It’s late February 2021 and we are running an online plant sale with our pick up date in SLO on March 20. CNPSSLO contributor Jen Lopez put together the following notes on creating a pollinator garden with the plant selections we are currently offering.
These plants are appropriate for gardens throughout SLO County and most of California. All are drought resistant, tolerate some summer water, and will look beautiful when planted together.
Start with a slightly staggered row of shrubs along the back – possibly planted as a hedgerow with close spacing so that they intermingle as they grow
Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’ (if you don’t have a deer problem) or Ceanothus ‘Julia Phelps’ (if you’re in North County with deer) or Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’ (if you’re in South County or along the coast and have deer)
Frangula californicasynRhamnus californica – Although the blooms are almost unnoticeable to us, they’re essential to some of our smallest native insects. Very garden-tolerant, slow-growing shrub, with a neat and attractive appearance year round.
Heteromeles arbutifolia – Toyon is one of the most valuable wildlife shrubs, the others being willow, coffeeberry, and elder. Although sizable, you’ll never regret finding space for toyon in your garden.
If you have more space and clay soil or a high water table, add native elder and willow.
Next, add subshrubs in front and in between
Salvia leucophylla ‘Point Sal – will grow taller in partial shade, but stays low in full sun. Surprisingly tolerant of summer water and clay soils, but will rot in standing water.
Eriogonum fasciculatum ‘Warriner Lytle’ – buckwheats are some of the most valuable natives for our pollinators and are almost always buzzing with activity when in bloom. This variety grows2-3 times as wide as tall but its size is easily controlled by late-winter pruning.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. griseus ‘Yankee Point’
Baccharis pillularis ‘Pigeon Point’
Complete your pollinator banquet with native perennials and deer grass
Epilobium canum – bumblebees cut hole in the base of the flowers in order to reach the nectar! These will spread gently but won’t wipe out surrounding plants.
Asclepias fascicularis – plant a minimum of three of these as they are essential food for Monarch caterpillars. More is better! If they begin to look weedy they can be cut back to stimulate new growth -but please leave trimmings at the base of the plants in case there are butterfly eggs present.
An attractive member of the Asteraceae (Sunﬂower) family Senecio elegans is an erect annual herb, up to 1 ft. tall and to 1.5 ft. wide. It is native to Southern Africa and is distributed along coastal California. In northern San Luis Obispo County there are groups at San Simeon Point and at the other end of the county in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. Local CNPS members have located them in the Dunes as follows–1984: Hidden Willow Valley by Malcolm McLeod and Austin Grifﬁths; 1986: Kathleen Jones; 1990: south of Oso Flaco Lake by Lynne Dee Althouse and David Keil. Germinating following rainfall, leaves have blades which are deeply cut (pinnately lobed), into several toothed lobes and are sticky to the touch. The spectacular fuchsia colored, daisy-like inﬂorescence bears ﬂower heads lined with black-tipped phyllaries (leaf-like plant part located just below a ﬂower). They contain many (100+) deep yellowish disc ﬂorets at the center. Each has 13+ fuchsia colored ray ﬂorets. The ﬂower heads turn into ﬂuffy white seeds, ready for the wind to disperse the seeds. Senecio elegans is an escaped invasive weed where it spreads rapidly, displacing indigenous vegetation such as Dunedelion (Malacothrix incana). Control is achieved by pulling it before ﬂowering. I’ve been able to easily pull many hundreds in the Dunes south of Oso Flaco.
Kieran Althaus joined our team last fall doing Social Media work along side Judi Young for the chapter. He is soon going to start his Masters Degree at Cal Poly in Biology with Dr. Matt Ritter and Dr. Jenn Yost. In the mean time he is staying occupied with the Plant Science Club at Cal Poly, as well as working on a variety of Botany projects.
This is a Call for Ecological Poetry/Prose/Art and Discourse throughout SLO County to unite with the cause initiated 50 years ago. Gathering stories to be Stewards of the Earth, this perspective can help direct hope for Earth, Forever.
If you have a venue or poem and would like an Earth Day Poem reach out to email@example.com Mary Uebersax, EarthTones Gifts, Gallery & Center for Healing 805-238-4413
My garden is small compared to the ones I manage in my horticulture business, but it’s still a hideaway for the birds, bees and native plants. It’s calming and is a source of tranquility for myself and my family. During difﬁcult times, and I’m sure you have experienced them and know what I mean, the backyard can be a peaceful and serene place. Sometimes however, the garden can also create stress.
Gophers, spider mites and water bills, to name a few, can detract us from our beautiful garden. But keeping this in mind, we must remember we share this space with the critters and the insects. These are all part of the fabric of nature. Just like fertilizer and compost, gas and electricity bills, we have to budget for this special place. It doesn’t matter if it is a drought resistant native garden or even a cactus garden. There will be maintenance involved. Weeding can take us away from family and friends, however, I have found over the years, for me, the yard has been a great investment.
When I think about the hours of enjoyment I have experienced watching the birds, bees and plants in my garden grow, these times have been some of the best I ever had. So looking forward to the future and what it might hold, I’m hoping you will ﬁnd that the investment of time, energy and money in your garden, is one that is well spent. Until next time, collect rain water and happy gardening.
Everyone’s been to the beach, yes. But how much have we looked around to see what vegetation patterns are there to greet us? San Luis Obispo County dunes, and the Oceano dunes surrounding Oso Flaco Lake in particular, are awesome places that are full of rare plants and at least three rare natural communities, as defined by the Manual of California Vegetation (Sawyer, Keeler-Wolf and Evens, 2009). Let’s explore them. And remember, we give these communities names only to make it easier for ourselves to talk about them. We draw lines around them as we see them repeating in nature, but plants don’t always adhere to our neat little coloring books and boxes. There is really a continuum in vegetation; we separate areas mostly for our own convenience.
Closest to the beach, but not actually on the beach, are what are called dune mats, the Abronia latifolia-Ambrosia chamissonis Herbaceous Alliance and its associations. Some of you may know this as central or southern foredunes (Holland’s Preliminary Descriptions of Terrestrial Natural Communities of California, 1986), others as pioneer dune communities (Holland and Keil’s California Vegetation, 1995). In this community, sand verbena and beach bur-sage are characteristically present. It has a global ranking of G3 and a State ranking of S3, meaning it has less than 21-100 viable occurrences, or occupies a certain rather small area. Dune mats are characteristically found on small hummocks in between sandy areas within about a quarter mile of the surf zone. You might also see sea rocket and the invasive European beachgrass here. Rare plants found here include the surf thistle (Cirsium rhothophilum) and beach spectaclepod (Dithyrea maritima).
Remember that dune communities exist in an unstable environment, with frequent winds, salt spray, and shifting sands. As mentioned above, the communities also shift and sometimes blend into each other. And in extremely protected areas in between the hummocks we often find dune swales containing wetland vegetation. We’ll save those wetland types for another time, but let’s move on to another upland dune community.
Inland from the foredune community and on slightly more stable soils, we find silver dune lupine-mock heather scrub, the Lupinus chamissonis-Ericameria ericoides Shrubland Alliance and its associations. Again, this community has other names such as central dune scrub (Holland 1986, referenced above), and dune scrub communities (Holland and Keil, 1995). Hoover’s Vascular Plants of San Luis Obispo County, 1970 refers to these areas as coastal sand plains. In this community, either silver dune lupine or mock heather is “conspicuous.” This community also has a ranking of G3 S3. This community can extend far inland, to almost 3 miles (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2016). Here you might also see sea cliff buckwheat, California poppy, and occasionally, giant coreopsis (now Leptosyne gigantea), which blends into the next community. If you’re lucky you might find the den of a burrowing owl here, or even see an owl. Rare plant species found here include Blochman’s leafy daisy (Erigeron blochmaniae), dune larkspur (Delphinium parryi ssp. blochmaniae), and Kellogg’s horkelia (Horkelia cuneata ssp.sericea).
South of Oso Flaco Lake is a very rare natural community that many of us have visited and know its location well as Coreopsis Hill. Did you know that the community is called Giant coreopsis scrub? Its official name is Coreopsis gigantea Shrubland Alliance, but as we all know, the major dominant plant species, giant coreopsis, has had its name changed to Leptosyne gigantea. (But note that Leptosyne gigantea is not considered a rare plant.) In our area, this community inhabits the stabilized backdunes, but further south it occurs on bluffs immediately along the edge of the coastline. This community is ranked G3 S3 and is also considered sensitive. According to the Manual of California Vegetation, wherever the giant coreopsis occurs at greater than 30 percent relative cover, we can call the community giant coreopsis scrub. It typically co-occurs with Ericameria ericoides, Artemisia californica, and other dune-lupine-mock heather scrub species. Coreopsis Hill is its northernmost natural occurrence. This is the community shown on our front cover this month. These are only three of our rare natural communities that inhabit dunes along our coastline. Again, it is important to point out that there are variations and subdivisions within these types; these are called Associations. Some associations have been identified and classified; others have not. This means there is more work for our Plant Communities committee to do!
A member of the Apiaceae (Carrot) family Poison-hemlock is a biennial native to the Europe and North Africa and is a common weed, widespread in California. Poison-hemlock may germinate throughout the year. First year plants are low-growing and may overwinter in mild climates and plants resemble carrot plants. Stems are erect, hollow, smooth and bright green with purple-reddish blotches. Leaves grow to two feet long and are tri-pinnately compound. In late spring, robust plants reach 5-8 feet tall and produce numerous umbel-shaped clusters of tiny, white, 5-petaled flowers. Poison-hemlock grows in moist areas such as pond sides, creek
banks and flood plains. It tends to grow in dense thickets and when the plants have dried out it is very difficult to walk through and the dead canes are toxic! It is notorious for displacing other vegetation. Plants reproduce only by seed and seeds may survive to about 3 years. Each flower produces two gray–brown seeds. There are hundreds of seeds on each plant. Poison hemlock is highly toxic due the toxin coniine. Seeds have the highest concentration of coniine. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Cattle are especially vulnerable. There are limitations to controlling this plant: do not cut, burn or graze. Pulling it is one of the best options and it’s especially important to pull out the root.
Well, with our rainy season half ways over, the outlook is dire. Looking at the “up-to-date” records, we have received about half of normal rainfall, season to date. So what does this mean for those of you who have just put in those natives after the plant sale?
The bottom line is you will need to water your new plantings every other week deeply until the rains hopefully return. What does water ‘deeply’ mean? Depending on your soil type, deeply for sandy coastal soil means: fill the basin around your plant three times. If you live in Los Osos that means it could take up to 10 minutes for the soil to accept the first basin full of water. With clay soil, like in San Luis Obispo or Atascadero, one basin filling should be enough. Remember it’s always best to water early in the day.
Now we need to discuss your more matures trees and shrubs? Many of us already have old oaks, manzanitas, ceanothus and many other natives. Should I water them? If we don’t receive at least 2 inches of rain by the end of February, the answer is “yes”. I know you have always heard, “don’t water your oaks or natives.” This is somewhat true, but to clarify: Don’t water during the summer months of June, July, August and September. Watering mature oaks during these months can cause ‘root rot’ aka oak root fungus. However, during the winter months of December, January, February and March, our native plants, especially oaks, need rainfall to sustain themselves through the long summer months.
So in conclusion, due to the unusual deficit in rainfall that we are now experiencing, you may need to apply supplemental water to your garden. Keep an eye to the sky and if the rain doesn’t return (and you can afford it), you will need to help your garden out. Set out irrigation for established shrubs and trees as well as hand water your new plantings, every two weeks until the rains, hopefully return. Until next time, collect rain water and happy gardening. John Nowak
The New Year always comes with the promise of happy times and lots of good luck. Well, for the garden, good luck means rain. And that great stuff helps our native plants grow. Unfortunately, rain also brings unwanted company to the garden in the form of weeds. A very smart person once told me, “John, a weed can be any plant growing in the wrong place”….. for example, California poppies.
I had a client whose yard was overtaken by California poppies. She said she had been told it was against the law to remove the poppies. I assured her that the ‘poppy police’ would not fine us and so we waited for the plants to set seed. I then removed the plants and collected lots of seeds, giving the seeds away. Needless to say the next Winter her yard was full of poppies again and is still to this day!
January is by far the best time for weed control in the garden. Nights are cool and the seedling weeds are small and easy to hoe under. Here are a couple of tips for weeding: First, wait two or three days after a rain event to weed, as wet soil is hard to hoe or hand pull weeds from. The soil will fall off pulled weeds easier when the soil is drier; Second, go after the largest weeds first, as these are usually the grasses which set seeds first. Compost weeds that are green and can really get your compost going. Third, do not use Round-Up unless it is absolutely necessary, and if so, follow the instructions closely. Lastly, when weeding, use a knee pad as kneeling is safer for your back then a bent over position that is hard on the lower back and will cause you harm. Start out slow and don’t over do it the first day. Finally, mulch after weeding, if you mulch too early it will cause you headaches when you try to hoe or hand pull weeds.
Well that’s a lot to comprehend. This weeding stuff requires a sharp mind and a weeding tool, as well. Until next time, happy gardening. If you have any questions about sowing your wildflower garden, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Great, now you have planted your native plants, and maybe some vegetables. There are also some wonderful edibles that will come up as soon as it rains which you did not intentionally plant. Planting natives in your garden which you can use is ideal, but then there are also the weeds, which can also be very tasty and nutritious. There are many online and print resources available about eating non- native weeds. There are on-line forums and YouTube videos on how to prepare them.
Dirk Walters wrote about New Zealand spinach as a cooked vegetable used by early explorers. I have occasionally given it to my chickens as an addition to their boring store bought feed. Now I know that I should probably be cooking it first because of the oxalates. (They are happy to eat most weeds that I throw their way.) It can also be grown easily in our area as a planted vegetable. Every spring, my Mom would ask that I let her pick the Dandelion greens before I mowed the lawn at my house up north in the mountains. I also remember drinking Dandelion wine while visiting friends up in Alaska. Dandelions thrive in cold climates, but will also grow here in places that are watered. Dandelion greens are a great addition to any vegetable stir-fry. The flowers are wonderful in salads and both are packed full of vitamins and minerals.
Purslane is another great vegetable, which can be sautéed alone or with others. I’ve always pulled it out of my gardens, and was surprised to see it being sold at a farmers market one day. Fennel flower buds are very pungent and can be added to many dishes, or just nibble on it for a quick breath freshener. Wild young mustard greens and flowers are also a nice cruciferous addition to savory vegetable dishes, used in place of kale. Chickweed (Stellaria) is great cooked or fresh in a salad and seems to be becoming more widespread. Eating the weeds is a great way to reduce those plants, which you do not want in your garden, without overforaging in wild areas. Always be sure however that your chosen weeds have not been sprayed with an herbicide previously.