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Native is the New Green: New Rebates and May Events Encourage Water-wise Native Gardens

Cluster Rose, (Rosa pisocarpa), in the Klamath Mountains of California. Photo by Nick Jensen.

In March, Sacramento’s City Council voted to move forward with a plan to join the list of California cities to implement a “cash for grass” program in which rebates will be offered to homeowners who replace their lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping. Local residents immediately jammed switchboards in an attempt to sign up for the new rebates, with officials advising people to call 311 to schedule a Water Wise House Call. The instant popularity of the initiative is another sign that Californians are becoming increasingly aware of the dire environmental impacts of the state’s current drought, and a number of local organizations are stepping up to help the community figure out how to take action.

Poppies, Irises, Idaho Fescue, Birds-eye Gillias, Deergrass and Clarkias in a private residence garden in Hayward, CA. Photo by Pete Veilleux.

Whether or not the rebate program can move quickly enough to accommodate those ready and willing to rip out their water guzzling turf, native plant advocates are here to showcase the many other benefits of the Golden State’s natural flora. Native-plant landscaping is low maintenance and, since native plants are hardwired to adapt to local environments, requires less water, less fertilizer, and little to no pesticides. Add to this the beautiful array of colors and scents, and the wildlife viewing made possible by the natural draw of native plants for native wildlife, and there’s no denying it: cash or no cash, a native garden is the place to be!

WW_2014_smallerTo get your landscape ideas spinning, May has a number of plant-themed events that will help you select plants, decide landscaping, gather valuable gardening information and professional advice, and be inspired by the variety of garden tours and activities planned.

Wildflower Wonders. Hosted by the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, the annual Wildflower Wonders event takes place this Saturday, May 3. The celebration includes garden walks, children’s activities, picnic food, and a native plant sale. The event is held at Soil Born Farms, with three guest speakers lined up to entertain and inform the crowd throughout the day.

Anyone who joins or renews a current membership with CNPS is offered a free plant from the Elderberry Farms Native Plant Nursery, where temptation runs high for the inspired, green-thumbed shopper. Bring along photos and details of your property, including shade times and existing plant lists, and experts from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers will help work through your design dilemmas. Admission free with $5 suggested donation.

Gardens Gone Native. More landscaping inspiration awaits just a week later at the 4th annual Gardens Gone Native Sacramento Valley Native Plant Garden Tour. Also organized by the local CNPS chapter, these self-guided tours of 20 Sacramento area gardens especially showcasing California native plants. This free event take place on Saturday, May 10.

A Day on the Farm. Head back to Soil Born Farms on Sunday, May 18 for the annual A Day on the Farm event. As at the Wildflower Wonders celebration, plants will be on sale at the nursery, with farm tours, nature walks, and children’s activities as well as opportunities to learn about composting, raising chickens, beekeeping, gardening, and more. This event also features cooking classes, local artists, and live music. Admission $5.

A busy few weeks of fun outdoor events can quickly fly by, but the California Native Plant Society and other local groups are available throughout the year to offer advice and information about this increasingly popular gardening technique. EcoLandscape California offers professional Green Gardener and River-friendly Landscaping programs, and the City of Sacramento itself offers helpful links to informative water-smart plant tips. As we move ever closer to the scorching days of the Sacramento summer, this shift in awareness and enthusiasm could mean that  a change in yard and easement design is well and truly on its way.

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