Water-saving plants available at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden nursery
If you’ve ever considered replacing your lawn or some of your water-loving planting beds with native plants, now is a perfect time.
Not only is the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s nursery staff available and skilled at helping guests select the best native plants for every garden at its annual sale, which is in progress, they are offering free weekly workshops to help ensure success.
For the month of October, the focus is on container gardening with California natives.
“Let’s Talk Plants” will be meeting at noon Sunday and Oct. 24 and 31 in the garden courtyard for short, informal chats with Matt Straka, nursery manager.
“Native plant containers are great for patios and doorsteps. These can be planted year round, and there are natives that do well in containers for sun or for shade,” he told the News-Press. “In general, you will want to be sure that your native plants have soil with better drainage than ‘typical’ potting soil. So use a citrus mix, cactus mix or amend your regular potting soils with pumice for success.”
He also offers other gardening tips like starting “to broadcast spring wildflower seeds with early rain. This is a good time to spread seed for these to germinate and start growing over winter. Resowing through the winter will give a longer bloom in spring.
“If you have persistent problems with gophers and burrowing pests, consider planting with a gopher basket,” Mr. Straka said. “These are wire cages that you use to cover the roots of the plant. Sometimes these make it more challenging to eliminate air pockets, so be mindful that you pack soil into the basket around the plant and water thoroughly at planting to increase root-soil contact.”
He said there are many benefits to planting natives in the fall.
“First, as the cooler season approaches, so does the rain. Most weeds are dormant, creating a less competitive habitat for your newly planted native trees, shrubs and perennials. Additionally, leaf-eating insects are less active,” he said. “This creates the optimal conditions for native plants to thrive, helping them establish stronger root systems. Come spring and summer, with a strong foundation in place, native plants are better able to support new growth and produce bigger blooms.”
As the first botanic garden to focus exclusively on native plants, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden on Mission Canyon Road has dedicated nearly a century of work to better understand the relationship between plants and people.
Growing from 13 acres in 1926 to today’s 78 acres, the grounds now include more than five miles of walking trails, an herbarium, seed bank, research labs, library and the public native plant nursery.
Teams of scientists, educators and horticulturists remain committed to the original spirit of the organization’s founders, whose mission was: Conserve California native plants and habitats to ensure they can be enjoyed for generations to come.
“Native plants are the foundation for healthy ecosystems. They are a source of food, shelter and medicine,” said Joe Rothleutner, director of horticulture and facilities at the botanic garden. “With the simple addition of native plants in your garden or landscape, you will conserve our unique California flora, practice sustainability — lower water and fertilizer needs (saves you money and conserves earth’s resources), provide habitat and food for pollinators and other beneficial wildlife and connect with your California heritage.
“No matter what level of gardener you are, fall is an exciting time to get outside and start establishing new plants in your beds. Native plants provide habitat for beneficial insects and attract pollinators which are important for a healthy garden ecosystem.
“Even adding a few natives to your garden can have a big impact.”