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Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Jan 19, 2014

DianneErskineHellrigelThe Community Hiking Club planted a “Garden of Native California Plants” for everyone in the community to enjoy. It was out of love for wild things, and our connection to nature, that the CHC took on this project and continues to maintain it.

As California is often challenged by a lack of water and suffers from years of drought, we can look to native plants that are genetically prepared to survive these years of hardship.

Many people come to the garden to see which plants they might like to see in their own gardens. After the first year of caring for these plants, many won’t require any watering for the remainder of their lives, unless we have an extended drought.

This is a great way to bring your home plantings toward a Xeroscape (aka Xeriscape). Save water, save money.

Heliotrope

Heliotrope | Examples of drought-tolerant plants in the Garden of Native American Plants at East Canyon | Photos by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel

The garden is located at the base of East Canyon. Currently the garden has mule fat, chaparral currants and wild California roses, hollyleaf cherries, multiple species of oaks, wild gooseberries, deer grass, spice bush and many other species that would be great in a home garden.

We continue to add flowering perennials that naturally decorate our canyons and riparian areas, such as monkey flowers and milkweed, the butterfly’s favorite. Gentle, meandering walkways invite visitors to enjoy the native plants, and there are signs to educate people about the plants.

Why the interest in natives? Native plants tend to have long roots, and therefore they can retain storm water. They reduce runoff, provide habitat, are hardy, and increase biodiversity. They survive on poor soils and have low water requirements. They are not invasive. They provide food for wild animals. They are beautiful, require no fertilizer, no pesticides, are low or no maintenance, require no motorized, pollution-causing equipment to maintain, and they have adapted to return after fire. In fact, some natives will grow only after a fire. Fire is actually part of the cycle of native plant life in California.

Virgin's bower

Virgin’s bower

As our country became populated with immigrants from all over the world, these new Americans brought their plants with them. These plants originally thrived in small plots and were completely surrounded by wilderness. Now, however, we find that some of these early introductions have multiplied to the point that they are invasive and prevent our native varieties of plants from growing and thriving.

Examples that we see in Santa Clarita daily are arundo donax and tamarisk. Arundo donax and tamarisk are found in the Santa Clara River and our canyons. They are hearty plants that are very difficult to control. They take over everywhere they grow and prevent our native plants from growing.

The Community Hiking Club has stewardship events to help eradicate non-native invasive plants. To participate in one of these events, check the website at communityhikingclub.org.

If you would like to participate in events that have a positive impact on the environment, please contact the Community Hiking Club at zuliebear@aol.com. You can help remove invasive plants, donate California native plants for the garden, or help us maintain the garden.

We’d love to have you visit the garden in the spring and see all of the blooming perennials, and perhaps consider adding some of them to your own landscape.

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy.

 

Broad-leaved lotus

Broad-leaved lotus

White Hedge Nettle

White Hedge Nettle

Bridges' penstemon

Bridges’ penstemon

Beavertail cactus

Beavertail cactus

 

 

Comment On This Story
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4 Comments

  1. ricketzz says:

    Excuse me, but isn’t it calle “xeriscape”? Small matter, love the concept.

  2. ricketzz says:

    called

  3. Carole Hunt Carole Hunt says:

    I want to get rid of my lawn and just have plants on a drip system. Ive never understood a lawn. Big waste of water.

  4. Wow, I hike there a lot and never saw it! I’ll drive over there soon and see it!

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