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CNPS Annual Plant Sale


CNPS Annual Plant Sale

October 11

9am – 1pm

Veterans Memorial Bldg.

1351 Maple Ave., Santa Rosa

(across from the fairgrounds)


by Nancy Bauer,

Where can you find free expert advice on how to create a drought tolerant landscape?  Mark your calendars:  The California Native Plant Society’s gigantic annual plant sale is October 11 at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa.  Experts will be on hand to help you choose from hundreds of local drought tolerant California native plants —from seeds, bulbs and perennials to trees, shrubs and groundcovers. 

There are so many reasons to love our native plants— their beauty, their compatibility with our climate and soils, their value to wildlife.  They are the plants that are thriving in my garden with little to no summer water.  And they bring a great deal of pleasure to the birds and insects that are also part of my garden landscape. Native plants bloom in every season offering seeds, nectar and fruit to many bird species, butterflies, bees and other beneficial creatures.  Even in late winter.  That’s when the lovely bell-shaped blossoms of manzanitas appear, announcing a virtual honey pot for Anna’s hummingbird, which stays here year-round and may be nesting as early as December.   California lilacs (Ceanothus spp.) soon follow with dense clusters of blue or white flowers that attract native bees, butterflies and hummers.  Birds feed on their seeds and the insects these shrubs attract.  The blue Spring Azure and several other butterflies use Ceanothus species as caterpillar food plants.   You might attract Pipevine Swallowtails to your garden if you plant pipevine, the only caterpillar food plant for this gorgeous black butterfly.  Look for pipevine at the wildlife habitat table.

In early spring, the pink and lavender whorls of native salvias— black sage (S. mellifera), brandegee sage (S. brandegei), purple sage (S. leucophylla) are in full bloom in my garden attracting native bees, honeybees, butterflies, and hummers.  These dense, spreading evergreen shrubs require no summer water and bloom for several months.  Later in spring, the very popular and very fragrant Cleveland sage (S. clevelandii) comes into flower.  Another favorite of hummingbirds is monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.), blooming in many beautiful, warm colors from spring into summer. Many varieties, including ‘Changeling’, ‘Pumpkin’, and  ‘Eleanor’, will be available.  All summer I’ve seen many native bees, honeybees, small butterflies, and other pollinating insects hovering around the buckwheats (Eriogonum latifolium).  When the buckwheats have finished blooming, the vibrant red-orange flowers of California fuchsia (Epilobium spp.) signal the end of summer, offering hummers and other pollinators an important nectar source in fall.   This native perennial appreciates good drainage; plant on a dry mound or berm with lots of full sun exposure.

Looking for lawn replacement options? The prostrate/dwarf forms of fall-blooming coyote brush and spring-blooming manzanita double as drought tolerant mounding ground cover and food and foraging sites for birds and pollinators.  Over 200 insects are attracted to coyote brush and its seeds feed goldfinches, white-crowned sparrows and other seed-eaters.   Native grasses and sedges make great drought tolerant lawn alternatives, or mix with wildflowers for a small meadow. For a low hedge or specimen plant, consider deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), an attractive bunchgrass that grows up to 3 feet tall and wide, with tall seed panicles that rise another 3 feet or so.  Plant this bunchgrass in a dry sunny area.

Coffeeberry (Rhamnus spp.) is one of my favorite native shrubs for sun or part shade.  Found in dry chaparral and wooded areas, it grows from 6 to 10 feet high in most garden conditions, though a smaller variety, ‘Mound San Bruno’ forms a mound from 7-9 feet across, but only up to 5 feet in height. The tiny flowers in spring attract bees and small butterflies; the berries are a favorite source of food for many songbirds, including California Bluebirds and Mockingbirds.  

Our native oaks need summer-dry conditions to stay healthy and there are numerous native shrubs and perennials that thrive in dry shade situations. Our native coral bells or Heuchera species, for example, offer tiny pink or white clusters of flowers on long stems, and the foliage stays green after the flowers have faded. Combine with Douglas iris in different colors for a lovely dry shade border.

Native plants have a long and enduring relationship with our land and our wildlife.  Fall is the ideal time to get started!