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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Notes for First Class


(There are many versions with slight tweaks all over the internet - you will also find it discussed with different nuances - basically, though, the theory we will need can be found in the notes below.)

Container gardening is more popular than ever. According to a recent study, the average household today has 4.2 garden planters. And why not?

>>> reasons THEY want a container garden<<< (reasons I want to stress: lack of garden space, containers in gardens as accents, raising ground hugging plants up to new places where they are easily admired)

Ideal for urban or rural lifestyles, container gardening offers more mobility and flexibility than traditional gardening. It can provide year-round satisfaction as well as the opportunity to bring your garden inside.

Once relegated as only an alternative for apartment dwellers and people with small yards, container gardening is today enjoyed by people of all ages, lifestyles and gardening abilities even those with gardens.

Advantages of Container Gardening:

>>>What are some <<<
Add color, fragrance and style to balconies, decks, patios, entrance way or home landscape
Hide eyesores around your home with planted pots and hanging baskets
Garden planters can be moved or replanted when displays fade or plants outgrow space
Less chance of pest damage
You can take your container garden with you when you move
Plants not suited to your yard soil conditions can be grown in containers and planter boxes

Garden planters, outdoor flower pots and window boxes come in a large variety of materials, styles and sizes:
wood
ceramic
terracotta
fiberglass or resin
clay
concrete
and metal

The characteristics of each type will make some better-suited than others.

Mobility: Plants in pots are easy to move. Brighten a dark corner with pots of white, pink, or yellow flowering shade lovers such as impatiens and Helichrysum. Some plants with a short blooming period, such as lilies or foxglove, look magnificent in containers and grow well in those temporary quarters. Transplant them to the garden when they're finished blooming. As the seasons change, you can easily repot and replant containers to freshen your garden displays. Of course, if you are about to move to a new home—your container garden can come right along with you.

Focus: Potted plants and garden planters create interest. Grouped in strategic places, they break the monotony of a terrace or a patio and create an ambient scene. Build a simple theme garden around a color, texture or an idea. A collection of yellow and blue bloomers, such as pansies, Calendula, and heliotrope, makes a cheerful display. Pots of Sedum and Sempervivum bring a desert theme to your patio, balcony or garden.

Pizzazz: Nestle garden planters of bright annuals among duller plants in the garden for added color. As plants mature and flower, you can re-postion them to show-off blooms. To keep plants looking good water when soil dries; pinch off spent blooms and fertilize weekly.

Flexibility: Rearrange plantings to suit the season, your mood or blossoms as they mature and change color. Enjoy planters full of violets and narcissus in spring; petunias and dusty-miller in summer; and Coleus and Kale in fall. Create new planters to dress up your patio or deck for a party or special event. Container gardening doesn't need to stop in the winter—plant winter-hardy heathers for colorful displays in cold weather.

Contain Invaders: Contain rampant growers that are too invasive to let loose in the garden—bamboo and mints are great examples of plants that do well in containers, but will take over an in-ground garden. Plant these and other vigorous growers in garden planters, then plant the pot in the ground with the lip of the pot even with the soil surface.

Ambience: Garden planters set the stage in outdoor rooms and may even steal the show. Group sun-loving plants around a large houseplant that's summering outdoors. A jumble of various pots stacked on stands and clustered loosely lends a pleasantly casual look. Containers aligned with precision and planted with trim specimens, such as rosemary standards or ivy topiaries, create instant formality. A trio of large pots makes a garden appear more settled; they suggest the accumulation of years' of growth.

Scope: Plants that require a longer growing season than you have in your region can be started indoors to bloom outside in summer. Many frost-sensitive plants make wonderful houseplants in winter and can spend the summer on your patio or deck.

  1. Tools
    Machete, trowels, pruners, scissors (to cut screen), watering can or hose (unless you use drip), measuring spoons,
  2. Different materials from which containers can be made – advantages and disadvantages

Choose the Right Garden Planters for Container Gardening

Use garden planters with capacities between fifteen and 120 quarts, remembering that small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly. Deep rooted vegetables and larger plants require deeper pots to sustain growth.
Make sure your planter has adequate drainage. Holes should be one-half inch in diameter. Containers set on bricks or blocks will also drain better.

Most important in choosing the right garden planters is consideration of the material. If you choose clay pots, remember that clay is porous, which means water can be lost through the sides. Plants in clay pots should be monitored closely for moisture loss. Additionally, clay pots are more likely to crack in extreme temperatures and are heavy to maneuver should you change your mind regarding location or need to bring the planter indoors during the winter months.

Wooden planters are attractive and blend nicely with most outdoor environments but are susceptible to rot. Redwood and cedar are relatively rot-resistant, but remember to avoid wood treated with creosote, penta, or other toxic compounds with vapors that can damage plants.

Cheap plastic pots may deteriorate in UV sunlight, and terra cotta pots have a tendency to dry out quickly. Glazed ceramic pots are extremely popular, but they are fragile and prone to cracking if not handled delicately.

A newer alternative on the market that eliminates many of these concerns are lightweight polyurethane, fiberglass and resins. These garden planters are easier to lift and maneuver because they are much lighter than clay and wood pots. Lightweight planters are more durable than ceramic or clay, too, and able to withstand year-round extreme temperatures and exposure to sunlight without cracking or fading. Innovative technology allows the foam to closely resemble the looks of many natural materials, such as ceramic, wood, and rattan. That means you can get the same great finishes, colors, and designs as heavier planters but at a significantly lower cost.

COLOR
men have five only five colors, women are at a distinct advantage in this area...

Color Wheel

Yellow ~

Yellow and blue create an exciting combination that makes you think of spring and new beginnings.

Yellow and purple can combine to create two different effects. If a bright yellow is used with a deep purple, the effect will be dramatic. If you choose a pale yellow with a lavender color, you will create a classic, subdued, somewhat romantic look in the garden.
Red and yellow together create a bold, attention-grabbing color mix.

Pink ~

Pink and orange - a beautiful combination to enhance terracotta planters.

Pink and blue combinations are one of the easiest color schemes to work with because of the abundance of flowers to select from. This romantic color grouping creates a garden flower pot that is very easy on the eye.

Purple ~

Blue and purple are cool colors that look wonderful in shade or partial shade. To make this color combination pop, use in front of a light background.

Orange and purple produce an energetic contrast that may clash. If you want to be bold and different, this combination may work for you in flower pots on your patio or deck. Add burgundy for a rich, vibrant look, or lilac to soften the contrast.

White ~

White and green lend a feeling of lightness and a restful look to your garden flower pots. These colors are also very effective when placed into a grouping of boldly-colored plants. They will prevent the strong colors from overpowering the your container garden.

White and blue is another easy-to-create combination. There is a wide variety of plants to choose from that will make your garden light and cheerful.

When working with color combinations in your flower pots, don't forget green. Green is restful to the eyes and does not compete for attention or dominate in the garden. Green creates a void that allows our eyes to travel from one part of the garden to the other.

Don't forget that foliage has color. Color comes not only from flowers ~ but also the plant foliage and the color of your garden planters.

Brighten a shady area: use light-colored plants. Try these flower colors in
light pink
light yellow
lavender
pale blue
white flowers

Surround dark plants in the shade with lighter-colored plants so they don't disappear into the background.

Bring new life to your container garden display by exploring different color combinations in your flower pots. You will be surprised at the very different effects you can create.

Yellow ~

Yellow and blue create an exciting combination that makes you think of spring and new beginnings.

Yellow and purple can combine to create two different effects. If a bright yellow is used with a deep purple, the effect will be dramatic. If you choose a pale yellow with a lavender color, you will create a classic, subdued, somewhat romantic look in the garden.

Red and yellow together create a bold, attention-grabbing color mix.

Pink ~

Pink and orange create a southwestern look in your container garden - a beautiful combination to enhance terracotta planters.

Pink and blue combinations are one of the easiest color schemes to work with because of the abundance of flowers to select from. This romantic color grouping creates a garden flower pot that is very easy on the eye.

Purple ~

Blue and purple are cool colors that look wonderful in shade or partial shade. To make this color combination pop, use in front of a light background.

Orange and purple produce an energetic contrast that may clash. If you want to be bold and different, this combination may work for you in flower pots on your patio or deck. Add burgundy for a rich, vibrant look, or lilac to soften the contrast.

White ~

White and green lend a feeling of lightness and a restful look to your garden flower pots. These colors are also very effective when placed into a grouping of boldly-colored plants. They will prevent the strong colors from overpowering the your container garden.

White and blue is another easy-to-create combination. There is a wide variety of plants to choose from that will make your garden light and cheerful.

When working with color combinations in your flower pots, don't forget green. Green is restful to the eyes and does not compete for attention or dominate in the garden. Green creates a void that allows our eyes to travel from one part of the garden to the other.

One of the first decisions you need to make when planning your container garden, is what colors you want to display in your outdoor planters. Color comes not only from flowers ~ but also the plant foliage and the color of your garden planters.

Consider the amount of sunlight on your garden in the morning, at mid-day and early evening.

You will also want to consider the growing conditions of the location of your planters, as well as the surrounding features such as walls, deck railings, furniture and other plantings.

Shaded areas can appear brighter by using light-colored plants. Try these flower colors in garden planters in the shade:
light pink
light yellow
lavender
pale blue
white flowers

Surround dark plants in the shade with lighter-colored plants so they don't disappear into the background.

Garden planters in the full sun can handle brightly colored flowers. Pastels will appear faded and washed out in bright sunlight. Try these bold colors in a sunny garden:
reds
oranges
bright yellows
deep blues
purples

To create a unified look throughout your container garden, try to stick to two or three colors.

Consider not only the flower color, but also the color of the plant foliage and even the planter.

Color preferences are purely personal and unique ~ express yourself with the colors you choose for your garden.

Explore the color wheel

Monocromatic

A monochromatic color scheme is composed of plants of the same color. You may have an all-white garden or a garden that is "in the pink." Create extra interest in a monochromatic garden by using a mix of tones or shades of the same color in addition to various textures, shapes and sizes.

Warm colors include red, orange and yellow. They tend to make flowers appear closer than they really are. Cool colors such as blue, violet, silver and white lend a calming effect and make plants appear farther away in the garden.

Remember to consider foliage color in any of these container garden color schemes.

WHITE IS A SPECIAL COLOR IN THE GARDEN

White flowers are in a class by themselves. They blend well with most colors and can provide a transition between colors that do not normally work well together. White flowers can create a beautiful display in garden planters in the evening when combined with well-placed, soft lighting. Moon gardens....

Purple Flowers for Garden Planters

Purple is an ideal color for accent plants in groupings of garden planters planted with other colors such as pinks, reds, yellows and oranges. You'll find an excellent selection of purple flowering annuals, perennials and herbs for most growing conditions.

Many herbs have purple flowers

Borage is a full sun to partial shade plant that will produce purple and lavender flowers for your planters. This plant also produces a variety of other colored flowers as well. If you live in zones six through ten this plant is a great outdoor plant for your garden. Borage blooms throughout the cooler months...
Hyssop is a plant for full sun that grows well in planters in grow zones six through nine, although experienced gardeners will have success in other areas. This is a violet, violet- blue colored flower that adds color to your garden.

(ALL) Mints are a common herb that produce flowers, pink or purple. Mint is easily grown in zones five through nine and is found blooming from early July through the end of August. Mint can be grown in full sun or in partial shade, only requiring a few hours of sun a day for a healthy plant. Planted in the garden, mint can become invasive, so it is an ideal plant to keep under control in beautiful terracotta planters.

Sage is another purple-flowered herb that blooms in the early spring months as the weather starts to warm. Sage is easily grown outdoors in zones four through eight and in other areas where gardeners bring in their plants during the very high and low temperature swings. This is a full sun plant that does well in all types of planters, including window planters, in the garden or on a balcony in the full sun.



Try these bold colors in a sunny garden:
reds
oranges
bright yellows
deep blues
purples

To create a unified look throughout your container garden, try to stick to two or three colors. Consider not only the flower color, but also the color of the plant foliage and even the planter. Color preferences are purely personal and unique ~ express yourself with the colors you choose for your garden.



Container Gardening - Syllabus!

CONTAINER GARDENING SYLLABUS

Instructor: David King
Email: Redacted (you can leave a message at the bottom and I'll respond to you)  
Phone: Redacted

COURSE TITLE AND NUMBER: Container Gardening: Patios, Balconies, and Beyond BIOLGY X 498.3 Reg # 257610

There are no prerequisites for this course. We will meet from April 20th through May 18th for 6 meetings. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FINAL MEETING IS ON May 18th and credit students will have an assignment due. All class meetings take place at 325 Botany on the UCLA Campus. The one field trip is to Pottery in Gardena, CA, in the vicinity of where the 405 and 110 Freeways cross paths, address below.

Course Purpose

At the conclusion of this course, students will be confident in planting a multiplicity of containers with a wide variety of plants that will thrive in our unique climate. Students will be introduced to design principles applicable to container gardeners and will learn their care and maintenance.

Course Objectives

Students will be able to meet the following objectives by knowing:
Types of pots used in container gardens
Qualities of those containers to choose the correct containers for individual gardens and situations
The qualities of the components of potting soil and how to choose a good one
Color combinations and other basic design principles
Care of plants in containers over their life span
Appreciation of light and water in container gardens

Students should also be able to report that they’ve been inspired to find their own individuality in container garden design and to experiment with colors, plants or containers that had been off their personal radar before this class. Students are expected to share their experiences and knowledge with the class which guarantees an enhanced learning experience for all of us.

Application

This course is designed to be applicable for home gardeners whether they are in a house, a condo or a town home; as well as professionals that wish to incorporate container gardening as a part of their business’ offerings. Students should also find time to do some networking with fellow students.

Text for this course:

Sunset Western Garden Guide 9th Edition, Brenzel, Kathleen Norris, Editor, ©2017, Sunset Publishing There will be no specific assigned reading from this book, but it is the “bible” for gardeners in Southern California.

In addition, the following texts are suggested for your reference shelf:
The City Gardener’s Handbook, Yang, Linda, ©2002, Storey Books, Published first as The City Gardener’s Handbook and then as The City and Town Gardener and now back again under the original title and now I see it back as The City and Town Gardener – whichever title you get, it is the same book.

Potted Gardens, Cole, Rebecca, ©1997, Clarkson Potter/Publishers

The one field trip is on Saturday, as indicated below.

Date
Mtg
TOPIC
20 April
1
Lecture: Introduction – roll, Extension policy, meeting time and place, attendance and tardiness, office hours, expectations, objectives. Tools; types of containers; light; why containers, nuts and bolts of containers...
27 April
2
Lecture: types of soil; considerations of soil type and pot type relative to plant type, color and design; three demonstration containers
*04 May*
*3*
**Lecture: planting containers – practical work/bring your own container and plants to plant! **
11 May
4
Lecture: California Natives in Pots; demonstration
13 May
5
1:30 to 4:30 PM Field Trip
Pottery Manufacturing and Distributing, 18881 S. Hoover Street, Gardena, CA 90248 Phone: 310.323.7772
18 May
6
Container maintenance, renovation, pests and problems, year round interest; Credit project is due
Credit Students: Your grade will be predicated on class participation and a design project assigned at the first class meeting.

Office Hours

I have no set office hours, however, I am available by phone (the number above is my cell phone) and by email. I am willing to meet with students almost any day of the week at my office at The Learning Garden or a mutually convenient coffee bar. It is my most sincere desire that you learn and you will find me very approachable. After class is usually not a very good time because that’s when all students vie for answers and we are all tired after a long day. You can net a more thoughtful answer by contacting me another time.

Updates and Handouts

For this course I will utilize a blog page at http://lagarden.blogspot.com/ to post handouts and extra material for the class. There is an RSS feed through which each posting is automatically forwarded to your email so you can have access to handouts whenever they are posted. This approach is most handy when dealing with field trips because links to maps can be posted and any last minute updates are easily available. If this technology is new to you, another classmate or I will guide you through it. It is not difficult. If you miss a class or need an update, can't find your syllabus or whatever, you can find it here. You will need to, of course, bookmark it before you loose your syllabus...

Project Guidelines For Credit Students
Design a container garden with a minimum of five containers, any size (although five two inch pots won’t necessarily net a decent grade). Themed design.

Specify:
The purpose of the garden
Placement according to light
Other buildings or features that obfuscate or enhance light
Type of building; building color; building style
Interior style
Any particular facets of the owners’ personality that impact your design
How the owner will use the space
Plants used in each pot, by scientific name at least, indicate their water needs
What the pots are constructed of and their size (i.e. terra cotta) and design
How will they be watered?

Summary
I am looking for an understanding of what plants do well together (color, foliage, water requirements) and plantings that will enhance the building, style and owners’ lifestyle. I am also looking for appropriate design (i.e. no Phormium tenax in a narrow hallway). I have left this vague in hopes of accommodating a wide variety of interests and desires. If this is too open for you, I’ll be happy to help narrow your focus.

Syllabus may be changed to reflect changes in reality. Although we do try not to.

Bibliography for Container Gardening


    Container Gardening, Elving, Phyllis, Editor, ©1998, Sunset Publishing, A small book with some good ideas and at least it’s a look at the West Coast.

Potted Gardens, Cole, Rebecca, ©1997 Random House – I love her attitude about gardening and how she approaches the whole thing with a strong sense of whimsy and joy. Her gardening philosophy fits very well with my own. She writes a lot like I do.

Roof Gardens, Balconies and Terraces, Stevens, David ©1997, Rizzoli International Publications, Another ‘east coast’ book, but again the ideas and creativity are worth consideration as a starting point.

    The City Gardener’s Handbook, Yang, Linda, ©1995 Storey Publishing, Although written for the east coast, this book’s ideas and principals are so clear and valuable, it stands out as one of my favorite references.

The Complete Container, Joyce, David, ©1996 Reader’s Digest Again, another focus on the east coast, but the ideas and plant lists in this book are better than most. It has pretty definitive instructions and is full of good clean photos. A good book to have – especially if you only buy one.

The Terracotta Gardener, Keeling, Jim, ©1990, Trafalgar Square Publishing, Not really a design book, but a historical perspective of terracotta used in English gardens and some background information on terracotta.

    The New Sunset Western Garden Book, Editors of Sunset Magazine, ©2012, Sunset Publishing All of the recent editions have their merit, but each successive edition has more plants and updates the scientific undergirding of gardening, so I encourage you to invest in the most recent edition you can afford (used copies are usually easy to find, either locally or at Amazon.com). This is the number one go-to book for horticulture in Southern California; no other book is as authoritative as this one for our area. We cannot take advice from most gardening books and apply it to what we do in Los Angeles because our climate and soils are nothing like the rest of the world – especially those on the east coast and England where most books about gardening originate.




Saturday, March 25, 2017

Last Day of Class and Ciclavia

I am sad to say this will be our last class. :-( 

March 26 presents us with a challenge in that the Ciclavia route comes down Venice Blvd. Venice Blvd will be impacted from Culver City to Venice Beach - they have crossings at most major streets (see map below), however I have found when Venice was impacted by Ciclavia, it's best to avoid trying to cross Venice at the street level - coming down the 405, exiting at the Washington/Venice, turning left at the light at the end of the off-ramp and then taking a right on Washington Place, puts you on the correct side of Venice Blvd to reach the garden vs. trying to battle your way through.



It is currently believed that David's Most Famous Rhubarb pie will be available at this class meeting. If someone needs extra credit, vanilla ice cream would be a delightful addition to our scene. Eleu will have something as well.  Bring your bowls and utensils.  

Bring your checklists and be ready to turn them in. 
We will go over them.  

You might want to bring some of your work home.  Make sure I see it BEFORE you take it and get it on my grading sheet. Bring boxes or whatever will make that happen.

david 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Collecting and Drying Local Seed

Collecting

Make a point of picking only plants growing in prime locations. Individual plants with many insect holes and obvious poor health are probably located at the extremes of their preferred growing conditions and may also have distinctly atypical biochemistries as a response to their compromised growing conditions. Always check around the vicinity after you have located a desired plant.; in fact, it should be stated that the best collector has scouted the area weeks ahead of going to collect seed – this needs to be a thoughtful and deliberative process. However, there may be times when there isn't any 'wiggle' room – in that case, still maintain a considered posture. Remember, a thoughtless collector can wreck havoc on an ecosystem. There may be a whole field of your desired plant over the next rise or around the bend in the road. On the other hand, this plant may be the only one in the whole valley – and should absolutely be left alone. Furthermore, a plant common in one state may be a rare, protected plant in the next state, or even the next county, so check with a local California Native Plant Chapter first if in doubt.

Certain conservation practices are always necessary. If a plant grows in large stands, never take more than a third of the plants' seed. If it is a large, solitary bush or tree, never pick more than a fourth of the seed. If the plant is an annual, do not exceed these suggestions – perennials will have the chance to set seed again next year, but even then, leave ample seed behind.

Wherever you gather, presume that you will come back the next year to the same place and find the plants still healthy. Don’t make a common mistake of looking many days for a plant, finding it at last, and taking a whole load of its seed back with you – it’s like you are punishing the plant (indeed the species!) for your frustration. And most seed collected in gobs and gobs, mark my words, will go to waste. Do not collect beyond your ability to deal with the result.

    z Know a few plants well, know what you will need
    z Don’t try for the record amount of seeds never planted (and in a year, designated 'uncertain germination percentage').

Drying

Dry your seeds promptly upon return. Lay the seed on screens away from direct sunlight in a dry place and, above all, away from rodents and insects. Fear of insects and rodents have spurred me to use my food dryer to do the job as quickly as possible. Dry your seed as promptly as possible and, once dry, place in paper envelopes or in glass jars.

Storing

Store your seeds in a dark, dry and cool location, the darker, drier and cooler, the better. Make sure your seed stock is insect free before storing. It can be terribly disconcerting to find your stored seed has become insect larvae feed and you have nothing to show for your work.  

david 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Rootstock!! Updated!!

LAST UPDATE (I hope.)  BRING YOUR KNIVES! 

UPDATE:  Eleu will NOT be with us tomorrow because of some filming of his project.  He will drop off a garden salad, but if we want more than that, we are on our own.  If a lot of us bring something, we'll have something to eat, if not, hope you can get along on salad only!  There might be rain - dress warm and dress to stay dry.  We can do a lot of our work in the classroom as we are not too many people, but I would much rather we fling dirt and stuff out in the rest of the shade house.  



A phone call this morning confirms that Raintree Nursery is shipping out our rootstock (MM111) today. We will have them for the March 12th meeting - on that day, please bring your knives and any sharpening device you prefer and be prepared to make new trees - those with budwood will want to make certain to have it at this class.

This Sunday, my friend and colleague, Katerina Erickson, will wow you and zow you with all kinds of interesting other worldly plants and their special requirements for growing them.  Kat was a long time gardener and propagation expert at the Huntington Library (I always think of it as the Huntington Gardens which also happens to have a library). 

We will start both weeks at 1:00 PM 

david 











Monday, February 27, 2017

This Weekend Right After Our Class...!


If you missed SEED: The Untold Story when it came through LA a few weeks ago, here's another chance to see this movie – Seed Library Of Los Angeles will be there – organic gardener and great seed-savior Laura Maher doing a seed demo and sharing seeds before the movie with director Taggart Siegel and Founding SLOLA Chair David King hosting a Q and A after the show!



Sun, March 5, 2017
4:00 PM – 8:00 PM PST
Come Seed the Movie ~ SEED: The Untold Story - Enjoy this
MOVIE SCREENING, DIRECTOR Q&A with our Founding Chair, David King and SEED WORKSHOP by Laura Maher
** Plus Ticket Price includes Snacks by Sqirl **
Location:
ENDPAIN
2231 S Barrington Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Please share this post and join us!

david

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Thoughts on California Native Plants Lecture 9 Notes

Before we begin to think about how to grow California native plants, let's think about why we might want to grow California native plants. The native vegetation, through evolution, is adapted to this climate, these soil types and interacts with other natives (insects, mammals, birds, reptiles) in an ecological dance that was going on long before humans arrived, and certainly before the present civilization of humans arrived on scene. Their niche in the ecology of California gain some advantages to the gardener:


They Save Water
Once established, many native plants need little or no irrigation. Not only does one save the limited amount of water we have available, that saves one money.

Lower Maintenance
Less pruning and no fertilizers mean less work for a gardener, saving time to learn more propagation and take more courses at UCLA Extension


Pesticide Freedom
Native plants interact with the insects of their environment in a way that eliminates pesticide use. The pests and diseases evolved with the plants and native plants have their own defense against them. Beneficial insects often become collateral victims when we spray pesticides (even more true if we use organic methods). Stop poisoning ourselves and our world.


Invite Wildlife
Native plants, birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and interesting critters are, as noted above, co-evolved to be here. Current research confirms what many have intuited for many years: native wildlife clearly prefers native plants. California’s wealth of insect pollinators can improve fruit set in your garden, while a variety of native insects and birds will keep your landscape free of mosquitoes and plant-eating insects. Open your garden to these wild living things that live among us, despite what we have done to their habitat.


Support Local Ecology
While creating native landscapes can never replace natural habitats lost to development, planting residential and commercial gardens, parks, and roadsides with California natives can provide a “bridge” to nearby remaining wildlands.


California native plants are a world unto their own, mostly because we have so little familiarity with them. By that I mean, our culture's experience with growing these plants is something like 250 years – many a good deal less, like 60 years. And that is also the time we've been selecting them for our gardens. On the other hand, beans, lettuce, cabbage, onions have been in cultivation for thousands of years. Over that time, civilizations have selected year after year those plants that adapt to our culture, or in the case of stubborn plants, we have figured out how to make that plant grow to suit us. This selection process has yet to occur for California natives. Add to that the fact that these are plants from the driest of the world's Mediteranean climate that have adapted to survive with cool, wet winters and long, hot, droughty summers, in a land ravaged by frequent wildfires and you have plants that are, by nature, not ready to accept the regimen we intend to use to make them grow.

The cycle that California native plants live by is almost perfectly backwards to the cycle by which we want to make them grow. We want to plant in Spring (along with our tomatoes and marigolds) and have flowers blessing our landscape by July, if we insist on this, we will spend much more money on therapy than plants! Plant California natives in fall, when we hope for rain to establish them, and enjoy the fecundity of flowers in March/April. Right now, in the California native garden, some salvias are blooming, I've seen Blue Eyed Grass and some poppies blooming. By mid-March, the scene is breathtaking!

In the wild, seed dormancy is usually overcome by the seed spending time in the ground through a winter period and having its hard seed coat softened up by frost and weathering action. By doing so the seed is undergoing a natural form of "stratification" or pretreatment. This cold, moist period triggers the seed's embryo, its growth and subsequent expansion eventually break through the softened seed coat in its search for sun and nutrients.

Meeting some of these conditions, for most gardeners can be a tad difficult. In order to imitate conditions that would ameliorate these inhibitors, one must understand the process the seed goes through in real life in order to mimic it.

Being essentially wild plants, these plants employ many different mechanisms to ensure that at least some of the seeds will find conditions acceptable to carry on the family name. These mechanisms can create wacky germination of their seeds that drive gardeners batty but can be imitated, if one knows the mechanisms a given plant uses to germinate at the most propitious moment for plant survival include:
germination after a fire
germination after cooler temperatures indicate winter
germination as daylight gets longer, indicating more longer days
germinating over a long period of time to have at least some of them hit ideal growing conditions

In most plants of the world, the process of stratification is to simulate cold winter conditions which most wild plants have mechanisms to prevent premature sprouting that would have small plants killed by cold while they are still very tender.

Stratification is the process of subjecting seeds to both cold and moist conditions. Typically, temperatures must be between 34°F and 41°F. The term can be traced to at least 1664 in Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber, Vol. II. where seeds were layered (stratified) between layers of moist soil and exposing these strata to winter conditions. Thus, stratification became the process by which seeds were artificially exposed to cold-moist conditions between layers of soil or peat to encourage subsequent germination in spring. Seed of many trees, shrubs and perennials require these conditions before germination will ensue.

In its most basic form, when the stratification process is controlled, the pretreatment amounts to nothing more than subjecting the seeds to storage in a cool (ideally +34° to +36°F; just above freezing) and moist environment for a period found to be sufficient for the species in question. This period of time may vary from one to three months.

To accomplish this you merely place the seeds in a sealed plastic bag with moistened vermiculite 
sand 
or even a moistened paper towel
and refrigerate it. Use three times the amount of vermiculite as seeds. It is important to only slightly dampen the vermiculite, as excessive moisture can cause the seeds to grow moldy in the bag.
The medium must be sterile and must be appropriate to the seed's habitat.  We would probably find vermiculite or sand to be most appropriate while peat will not be as appropriate for CA natives.

The medium must be sterile and must be appropriate to the seed's habitat.  We would probably find vermiculite or sand to be most appropriate while peat will not be as appropriate for CA natives.

After undergoing the recommended period of stratification, the seeds are ready to be removed and sown in the nursery bed for germination. Alternatively, the seed may be sown in small pots filled with moist soil and then the whole thing enclosed inside a plastic bag before placing inside a common refrigerator.

In the case of fire causing germination, is it the heat, the chemical residue left by the fire or both that causes the seed to germinate when there is less competition for natural resources? If it is chemical, the commercially available 'Liquid Smoke' could be added via the initial watering and that might unlock germination.

If it is heat, one will need to start a fire over the seeds to get the heat. For example, in germinating Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri) the fire that would burn around these seeds in nature, would be composed primarily of Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) leaves. When I want to start Matilija Poppy from seed, I cover them with dry Live Oak leaves, combined with few dried pine needles, and set them on fire. My thought is that the temperature, the chemistry needed for the poppy to sprout will best be approximated by those leaves of the oak that is a predominant species in the Matilija Poppy's habitat. I might be just a little too fixed on this, but my poppy germination has been excellent. Remember, should you do this, you must not use a plastic container!




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