The Green Thumb: Let your garden go native this winter
by Adrian Anthony
Oct 31, 2013 | 7495 views | 0 0 comments | 458 458 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There is a growing interest in creating habitat gardens that more closely mimic nature’s processes.

Doing so includes moving away from chemical pesticides and fertilizers to more organic means, in order to provide a healthy environment for native and beneficial insects, birds and other wildlife.

The effect is further enhanced by adding plants naturally adapted to the local climate and conditions.

California natives offer a bounty of beautiful flowering plants unlike any in the world. Early explorers often commented on the breathtaking carpets of color these blooms spread across the landscape.

Incorporating California native plants into the home landscape not only increases sources of pollen, nectar, food and habitat for native wildlife, but also creates a garden that works in harmony with nature on many other levels.

Native plants have adapted to the climate of California and are tolerant of drought, which means less water use in your landscape. These plants tend to be disease resistant, require minimal pruning and maintenance and offer spectacular flowers, form and texture.

By incorporating native plants in your garden, you can establish an attractive “bridge” for local fauna to surrounding natural landscapes.

Different natural plant communities can be recreated, including coastal, mountain, rocky and even moister

“riparian” — river — settings.

A garden can be converted to a native plant landscape either by replacing water-thirsty ornamental plants individually or by completely redesigning an area, starting with a fresh palate. In either case, assessing the site is essential to determine soil and light conditions.

Because native plants are not as commonly offered in big-box garden centers, paying a visit to local nurseries — especially those specializing in native plants — will be the best source.

Discovering these gems is further assisted by visiting botanical gardens, such as the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in the Berkeley Hills, which features plants in natural settings from throughout the state, or the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, founded in 1890.

Additional resources include “Growing California Native Plants” by Marjorie G. Schmidt and the California Native Plant Society (, which offers a wealth of information, including links to publications, nurseries, tips, blogs, discussion boards and chapter events.

• The Green Thumb is a column by Tracy’s master gardeners. University of California-certified master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or

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