Why Plant Natives
Why Garden with California Native Plants?
First and foremost, because they are climate and site appropriate. They have taken thousands of years to uniquely adapt to the local environment; they've evolved with the weather, soil, microorganisms and more.
Natives promote bio-diversity. Native plants and native wildlife--birds, bees, bugs and animals have evolved together. Non-native plants may provide food or shelter for local wildlife, but they may well not.
Planting California natives actually increases the wildlife habitat. The bees are in trouble--we need to provide flowers for them on a year-round basis. Local bees are going to be happiest with native plants. Everyone wants beautiful birds around their garden.
Also, they're part of a balanced eco-system. Non-natives may grow well in Sonoma in many cases, but they may become more or less invasive, without their natural pests, diseases and competitors.
Planting natives reduces pesticide use--they've evolved with endemic pests and disease, and are better able to resist them, whereas introduced ornamental plants are more susceptible.
Most importantly in Sonoma, natives use substantially less water than most exotic plants. Again, they've evolved in a dry-summer climate, and are adapted to our several months of hot and dry weather in summer.
Lastly, natives increase the sense of place, and provide a connection to the greater landscape. As gardener and author Judith Larner Lowry states "The reasons to garden with locally occuring plants have more to do with joining in, with setting in motion interrupted processes that are unique to each place. It has to do with recreating a garden that connects the gardener with that larger garden beyond the fence."
There are many good reasons to plant California Natives, and now through January is the very best time. Plant them now, let the winter rains establish them, and you will only have to give them limited water for a year or two, after which they can go almost completely without.
©Sonoma County Master Gardeners
In last year's article on California Natives, SCMG Sandy Metzger said: " . . This is [Natives] time to show-off or prepare to. It’s also just about the best time to plant them in your gardens. Why? Because they thrive in Sonoma County, and if you begin to establish them right now (fewer shoots, more roots), they will adapt to garden conditions with winter rains and do well through the droughty summer months. Planting now also produces more new growth and more flowers than those planted later on.
Generally speaking, for natives to grow well, they need excellent drainage and not overly rich or heavy soil; too much water can cause crown rot and death. You can amend your native soil with organic matter and tiny gravel and mound it up to insure good drainage. Mulch with leaf litter, chips, or bark but keep it away from the plant crown. Make sure the root ball is moist when planting, and never let the soil get soggy. . . . "