For a native plant novice like me, joining the California Native Plant Society seemed like a good idea so I became a member of the San Luis Obispo chapter. My spouse and I attended our first meeting a year ago last October. That is where I met Marti and the real fun began.
When we arrived at the San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall for the meeting, there were several folding tables set up containing bowls, cups, and bags filled with native plant seeds. I spotted a box with little brown envelopes and another with tiny pencils. Some people were pouring small amounts of seeds into envelopes and writing on them.
We did not have any seeds to share so we were standing there not sure what to do when Marti approached me. Marti assured me that it was not necessary to bring seeds to participate and she encouraged us to select some seeds to try growing for our yard.
Walking up to one of the tables, I realized that we might have some difficulty identifying the seeds because the containers were labeled with botanical names. Sigh.
My spouse noticed one that said Lupinus succulentus. Aha, surely that must be a lupine. Every year, I admire the lupines that grow on the surrounding hillsides and I was excited by the prospect of growing some myself. We asked someone and learned that yes, the seeds were lupines. We carefully put some seeds in an envelope and labeled it.
Moving on, I found Marti’s seed stash. I was pleased to see that she had attached pictures to her seed packets and included their common names. I recognized the photo of the tidy tips and we carefully poured some itty-bitty seeds into another envelope.
With help, we identified three more species of seeds to try including California buckwheat, coffeeberry, and purple needlegrass. Why I waited until January to sow the seeds remains a mystery. I placed the pots on the deck outside of our dining room so I would remember to water them periodically.
The day I spotted the first tiny lupine seedling poking its head through the soil, I was almost giddy with excitement. Other seedlings soon joined it. Watching the plants grow, develop buds, and then unfurl their flowers was fascinating. Only one of the California buckwheat seeds germinated. It grew into a small plant that seemed ready to graduate to the yard this fall so I planted it in a small fenced-in section of our yard to safeguard it from hungry deer.
There is something magical about growing a native plant with your own two hands. Perhaps it is because it connects us to a time when people lived in harmony with the rest of nature.
Read the whole story here.
By Linda Poppenheimer
Photo: A buckwheat grown from seed after 8 months, Linda Poppernheimer