Fun learning about native plant landscaping….

Report from Barbara Brydolf and Denise Griego

The Alta Peak Chapter held a fun and successful landscaping workshop at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia on Saturday, August 27. Taught by Alta Peak Chapter native plant horticulture experts,  Melanie Keeley and Cathy Capone, the workshop focused on techniques for converting lawns and more thirsty landscaping into drought tolerant native plantings. While many Mediterranean plants around the world are grown successfully in our area, they don’t have the conservation and habitat values that our native plants provide. In at time when many animal species are in decline, providing habitat for insects, birds, and other animal species is more important than ever. Additionally, many native plants originating from outside our area or grown elsewhere and brought in, fail to thrive in our hot, arid climate.

A favorite part of the workshop was a slideshow presented by Melanie, where she showed us her favorite plants that have done well in the local area. For example, she mentioned a barberry, Berberis aquifolium ‘Compacta,‘ a low growing plant successful in dry shade. In addition to being a good plant for under our native oaks, the plant in different seasons is attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies (flowers) and other birds (fruits). Fall foliage color change is an added bonus. Another favorite mentioned was St. Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum. Although a California native not from our local area, it has proven successful here and provides an extraordinarily long season of bloom.

Part of the workshop consisted of the nineteen participants using plans and photos of their own yards to design new landscaping. People did a lot of sharing of their own situations with the hopes they had for their new gardens. It was exciting to hear all their ideas and challenges. A side bonus was that the workshop attracted twelve new CNPS—Alta Peak Chapter members, including two who came all the way from Fresno! The timing is perfect for participants to order plants for their projects from the upcoming Alta Peak Chapter annual native plant sale coming on October 1, 2016.
Happy Planting!
swallowtailonsalviaclevelandii
Swallowtail butterfly enjoying native Clevland Sage (Salvia Clevelandii)
photo by Melanie Keeley

Sources for native plant horticulture tips…from the CNPS State organization
Gardening with Natives: cnps.org/cnps/grownative
Calscape Native Plant Data Base: calscape.org

DIY Native Landscaping Workshop

Saturday, August 27, 2016 from 9 am-12:30 pm
College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA*
Presented by:
Melanie Keeley, Native Plant Specialist, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Cathy Capone, former owner of Cal Natives Nursery in Porterville

NativeLandscape © Melanie Keeley
photo by Melanie Keeley

The traditional garden of expansive lawns, lolly-popped shrubs, and sporadic trees is a thing of the past.  With California’s unprecedented drought, it is time for a beautiful new model.   California native plants not only use a fraction of the water that typical gardens do, they are attractive and colorful as well.  In this class, designed for native plant novices, we will help you learn 1) how to ditch your lawn, 2) how to select tried and true native plants, 3) how to combine them for maximum effect and 4) how to design your own drought tolerant native garden.   With a plan in place, you can landscape your garden in manageable steps. This is a great opportunity to transition from a high care, water indulgent garden into a natural, sustainable low water use, beautiful garden.

Registration fee:  CNPS members – $40, Non-members – $50
Note: By joining the Alta Peak Chapter of the California Native Plant Society at this time, you will also be eligible to pre-order native plants, at a 10% discount, prior to our October 1 Annual Fall Plant Sale.

Pre-registration is required. Class size is limited.
Call 559-799-7438 for registration, as well as questions.
*Directions to location will be given at time of registration.

Native Plant Landscape Design Clinic on October 3

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presented by Cathy Capone, Horticulture Chair for Alta Peak Chapter
and Melanie Keeley, Restoration Horticulturalist for Sequoia National Park

Saturday, October 3, 2015 from 9-12 noon
Three Rivers Union School
41932 Sierra Drive (Hwy 198), Three Rivers

Growing plants in this arid, hot climate is definitely challenging, but California native plants are proven survivors!  To help plan a beautiful, drought-tolerant, low care native garden, the Alta Peak Chapter of the California Native Plant Society is offering a colorfully illustrated, DIY native plant landscape design workshop. Don’t miss this great opportunity to learn how to landscape any yard in a low care, sustainable, practical way. With a simple planting plan in place, the landscaping process can be done in manageable steps or phases.

Native plant experts, Melanie Keeley and Cathy Capone, together with a combined thirty year experience in growing California native plants, will share information about the most colorful, showy, and popular native plants, including planting, care and maintenance principles. Learn ways to combine plants in a new landscape for the longest possible flowering. The landscaping workshop will guide participates in designing individual native plant gardens.

Participants are encouraged to bring photographs of existing landscapes, a rough sketch of the area to be landscaped with specific dimensions, noting sun and shade exposure, special features and concerns. The instructors will provide native plant and landscaping expertise, graph paper, pencils, beverages and snacks.

Registration fee:
$40 for members of the California Native Plant Society
$50 for non-members
Workshop size is limited and reservations are required.
Call 559.799.7438 to register.

Native Plants © Melanie Keeley[Native plant landscape with deer grass and buckwheat © Melanie Keeley]

Urban Native Plant Garden Design

[sample of a garden design for an urban setting via cnps.org]

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Other Fall Events with Alta Peak Chapter

September 19: Chapter Fall Program
“Creating Drought-Tolerant, Wildlife-Friendly Native Landscapes”

October 10: Field Trip to Intermountain Nursery

An Introduction to Phenology Workshop on Feb 28

An Introduction to Phenology Workshop:
Tracking plants to Detect Responses to Climate Change
Winter Program on Saturday, February 28, 2015, from 2 to 4:30 pm
Three Rivers Arts Center on North Fork Drive in Three Rivers

Ann Huber, a biologist with the Sequoia Riverlands Trust, will lead an introductory workshop about phenology, the study of the various seasonal developmental stages that plants and animals undergo, such as leafing and flowering, migration of birds, and emergence of insects.

Do you like to observe plants? Are you interested in how an observation, such as the first day that a lilac blooms, or how the first opening of a flower on a California buckeye tree, might help us understand how native plants respond to changes in climate? If you have ever noted a sycamore tree’s leaves changing color and dropping, you were making a phenological observation.

Paying attention to phenological changes is not a new phenomenon for people, but linking these observations in native plants to the current changes in climate that we are observing is a relatively new field. Scientists are looking for help from all corners of the globe with people observing plants. Much more is known about agricultural plants than native California species.

After about a one hour presentation, participants of this workshop will move outdoors to get hands on experience with Nature’s Notebook, a free online resource produced by the National Phenology Network.  When you participate in Nature’s Notebook, your observations are added to a national database that scientists and land managers can access for research and make better informed decisions about natural resources in their care.

You will also be introduced to the free resources available for observing native plants in our area via the California Phenology Project’s website. While it can serve a greater purpose, it’s also a lot of fun to observe nature!

Alta Peak Chapter programs are open to everyone.
Bring a hat, pencil, notepaper and clipboard.
Call 559-561-4562 for more information.

Directions to Three Rivers Arts Center: Go east on Highway 198 to Three Rivers. Turn left on North Fork Drive. Cross bridge over Kaweah River. The Arts Center is the first building on left.

National Phenology Project Website: usanpn.org

PhenologyTalkWEB

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photo credit: Lynn Firpo “Observing a California Buckeye Tree in the Foothills”

Design and Plan a Native Plant Garden

Native Plant Garden Design Clinic

Held from 9-12 noon, choose from two dates, either
September 14, 2013 in Three Rivers
or September 28, 2013 in Porterville

The clinics will be taught jointly by Melanie Keeley and Cathy Capone.
Keeley is the Restoration Horticulturalist for Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks.
Capone is owner of Cal Natives Nursery in Porterville.

Pre-registration is required for clinics. Class size is limited.

To register for September 14, call 559-799-7438.
To register for September 28, call 559-361-9164.
CNPS members $10, non-members $25
California Poppy © Melanie Keeley[photo © Melanie Keeley]

Growing plants in our extreme climate is challenging and our amazing California native plants are proven survivors!  Having a simple planting plan with compatible plant selections will help make your landscape a beautiful success.  This workshop is a great opportunity to make progress in beautifying your surroundings, while creating bird and butterfly habitat in a natural and sustainable way. With a plan in place, you can break down the landscaping process into manageable steps or phases.

You will be introduced to a basic palette of native plants, and then you will be able combine them for compatibility and longest possible flowering.  Relevant and informative reference books and posters will also be available to purchase during each clinic. Plants will be available for sale at the Chapter’s Annual Native Plant Sale on October 5 at the Three Rivers Arts Center from 9:30 am to 3 pm.

Bring the following items (as best you can):

  • photos of the existing landscape
  • rough sketch of area to be landscaped, with a directional “North Arrow”, dimensions, noting sun and shade exposure and special features or concerns
  • soil sample (1/4 cup)

The Chapter will supply:

  • native plant and landscape design expertise
  • graph paper and pencils
  • beverages and snacks

Melanie Keeley has had a breadth of professional experience over the past twenty-five years, working on varied aspects of California native plants.  As restoration horticulturalist, she currently runs the Ash Mountain Native Plant Nursery at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, where she oversees the production of plants used to revegetate approximately two dozen parks-wide restoration projects.

As an independent consultant, Keeley has specialized in the cultivation and propagation of California native plants.  Some of the contracts she has undertaken include planning, supervising, and monitoring land restoration projects, floristic and surveys, education, interpretation, freelance author, and nursery development. With the Redbud Garden Club, she assisted with the design and installation of five public native plant gardens in Three Rivers. You can see these gardens at the Three Rivers Post Office, the Veterans Memorial Building, the CAL Fire Station, the Tulare County Fire Station and the Three Rivers Public Library. Keeley is currently President of the Alta Peak Chapter.

Cathy Capone is the owner of Cal Natives Nursery in Porterville, which she started in the late 1990’s. Her interest in gardening began early in life where gardening in the sand dune soils of the Sunset District of San Francisco was easy but much different than the Central Valley and Foothills. She completed coursework in arboriculture at Canada College. Extended time spent in the coastal redwood forests, both as a resident and later as a naturalist at an outdoor education camp, provided a native plant aesthetic to her landscape knowledge.

After moving to Porterville, Capone became actively involved with the Tule River Parkway Association and held the position of President of the association for a decade. During this time the need for locally specific native plants became apparent.  She has written and managed a number of grants for tree planting and small park development

Children’s Field Trips:Making a Nature Treasure Map

The Alta Peak Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) is offering two special Spring field trips for children, inspired by the wonderful, new CNPS curriculum, “Opening the World Through Nature Journaling”, created by John Muir Laws and Emily Bruenig.

Saturday, March 5, 2011
and/or Saturday, April 2, 2011
from 9 am to 12 noon
Case Mountain BLM land in Three Rivers
Led by Elsah Cort, with Joan Stewart

Each child will be given a “nature sketch journal” and a pencil to document the nature walk, creating a map of their own discoveries as they hike, with thumbnail sketches to capture quick notes. They will construct a map of treasures found along a trail as we walk and stop and look.

Unlike other activities that are done in one spot, the treasure map is made along the trail while hiking and stopping in several places. The group will move slowly along the trail, looking for interesting nature discoveries that the kids can map as they go, with quick sketches and inventing place names along the way.

These field trips are designed to encourage children to notice nature up close, and drawing skills are not emphasized at all. The curriculum was developed by Jack Laws, who was the enthusiastically received Alta Peak Chapter program speaker at the Green Faire in October of 2009, in collaboration with Emily Breunig, an English and writing instructor.

Any local artist, botanist or plant lover who would like to volunteer with the children for these outings can contact Elsah Cort. More treasure mapping field trips may be planned for the summer at higher elevations in Sequoia National Park, and in the Autumn for observing nature in other seasons.

This interdisciplinary combination of art, science, writing, and observation exemplifies the California Native Plant Society’s goals in creating educational programs: to engage students of all ages in the incredible natural world of California, to inspire them to keen observations of the wild places in their own backyards, and to foster in them a desire to protect these unique habitats.

Reservations are required for these field trips, so the Chapter can make sure each child receives a nature journal. The age limit for these field trips are from 7-12 years. Adults are welcome to come with their child. It is suggested that each child bring a hat, a knapsack, drinking water, and snacks or a sack lunch. Each child will receive an artist’s sketch journal, pencil and eraser. They should wear long pants, or jeans, and good walking shoes. Optional items could include a small magnifying glass, their favorite pencils and a portable pencil sharpener. The group leader will have some magnifying glasses and pencil sharpeners to loan. Also, make sure that the kids have a bathroom break before the meeting time of 10 am.

Meet at the end of Skyline Drive in Three Rivers, at the gate to the BLM property. Park on the side of the road, being careful not to block private driveways or the right of way for traffic. Please carpool if you can.

Call Elsah Cort at 559-561-4671 to reserve a space and field journal for your child. Each field trip will be limited to 15 children, so sign up early.


More educational resources can be found on the CNPS website at http://cnps.org/cnps/education/resources.php.

A new native plant children’s curriculum…

“Opening the World through Journaling: Integrating art, science, and language arts”, a curriculum written for CNPS by John Muir Laws and Emily Brueunig, teaches children to become keen observers of the natural world by drawing and writing about the plants and animals in situ. In a set of nested exercises, students use games to gain confidence in drawing and writing as a way to gather information. Later, they employ these skills to put together a field guide, make treasure maps, and to write short stories and poems. John Muir Laws says,

“Keeping a field journal develops and reinforces the most important science process skills; observation and documentation. All other parts of the process of science depend on these skills. We assume that we are naturally good observers, but learning to really see is a skill that must be learned and developed. Journal activities tie directly to the State of California science framework content standards and the visual and performing arts framework content standards.”

We would like to know who uses the material and how it is used for grant and goal purposes. In the near future, we will send you a request to evaluate the curriculum after using it. For this reason we request your email address. CNPS will not share your email address with other organizations or entities.

Questions? Please contact CNPS Education Program Director, Josie Crawford, at jcrawford@cnps.org or (916) 447-2677 ext 205.

Alta Peak Chapter would love to have someone join our board who would like to help schedule some children’s events, like special field trips geared just for kids.
Contact us
if you feel a nudge about this. You don’t have to be a plant expert, just someone who knows how to make some phone calls and organize a little calendar of events.