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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 Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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