Photo Gallery: CNPS-San Diego Garden Tour 2019

Photographer: Edmond Piffard

Photographer: Ged Bulat

Photographer: Vincent Bellino

Photographer: Edmond Piffard

Photographer: Judie Lincer

Photographer: Ged Bulat

Photographer: Vincent Bellino

Photographer: Ged Bulat

Photographer: Cindy Hazuka

Photographer: Cindy Hazuka

Photographer: Vincent Bellino

Photographer: Vincent Bellino

Photographer: Cindy Hazuka

Photographer: Vincent Bellino

Photographer: Gjon Hazard

Photographer: Vincent Bellino

Photographer: Vincent Bellino

Photographer: Vincent Bellino

Photographer: Cindy Hazuka

Photographer: Judie Lincer

Photographer: Ged Bulat

Photographer: Gjon Hazard

Photographer: Cindy Hazuka

Photographer: Vincent Bellino

South Poway Photo Album

Lee Gordon and Steve Miller documented the wildflower and perennial blooms on Saturday morning walks during February and March in this area. Here is a selection of their photos.

Banner photo: Phacelias, Poppies, and a few Collared Lupines, Lee Gordon

More Conservation Things to Do

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

I have a list of items that will be occupying my time this spring, and here I will simply go through them in order.

Fire Recovery and Preparedness Guide

There have been three updates. One is that, as the state office is writing a statewide manual separate from my effort, it seems that some of our thoughts about how to update the original manual are converging, and this is probably a good thing. I’ll be happy if they solve some of the issues I’ve encountered so that I can copy more than I create.

The second issue is that FEMA recently published an interesting report about all the ways it has failed to create a civilian culture of emergency preparedness in the U.S. (reported in:  This is the same issue I commented on last month with my critique of the Ready Set Go booklet that San Diego County uses.  Some of FEMA’s recommendations are to realize that there’s a lot of diversity in people’s circumstances, that many of them actually already know something about preparing for emergencies, and that there’s a need to listen to these people, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all program from the top down. That’s one reason I’m still working on a local fire recovery book, even if there’s a statewide version. We need things that fit us. Feel free to pitch in if you’ve got some good homebrewed strategies for fire recovery or evacuation.

Creating Coastal Sage Scrub in a City Garden on the Mesa: A Q&A with Craig Denson

Craig Denson is a chapter volunteer with our annual Native Plant Sale and pursues California native botany through courses, his own field explorations, and his garden. His garden, 'Coastal Sage Scrub Revivified' will be on this year's Garden Tour as an FYI (Front Yard Inspiration). When you visit the garden you can see an evolving effort there, with an attempt to emulate 3 zones of local coastal sage scrub: (1) a drier, more open area with dudleyas, bulbs, and annuals occurring in openings in coastal sage scrub; (2) a grassy meadow-like area in front of that with annuals and some perennials; and (3) some denser perennials and shrubs.

We asked Craig some questions about how he got started with native gardening and what he has discovered in the process.

Got Some Fire Pictures You Want to Share?

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

It’s lovely to be still writing this in the rain, but a hot, dry summer could lead to a fiery fall. Hopefully, that will not happen.

Still, I am spearheading an effort to create a San Diego Fire Recovery and Preparation Guide.  It is based, in large part, on the CNPS Fire Recovery Guide that was produced after the 2017 Wine Country fires. While that document is freely available in pdf now, we do need a more local version for our area.

To that end, I’m looking for pictures that people are willing to share in our version of this book. You will get credit, and you would only be giving permission for use of that picture in this one publication.  Sorry, we can’t pay for images.  If you are interested, contact me at

Restoring Nature in Your Garden: A Q&A with Dennis Mudd

Dennis Mudd is a self-taught native plant enthusiast who founded Calscape in 2010 with the goal of enabling small scale nature restoration efforts in California. The site is primarily focused on showing homeowners which plants are likely native to any location in the state, and helping them figure out ones they want, where to buy them and how to grow them. Mudd donated Calscape to the California Native Plant Society in 2014, and is currently leading development of the site in partnership with CNPS and the Jepson eFlora group at UC Berkeley. The site is now approaching one million unique users per year.

His native garden in Poway won San Diego Home and Garden’s Garden of the Year Award in 2012. It will be featured on the CNPS-San Diego Garden Tour this year.

Calscape can be accessed at

What pointed you in the direction of gardening with California native plants?

For me, it started with mountain biking through the natural areas of San Diego. The more time I spent in nature, the more I wanted to recreate it in my own garden.

What, in turn, led you to create Calscape?

I enjoyed my own nature-restored garden so much that I decided to create Calscape to help more people do the same thing. I hoped that Calscape would help many more people create little patches of nature throughout the developed part of the state. If enough people restore nature in their gardens, we can mitigate and even reverse localized extinctions being driven by development.

PC: Dennis Mudd

What kind of animal life does your garden attract?

I was astounded by the amount of bird life that my garden attracted; I've counted over 50 species in the last few years. The number of butterflies is also amazing. If you like birds and butterflies, you should plant a native garden. 

What was your initial vision when you created your native garden and what direction, perhaps unexpected, did it take?

My vision hasn't changed that much over time, but I learned a lot along the way and gradually learned the importance of planting natives that are endemic to where I live. I found that cultivars and even plants that were native to the coast or farther north in California often died in the hot Poway summers, and they didn't really feel like the nearby nature I saw anyway. My nature restoration efforts really only started to work successfully after I switched to all endemics. 

PC: Torrey Neel

Is there an overall system that you think is superior for selecting plants to group together whether it be by plant community, watering needs, exposure, etc?

First, grow plants that are endemic to where you live. Then make sure you are planting them in a site with the sun exposure, soil drainage, and moisture conditions in which they occur in nature. People can get the information they need to figure out which plants belong at their geographic location and in their specific site conditions at Calscape.

How we talk to others about the value of California native plants is important if we want to send an impactful message. What would you say to someone who has just seen or heard about native plants and has them in their consideration? 

Restore nature one garden at a time! I don't think there is any garden as beautiful as nature.  

Questions written by Joseph Sochor

Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflowers Photo Album

At the DesertUSA website: you can find updates on the wildflower blooms at various desert areas, such as Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Death Valley National Park (NP), Joshua Tree NP and Mojave Desert NP, and even the deserts of other southwestern states. Anza-Borrego Desert SP also has its own website for wildflower updates that tells you exactly where the best wildflower displays are in the park: or you can call 760-767-4684 for an update.

Here are some recent desert wildflower photos by CNPS-SD members.


Sprawl, Fire, Water: More Fun for 2019

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

To continue the theme of last month’s news update, here’s where we are as of the middle of January when I wrote this.

County Climate Action Plan

At Christmas, an appellate court judge threw out the County Climate Action Plan version 3.0. Several days later, the County appealed, on a 3-2 split decision (Supervisors Jacob and Fletcher dissenting). The appeal will go to the California Supreme Court. If this follows the previous five rulings or so, the County will lose, but this will take months to play out.

My concern is whether the County decides to pass the other batched developments from last year in the interim. They all to my knowledge depend on the CAP, so if the County approves them, they would be struck down if the judge rules against the CAP. Possibly there would be penalties for the County to presume about judicial rulings. While approving these developments now seems silly to me, there’s a certain streak of doubling down in at least two of the Supervisors, so I don’t know if they’ll go for it or not. Depending on what the County does, we may have to step up our efforts to oppose Lilac Hills Ranch and Otay Ranch Village 14.

Rare Plants of Imperial County

Rare Plants of Imperial County

By Fred Roberts, CNPS-SD Rare Plant Botanist

As a member of the San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, you would be totally forgiven if you never realized that the chapter actually includes Imperial County. This is fairly obvious on state maps showing chapter boundaries. However, the inclusion of Imperial County in our chapter is otherwise relatively obscure. Imperial County doesn’t often come up at meetings. You will generally not find Imperial County mentioned in our chapter newsletter. On the website, I noted Imperial County mentioned on the Mission Statement page but nowhere else. You seldom hear people refer to our chapter as the “San Diego and Imperial Counties chapter of CNPS”. There is some effort to improve on this in 2019.

This isn’t really a surprise. There are no major institutions like the San Diego Natural History Museum in Imperial County. SDSU has only a satellite campus near Calexico. I am not even sure how many chapter members actually have addresses there. Most of us see it from the I-8 and then it might seem to be just hot, barren desert and hundreds of thousands of acres of agriculture. And, of course, there is the Salton Sea and Colorado River.

That desert can be a very interesting place, at least in the cooler parts of the year and whenever rain falls (which it sometimes doesn’t). There are the rugged and poorly explored Chocolate Mountains, much of which is not open to the public, dominating the east along with the Palo Verde and Cargo Muchacho Mountains. The Algodones Dunes, the largest dune system in North America, runs a southeast diagonal from the Salton Sea down into Sonora. West of the Imperial Valley is dominated by the Western Mesa and Yuha Desert, which gives way to the eastern fringes of the Peninsular Ranges at the Fish Creek, Coyote, and Jacumba Mountains. The county borders Mexico, leaving the possibility of Baja California plants, not yet known in the United States, being found here.

The 2019-2020 Forecast

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

Looking back, the January 2018 column was titled “Can San Diego Grow Up,” a thought piece on the problem of densification versus sprawl in San Diego County. One year later, sprawl is winning, although that might not be true by the time you read this column, due to a possible court ruling on the County Climate Action Plan (CAP) on December 21, 2018. 

So going forward, what conservation issues will be important in 2019? 

Permaculture and California Native Plants

A Question & Answer Interview with Diane and Miranda Kennedy of Finch Frolic Garden

Diane and Miranda speak on January 26 at the CNPS-San Diego Winter Workshop in Balboa Park.

Can you briefly explain permaculture for a person who may have heard the term before but does not understand what it means?

Permaculture is the overall name given to methods of land use based on nature. Above all, it focuses on building soil through non-chemical means. 

How are native plants integral to permaculture?

Native plants create the habitat that is integral to integrated pest management, wildlife corridors, and so much more. Permaculturalists study natural habitat and use that knowledge back in designed landscapes for better production. The restoration of native habitat in denuded areas stops erosion, sinks water into the landscape, builds soil and revives the food chain.

California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica) Photo by Becky Matsubara

For you, in what ways are native plants and wildlife habitat connected?

DIANE: Native plants provide the best possible food and shelter for our greatly endangered native insects, as well as local birds and other animals. In any area, but most importantly in an area as biologically diverse as San Diego, planting natives is essential. Plants form a community that we are only just understanding, one which communicates on many levels and that affects all plants in the area. I find the methods of communication fascinating.

MIRANDA: With a background in conservation and ecology, I know that all parts of an ecosystem -- biotic and abiotic -- contribute to the character, interactions, and success of the system. Our view of our environment is only segments in a path that has a long history and a continuous progression. When we look at a landscape, we're looking at a certain formation of geology with a certain degree and kind of degradation and aggradation; this supports certain kinds of plants along with all the animal species that have evolved to tolerate that climate, terrain, and floral habitat. Native plants and native fauna (animals, fungi and bacteria) are innately connected as the result of hundreds and thousands of years of struggling for survival and persistence within that landscape and amongst or against each other. They're making allies and vying with competitors and enemies, enduring disruptive weather events and invasions -- as interconnected as people in neighborhoods and their homes, roads, shopping and supply centers. Current relationships are not fully understood (or even all uncovered!) yet remain dynamic: there is wonderfully so much to discover, even as it unfolds!

Besides incorporating native plants into a landscape, what is another design consideration for creating wildlife habitat? 

A water feature, preferably using rainwater or chemical-free water, is the single most important part of a habitat garden. Birds can hear the sound of dripping water from as far as miles away.

Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) seed pods. Photo by Don A.W. Carlson

Tell us about your Finch Frolic Garden in Fallbrook.

Finch Frolic Garden Permaculture is a 1.68-acre food forest begun in 2011. Incorporated throughout the food producing plants and the medicinal, timber and ornamental plants, are a wide variety of natives. Most belong to the local chaparral community, and some, such as the edible-bean producing mesquite, are not, but are a bridge between native and food producer.

From the time you learned permaculture and began teaching it to others, what might have changed in the philosophy?

The philosophy of permaculture has been the same since the term was coined in the late 1970s by Bill Mollison. Its three ethics are care for the earth, care for people, and return of surplus. Permaculture isn't sustainable or organic: it's better. It's regenerative, and uses recycling, repurposing, water harvesting, soil building and good design. 

Questions written by Joseph Sochor


Bringing San Diego Habitats Home to the Garden

A Question and Answer Interview with Clayton Tschudy, CEO of CJT Ecologics and Former Director of Water Conservation Garden

Clayton speaks on January 26 at the CNPS-San Diego Winter Workshop in Balboa Park.

Clayton, after your decades of experience as a landscaper designer and horticultural director why did you decide to become involved in promoting habitat gardens?

My career in horticulture has always been based in science and ecology first. Early in my botanical studies I kept asking, "Why aren't these plants being grown in gardens? They are beautiful, should be easy since they are adapted to local conditions, and attract wildlife." Habitat was always the underlying reason I was involved in natives-focused horticulture. But plants and animals are not usually considered together in horticultural design, not in a rigorous way. Having a strong grounding in local plant ecology within my horticultural work was always leading me back to the creatures. Habitat is ecology. 

Tell us about the project you are developing to build an online network of people gardening in their homes and in public spaces to build more habitat for wildlife.

San Diego is a very large urban region, and also a biodiversity hotspot with tremendous biodiversity under threat. From mile-to-mile our local habitats change dramatically. This means that every home garden has the potential to conserve a special aspect of our local ecosystems. But for this to happen homeowners need the knowledge and resources, and community support, to make the right gardening choices. I am launching a blog and online community where people can learn how to create effective, localized, habitat gardens, share experiences with friends, learn how to become citizen scientists, and eventually support others starting that journey. I will introduce the blog in my presentation

Papilio rutulus on Eriodictyon crassifolium. Photo: Bob Parks

Can you name some of the ways in which gardening with native plants creates habitat for wildlife?

To support local fauna, you must use the plant species to which they are best adapted. Some plants native to other regions will have habitat value, but generally speaking, local animals are best adapted to local plants. This is particularly true of the invertebrates, who themselves are the base of the food web supporting larger animals. For this reason, locally native plants are always the backbone of effective habitat gardens. 

Three California native plants that are great to put in your yard to attract and nurture wildlife?

Different San Diego plants support different creatures, and few plants have tolerance of every garden condition. That said, using an early, mid-season, and late bloomer would be a good starter set for pollinator support throughout the year. Let's say Ramona Lilac (Ceanothus tomentosus), California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), and Palmer's Goldenbush (Ericameria palmeri). There are many such combinations, and plant choices should be tailored to your garden conditions and local habitat opportunities. 

Ericameria palmeri. Photo: John Rusk,

In designing sustainable habitat gardens, what would you say is the first sustainability feature that you consider?

Your very local (within a few miles) plant and biotic communities should be your first consideration. Starting there brings many unexpected, and creative gardening opportunities. It does not limit your options. 

You’ve mentioned to me a book that you are working on. What is the focus of it and how will it differ from what else is out there?

Rather than focusing on just a few animals, such as a handful of butterflies, or generalizing about habitat components that are basic and universal, my book will focus on the San Diego region, its unique resources, challenges, and opportunities. Our micro-climates, soil diversity, topographical variety, and high biodiversity make effective habitat gardening both exciting and complex. My book will break down the critical aspects of all that complexity into a protocol that can be followed by home gardeners, as well as professionals, to generate vibrant habitats with significant conservation value, that still offer home gardeners beauty and personal expression in their landscapes

Clayton Tschudy is a botanist and has practiced sustainable landscape design for over 20 years throughout California. Through his company CJT Ecologics, he specializes in water conservation, restoration, and habitat garden designs. He consults with numerous organizations including the City of San Diego, Friends of Balboa Park, City of Chula Vista, the Port of San Diego, San Diego Canyonlands, Tree San Diego, the Irvine Company, GafCon, and others. Mr. Tschudy was the Director of Horticulture for the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College from 2013 through 2017. Currently he is the Chair of the Wildlife Advisory Group, consulting on natural resource management for the Chula Vista Bayfront for the Port of San Diego and the City of Chula Vista. 

Questions written by Joseph Sochor

California Native Plant Society Memories

California Native Plant Society Memories

by Erik Jonsson, writing in August 15, 1989

I remember the first time I came in contact with CNPS. It was at Silverwood. (I was in the Audubon Society that time and went to Silverwood a lot to show Frank Gander plants that I had pressed and did not know what they were. I must have been a terrible nuisance for him.) Anyhow, there was this bunch of people all interested in plants like me and looking like the kind of nice people I like, so I decided that I had better join and take part in the fun.

The field trips interested me most. AII those plants and shrubs that I had been trying in vain to figure out what they were and here I got the Latin names all served like on a silver platter! Somehow I became Field Trip Chairman. I don’t remember now how it happened. I guess they must have been desperate to find a victim and I was too stupid to say NO as usual.

We had lots of memorable field trips at that time. One of efforts my first was to the top of Fortuna Mountain just after a fire. Quite a hike. Lots of flowers. That is when somebody, I think it was Fred Sproul, found a whole bunch of Chocolate Lilies, Fritillaria biflora. Quite a treat!