Recently I was perusing through some of the land use and planning codes for the City of Vancouver. I was reading up on adding street trees and vegetation to the street side of one’s property and I saw that the inclusion of native plants was advocated in the body of the codes. (Section 20.925.010 paragraph B and Section 20.925.090 on Re-vegetation). I have observed native plants in many of the new commercial developments here. I see lots of Mahonia and Vine Maples used, as well as a variety of grasses which I’m glad of as vine maples are my old friends and they seem to do so well where ever they grow. Native plantings are also beneficial for our native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
I wonder when this inclusion will trickle down to planting in the older neighborhoods, especially those with dry sunny exposures. As property values go up in Vancouver the older neighborhoods will go through a renaissance. For example, I was driving around the west-side Rose Village neighborhood. Much of the neighborhood was platted in the early 1900s. It is flat and the lots are typically in the 5,000 s.f. range, many with a south and west exposure, meaning lots of sun and dead lawns.
In my mind’s eye I began to see weary parking strips and browned out ‘street’ side yards filled with plants that can take our July – September heat, not strictly native plants but xeric as well. Recently I saw a manzanita planted in a wide Portland parking strip. It was healthy and quite lovely and I realized it could do well here.
In my garden the natives are swishing through this extended dry heat. The Golden Current (Ribes aurea), the elderberries, and Pacific Wax Myrtle are thriving as are the annual wildflowers.
Imagine manzanitas with poppies, salvias, and ornamental grasses or for a shady spot vine maples, ferns, wild ginger, and our native columbine, gracing urban gardens.
Contractors working on a large project can obtain these plants through a wholesale nursery but where is the average DIY home gardener to source these plants locally? Portland Nursery has a limited native plant selection. Watershed Gardens in Longview carries a large selection of native plants as well. The conservation districts have an annual bare-root sale of native plants. I buy a lot from Xera, Cistus, Garden Fever, and Joy Creek, in Portland and Sauvie Island areas.
Here in Vancouver we have some fine nurseries but I do not see much in the way of native plants offered in their inventory. I’d like to see that change. I’d like to see our nurseries partner with the City, the County, our Water Resources Center, PUD, our WSU Master Gardener extension, Backyard Habitat, and the neighborhood associations to make climate-friendly native plants available to those who want to water less, provide for our native pollinators, and have attractive curb appeal in the summer.
We have successful campaigns for tree planting and for community clean-ups, how about a combined effort for enhancing our neighborhoods with native plants?
If you agree consider asking the buyers at your local nursery and garden center to offer more native plant options. If the demand is there they will respond.
Located up in the Berkeley hills is Tilden Park, a great place for hikes and picnics. The ten-acre garden is nestled in the park and provides a glimpse at several different California native plant communities, some of which cross over to the PNW. There are gravel trails which are fairly walkable though non-slip, sturdy shoes are recommended. Here is a map of the garden.
Ooh, I want one of these.
I like this carpet of Oxalis and am attempting to achieve the same under my Coastal Redwoods.
Onward to Manzanita territory. The trunks were so dark they looked black at a distance and I thought there might have been a fire. Upon closer inspection they were a deep burgundy color. This area was packed with Manzanita varieties.
Moving towards desert area.
I am smitten with this Apricot Mallow. Xera Plants carries a variety that does better in our climate.
I neglected to write down the name of this little plant. UPDATE: I’ve had two emails stating this is a variety of the California fuchsia (Zauschneria or Epilobium). Narrowed it down to Epilobium canum ssp canum.
This brings us to the end of our walk around the native garden. While many plants were still in bloom it seems we had just missed the main flush due to an early spring. Plan to spend at least 90 minutes or more to walk around and view the plants. There are lots of benches are available to rest and take in the views.
If you go:
Admission is free
Location: Shasta Road, Berkeley CA 94708. (Type in Regional Parks Botanic Garden for Google Maps). Parking lot is at the intersection of Wildcat Canyon Rd. and South Park Drive.
Hours: 8:30 AM – 5 PM (in summer the garden closes at 5:30 PM)
Closed January 1, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day.
Cell phones do not work in that area.
Not great for for baby strollers – baby backpacks best.