CNPS PLANT SALE, Nov. 8th at Eaton Canyon Nature Center

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This year the plant sales were early. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, which for years and years held its sale on the first weekend in November, jumped to the head of the line by holding a Fall Planting Festival a whole month earlier. The San Gabriel Mountains Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), however, is sticking to its own schedule, the second Saturday in November, falling this year on the 8th. And so, as I sit here writing this blog post about the sale, I am stuffing my face with Halloween candy (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups should be illegal like crack.)

I love our plant sale. Early November is the perfect time for it since here in the San Gabriel Valley, it is often too hot and too dry to plant in October, certainly the case this year. The sale is not too big and not too small. Lots of people wander into the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, enticed by the big plant sale banner posted on Altadena Drive. This means we get to talk to native plant experts, gardening beginners, and everyone in between. Chapter members stroll with shoppers through the rows of plants, discussing the merits and yes, the less than ideal traits of these unusual plants. The home-made plant information signs twist in the breeze as the plants leave the nature center patio with excited new owners.

This year I will be buying more than usual. The demise of the large, old avocado in the front has created a whole new gardening opportunity. The south-facing front yard has much more sun with the tree gone. The wiregrass, wild strawberry, and Pacific Coast Hybrid irises, planted in the shade of that tree, are going to struggle in the sunny location. Abhorring a garden vacuum,  I seeded large pots with edibles and moved them to the front. The lettuce has been delicious, and the herbs are loving it. (Won’t the trick-or-treaters be surprised when I hand them some delicate lettuce leaves and parsley?) Clearly, this is not a long term landscape solution. Furthermore, the tiny Engelmann oak (sprouted from an acorn last year) isn’t going to be a focal point for some years. Nor will it provide shade in the near future. I need both a plan and some plants.

Wild Suburbia has a few signature plants: coast live oak, deergrass, toyon, needlegrass, and wildflowers in spring. I plan to use a whole lot of deergrass, interspersed with white sage, buckwheat and flowering perennials in the front yard. This is a combination that I have long admired at Rancho. At the sale I will focus on the flowering perennials because…well, because they are flowering and I am weak (note the Reese’s comment above). I usually advise people who are planning gardens to get the big structure items done first: hardscape, large shrubs and trees. However, I will succumb to my weakness and buy what strikes me. As I meander through the years, I am confident, the garden will come together.

Least you think I am totally clueless about gardening and landscaping, let me defend myself a bit. The tree was very recently removed, and I do need time to think about this new space. By purchasing a bunch of pretty flowering things I get to garden without committing myself to a permanent design.

So what strikes me this year? Margarita BOP penstemon, western columbine, goldenbush, narrow-leaf milkweed (for the monarch butterflies), sticky cinquefoil, evening primrose, California fuchsia, and maybe some encelia. Since I will be busy advising shoppers during the sale, it is likely I will adopt neglected, unclaimed plants, so who knows what goodies I will come home with.

Hope to see you at the sale!