Saturday, August 04, 2007
Colorful new gardening book focuses on state's native plants
By DAN BARNETT
Bay Area botanist Glenn Keator and San Jose horticulturalist and designer Alrie Middlebrook are on a mission. They want to convince Californians to plan and create gardens with native plant species in mind.
As Keator writes, "the most compelling reason is to create a sense of place. & What better way is there to remind ourselves of this special geographic region we call home than to recreate, in our own yards, the native gardens found in the wild? Anyone can have a garden with roses (mostly hybrids from China and Europe), petunias (from South America), fuchsias (from mountainous South and Central America), and impatiens (many from Africa)."
Besides, says Keator, native plants are already adapted to the area and likely will survive. They attract native pollinators and reduce the amount of water and pesticides required. Keator and Middlebrook make a convincing case in "Designing California Native Gardens: The Plant Community Approach to Artful, Ecological Gardens" ($27.50 in paperback from Phyllis M. Faber/University of California Press).
More than 300 full-color photographs enrich the book and several appendices provide sources of natives and a planting calendar.
The book is a practical exploration of a dozen plant communities in the state, several of which are well represented locally. Each chapter begins with an overview and is anchored by a diagram and explanation of one of Middlebrook's own garden projects or concepts.
Readers are provided with design notes, a scope of work for the given project and a rich compilation of plants to use. The goal is not to duplicate Middlebrook's work but rather to appreciate the beauty that can be created using California natives.
The authors conclude their chapters with an annotated list of "places to visit" to see the native plant communities in the wild. The Oak Woodland chapter, for example, pictures a "carpet of Ithuriel's spear (Triteleia laxa)" on Table Mountain; readers are directed to Loafer Creek State Park at Lake Oroville to observe "blue oak woodland mixed with gray pines and scattered interior live oaks." Keator notes that "many fortunate gardeners already have oaks on their property, yet many ornamentals require the summer water that slowly kills these magnificent trees. California's oak woodlands provide a fine palette of plants perfectly adapted to grow under oaks."
In the Grasslands chapter, Bear Valley in Colusa County features "glueseed, goldfields, royal larkspur, creamcups and owl's clover"; Feather Falls, an example of mixed-evergreen forest, presents such understory plants as western mock-orange and Sierra fawn lily.
And then there's the ponderosa pine. A sense of place, indeed.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2007 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.