Fall is here, and although the warmth of summer still lingers in the air, it’s time to renew our flower gardens with California Natives and annuals that will bring color throughout our cooler days.
If your garden looks like mine, many of the vegetables my son and I planted in March were hit hard by the unusually high temperatures, and it is time to pull up those sad tomatoes and squash, and make room for flowers!
I knew I wanted to find out more about planting California Native plants in my yard and found an extensive resource in the CAL SCAPES/California Native Plant Society website.
“We believe that nature is the most beautiful and environmentally responsible model for landscaping in California,” the website states. “And even more importantly, we believe that homeowners restoring nature in their gardens can slow and one day, even reverse the loss of biodiversity being caused by rampant development in California.
“This guide is meant to give native plant gardeners the information they’ll need to do that by mimicking nature in their plant selection, irrigation, mulching, weed control and pest control practices.”
Their guide to regional plants is easily accessible for your specific region and will assist you in choosing the right plants for the area in which your garden is located.
I began my search for California Natives on a visit to one of my favorite local nurseries.
The staff at Anderson’s La Costa Nursery in Encinitas is always eager to show their customers the newest plant material which is appropriate for this fall season.
Shelves of annuals great me as I enter the garden, and I just want to fill up my cart with the brilliant variety of multi-colored pansies, Johnny Jump Ups and bright red cockscomb.
But I am on a mission to learn more about California Native plants and Manny Sanchez, part of the horticulture staff, was eager to show me the large display from Moosa Creek Nursery.
Since I am not a California native, but spent most of my gardening years in Upstate New York, I was ready to learn about native plants and share my new skills with fellow gardeners.
La Costa owner Marc Smith joined us and explained the proper technique for planting California Natives.
“Dig a hole slightly larger than the plant,” Smith said. “If soil is dry, percolate (water completely) in the hole until saturated. Remove plant from container, but do not disturb the soil.
“The native soil will assist the plant’s growth. Backfill the hole only with garden soil. Mulch the plant, leaving bare dirt at main stem. Do not add amendments or fertilizers, since the plant will acclimatize itself to the soil and moisture conditions.”
Smith also introduced me to the owners of Moosa Creek Nursery, and Su Kraus shared the complicated process of growing California Native plants.
“We search far and wide for the Native seed that will produce the hardiest plants,” Kraus said. “Some seed comes from seed companies, and others we harvest ourselves and we also use cuttings. From there we grow the seed in our greenhouses and produce hundreds of varieties of California Natives each year.
“Gardeners can go to our website to check availability and then order directly through a retail outlet such as Anderson’s La Costa Nursery. Our website also includes extensive plant maintenance information, since planting and watering Natives can be challenging.”
For a complete plant list go their website at www.moosacreek.com or call 760-749-3216.
FAVORITE NATIVE PLANTS
Marc and Manny guided me through the large collection of Moosa Creek Natives, and suggested three varieties to begin the California Native garden, although they maintain a collection of over 50 varieties.
SALVIAS – This grey leafed, multi-color Native is a standard in most North County perennial flower gardens. Salvia ‘Discolor’ (Black), Salvia ‘Spathacea’ (Red) and Salvia ‘Leucantha’ (Blue) are some of the favorites
YARROW – The tall yellow, white or purple Achillea can provide the backdrop for the perennial beds.
CEONOTHUS – Known to most as a lilac, the Ceonothus ‘Yankee Point Purple,’ has shiny green leaves and bright purple flowers and reaches a height of two feet. Ceonothus comes in a wide variety of colors and heights and can be special ordered.
ANNUALS – Since many California Natives have a brief flowering period and green or grey foliage year-round, annuals can add a dash of color and provide visual interest to the foreground of your flower garden. La Costa has a wide variety of colorful annuals such as Calendula, Snapdragons, Pansies and Iceland Poppies that will complete your fall garden.
For questions about availability and garden design contact Anderson’s La Costa Nursery at (760) 753-3153 or visit their website at www.andersonslacostanursery.com
Jano Nightingale is a horticulturist and former Director of the Cornell University Master Gardener Program. She works on community gardens in North County. She can be reached at [email protected]