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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, flickr.com/photos/john_d_rusk/37817907816

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!

The Electrical Grid Knot in California

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

Until a few minutes ago (this would be a month ago, for you), I thought I was writing the last appeal for dealing with Otay Ranch Village 14, Lilac Hills Village Ranch, Warner Springs, ad nauseum. Fortunately, the County decided to not to go ahead with the last grand General Plan Amendment. Yay(!)(?), but that might be a while.

Anyway, since I spent a few days up in the Santa Monica Mountains with my mom, ready to help her evacuate if necessary (it wasn’t), I’ve got a few thoughts about this little problem we have with electrical utilities.

The problem we’ve got is that electrical utility companies like PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) seem to be responsible for some big fires. SDG&E, as we know, is still trying to get its ratepayers to cover some of the costs of the 2007 Cedar Fire, which it has been held responsible for. Southern California Edison’s (SCE) equipment may have sparked both the Woolsey Fire and the Thomas Fire, while PG&E is implicated as the cause of the Camp Fire, as well as 16 of the 18 fires that hit the Wine Country last fall. Note that, aside from the Cedar Fire, this is all speculation based on news reporting around the incidents. There are official reports and lawsuits still pending, and they’ll settle questions of official responsibility sometime in the future.

Installation of California Native Plants and Notes on Pollinators

Installation of California Native Plants and Notes on Pollinators

A Conversation on the CNPS-San Diego Listserv

Compiled by Mike Gonzales, Founding Member, San Diego Pollinator Alliance and Former Chairperson, CNPS-San Diego Garden Committee

Can restoring our yards into native urban gardens, albeit very difficult to do given the nature of urban yards, help San Diego’s endemic plants survive and thrive?

Believe me, I understand the part about not being easy! I’ve been stumbling around my front and back yards for 20+ years sluggishly transforming iceplant-covered slopes into some semblance of a native urban garden, or at least semi-native at this point. I thought Wayne Tyson was joking when he posted on the CNPS-SD listserv that, “it's as easy as duplicating the conditions [or functionally mimicking them] under which indigenous ecosystems function.” Well, maybe it was just tongue-in-cheek as he followed up with, “That can be difficult, but it's not impossible, especially the mimicking part [due to] the site conditions that one has to begin with, but it can be done.”

This post epitomizes the macrocosm of my ongoing quest-to create something that hopefully might be considered a decent foundation for, as Wayne puts it, “preserving indigenous germplasm while not sacrificing beauty or utility, and further minimizing the use of imported water and nutrients from other places.” I know, this certainly sounds like a lofty goal, but I’ve been having fun at it – thanks to all the wonderful information streaming across the list-serve from very knowledgeable people whose advice I deeply respect.

Ok, so if you don’t mind too much I’d like to take a slight detour here, as I feel I should at least try to understand what Wayne means when he refers to the term ‘germplasm’. I’m guessing it may have something to do with what both Wayne and Greg Rubin refer to as “the mycorrhizal net (i.e., the natural soil-crust community of algae, mosses, and other cryptobiotic/cryptogamic soil-crust plant communities[1] which are fireproof, erosion-protectors, and infiltration-facilitators).Symbiotic benefits of a mycorrhizal net include disease resistance, pest resistance, and increased availability of moisture. Absence of a mycorrhizal net (and many other microbial constituents of the indigenous microbiome) is a contributor to weed growth, as most weeds are not obligately mycorrhizal; in fact, their presence may inhibit their formation.”

How to Keep Your California Native Garden Long-lasting: A Brief Q & A with Lucy Warren and Greg Rubin

Lucy and Greg have co-authored two books on California native gardening: "The California Native Landscape: The Homeowner’s Guide to Restoring its Balance and Beauty" and "The California Drought-Defying Garden". They graciously accepted our invite to speak on the care and maintenance of  a California native garden at our Native Gardening Workshop this past September 8. We asked them a few questions at the time in advance of their presentation.

In your own California native garden what has been the most fascinating or surprising thing that has happened over the years? 
 
LUCY: I have loved watching the plants grow and develop to their maturity. One of the most surprising things was watching the supposedly tame Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince' run rampant and become aggressive. The original 'Canyon Prince' has been compromised and while it is still a beautiful plant, it limits where I will plant it.
 
GREG: I have been doing much of my Argentine ant treatment research and development in my own ½-acre yard, always striving for more directed and organic approaches. It has proven quite epiphanous and incredibly satisfying to bring plants like Ceanothus, Fremontodendron, Dendromecon, Arctostaphylos, and Lavatera back from the brink of death, and to realize how adaptable and resilient these plants can be in the absence of ant infestation. Many of the plants slapped with the moniker of being "short-lived" and difficult are precisely the plants ants seem to target most! 

On average, how often would one need to prune their native garden for optimal growth?
 
LUCY: It depends on what plants you have in your garden. Colorful perennials along the edges of the garden will need to be dead-headed regularly for appearance and to extend their bloom cycle or will need to be trimmed back at the end of their bloom cycle. Grasses need a haircut every year or two. Most of your landscape should be evergreen perennial plants which will need little pruning if they are planted to their mature size.
 
GREG: Hopefully you've chosen plants optimally sized for your spaces, otherwise there may be frequent pruning in order to keep them in-bounds. Short of that, the main reasons for pruning are for shape, to remove dead growth, and dead heading. On a plant by plant basis, this is rarely over once or twice a year. Perennials that bloom continuously (like seaside daisies) may require dead heading every month or two, which in turn stimulates more flowering.
 
When you go out to look at your gardens, what is the thing you check most frequently?
 
GREG: I look for struggling plants. If they have certain weeds growing right around the base (and nowhere else) that is a strong indicator of possible ant infestation. Then I check around and look for ants, as well as soil looseness, which is often associated with ant nests. Finally, if I've ruled out ants, I use my soil moisture indicator to see if the plant is too wet or dry. It is about 12" long so I can check moisture at the roots.
 
LUCY: I check for weeds always.
 
What sorts of pests prevail in California native gardens?
 
GREG: Ants and the sucking insects they support may be the single greatest cause of native plant mortality in landscapes. Unfortunately, by the time you see aphids and scale in the branches, they have long infested the roots, far from the reaches of horticultural soap or alcohol. The big question is whether it is this simple desiccation/sugar appropriation that is the cause of collapse, or whether it is the pathogens that researchers have found to be spread by this activity. Either way, there is absolutely nothing good about Argentine ants!
 
LUCY: I agree with Greg, definitely the Argentine ant is the most destructive, aggressive and prevalent pest in California native gardens because it farms the sucking insects on the roots of the plants.
 
If you could have done or corrected one thing early on in your native garden, what would that be?
 
LUCY: Learn about natives earlier in my life and plant them then.
 
GREG: Use less plants! Many of my older gardens are a little over-planted, partly because I'm such a plant nut, and partly because much of the size data 15-20 years ago was on the small side.
 
What is a memorable response you have had from a reader of your books?
 
LUCY: One of my fellow Master Gardeners came up to me and apologized for the fact that their book was so full of notes and highlights--I loved it!
 
GREG: "Tashkent is NOT in the Ukraine, it is in Uzbekistan!" as I incorrectly described the derivation of Chitalpa tashkentensis as being developed in the Ukraine (especially embarrassing since much of my family on my father's side emigrated from the Ukraine!).
 
Aside from a geography lesson Frank Landis corrected my description of mustard being facultatively mycorrhizal. It is actually non-mycorrhizal, instead secreting cyanide compounds into the soil that destroy the symbiotic fungi that help support the native plant community. We were able to get that correction into the second printing.

Lucy A. Warren, a Virginia native, transplanted to California in early adulthood. With a Masters in Marketing, her first career in marketing research aided decision making with and for major corporations. Long fascinated with plants and horticulture, she is a former editor of California Garden magazine, wrote feature articles and a gardening column on edible plants for the San Diego Union Tribune, and many articles for other gardening publications. She collaborated on the University of California public information pamphlet on killer bees. 
 
Ms. Warren has been assistant coordinator for the flower and garden show at the San Diego County Fair and the Spring Home/Garden Show. A 20+-year UCCE Master Gardener, she has served on many boards, including San Diego Horticultural Society and Pacific Horticulture Society. She joined the board of Friends of Balboa Park as Horticulture Chair and was integral in the preparation of the 2015 Panama-California Exposition Centennial with the Adopt A Plot program. She has appeared on numerous local television news segments and frequently makes presentations to garden clubs and other organizations. She is co-author of two books on California native plants with Greg Rubin: "The California Native Landscape: The Homeowner’s Guide to Restoring its Balance and Beauty" and "The California Drought-Defying Garden".


Greg Rubin was recently named the 2018 Horticulturist of the Year by the San Diego Horticultural Society. He is the president and founder of California’s Own Native Landscape Design, Inc., and is a licensed landscape contractor (C-27 No. 717147) who has been working with California native plants since 1985.  By 1993, Greg fully transitioned out of his career as an aerospace engineer to devote himself to his successful and unusual landscaping business. His company has designed over 700 residential, commercial, and institutional native landscapes in Southern California. Specialties include year-round appeal, low maintenance, water efficiency, rich habitat, and fire-resistance. Greg has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, San Diego Union Tribune and Los Angeles Times, and magazines such as Sunset, San Diego Home and Garden, California Gardener and Kiplinger's. Media coverage includes appearances on all of San Diego's local news outlets, CNN & MSNBC. Greg regularly gives presentations and workshops on native plants to conferences, garden clubs and other organizations throughout Southern California. 

Greg is co-author, with Lucy Warren, of "The California Native Landscape: The Homeowners’ Design Guide to Restoring its Beauty and Balance," published by Timber Press, 2013. This popular native horticultural literary work covers all aspects of native landscape design. He and Lucy now have a second book, "The Drought Defying California Garden", also published by Timber Press in 2016. His website is:  
www.calown.com.

So, the County passed Newland Sierra, and...

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

CNPS will be joining the litigation against the Newland Sierra Decision. We have grave problems with its treatment of native plants, problems with wildfire issues for both the plants (with increased ignitions), for existing residents and for new residents, all of whom will have trouble evacuating, and problems with the way they want to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by buying offsite carbon offsets somewhere else (as ifthere’s an infinite market of these things). We will bejoining a coalition of local businesses, institutions, residents, and environmental groups in this suit.

In late September, a judge overturned the County’slatest Climate Action Plan, ruling in favor of Sierra Club and the Golden Door, who had sued on the way that the County wanted to allow carbon offsets outside the County (does this sound familiar?). The plaintiffs wanted the judge to find the County in contempt of his ruling before it could approve Newland Sierra (thereby blocking it), but the judge refused, allowing the County to approve the project. in a hearing right before Christmas, the court will decide whether the County is in contempt of court in moving forward on Newland, Otay Ranch Village 14, Lilac Hills Ranch, and others. And undoubtedly the County will appeal. Exciting, no?

In the meantime, the County is moving ahead to approve Otay Ranch Village 14, Lilac Hills Ranch, and the rest in mid-December. To me, this smacks of chutzpahif not hubris, but we’ll see what happens. It’s possiblethat in December, the judge will forbid the County from approving any projects until they come out with a third Climate Action Plan that passes legal muster. AlthoughI’m sure the County will scramble to rewrite their Climate Action Plan, they’ll probably push it so that it’sgetting approved in spring, 2020, right around the time we get to vote on the Save Our San Diego initiative to take General Plan Amendments to the voters. As I said, it’s getting exciting here. Yay (?)(!)

Growing from Seed: Questions and Answers with Cindy Hazuka, Seed and Bulb Coordinator, CNPS-SD

How did you get started with California native seeds and bulbs?

The simple answer is that I heeded the call! In late 2015 there was a blurb in the CNPS-SD newsletter that predecessor Amy Huie was ready to pass on the torch for managing the seed and bulb sales.  Without ever working with the group I decided to volunteer and step up to the challenge.  This was easy to do as there was an amazing base of volunteers involved who helped me learn the ropes.

The background to this decision is that I have been involved in California native plants since the early 1990s, primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area. Besides being self-taught, I volunteered for years at a California native plant demonstration garden called Native Hill at Foothill College run by the CNPS-Santa Clara Valley chapter.  Then when I found myself in homes with yards I could work in, I focused on natives & edibles. My interest in seeds stemmed primarily from by bank account. It was too expensive for me as a student to buy plants, but I could start hundreds of plants for a fraction of the cost and my love of germinating was born. My family left our home, with over 100 different native plants, to live in San Diego in 2012. The move was going to be temporary but when we decided we were going to stay in the area I decided to get involved in the San Diego chapter by doing the seed sales.

Chapter Council, Conservation & Rare Plant Surveys

By Frank Landis, Chair Conservation Committee

If you’ve been to a chapter general meeting in, well, the last few years, you’ve probably heard me make a lame joke about wearing many hats in CNPSSD. Here I’ve got news for most of the hats. Rather than just writing about conservation, I’m going to write about all of them, to save some newsletter column space.

Chapter Council: State News

As not enough of you know, our parent society, CNPS, has a bicameral governance structure. On one hand,we’ve got the standard state board of directorsnecessary for any non-profit. On the other, because we have 35 chapters ranging from the redwoods of the North Coast to the chaparral of Baja California, we also have the Chapter Council, where representatives of each chapter get together to talk and hash out policy forthe organization. I’m San Diego’s representative to the Chapter Council.

So, here’s news from the Chapter Council.

Rare and Endangered

Questions and Answers with Frank Landis, CNPS-SD Conservation Chair & Fred Roberts, CNPS-SD Rare Plant Botanist

How did you take an interest in rare and endangered California plant species?

FRANK: That’s a hard question, because I’ve been an environmentalist for a long time. For me, it has become a philosophical issue. I follow James Carse’s notion in Finite and Infinite Games.  We all know what finite games are, because we play them, they end, and you find out who won.  Indeed, you can only determine who won by ending the game.  An infinite game never ends, so you have to play it for different reasons. Carse believes there is only one infinite game, and that the reason to play the infinite game of life is to keep the game going with as many players as possible.  

That’s the game I play. Unlike Carse, I believe that most of the players in the infinite game of life on Earth aren’t human, but that we should work to keep them in the game. That’s why I work to protect rare and endangered plant species, as well as common and uncommon ones.

FRED: That was a while back. I believe I first took a strong interest in rare, endangered, and sensitive plants in the mid 1980s while working in the herbarium at the Museum of Systematic Biology at UC, Irvine, mostly in association with my flora of Orange County project. Roxanne Bittman, working with the Nature Conservancy contacted me about conducting a status review of Laguna Beach Dudleya (Dudleya stolonifera). TNC was pleased with the result and asked me to conduct status reviews of several other rare species. Roxanne Bittman later was hired by the California Department Fish and Game (now Fish and Wildlife) within the California Natural Diversity Data Base program and we have remained in contact to this day. I was hooked on analysis and reviewing rare species. I was volunteered to be the rare plant chair of the Orange Co. CNPS chapter a couple years previously, but it was not until the dudleya review that I began to really take interest in the CNPS position. 

Some Native Seeds Require Sun to Germinate

Some Native Seeds Require Sun to Germinate

By Lee Gordon, CNPS Garden Committee

Some native seeds need long exposure to the sun in order to germinate. This report describes the role sun plays in the germination of seeds from three species. Two are borages: Phacelia parryiand Cryptantha intermedia. The third is Cneoridium dumosum, a citrus. It goes into some detail about the mechanisms that affect germination of these seeds. It then puts all this into the context of Deno’s theories of germination inhibition.  

The final section shows that pretreatment with Gibberelic acid, a plant hormone, enables the borage seeds to germinate as well as pea seeds we buy from a store. 

Looking for More Volunteers

By Frank Landis, Conservation Committee Chair

Yes, it’s Fall, the busiest time of year for volunteering for CNPS-SD. In addition to volunteering to help with the Native Gardening workshop and the Fall Native Plant Sale, I’m going to ask for your help with conservation.

But first, the news. To no one’s surprise, on July 25 theBoard of Supervisors passed the first General Plan Amendment (GPA), approving in a single item of three projects: Valiano, Harmony Grove Village South, and Otay 250. Almost no one protested against Otay 250, but quite a few people protested against the Harmony Grove developments, as you might expect. The supervisors even spoke of a threat to litigate. Since CEQA lawsuits have to be filed within 30 days of when an EIR is certified, by the time you read this, we will know if anyone actually sued over it or not.

That GPA was an interesting legal situation. What theBoard of Supervisors voted on wasn’t eachdevelopment, it was a single project comprised of the three disparate developments. By law, every project (like a general plan amendment) is supposed to have a CEQA document analyzing its impacts. With the GPA the Supervisors approved, there was no CEQA document that covered the cumulative effects that the developments had on the County. Since two of the three are in Elfin Forest, and I do not recall that they analyzed the cumulative impacts they had on the area, that may be a problem, although the County assertsthat everything’s fine and proper.

Update of the International Code of Nomenclature

By Bobbie Stephenson

Formerly called the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN), the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is the set of rules and recommendations dealing with the formal botanical names that are given to plants, fungi and a few other groups of organisms, all those "traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants".

Rare Plant Hunting in a Dry Year

By Fred Roberts, Rare Plant Botanist 

You’ve probably noticed this. It is a dry year, a very dry year. According to the National Weather Service, the rainfall between October 1, 2017 and July 6, 2017 at Oceanside, my hometown, was 5.54 inches (141 mm), only about 55 percent of the yearly average of 9.90 inches (250 mm). Nearly three inches (75 mm) of that fell in a single day in January. Other places in Southern California saw even lower totals during the season. Alpine, for example has only seen 45 percent of normal rainfall. So yes, indeed, this is a dry year.

There are only two ways to deal with a year like this. Stay home and hope for better next year or look harder. Job necessity required I do the later for project surveying rare plants over the 8,600-acre Canyon and Canyon 2 burn. The two fires swept through the Anaheim Hills and northwestern Santa Ana Mountains last September.

Typically following fire, we see a spectacular bloom. Hillsides dressed in color: orange, magenta, blue, and white. Not so in 2018. The steep hillsides were largely open blackened earth with charred branches reaching for the sky. Color was scattered and patchy at best. At the north end of this, a place called Coal Canyon, we saw only rare shrubs and perennials. Rare annuals were largely absent. By mid-April conditions were so dry we thought our surveys would be over in a month.

A Small Milestone

By Arne Johanson, Co-chairperson Habitat Restoration Committee

I noted the following in Bob Byrnes' weekly restoration committee email: “Last week we noticed for the first time a large area of Goldenbush (Isocoma menziesii, I believe) and California sagebrush (Artemisia californica) interspersed with the endless artichoke thistle (Cynara cardunculus to us nerds) that I often mention in these emails. We treated the artichoke last week, leaving the natives to continue to thrive and spread. This is yet another encouraging sign that recruitment following the disastrous fire of four years ago is proceeding nicely.”

Into the Hot Part of the Year

By Frank Landis, Chairperson Conservation Committee

Yes, I’m aware that the worst San Diego heat-waves are typically in June and July, and hopefully we’re done with that. All we have to worry about are the fall fires. And politics. And the politics and science of fires.

By the time you read this, I suspect that the County Supervisors will have approved their first General PlanAmendment Bundle (GPA), since they’re hearing it onJuly 25. This one bundles Harmony Grove Village South, Valiano, and Otay Village 250. The first two appear to be the most controversial, primarily because of fire issues.

Unfortunately, the County seems hell-bent on ignoring its general plan and bargains made with communities about where to put dense growth and where not to grow. Instead, they appear to be following the old political aphorism that you shouldn’t let a good crisis goto waste when it comes to making money.