Summer Review Session: The Right Plants in the Right Place

Besides good soil, and a good design – a garden needs plants that will not only look beautiful for as much of the year as possible, but also be well-suited to the places in which we live and the conditions in which we place these plants – this is true of ornamentals as it is true of edibles. I end the three-week summer gardening review session of In a North State Garden pieces with one on some of the resources in our area for plants that have stood the test of time in the North State. Enjoy!

Ok – and be honest now – how many plants have you killed? As a gardener, the most reassuring (and funny, because true) advice, I have ever heard was from Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator and Director of Outreach at the Denver Botanic Gardens, when he said something along the lines of “If you have killed 100 plants, you are a beginner gardener, if you have killed 1000 plants, you are an amateur, and if you can no longer keep track of how many plants you have killed, you are an advanced gardener.” Hallelujah, I’m advanced. Photo:Vine Hill Manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’) is one of the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars shrub selections.

But in all truth, I would rather not kill plants, even in the name of experimentation and learning through trying. When I first began gardening in the northern Central Valley – I had a high mortality rate in my garden: some things died because I planted them too late in Spring and the heat got them, some things died because I planted them too early and the frost got them, some things that said “full-sun” did not really want full CENTRAL VALLEY sun, others things got too much water in winter and rotted, others too little water in summer and died of thirst, still others got too much water in summer and died of fungal infection. REALLY?? Why even garden here, you might ask.

Well, as you know, we garden here because it is in our genes to garden no matter where we are and because if we are pointed in the right direction we do actually learn quickly how to manage with our specific region and climate. Photo:Island Alumroot (Heuchera maxima), is one of the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars native California perennial selections.

Pointing us in the right direction is where Ellen Zagory, Director of Horticulture at the University of California Davis Arboretum and their All-Stars Plant Program. This program is the culmination of many years of growing experience and expertise from the UC Davis Arboretum and growing partners around the region – some at higher elevations, some at higher latitudes. The UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars are 100 “tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum, are easy to grow, don’t need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden. Many of them are California natives and support native bird and beneficial insects” – such as hummingbirds and butterflies. The 100 plants identified thus far include perennials, groundcovers and vines, shrubs and trees. Detailed cultivation and care information is available for each of the 100 plants and can be found on-line through a searchable database (http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/plant_search.aspx). This information is also available in a comprehensive brochure that is available at the UC Davis Arboretum and its Teaching Nursery OR as a down-loadable PDF file, (http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/downloads/Arboretum%20All-Stars.pdf). Photo: The Uc Davis Arboretum All-Stars plants are marked with informational signs throughout the Arboretum and its gardens.

While many of the plants are generally available at local nurseries, others of the plants are not, and so to avoid problems with supply, the UC Davis Arboretum has a group of growers that are “part of a volunteer pilot program implementing our tags and poster in their sales promotions and Mastertag who prints the tags has also donated design time.” The intention of course is to produce large enough quantities of these plants to supply retail nursery trade throughout the region. The All-Star plant tags will have detailed cultivation and care information. For more information on retailers (http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/arboretum_all_stars.aspx). Because availability of plants was a concern, the UC Davis Arboretum will have many of these plants available at upcoming spring Plant Sales (see below for dates). Photo: California fuschia (Epilobium canum) is another California native perennial, which attracts and provides food for birds and insects, chosen as an All-Stars plant.

Interestingly, the northern half of the North State is well served by a similar concept out of the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens at Turtle Bay Exploration Park. There, Lisa Endicott, Horticulture Manager of the Arboretum and Gardens and Karen McGrath, Landscape Designer, have compiled a list called the Bulletproof Perennials for the Redding Area program (http://www.turtlebay.org/documents/McABGBulletproofPerennials.pdf). The Bulletproof Perennials list draws on many years of experience growing these plants in and around Redding so that you can be sure these plants, some of which are California natives, should thrive under the conditions described in their materials. The McConnell Arboretum and Gardens Nursery propagates all of their own plants on-site, and they have an interactive searchable database to see which plants (from either list of recommended plants) are available at any given time: (http://www.turtlebay.org/att_nursery.php) Photo: A bank of Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), Artemisia and Teucrium chamaedrys ‘Nanum’ line a bank at the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens at Turtle Bay in Redding. All three plants are on the gardens’ Bulletproof Plants list.

So, while you are preparing your list of fall garden plant wish-list – save yourself time and money and do some preliminary homework on these web-sites or at these public gardens before you head out with your wallet. When you visit the the UC Davis Arboretum look for their excellent plant signage regarding the All-Stars plants. Between these two great garden, education and nursery resources, I feel like we North State Gardeners (long may we garden) are well-covered from the North and the South sides and maybe – just maybe – we can all get closer to the Advanced Gardener title with many fewer dead plants. Photo: Spring flowering Helleborus x hybridus and Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ are both UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars.

The Arboretum Teaching Nursery is a great venue where Arboretum visitors can learn about regionally-appropriate plants and sustainable horticulture. Over the next several months, we will add demonstration plantings and educational signs, and eventually offer hands-on educational programs. The Teaching Nursery is located on Garrod Drive across from the School of Veterinary Medicine, near the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden and the Peter J. Shields Oak Grove.

For more information and directions: http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/plant_sales_and_nursery.aspx Photo: The All-Stars plants include two kinds of native currant, this Golden Currant (Ribes aureum) as well as the pink-flowering Ribes malvaceum.

McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and Nursery – 1100 Arboretum Drive
(Take N. Market Street to Arboretum Drive. Take right fork. Parking lot & entrance are on the left.)
The McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and Nursery will be closed on Friday, April 24, until 4 p.m. Photo: Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) is one of the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars tree selections.

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In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here.

Jennifer Jewell
In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.
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