Sunday, November 13, 2011

Going native

Leaves of Quercus lobata, the Valley oak.
 Although I have a true interest in gardening native plants of the Santa Monica Mountains, sometimes it take a little extra push to motivate me to do something about it.

That extra push was my friend and neighbor Patty, who invited me to join her for a trip to the Theodore Payne Foundation Nursery, located in Sunland in the San Fernando Valley.

Though the beauty of native plants is best appreciated in the spring, when the Payne Foundation's Native Plant Garden Tour allows the public to view dozens of private gardens, the best time for planting natives is during Southern California's drizzly fall and rainy winter.

Calliandra, or "fairy duster"
Patty drove us out to Sunland, through dreary streets of cinder block auto body repair shops and warehouses, and turned off on a little canyon road through the Verdugo Mountains. The homes, behind concrete block walls and fences, were rural and horsey. We pulled into a gravel parking lot near the Foundation's offices, and walked up a gravel road to the nursery.

The plants are categorized by their type - trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials, ground cover. The informative labels tell you the plant's requirements, eventual size, and what its attractions are - does it attract butterflies? Does it feed birds? Is it fragrant or showy, or provide fall color?
Pentstemon spectabilis
Around the nursery, garden beds with mature plants were helpfully labelled, so you could see what a mature specimen of that tiny shoot would grow into.

Patty had planned for this trip, and had brought her reference books so we could learn even more about the plants we chose. I operated more recklessly, succumbing to Plant Lust, scooping up sisyrinchiums here and Fremontodendrons there, calculating in my mind where I could plant them.

Manzanita grown in a clay container
 How can you choose between one manzanita cultivar with blue-green foliage and cinnamon-brown bark, and an equally beautiful manzanita cultivar with gracefully weeping branches and flowers blushed a delicate rose? Ground-cover ceonathus with deep blue flowers, or ceonathus "Diamond Heights," with variegated foliage?

"We're going to need another cart"
Answer? get them all!

Of course, this requires rigorous editing prior to check-out, an agonizing contemplation. Are three irises too many? Should I put exchange the gallon-size coral bells for the less expensive, four-inch pot? Should I really risk buying a Fremontodendron now, or wait until I really know where to plant it and come back?

Hyptis "Silver Lining"
As we towed our cart through the gravelled paths, a fine drizzle soon strengthened to rain. Delicious herby scents filled the air, and you could hear birds in the wilder reaches of the garden.

Soon, the chill and damp slaked our greed for plants, and we trekked back to the warmth of the office, where even more temptation awaited - the assorted drawers and packets of wild flower seeds.

I'm so grateful to Patty for getting me out and motivating me to think about gardening.

My loot
Wow. What I am going to do with all these now?


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

"We're going to need another cart"

He he. Or a bigger cart!

Mrs. G. said...

This is my kind of day--friends and plants!


Way cool.

Anonymous said...

I love it! Wish I could wade through green plants today, but here in the Midwest we have to wait until April. I always have a giddy excitement as I walk through my local nursery with one of those wagons trailing behind me. In the spring, of course, the nursery is a mass of colors and I want everything. I have found that taking a list is much easier on my pocketbook and later my back. Thank you for brightening up my grey morning in Indiana. Albug

Gilly said...

Love it! I'd be doing the same in our garden centres. But I think I might get a bit confused with all your strange plants!

Anonymous said...

"succumbing to Plant Lust" LOL
I fully agree - get some of each!

I've had the same problem: plants, fabric, whatever. It is dangerous to go shopping with a friend who knows her stuff. But it's also inspiring, and the end result is you will have a fabulous garden. What a great day!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Good to plant natives- you're not fighting the climate to grow them, and you're not unleashing exotics. Awesome move, Aunt Snow!