October 2014 - California Native Planting

     You've heard before that we are in a drought, but what have you been doing to reduce your water usage? Creativity is becoming key, by saving shower water in buckets, storing rain water in barrels, using recycled water for irrigation, or allowing your current landscape to brown out with plans to install a native and drought tolerant landscape in the future. All are great ideas to not only do our part to help conserve water, but also to evolve into this new definition of California landscape.
     No one really knows or has documentation of what California was like pre-Spaniard colonization. There are educated guesstimates based off of the little documentation from early settlers and stories being told. California's natural landscape was ever evolving before invasive species were introduced. Clumping grasses would dominate the hills as large grazers would come and chomp down the grass allowing the wild flowers to dominate, painting the hills in rainbows of colors. Today California is invaded with annual grasses, star thistle, pesky weeds, and is overly grazed by cattle.
     Plants that are native to California are plants that were here before the late 18th century, pre-Spaniards. These plants have evolved and adapted to our climate and weather patterns. For example, native grasses are incredibly tough and forgiving. Some mature grasses, like the Purple Needle Grass, have a root system that can grow downwards of twenty feet allowing the plant to live upwards of 150 plus years. Other native grasses have an root system that averages to about 7 feet deep. Trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals have all adapted in some sort of way to our climate. Examples of this include deep penetrating roots, a large tap root, a microbial fungi relationship, summer dormancy, or a symbiotic relationship with other plants, insects, or animals.
California Native Plant Highlights

Achillea millefolium - Common Yarrow

     Achillea millefolium  also known as Common Yarrow, is a very popular wild flower that comes in many different colors, the white being native to California. The name Achillea comes from the greek god, Achilles, who utilized Yarrow's medicinal values in the battle of Troy. Millefolium meaning 'a million leaves' coming 
from the millions of tiny leaves covering the stems. Common Yarrow has a dense mat of foliage the spreads about 24" wide and clusters of tiny white flowers on a stem that reaches about 30" tall.
     This plant is incredibly versatile and has many uses. Aside from its natural beauty, Yarrow is a haven for butterflies and native bees. Yarrow can be used as a lawn replacement that requires mowing about every other month and to be watered deeply every six to eight weeks. Yarrow has many medicinal properties too. When crushed and applied to the skin it can act as an astringent to stop bleeding from minor cuts and scrapes. It can be chewed to relieve toothaches, steeped as a tea to reduce fever, common cold symptoms, GI tract discomfort, and to reduce inflammation. Lasty but certainly not least the young leaves can be mixed in a green salad to add a new texture and crisp flavor.

Cercis occidentalis - Western Redbud

    Cercis occidentalis, commonly known as Western Redbud or Forest Pansy is a popular small tree that is best known for its magenta flowers. It is native to the  Northern California area. It is typically found on the banks of rivers or in a seasonal creek. This tree naturally occurs as a multi trunk tree, but can be trained into a single trunk.

     The Western Redbud is a deciduous tree meaning it loses its leaves every year. What makes this tree so special is in the spring time before the leaves begin to cover the tree, pea sized magenta flowers cover the branches. These tiny flowers are edible and make a colorful addition to a green salad. Once the flowers are spent, heart shaped bright green foliage comes about and covers the tree until fall. This tree belongs in the Fabacea family, relating to Peas and Wisteria. The Western Redbud gets to about 15' tall and 10' wide. The indigenous Californians would use the branches to weave baskets and the bark for a faint reddish dye for the baskets. 

Coastal Cleanup!

Susan and Evan attend the annual Coastal Cleanup in Oakland 

     Susan attended her fifth coastal clean up in Oakland while Evan attended his first coastal cleanup ever. It was amazing the amount of trash we found along the waters near the arena and coliseum. Aside form large pieces of trash the shore was mostly littered with small broken down pieces of plastic. Most, if not all, of this trash was washed down from the streets through the storm drain system in Oakland and directly washed out into the bay. We learned that the only city in the bay area to treat the storm drain water is San Francisco. So anything that gets washed down the drains is untreated, un filtered, and shot directly into the bay! 
     While it was a sad event to see nature covered with more trash than plants, it was a beautiful day with great company, restoring nature, and great competition to collect the most and the weirdest piece of trash. Visit the Coastal Cleanup Website to learn more about the event and how you can participate next year! See you there!

Getting to Know Our Employees

Evan Cooper

     A native to California, Evan is a budding new designer whose passion is encompassed around California native plants. He has a Bachelors of Science in Business and is currently taking landscape architecture classes at Merritt College and Berkeley Extension. His designs are heavily focused on regionally specific native plants to reduce water usage and maintenance.
     He currently lives on a 123 acre horse ranch where he is constantly out in the yard maintaing and building upon it. While there he listens to his chickens cluck around and coyotes howling late a night.
Las Pilitas Nursery not only grows and sells their own plants, but their website is one of the most comprehensive when it comes to native plants. 

CalFlora allows you to research a specific plant or a county to see where the plant is naturally occurring or what plants naturally occur in the county.

Not necessarily native related, but this Botanical Dictionary is a fun way to learn about the meanings behind botanical names

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