In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
April, 2013
Regional Report

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Beautiful, drought tolerant and inviting to wildlife -- what could be better?

Renew! Rejoice!

Gardening is all about renewal and change. You plant a seed, it grows and matures and, at the end of the cycle, the seed is harvested to be planted again the following season. Gardening is more than planting and harvesting, it a belief and a trust that there will be a future.

Our world is changing every day but that, too, is part of the natural cycle. How we respond to the changes of climate and culture and adapt is part of the great mandala of life.

For example, fifty years ago many home landscapes in our region consisted of large expanses of thirsty turf grass. There is no longer water to support these kinds of landscapes. Luckily, the turf grass lawns of the past have evolved into gardens which are much better suited to our desert environment. The use of native plants that provide not only color but habitat for indigenous wildlife is becoming more acceptable and appreciated. In addition, these plants are often far more hardy and resistant to insect pests and disease than exotics. Each insect that is common to a native plant has its own natural predator. No chemicals are needed!

Visit any garden center to see for yourself the selection of plants that are adapted to the West, both native and introduced. Ornamental grasses provide ideal habitat for butterflies and require very little in the way of water, fertilizer, or mowing maintenance. Hardy salvias provide color from early spring to late fall -- even into winter in mild climates -- and hummingbirds love them! Colorful ceanothus is extremely drought tolerant, deep rooted, and ideal for holding soil on a hillside. Many common perennial plants such as yarrow, penstemon, coral bells (Heuchera) and Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) not only provide brilliant color but also encourage beneficial insects into the landscape.

Re-landscape a small section of your garden to begin the changes in your own environment. Plant a fuzzy flannel bush (Fremontodendron) in a sunny location with lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina) and purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') as companions. It won't take long before butterflies and hummingbirds take up residence. One small step, perhaps, but it can be the start of a journey to create a landscape that helps the earth.

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