In Search of Native Plants

This weekend we had a series of native plants events lined up to visit.

Our first stop was the Spring Plant Sale at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden. The garden is planned as 120 acres of Mediterranean plants in El Chorro Park, but right now they just have a tiny "preview" garden, and volunteers to work there. Twice a year they sell plants to benefit the garden, and there were a few on the list that I was interested in.

The dogs had to stay in the car for the sale, because there were too many people and also I wanted to have my hands free for carrying plants around.

Plant sale

I only got four plants: (clockwise from top left) a pink pelargonium (geranium for the non-gardeners), Iris douglasiana (not, as I said earlier, Iris douglasii, which is the name for the collective, which I would have known had I not been being lazy about my Latin), Calandrinia spectabilis, and Aesculus californica.

This is a photo of the mature Aesculus californica in the preview garden (taken last June). Its common name is "California Buckeye," and it is very popular with butterflies and bees. The nuts are poisonous, but we had no plans to eat them, and the dogs are unlikely to bother. This plant grows to fifteen feet tall and wide over a long time, and tolerates a wide range of sun exposures and water supply.

Aesculus californica

Here's Calandrinia spectabilis, a mild-mannered succulent by day, in bloom last summer. It's just stunning. I plan to put mine up in the dry garden out front.

Calandrinia spectabilis

I don't have my own photos of mature plants of the iris or the pelargonium as yet.

After the botanical garden, we made a trip out to Las Pilitas Nursery in Santa Margarita. I was pretty excited about this because it's all California natives and it's a wholesale-mostly nursery, so I was looking forward to finding large quantities of really interesting plants.

I was disappointed.

Las Pilitas

My standards for nurseries are set by places like Annie's Annuals. I don't expect perfection. I don't expect a commercial nursery catering to non-gardeners who want to add a little colour to their lawns. I prefer small plants not forced into bloom, and I can tolerate a fair amount of utilitarianism. I don't mind if a plant is in a re-used container with some other name on it, as long as it has a stake with its real name stuck in there. If things are labelled with Latin name and reasonably arranged, I'm fine.

Las Pilitas was a mess. There were weeds growing in almost every container, containers were unmarked (neither labels on the containers nor signs near a group of plants), plants were not arranged or grouped in any way (I asked about salvias, and was told that "they are all over the place"), and everything was untidy and unkempt. It was impossible to find anything and if you found it in all likelihood is was full of weeds. I was glad I bought the Aesculus in the morning because there was no way I was bringing a plant from Las Pilitas home with me.

We'd planned to go to a water tank store this weekend, but we didn't get around to it.

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posted by ayse on 04/08/06