s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone

Cindy asks: I enjoy growing native plants and I have quite a collection. It has been enjoyable growing plants that require minimal care and water, but look great most of the year. Are there any native plants I can add to my garden that also have local historical significance?

There are plenty of plants developed locally by Luther Burbank that are still in cultivation and would be considered historical. But to find something historically interesting from native plants would require some knowledge of local Indian uses for plants. I spoke with local archaeologist Jim Quinn, who suggested that basket sedge was very important to local Indians and provided a lot of material for the famous Pomo basketry.

The botanical name for basket sedge is Carex barbarae and it is found throughout California. It is considered one of the most important plants used by the local Indians. The roots were used for making fine fibers that were in turn woven into baskets along with the fibers of many other plants.

Basket sedge is very easy to grow and has some added benefits beyond their historical interest. Birds love this grass; they rustle in the leaves and enjoy eating the seeds. It is a riparian plant, so it needs some regular moisture. It is not a drought-resistant, dry garden type of plant. Basket sedge looks great in large groups and the birds will thank you for that. The grass can be found at Cal Flora nursery in Fulton.

Carmen B. asks: I donated two Arbutus unedo “Marina” strawberry trees to a local nonprofit organization. A few of its limbs have grown over the adjoining walkway and the lower limbs are competing with understory ground cover plants that require more sunlight. When is the ideal time to do some minor pruning and shaping of the trees? Otherwise, both trees are thriving.

The recommended ideal time to do selective pruning on Arbutus is early to late spring. Of course, it is OK to prune any broken branches.

Arbutus has the unusual growth habit of blooming as well as developing strawberry-like fruit at the same time. This is one of the beautiful and colorful attractions of the tree. Pruning will remove the pendulous urn-shaped pink bloom clusters and the reddish strawberry-like fruit.

Colder weather is on its way and new fresh cuts will produce tender cold-sensitive growth that will be damaged.

“Hard” pruning in spring will encourage new growth but it will also remove next year’s growth that produces the beautiful bloom and fruit that we admire in November and December. Still, the recommended time to prune is in the spring.

The key to pruning an Arbutus is to carefully prune and shape selectively, and that method entails removing no more than a quarter of the tree’s total growth at one time. Look for broken branches, dead branches and branches that are crossing over others, causing wounds. Remove those problem branches. Cuts should be directly above a stem/bud, thus avoiding the creation of ugly stubs. If an entire lower limb needs to be removed, the cut should be close to the main tree trunk. The selective pruning goal is to sustain and avoid altering the beautiful and unusual structure of the Arbutus while not compromising its health.

For those readers not familiar with the Arbutus unedo, it is a relative of our native madrone tree and displays the same stunning reddish peeling bark and pink urn-shaped blooms that are visited by bees and butterflies. The fruit attracts birds, is edible for humans but not always desirable. Arbutus unedo “Marina” is evergreen with shiny leathery leaves and is noted for its ability to thrive with less ground moisture. The form of the tree is rounded but yet the branch structure is somewhat irregular and it is truly a stunning addition to a native or drought-tolerant garden. In addition, it is a good choice for a firescape landscape. It prefers sun or part shade and adequate water the first year. The mature height is 25 to 40 feet and can be as wide under ideal situations.

Victoria asks: I am developing a new landscape and have decided to include ornamental shrubs that produce an abundance of berries during the holiday season.

Part of my criteria includes those shrubs that deer are likely to avoid and require less irrigation. The planting area is sunny and has some shade later in the day. Do you have any suggestions based on this information?

Bearberry, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, is an evergreen ground cover with red berries that last from fall until spring. Your exposure is ideal because it will thrive in full sun or light shade. However, be aware that planting bearberry next to hot reflective walls of a house can cause leaf sunburn (even though it is considered drought tolerant). Bearberry is easy care and no pruning is required.

Nandina domestica, commonly called heavenly bamboo, is a real show-stopper during the colder months with its colorful orange-red fall foliage in addition to the masses of orange-red berries. It is admired for its easy-care qualities and drought tolerance. Sadly, it is not always deer resistant when newly planted, so use a deer repellant for a while to train the critters to stay away.

This evergreen shrub is available in many sizes, so do your homework on the size that will fit the designated planting space. The variety, “Gulf Stream” is a favorite of mine and grows 3 to 4 feet in height and equally as wide.

Another choice is the small round holly, Ilex x “Rock Garden” that is covered with bright red berries, and deer don’t bother or browse the shrub. This fabulous holly belongs in the foreground of a planting site and makes more of a visual impact when planted in odd numbers. It is slow growing and the mature size is 8 to 12 in height and equally as wide. “Rock Garden” holly will require some moisture and benefits from mulch at its base. Females produce the berries, so include a male pollinator in the cluster.

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to them at pdgardendoctor@gmail.com. The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in Sonoma Home and pressdemocrat.com.

Show Comment