Fortunately: A Rich Resource for Gardeners in Times of Drought

When my children were little among the books they loved to have read to them was one entitled Fortunately, first published in 1964 and written by Remy Charlip. The story goes something like this –

“Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party.
Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.
Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane.
Unfortunately, the motor exploded.
Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane.”

And it continues like this in a memorable do si do of good fortune being followed by less good fortune being followed by good fortune in the journey of this young man trying to make it to a birthday party – which turns out to be his own. PHOTO: California is home to a remarkable number of climate adapted plants. Unfortunately, this can be daunting and confusing when considering which ones to try in your home garden. Fortunately, California has plants native to almost every style, exposure and soil type.

It doesn’t take even young children long to see the deeper wisdom applicable to most of life is this balanced perspective– a very simple version of yin & yang.

This concept has come to mind recently as I walk the streets of my suburban neighborhood looking at and wondering about the rationales behind the various colors of lawns and landscapes: one has a completely dead front lawn and dying trees and shrubs, another is lightly dry – the grass dormant with only intermittent water, another still deep green. Another is almost white it is so dry, but a newly installed irrigation system is running to encircle just the large trees and shrubs and they are healthy and vibrant above the no-longer a lawn. As I walk, I think: Fortunately plants have a tendency to clothe the planet, unfortunately there is a serious drought where we live, fortunately this has made people think and be more intentional about what plants they are willing to spend their precious (and now more costly) water allotment on, unfortunately, sometimes they just stop spending their water allotment rather than thinking it all the way through purposefully – choosing to protect or to remove their larger trees and plants. But you can never be sure what goes on between a garden and its gardener, can you? And perhaps with the new (enforced) awareness of just how water-dependent lawn is, people who did not know what else to do are beginning to learn more. PHOTO: Not all California native plants will survive extended drought – there are many good wetland and riparian natives that need regular water to survive and thrive.

Fortunately – there are resources to help us. One of them is our California Native Plant Society. The statewide organization and its programs and website, as well as its regional chapters are rich with information on good climate-adapted native plants.

The Mt. Lassen Chapter of CNPS serves the Chico area; The Shasta Chapter of CNPS serves the Redding area. For more information on the regional chapter nearest to you: http://cnps.org/cnps/chapters/

Coming up this weekend in Redding and Chico and again in October, statewide CNPS has partnered with other organizations to plan and implement a series of expert-led, free-to the public half-day workshops on the step-by-step process of removing unwanted lawn and replacing it with climate adapted, native plants, as well as how to irrigate them and care for them long-term.

CNPS Education Program

Statewide Ditch your Lawn! Workshops
Save water during the drought by replacing your lawn with beautiful native plants!

CNPS is partnering with organizations around the state to offer Ditch your Lawn! workshops, which will teach homeowners how to kill their thirsty lawns and replace them with beautiful, water-saving native plant gardens. Well-chosen California natives can use up to 75% less water than traditional turf lawns, while creating welcome natural habitats for local birds and butterflies. Participants will learn step-by-step how to plan a new native plant garden, remove existing lawn, install new native plants, and maintain them for years to come.

Sacramento, Redding, Chico, and Modesto
(Summer and Fall 2015)

Encino
(Fall 2015)
Questions? Contact Becky Reilly, CNPS Events Coordinator, at breilly@cnps.org or (916) 447-2677 x207.

Simultaneously, CNPS has rolled out a great new element on their website called Calscape, an in-depth listing of native plants, where they grow exactly and what they need to thrive.

This is indeed fortunate, and its not even my birthday.

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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.

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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4 Responses

  1. Avatar K. Beck says:

    A little late on this, workshop in Redding is today, starting at 1 PM. Cut off for registration was yesterday. Next one isn’t until fall (October)…too late to effectively get rid of a lawn?

    • Jennifer Jewell Jennifer Jewell says:

      Not at all. The workshop was interesting and in depth. If this is an interest of yours, I would recommend you attend in October. It’s never too late to effectively remove lawn.

  2. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    We’ve been rationing water in Shasta for a year and a half and I still have a small lawn and have lost no trees or shrubs, but it took effort in evaluating how we use water, saving water  in different ways, keeping an eye on the water meter, and fixing every leak in our system.   I love all of your alternatives to throwing in the towel and letting everything in the yard die!   Wonderful article Jewell.

  3. Randall R. Smith Randall R. Smith says:

    Another fact shared at the City’s “Brown Bag” seminar this week by Water Manager Wendele was the ratio of winter average use to summer average use; it’s 1:4, very high where more a more usual urban ratio is 1:2.  Redding is hot and we did like our lawns.  The drought has been an education for everyone and the precious nature of water is coming home.  We might actually start to rethink how and where to put people.  Is is rational to have huge population centers hundreds of miles from essential resources?  Is it wise to allocate 40% of our total water budget on three crops: irrigated pasture, cotton and rice?  And you can’t grow elk on a Macy’s parking lot, so I am all for the rancher for many reasons, not just a fondness for eating.  Have recent times provided for the right and enough infrastructure: purple waste water pipes, pumped storage for water and power, smart use and reuse?  Is water too inexpensive for the essential quality of its nature?  We are far from the wisdom of living within our means of the Ancient Ones at Mesa Verde and we will be gone long before the seventy years of that dry spell.  But we can and should be better from this experience.  And our plant friends will show us the way.  They were here first and know how to survive.