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Get native with it

Yellow star tulips add a cheerful touch to most any garden.
Photo by by Chrissy Freeman

Establishing native plants in home gardens has numerous advantages and is becoming increasingly more popular.

California native plants are better adapted to thrive in our climate, and once established will require less water, little to no fertilizer, less pruning and maintenance. Many natives are good choices for firewise planting as landscape accents or for screening. A few examples of firewise screening plants include Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium), flannel bush (Fremontodendron californicum) and coffeeberry (Garrya spp).

Native plants have also adapted to the threat from pests and diseases and help support beneficial insects. Gardens with native plants have the benefit of increased biodiversity with rich resources for birds and butterflies and other native creatures. There are many beautiful native flowers and perennial shrubs offering a variety of colors and textures for interest in any garden setting.



Planting native plants is much like planting any other plant – make sure they are not too deep – plant a little high to allow for settling. Once mature, native plants will generally survive summers without much water; well-established natives can be harmed by too much water.

Although many native plants can be put in the ground at any time, fall or winter is best, allowing the plants to establish stronger roots during the wet season. If planted later in the spring, supplemental water will be needed to help plants become established. All native species generally require water through the first two summers. It is recommended that native plants be allowed to grow in native soil with no fertilizer added when planting.




To learn more about using California native plants in your gardens, all are invited to attend the upcoming Nevada County Master Gardener workshop, “Bringing Native Plants into Your Garden”, March 2 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Grass Valley Elks Lodge, 109 South School Street in Grass Valley.

Whether you’re thinking of adding just a few native plants or you’re ready for a total landscape transformation, this workshop is designed with you in mind. The workshop is appropriate for gardeners new to growing native plants as well as for more experienced enthusiasts. The workshop will focus on:

– Various reasons for using native plants,

– Site elements that are important to know before you start – landscape design concepts will be discussed which will help in the success of native gardening projects. 

– We’ll explore methods for finding the right native plants for your project, with special focus on pollinator plants and local natives; we’ll share a number of photos of popular native plants and examples of native gardens. 

Presenters are also members of the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society so there will be an opportunity for questions.

In addition to planning to add some interesting natives to the garden, other tasks for February include pruning back woody-stemmed plants (such as Artemisia, butterfly bush, and fuchsia). Cutting back close to the ground helps prevent these ornamentals from getting leggy and unkempt.

Between rains, or once we have several dry days, dormant oil can be sprayed on trees and plants to smother over-wintering insects such as aphids, mites and scales. Completely coat the branches and trunks of trees. This is also a good time to spray for peach leaf curl as leaf buds begin to swell, before any color shows in the bud. Use a copper product containing 50 percent or more copper or lime sulfur. Spray roses with fixed copper to prevent rust and black spot.

The Nevada County Master Gardeners have a number of other workshops coming up in March. On March 9, “Totally Tomatoes” will be presented to help fruit and vegetable enthusiasts plan remarkable tomato gardens. On March 16 “Waterwise Gardening” will be presented, and “Functional Irrigation” on March 23.

All workshops in early spring are held at the Elks Lodge in Grass Valley, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more information, check the website at http://www.ncmg.ucanr.org or call the Hotline at 530-273-0919. Additionally, Master Gardeners are in the office from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday at the Veteran’s Hall, 255 South Auburn Street in Grass Valley.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.


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