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California Native Gardening

California Native Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    California Native Gardening
    Book Description:

    This is the first month-by-month guide to gardening with native plants in a state that follows a unique, nontraditional seasonal rhythm. Beginning in October, when much of California leaves the dry season behind and prepares for its own green “spring,” Helen Popper provides detailed, calendar-based information for both beginning and experienced native gardeners. Each month’s chapter lists gardening tasks, including repeated tasks and those specific to each season. Popper offers planting and design ideas, and explains core gardening techniques such as pruning, mulching, and propagating. She tells how to use native plants in traditional garden styles, including Japanese, herb, and formal gardens, and recommends places for viewing natives. An essential year-round companion, this beautifully written and illustrated book nurtures the twin delights of seeing wild plants in the garden and garden plants in the wild.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95223-2
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [iv]-[v])
  3. Introduction: California Local
    (pp. 1-5)

    Gardening with natives means gardening with plants that have belonged for millennia in the place we call home. Natives reflect the characteristics of their locales. They survive on rainfall and the other water sources of their habitats. They are adapted to prevailing temperatures and to local, often distinctive, soils. Existing with one another, many of them share resources—even water—through interconnected underground root structures. They feed, shelter, and depend on native wildlife, including butterflies, birds, and other pollinators.

    Tailored to where we garden, native plants offer us unsurpassed practicality. Compared with introduced plants, indigenous ones generally require fewer inputs....

  4. October Change in the Air
    (pp. 7-23)

    The dog days of summer are only just behind us, and the soil remains parched until the first rains descend. Weeks of warm air and blue skies fill much of October. While Labor Day inaugurates fall elsewhere, Halloween is the eve of autumn here.

    For many of us, planting is the month’s biggest and most satisfying garden chore. Native gardeners in the mild-winter areas, where most Californians live, await the first soaking rains to signal the start of the planting season. Gardeners in areas overrun with deer prepare plant cages for anything they cannot resist planting now.

    For gardeners who...

  5. November Spring Is Here
    (pp. 25-39)

    The days are shorter, the air has cooled, and the first “spring” rains have soaked the soil. Tiny new wildflower seedlings coat once-bare earth with green fuzz, and grassy hillsides come alive. The leaves of sumac (Rhus trilobata, an innocent cousin of poison oak,Toxicodendron diversilobum) turn gold, red, and burgundy.

    In the garden, the fall planting time has arrived in earnest. Now is the ideal time to plant bulbs and their kin and to plant oaks from acorns. In areas without serious freezes or major deer-grazing problems, it also is time to move nursery-grown plants from their containers into...

  6. December Green Tidings
    (pp. 41-53)

    In the late morning after a storm, oak branches emerge out of the mist like ghosts. Raindrops cling to the serrated margins of toyon leaves. Maple leaves rest on the garden floor. All is moist, cool, and quiet.

    Bare branches reveal the structure of once-leafy shrubs. Guided by their undisguised contours, we can judiciously prune them while they are dormant. We then can take our clippers and loppers to the herbaceous perennials that have soldiered on through fall. Once they are cleaned up, we can amble around the garden with a basket to collect the right evergreens, berries, pinecones, and...

  7. January A Happy, Wet New Year
    (pp. 55-65)

    January is our wettest month. Much of California gets several inches of rain. In the wettest areas, the scarcity of pleasant, dry days may force you to pick and choose your chores. You may decide to prune winter deciduous plants along with a few perennials. In some cases, say with grape, this will be especially fun:prunewill meantake cuttings. You’ll finish the job with something to give your friends. In other cases, there’s still just time to hack back the most vigorous growers, like established Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri, fondly called frenzied fried egg) and California fuchsia (Epilobium...

  8. February Clean and Weed
    (pp. 67-79)

    It’s still officially winter, even here in California. Many of us spend most of our February gardening hours preparing for the oncoming rush of spring. February is the month to step outside and clean up what has accumulated over much of winter—including tree branches that have fallen in the wrong place during our storms—so that spring flowers and new growth will look their best. Now is the ideal time to prune some of the shrubs that have already flowered, such as gooseberries (Ribes speciosum). It is also a good time to clean up many of the perennials that...

  9. March Spring Anew
    (pp. 81-95)

    Most of us in California live in mild-winter areas, and we planted and sowed the seeds of natives in fall and early winter. Now, the last serious threat of hard frost—if there ever was one—disappears. March brings warmer weather, Arbor Day, and the official arrival of spring to spur us on. In these mild-winter areas, we may be swept up in a second wave of planting.

    Others of us live in areas with voracious fall browsers and hard winter freezes. Taught by experience and by our friends, we don’t plant in fall. Instead, we bide our time, waiting...

  10. April Flowers
    (pp. 97-109)

    Tranquil violets (Violaspp.) dot the redwood forest floor. Ephemeral fairy rings of downingia (Downingiaspp.) surround vernal pools. Goldfields (Lasthenia californica), tidytips (Layia platyglossa), cream cups (Platystemon californicus), and lupines (Lupinusspp.) sweep across the state’s grasslands. It is mid-spring, and California is alive with flowers.

    The bounty of blooms is captured in our native gardens. Annual wildflowers burst forth, self-sown in some gardens, carefully hand-sown and tended in others. The annuals join bulbs, perennials, and shrubs in an overlapping cascade of color.

    Take it all in. Pick a posy. Pinch back a few blooms here, a little new...

  11. May Collect Your Seeds
    (pp. 111-121)

    It is Act II of the spring garden show: exit riotous annual wildflowers, enter perennial blooms. Our garden tasks echo the progression. Now is the time to let annual wildflowers set seed. It is the time to appreciate the bold opening salvos of penstemons, sages, monkeyflowers, and buckwheats, and it is time to deadhead them for continued blooms through the end of spring and into summer.

    May is also a month to water if you choose: water to coax a little more bloom from annuals, water on the coast if it has been windy, water anywhere you like if it...

  12. June The Wise Water Balancing Act
    (pp. 123-135)

    Foggy coastal air pushes against the elemental blue of inland skies. A moving wall between them keeps one side cool and the other hot. On the cool side, little water is needed, and little is given. On the hot side, plants might be thirsty, but too much water will damage them, and nature withholds it. From now until fall, most of the state will receive no rain.

    In our gardens, we might echo nature’s drought but not follow it slavishly. Even many established gardens benefit from one deep soak in June, as long as the weather is not too hot....

  13. July Mist and Tinder
    (pp. 137-149)

    Cool morning fog rests on the northwest corner of the state. Its gray mist nurses violets (Violaspp.), ferns, huckleberries (Vaccinium ovatum), and redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). Inland, the sun saturates the day. Most of California is bone dry—tinder for stray sparklers on the Fourth of July. This month, road signs tell campers that the fire danger is high. In dry years, some chaparral plants in the wild lose their leaves now and enter into an early summer dormancy.

    Outside the fog belt, relentless dry days remind us that a little water goes a long way in the garden. Some...

  14. August Siesta Time
    (pp. 151-161)

    Rest in the shade of an oak, a redwood, or a bay. With eyelids resting too, enjoy the unseen pleasures of a summer’s day. Inhale the thick scent of pitcher sage (Lepechinia fragrans) or the piquancy of yerba buena (Satureja douglasii). Let the breeze borrow the fragrance and gently set it down again. Hear a calling quail, and another, the rustle of a darting lizard, and the sudden quiet that follows.

    Later, open your eyes to see pieces of cerulean sky framed by branches. Lower your gaze. Perhaps ripe blackberries, thimbleberries, or huckleberries (Rubus ursinus,R. parviflorus, orVaccinium ovatum)...

  15. September Plan for Fall
    (pp. 163-171)

    School opens, Labor Day comes and goes, but summer clings to September. In the slowly fading season, some gardeners finish pruning chaparral plants and take cuttings of a few evergreen shrubs along the way. Others trim spent perennials and grasses, leaving the clippings in a low pile for hungry birds. Those with seedlings and young plants nurse them along with the water they need. Still others sit back and do nothing but pass the time in leisure before the busier days ahead.

    In the warm, dry days that fill most of California, nature only subtly acknowledges the calendar’s fall label....

  16. Native Garden Styles
    (pp. 173-190)

    For most native gardeners, thoughts of style come in cycles. Style first matters during a garden’s early stages, when we have our hands full with the initial design or restoration. The role of style then gradually fades for a time. As month follows month and year follows year, we focus instead on the individual plants that require our attention. We lose ourselves in the rhythm of their tending. Only when the plants begin to mature or change does the garden reassert itself as a whole. We see the garden anew, and our thoughts return to style.

    We sometimes think of...

  17. Cutting Times
    (pp. 191-192)
  18. Places to See Natives
    (pp. 193-197)
  19. Good Friends on the Bookshelf
    (pp. 198-200)
  20. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 201-202)
  21. Index
    (pp. 203-217)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 218-218)