Do not water California native
plants with overhead sprinklers.
This myth was started in
areas such as the east coast and even, Europe, where the humidity is
very high; there, they have warm temperatures combined with summer
rainfall which are perfect conditions for the growth and development of
many disease organisms (warm and moist). This does not apply very well
in most of California, with our Mediterranean climate, with conditions
of low humidity and hot summers (warm and dry). Most native plants get
their moisture from rainfall, not seeps.
Plant California native plants
only in the fall.
Early fall can be a problem in areas where the
pressure from deer and rabbits and other critters is
at its highest point then, when the end of the dry season is near, the
animals have run out of food and your newly planted, juicy plants look
real tasty! Also, most of California's climate is so mild that you can
set out native plants year-round (watch those critters in the fall,
though). As landscape contractors that set out plants year-round, guess
when we had the highest plant losses?
The Fall! By December planting is
usually easier and safer. Around Christmas we're planting like
mad. Check out the "When
to plant native plants page".
California native plants look
scrawny, scraggly and ratty.
This myth was started from
the fact that SOME plants undergo a semi-deciduous period in the summer
through fall, to help them survive this dry, warm/hot season of the
year. If you can't deal with that, you can minimize it by sprinkling
the leaves occasionally, or you can plant EVERGREEN California native
plants, such as Toyon,
a few, which will not go deciduous. Also many native are
treated like common garden plants, over watered, over fertilized etc.
This stresses them out and they get diseases, die back and just look
horrible. They are not petunias so don't treat them like ones! Common
California native perennials like Penstemons, Monkey Flowers, can live
for 20 or more years, petunias might live for two years, look good for
one. What happens if you treat the greenhouse grown stuff like a
native plant? (Hint, rhymes with head.) Californians, why would you buy
plant from a box store that came from a greenhouse in
Oregon thinking that it's any easier to grow than a native
plant grown outdoors from California? One other note, if a native
plant looks like it came from a florist, it did. And it will
probably look like a florists bouquet after a few days in your yard.
Smaller sized gallon plants are usually the safest.
California native plants are
hard to grow.
This myth probably was started because
people tried to grow California native plants just like they grow
common garden plants. California native plants are wild plants
do not grow well under the same conditions as common garden plants. If
you had full water rationing what would your 'normal
garden' look like.(Rhymes with rugby and head.) Under drought
conditions native plants become much easier. Why pay $200/month
water your little lawn, when you can have a green front yard for a few
dollars a month? With no gardener? And get some exercise.
All California native plants
This myth probably started because
most of California is fairly dry and most people think the dead weeds
are native plants. Many California native plants are
drought tolerant, but others live in wet, moist areas like ponds,
creeks, rivers, marshes, seeps, etc.
irrigation is the state-of-the-art
California native plants.
irrigation was developed largely in Israel for vegetable gardens
fruit orchards where the water supply was limited, and applied to crops
that are naturally adapted to riparian
conditions (creek, pond, marsh,
monsoons, get the idea?) or summer rainfall. This type of watering
simulates a freshwater marsh. Now, look at the California hillsides! Do
live in a
freshwater marsh?? These upland California native plants grow much
better in more natural conditions, using irrigation
systems such as
overhead watering and/or drip tubing fitted with microspray emitters
that deliver the water in a more natural way (ie like rainfall). But
even these irrigation
systems can be abused and overused. The amount of
water you deliver to your plants combined with the time period in which
you deliver the water (fall,spring, winter, summer) has a significant
effect on whether they will live long healthy lives or short, unhealthy
lives. Try not to overwater. We do not have summer ponds on our
the Irrigation page. Ceanothus are alive and look good
after 30 years in our garden, if they were on drip they would have died
about 25 years ago.
Note: The anomalies some people are observing are not really anomalies,
they just haven't observed for a sufficient time! These people are
observing plants in cooler, coastal conditions, or cooler, more
northerly conditions. The plant here just dies more slowly but it still
dies much sooner than its counterpart that is grown under more natural
conditions, without drip irrigation and appropriately watered. . The
reason? The organisms that kill many upland California native plants
grown with drip irrigation work best under conditions of higher heat
and higher moisture, with lower oxygen levels. So this phenomenon of
the sick, dying plant occurs more quickly in the hotter, inland,
southern areas of California when you add: (1) the moisture
concentrated in one spot via drip irrigation, and (2) therefore, lower
oxygen levels, and (3) high summer temperatures. For
check out the drip page.
You need to amend the
when planting California native plants.
First, amended soils are found naturally in areas disturbed by man or
by nature (one example: creeks, rivers, etc. when water rushes down in
the spring or summer, or whenever the rainy season occurs, carrying new
soil from higher areas, the soil gets churned up by the force of the
moving water, and this mixed soil is deposited on the riverbank). Many
of our common garden plants come from creekside/riverbank areas such as
these, throughout the world. Many California native plants do not! They
are adapted to leaf mulch ON TOP OF
THE SOIL, not organic matter
mixed into the soil next to their roots. Second, current research
demonstrates that when you dig a large hole and fill it with amended
soil, the plant that you set into the hole has a tendency to just
circle its roots around in this amended hole, and grow very few, if any
roots, into the surrounding soil. This makes for a very weak, unhealthy
plant because it is not growing an extensive root system to support its
top growth and it is not getting the benefit of the nutrients in the
surrounding soil; its roots are just stuck in the amended hole pretty
much until it dies. And we haven't even mentioned the fungal companion
that lives with most drought tolerant California native plants, and on
which they critically depend for their health and sustenance. This
fungal companion HATES amended soil. No till agriculture is being
pushed for crops that probably are best adapted to tillage, native
plants are best adapted to no till.
"we should recognize that
connected to plants almost as integrally as arteries are veins to
animals" Hogberg and Read.
Remember a consultant is what an unemployed
person calls themselves, if a garden or restoration
consultant is telling you all of these
dumb myths, leave them unemployed.
have had irate phone calls and angry emails, where people did not sign
their name and fake email addresses, ragging on us about how dare we
advocate drip irrigation and soil amending.
I've personally handled and planted at least a couple of
plants. I've planted gardens in the Sierras, coast ranges,
desert and all parts in between. I'm an analytical chemist that paid
for the degree with gardening, then landscaping. Celeste has a Masters
in Biology, worked in the nursery, landscaping and done
biosurveys through much of the county. Penny has a
degree in biology and has worked in the nursery most of her
After seven years of installations we noticed that
were getting many more call-backs with the drip- irrigated gardens
versus the sprinkler irrigated gardens, and many call-backs for a
landscape contractor mean the end of your business(or changing the
business name and moving). The sprinkler-
irrigated gardens had healthier looking plants, and more plants lived,
than in the drip-irrigated gardens. We put that together and researched
the science of the time. We discovered that the
upland California native plants preferred sprinkler irrigation (or
microspray emitters, if you like). and not much of that. The only
native plants that tolerate or like drip are the rushes and other in
wetland plants. Many of our native plant gardens are
still going strong, after 30 years, with very few losses (the ones that
followed our guidelines). We stopped
amending in 1976 and using
drip in 1982 or so.
this is a trade where everyone is an expert and they like your money.
Educate yourself, ask questions and talk to people they've worked for.
(Preferably a decade of so before.)
If there's a trail of dead or ugly landscapes behind them, you can
do better than that
yourself. We love well-read customers.