Court, Placerville. If approaching from Highway 50 on Fair Lane, turn left at the top of the hill onto Fairlane Court and drive down the hill to the large parking lot in front of Building C. The Planning Commission Room can be entered from the right side of the building's atrium.

San Gabriel Mountains Chapter
Chapter Meeting feat. "Of Moss and Men: Bryophytes For Everyone” with Kristen Fisher
Thursday, January 28, 7:30 PM

This talk will provide an introduction to the diminutive yet fascinating world of non-vascular plants. A far cry from mere scaled-down vascular plants, bryophytes possess a unique biology and ecology that distinguish them as a unique component of our local flora. A glimpse into the fascinating features and lifestyles of these plants should leave you curious and inspired to look more closely on your next hike. Both members and visitors are welcome at our regular meetings, held at Eaton Canyon Nature Center, beginning at 7:30 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month except July, August, November, and December. The meetings are preceded from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. by social time and informal plant identification.

Sanhedrin Chapter
Monarch Butterflies & Native Milkweeds
Thursday, January 28, 7:00 PM

Mia Monroe will talk about our declining Monarch butterflies as well as their relationship with our native milkweeds. Everyone is welcome. Free of charge, donations accepted. Mia Monroe is a Xerces Society volunteer and coordinates the Thanksgiving Count of Western Monarch Butterflies with the Ukiah Garden Club. This event will take place at the Ukiah Garden Club Clubhouse, located at 1203 West Clay St. in Ukiah.


Contributors and Photo Credits

  • Charlotte Torgovitsky
  • Peyton Ellas
  • Modernize
  • Jaden Cremo
  • Dan Gluesenkamp
  • Catherine Curley
  • Becky Reilly
  • Caroline Garland
  • Stacey Flowerdew
  • Mark Naftzger
  • Deer - Bob and Mieko Watkins
  • Toyon - Nancy Gilbert
  • CA Garden - Saxon Holt
  • Treasure Hunters - Danny Slakey



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