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Gardening with a Wild Heart: Restoring California's Native Landscapes at Home

Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 2
Pages: 267
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  • Book Info
    Gardening with a Wild Heart
    Book Description:

    Judith Lowry's voice and experiences make a rich matrix for essays that include discussions of wildflower gardening, the ecology of native grasses, wildland seed-collecting, principles of natural design, and plant/animal interactions. This lyrical and articulate mix of the practical and the poetic combines personal story, wildland ecology, restoration gardening practices, and native plant horticulture.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93387-3
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
    (pp. XI-XII)
    (pp. XIII-XIV)
  5. Part I Beginnings

    • CHAPTER ONE Gardening at the Seam
      (pp. 3-20)

      Moving fifteen years ago to a small town on the north central coast of California, I was entranced by the miles of protected land that surrounded us. My first walks into those public preserves revealed to my grateful eyes the beauty and variety of coastal plant associations.

      All shades of green and gray made a rich foliar tapestry, accented in spring and summer with the rainbow colors of coastal wildflowers. Rounded forms of shrubs and trees cast beautiful shadows on soft coastal hills. Where water seeped through cliffs, willows threaded surprising ribbons through the seemingly dry slopes. Light dappled the...

  6. Part II Tipping the Balance in a Native Direction

    • CHAPTER TWO Planning Back-Yard Restoration Gardens
      (pp. 23-34)

      I arrive early for my appointment. There is time, before ringing the doorbell, to scout the neighborhood surrounding the home where I shall be doing a landscape consultation. It may be a tract house in a crowded subdivision, a summer home converted to a residence on ten acres of woods, a ranch house on five hundred acres of grasslands, or a mini-mansion built “on spec.” Maybe the land was once a beanfield, and before that, riparian forest. It may have been converted from apricot orchards to houses and yards, or directly from oak savannah to houses and yards, but somewhere...

    • CHAPTER THREE Design Thoughts, Principles, and Guidelines
      (pp. 35-54)

      The growing and nurturing of California native plants in California gardens takes place in several distinct contexts. Let us distinguish among them as a way to begin exploring their role in the back-yard restoration garden.

      In this type of garden, native plants are mixed with exotic plants following the principles traditionally espoused by landscape architects. Focal points, axes, specimen plants, perennial borders, bedding plants, foundation plantings, ground covers, and screens are ways in which native plants are used in this kind of garden.

      Xeriscaping, in which drought-tolerant native plants are mixed with drought-tolerant plants from places with Mediterranean climates similar...

    • CHAPTER FOUR In the Changeful Garden
      (pp. 55-64)

      Over the years, I have turned from frustration at garden events that thwart my plans to some degree of acceptance and a greater degree of interest. With increasing insouciance, I watch the garden take its own direction. The back-yard restoration gardener learns the benefits of accepting gardening as an evolving situation; appreciative of each opportunity to factor in more complexity. In the privacy of your back yard, it has less to do with success or failure, more to do with lessons to be learned from the uncertainty that accompanies a growing garden.

      In my garden on the north central coast,...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Examples of Back-Yard Restoration Gardens
      (pp. 65-74)

      Thumbnail sketches of several California back-yard restoration gardens show how these gardens have been or could be realized by gardeners in different regions of California, each one deepened by slow work, additions and deletions, and response to the accumulation of information through time.

      From the entrance, this garden rises gently. It is given order by beds defined by railroad ties. The beds are reminiscent of groves of oak trees, each dominated by a grouping of the large shrubs and small trees, such as holly-leaved cherry, Prunus illicifolia, that take the place of oak trees in this small garden. The mini-groves...

  7. Part III Doing the Real Work

    • CHAPTER SIX Along the Flower Trail
      (pp. 77-103)

      As I write this chapter on annual wildflowers, it is not wildflower time. In wildflower time, spring through early summer, you will not find me inside. All possible moments must be spent looking at, looking for, and being among the wildflowers, at home and on pilgrimage, “along the flower trail.” For I am an aficionado of our spring wildflower displays.

      In California, we are blessed with remnants of one of the greatest shows on earth. Although it must regretfully be acknowledged that our wildflower fields are not what they once were, even in this diminished state, they are still wondrous...

    • Plates
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Land Wore a Tufted Mantle: The Challenge of Our Native Bunchgrasses
      (pp. 104-122)

      Time spent in native bunchgrass prairie has some of the same feeling as time spent among old-growth redwoods, or in a place where aboriginal peoples used to live. There is a haunting sense that mysteries await recovery and that old relationships between soil and root, leaf blade and wind, are being played out. The visual patterns of bunch grass prairies are not ones that our eyes are used to seeing, but they are the patterns of old California.

      It’s late April, time for a hike to my favorite bunchgrass prairie in the foothills nearby. Climbing the hill, I walk through...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT To See All the Colors, to Hear All the Songs: Problems of Exotic Pest Plants
      (pp. 123-144)

      “Unless greater actions are taken to control weeds, by the year 2000, weed infestations on Federal lands alone are projected to increase to 34 million acres, an area about the size of seventeen large national parks like Yellowstone,” Deputy Secretary of the Interior John Garamendi predicted in I995.

      When I attended my first conference organized by the California Exotic Pest Plant Council, I expected to hear about the magnitude of this problem, as well as about new methods to combat the spread of invasive plants in California. I hoped to be encouraged by success stories and to relax in the...

    • CHAPTER NINE Wildland Seed Harvest
      (pp. 145-152)

      This work has taken me to the woods, by the creeks, in the grasses, by the ocean, in the dunes, up the mountains, in the hills, down the canyons, by the rivers, and to the places where those places meet. I bring paper bags, envelopes, pen, badminton racquet, stainless steel bowl, day pack, and optional snake-bite kit or prayer, “Snakes, stay far away from me.”

      I began seed collecting twenty years ago, motivated by a sense that this would be a valuable way to spend time. I didn’t understand, in the beginning, how deeply my life changed the day I...

    • CHAPTER TEN Seed Propagation and Planting Techniques
      (pp. 153-168)

      It was work with seeds that first drew me into this field, and to this day it is an integral part of my life, collecting, cleaning, sowing, transplanting, and watching plants in various stages of growth. Life would seem quite empty, almost unimaginable, without such accompaniment. Some believe that plant propagators are long-lived -all that new life every day.

      The back-yard restorationist’s involvement with seed work can be more or less complex. You can stick with annuals and easily germinated “colonizer” plants, like certain coastal perennials, or try your hand at some trickier species, bulbs, shrubs, and trees. There is...

  8. Part IV Resources for the Back-Yard Restoration Gardener

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Naturalists and Field Trips
      (pp. 171-191)

      Under the oak tree, in this wet year, the Indian lettuce grew unprecedentedly tall, its flower stalks rising six inches above the last tier of leaves. Now the seed is ripe. Shiny black and about the size of an ant’s head, they drop from their stalks, out of their little green enveloping sepals, onto the saucer like leaves underneath the flowers. The quail take advantage of this easy way to eat seed: handed to them on a plate, so to speak. Birds connecting with plants.

      These are things I see. Sometimes I want to see more. I want the information...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Tools and Tricks of the Trade
      (pp. 192-206)

      For twenty years, I have watched and attempted to facilitate the process whereby gardeners become seized by the kinds of activities and attitudes that will tend in the direction of making their piece of land a diverse, rich, and healthy part of the ongoing evolution of life.

      Here are some organizations and techniques to fuel the vision and hone the skills of the back-yard restoration gardener, useful tools to help you find out what is growing near you now and what might have been growing near you once, and how to bring it back in close.

      Maybe it is obvious...

  9. Part V Restoration and Community

      (pp. 209-218)

      I live in a town that is well known for its desire to remain obscure. About 2,000 people reside here, with perhaps 1,998 different utopian visions. The other two people just don’t care.

      We have permaculturists, horticulturists, organic farmers, fisherpersons, lawyers, dancers, songwriters and singers, musicians, carpenters, surfers, actors, writers, teachers, ornithologists, painters, massage therapists, poets, personal chefs, and journalists. We have lots of tree surgeons; because of misplanted trees, the sound of chain saws is usually heard upon the land. Nearly everyone is at least a little bit disappointed that their particular vision of utopia has not, as yet,...

    (pp. 219-222)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 223-230)
    (pp. 231-236)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 237-252)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-253)