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California native plants: On screens and in gardens this week

Take virtual visits to native plant gardens April 17-24

Poppy blossom with bee in the middle
As much as we -- and the bees -- love California poppies, they are far from the only California natives that work well in a garden.  Get inspired this week via virtual visits to native gardens and sites around the state. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

California native plants have been here all along, boosting native wildlife and helping keep our climate healthy. We can return the favor by planting and enjoying natives in our gardens and protecting them in our parks and wildlands.

Starting Saturday, the state celebrates California Native Plants Week, and native plants get a special boost from, not surprisingly, the California Native Plant Society. Their one-minute kickoff video can be viewed here .

CNPS is promoting the week with the theme "Grow CARE Everywhere." The acronym stands for a four-branch approach to enjoying and preserving California natives:

-- Cultivate. Nursery partners and local CNPS chapters are offering special events, plant sales and discounts .

-- Act. Dudleya plants are among natives in danger -- in this case, from poaching by people who want to cash in on the succulent trend. CNPS notes that plant poaching is a serious problem that puts dozens of species at risk every year. The group is supporting Assembly Bill 223 to make Dudley poaching illegal. Read more here and while you're there check out the adorable Dudleya GIFs associated with the various chapters of  CNPS.

-- Restore. Local chapters work to promote and protect native plants in their areas. CNPS has 35 local chapters across the state; information on the Sacramento Valley Chapter is here .

-- Enjoy. This is the one we can do from anywhere that has Wifi: Take a new 360-degree virtual tour of native gardens every day of the celebration week. Get inspired by visiting real-world urban and mountain gardens, botanic gardens, parks and wildlands all over the state. See CNPS' special page for the week for all the links and details.

Blue-violet flowers on a low-growing plant
This beautiful specimen of ceanothus grows in the UC Davis
Arboretum and Public Garden, which has many natives.

I also challenge my fellow gardeners to search out and plant at least one California native in their yards this month. These could range from tidy tips to blueblossom ceanothus, from coyote brush to Pacific madrone trees. Oaks, too! (C'mon, the squirrels do it all the time.) California poppy seeds, of course, are always a good bet.

Natives already know how to cope with the California climate -- including our drought years. And you'll be helping insects and birds, too, which depend heavily on native plants.

The nurseries in the area are increasingly tuned into the benefits of native plants, so don't be afraid to ask about the ones they carry. The UC Davis Arboretum sales are a great source for natives, too. Finally, check out this list at Calscape for ideas of native plants to grow.


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Feb. 5

Make the most of sunny days and get winter tasks done:

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage and its close cousins – broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts – as well as lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Plant artichokes, asparagus and horseradish from root divisions.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

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