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It’s Time to Plant California Natives!
December 2008 | Mary Friestadt


This beautiful mature Ceanothus splashes down a steep bank in Mary's garden.  Ceanothus 'Diamond Heights' (not pictured) has an interesting variegated leaf:  a lighter green with dark green splotches.

Many of you are probably looking forward to the coming winter season because the weather is bound to be cooler and we might even get rain! This means we can finally plant our California natives! Yes, this is the time of year to plant the beauties that need water only for the first year. After that, they usually thrive on just what nature gives them.

It’s hard to decide what to plant. Consider Ceanothus ‘Diamond Heights’ because it is tolerant of shade, gets only 12” high by 4 to 6 feet wide, and has variegated leaves of lime green and dark green. Toyon is also a winner because you can grow it as an evergreen shrub or shape it as a tree. It gets beautiful red berries in the winter that the birds relish. Take your Sunset Western Garden Book to the nursery when buying your goodies.

Where do we buy these wonderful plants that ask for so little (think water…) and yet give so much? More and more nurseries are now carrying California natives because of their beauty and low water needs. Also, you can look online for California native nurseries in the area. Of course, my favorite place to shop is Quail Botanical Gardens.

Planting natives is easy. You simply dig a hole and plop in the plant! Never till the soil or add organics when planting natives, as they are not used to such pampering. However, it is important to water the plant very well at the beginning, and then once a week works for me. Of course, if we are lucky enough to get a rain, then we can skip the watering. Also, native plant experts advise not using drip irrigation on natives, as this is not the way Mother Nature does it. Instead, spray the plants from the top to simulate rain.

Mulching is good for natives – but not just any mulch. The best cover for natives is either rocks or shredded redwood bark, also called gorilla hair. Either of these mulches will help to keep the soil moist longer around the plants.

As I walk around our charming town, my heart jumps when I see a California-friendly garden full of natives and Mediterranean plants. I know these owners care about our precious water and want to make Del Mar more beautiful than ever. Truly, the grays, browns, and dark greens of a native garden bring more peace and joy to a garden than people can imagine.



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