by Charlene Burgi
This is a glorious time of year to observe native plants. Many native spring bloomers are just beginning to bud, while others delight us by emerging early when the winter chill can find the rest of the landscape bleak.
I often overlook the beauty and benefit of native plants until spring. This year was not an exception. While driving down the mountain toward Marin this week, I noticed the intense blues of various species of Ceanothus (California lilac) and the shocking magenta of Cercis occidentalis (western redbud) dotting the hillsides in a blaze of color.
The various stages of spring amazed me with each change in altitude. When I left home, plants remained snug in their dormant state in the snow-covered landscape. As I descended to 4,000 feet, my interest was piqued by the first hint of hot pink on bare branches; Cercis was coming out of its dormancy. With each 1,000-foot drop in elevation, the redbuds swelled more and flowers began to emerge. The lower elevations also revealed hints of blue from the various native California lilacs. When the car turned onto I-5, Cercis and Ceanothus lined both sides of the highway.
Was that really highway planting with native plants? The color was magnificent as it weaved throughout the drive south. To add to this glory, yellow Lady Banks roses arched over the bare ground, cascading in a waterfall of color. The picture would only be taken in my mind as there was no place to stop.
Oddly, I felt torn. I admired the beauty of the plants and understood the water savings they would provide. But, selfishly, I wanted to only see these plants in their native state or in home gardens. Would freeway planting dull the anticipation of spring and the glory found in natives? Would they soon be so common as to lose their impact as harbingers of spring?
These thoughts brought to mind the overplanting of oleander on freeways. They provide good screening and color, and they conserve water, but they become mundane when viewed mile after mile. Will the natives become mundane in time? Will we view them as common or even trashy? My hope is the glory of their blooms will keep renewing the excitement of seeing that first hint of color every spring. It is the sign of new life in a new season.
Irrigation Essentials April 14
We have just a couple of spaces left in our FREE Irrigation Essentials workshop on Saturday, April 14, 10:00 a.m. – noon at the Mill Valley Community Center. Learn how to get your system ready for irrigation season and how to manage it to get the most from every drop. Call Wendy at 945-1521 to reserve your spot.