Native Garden Wins Helix’s 2019 Landscape Contest

Helix Water District has named Matt and Lauren Kirkpatrick of La Mesa as this year’s winner of its WaterSmart Landscape Contest, an annual competition that recognizes outstanding water-wise residential landscapes based on overall attractiveness, design, efficient irrigation and appropriate plant selection and maintenance.

Compared to the Kirkpatricks’ previous lawn, this growing, colorful and entirely native landscape requires very little water and creates a place of inspiration and peace for these outdoor enthusiasts. Over the two-month billing period ending this April, this home used just 13 units of water, which is almost 40 percent less than the average water use of other Helix customers.  One unit is 748 gallons.

The Kirkpatricks purchased the home in 2014 with a front yard full of grass that required frequent watering and mowing just to maintain a modest appearance. In the end, the lawn’s appearance was lackluster and proved to be too costly and time consuming for the couple. Taking advantage of SoCal WaterSmart’s grass removal rebate program, the Kirkpatricks tossed their turf for a landscape that requires less maintenance, less water and offers more beauty.

Park Champions and Park Staff Help with Preparing the Old Town Native Plant Landscape for Changes

Park Champs 1.jpg

Park Champions and Park Staff Help with Preparing the Old Town Native Plant Landscape for Changes

Six Park Champions volunteered alongside Old Town State Park staffers Chad, Susan, and Matt, to rebuild and paint another section of the old wood picket fence around the historic McCoy House, while four other Champions helped CNPS member Kay Stewart remove overgrown black sage from the Native Landscape. The purpose of the landscape is to “re-create a usable, edible landscape-like the one used by the Native Americans who lived here before Europeans arrived.” The work was started in 2006 and at the time the species selection seemed fine. Sadly, large shrubs provided hiding places for people, so the landscape is being “remodeled” to eliminate them.

After some irrigation repairs are completed by Park staff, on November 17, at the next Park Champions volunteer work party, CNPS members Kay Stewart and Peter St. Clair will show volunteers how to sow wildflower seeds. Seeds of locally common species of annuals will be scattered in bare spots to result in short-term beautification. Kay and Peter are also planning to replant using plants that will not reach more than 2’ in height and have ethnobotanical value. They hope that funding to replant the Landscape with an estimated 300 plants, at a cost of $2,000 to $3,000, will be found. If so, planting parties in December and/or January will be scheduled.

Habitat Improvement at Mission Valley Preserve

The San Diego River Park Foundation, a CNPS San Diego partner, has begun a project at the Mission Valley Preserve to improve the native riparian habitat.

Mission Valley Preserve is a 52-acre open space preserve in urban San Diego. This beautiful area is a shady spot to enjoy views of the San Diego River or stroll along interpretive trails. It is home to important native wildlife, including the endangered least Bell’s vireo.

Volunteers with the San Diego River Park Foundation and the Friends of Mission Valley Preserve, as well as City park rangers, have worked in the Preserve for more than 17 years; clearing trash, creating signage and trails, and removing invasive non-native plant species. As part of the current project, volunteers with the new Invasive Management, Plant Assessment, and Conservation Team (IMPACT) will remove 6 acres of invasive plant coverage by September 2020. This effort is funded by the San Diego River Conservancy.

Invasive plant species to be removed: Giant Reed (Arundo donax), Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides), Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus), Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensi), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globules), and many others.

Native plant species expected to re-establish: several native Willow (Salix)  species, Mule Fat (Baccharis salicifolia), San Diego Marsh Elder (Iva hayesiana), Buffalo Gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima), and others.

On Sunday, July 22, the San Diego River Park Foundation will be offering a tour of this special area and an update on the status of the project. To RSVP for the tour or get involved in IMPACT, email Steffani Clark-Jijon at or call (619) 297-7380.

The Pollinator Pathway–Providing Nature’s Finest Candy!


Composed of educational and experiential components, the Pollinator Pathway exhibit is designed to inform visitors about the beauty and importance of pollinators, and specific actions they can take to benefit pollinators, whether on your patio or in a backyard garden.

Why we focus on pollinators:
In the United States, pollinators are responsible for 75 percent of our food supply. That is one of every three bites of food we eat! Pollinators help produce some of nature’s finest sweets and baking ingredients: chocolate, pumpkins, blueberries and strawberries.

Pollinators are critical to our food supply and the plant diversity we find in nature, yet across the nation, they are disappearing. 

At the Pollinator Pathway exhibit, you will learn more about bees, butterflies and other pollinators, and how to help them thrive.

Exhibit highlights:

  • Native gardens-walk through our native pollinator garden and learn how to transform your home landscape into a pollinator-friendly oasis.
  • The butterfly house-hang out in our butterfly house for a face-to-face experience with live butterflies.
  • Live honeybees-observe our live honeybee exhibit to get a glimpse of what life is like inside a honeybee hive. 
  • Photo op-take a photo with our giant set of rainbow butterfly wings to share with your friends and spread the word about butterflies and pollinators.

Where to find us:

The Pollinator Pathway is located at the Farm (the infield of the track at the fairgrounds). We are open every day that the fair is open, from June 1 to July 4, 2018.

County Fair address: 2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar, CA

Speakers and demonstration schedule:
On Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 PM and 4:30 PM, we will offer a variety of talks and demonstrations. Topics include monarch butterflies, native bees, creating pollinator gardens and butterfly releases. See the Fair calendar for more information.

The Pollinator Pathway is jointly presented by:
The Butterfly Farms
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Sky Mountain Permaculture Institute
San Diego County Fair
Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County
California Native Plant Society - San Diego Chapter
U.S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resource Conservation Service

For more information about the exhibit, visit:

Report from the Habitat Restoration Committee

Bob Byrnes stands with a robust Coast Live Oak sapling brought into the sunlight after palm fronds shading it were removed.

A report from the intrepid Bob Byrnes of Habitat Restoration:

"We accomplished quite a bit last week. I myself worked with Arne, Heidi, and Casey to treat eucalyptus and palm trees. Arne worked with Brianna to treat eucalyptus, tree tobacco, acacia, fountain grass, and other invasives at Artesian Creek.

On Friday, Heidi and I saw a herd of 4 deer walking in a line up the side of the valley. The last in line must have been the youngest, as it was the smallest. On Saturday, Casey and I saw a coyote, which promptly trotted off. This is the first time I've seen one in the Valley, though we've noticed their scat.

This week we will treat more of the same plants. We will continue monitoring Arundo for regrowth. Retreating pampas grass is on the agenda as well. I have Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday available. Email if you're interested in working with me and let me know your days:"

Dedication of the Betsy Cory Native Plant Garden in Chula Vista

By Kay Stewart

(L to R): Chris, Betty, Kay, Joan, and Emily plant and primp. The
boxes over the plants have beautiful information posters.

About four years ago Betsy Cory rallied her fellow gardeners in the Chula
Vista Garden Club to plant scented California Native Plants in a courtyard
garden in the Chula Vista South Branch Library. In addition, a series of
beautiful information panels were installed that explain the garden. They
were created two of Betsy's friends.  

In October the garden was dedicated to Betsy's memory. A group of her
friends gathered for the dedication. Several in attendance agreed to come
for a maintenance party in a few weeks. So in November a group of five
Garden club members met me at the garden and we spruced it up, and planted
twenty more scented plants. The majority of plants were donated by the San
Diego Chapter of CNPS. 

Robin, one of Betsy Cory's daughters, next to the Garden's sign.

The library's irrigation tech will keep an eye on the courtyard to be sure
the new plants receive the water they need. A member of the garden club will
also make a weekly visit to check up on it and to hand-water some lovely
large blue pots with plants.

Members of the Garden Club are now working on ideas for how to bring classes
to the garden so teachers can use it as part of their classroom curriculum.

(L to R) Sandy, Betty, Chris, Joan, Emily (Chula Vista Garden Club
members) and Kay (CNPS) after planting.

Working with the ACE (American Conservation Experience)

Working with the ACE (American Conservation Experience)

A report from the Habitat Restoration Committee by Bob Byrnes

We finished our 2017 partnership with ACE (American Conservation Experience) last Thursday.  We worked together for two weeks, with a break in between to let the heat wave dissipate.  ACE worked very hard, as usual - this is our third year with them.  They are paid for by grant funds, and are comprised of young (to me at least) college-age persons acquiring practical experience in the field of conservation and restoration.  We focused on Pomponio Ranch, a horse ranch located in the downstream area of the San Dieguito River Valley. 

It's time to vote for your environmental hero!

Vote for Robert Byrnes, the hardworking member of our Habitat Restoration crew, who is one of 3 finalists in California in the Cox Conserves Heroes contest. The winner will be named California's Cox Conserves Hero and receive a $10,000 grant for his or her environmental non-profit of choice. Bob has designated California Native Plant Society - San Diego Chapter as the recipient of any winnings. What a guy!


Cox Communications and The Trust for Public Land are proud to present California's Cox Conserves Heroes program. Voting is currently open for the 2017 awards through June 24.  

About Cox Conserves Heroes 

Created in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, Cox Conserves Heroes is a national awards program that honors and celebrates environmental volunteers across the country.  

How it works

The public nominates volunteers using a brief online form. Next, a panel of local civic and environmental leaders selects three finalists to be profiled online. The finalist videos are shared online with the public, who then vote for the nominee they feel most deserving of the award. Winning nominees are awareded a $10,000 donation to the nonprofit of their choosing. Finalists each receive $5,000 for their nonprofit beneficiaries. 

The awards programs is our way of honoring the unsung heroes in our communities and supporting the local organizations doing the important work of bettering our environment. Through the program, we hope to inspire more people to take an active role in community conservation.

Volunteer Recognition at the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy

Arne Johanson

Bob Byrnes

At volunteer appreciation day for the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy on May 13 Arne Johanson and Bob Byrnes received, as members of the California Native Plant Society, San Diego Chapter:

  • Certificates of appreciation and special thanks from the US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Certificates of recognition for exceptional volunteer service from The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy
  • Plaques with a personal photograph, inscribed "With Sincere Appreciation for Your Outstanding Volunteer Service, San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy"

Congratulations Bob & Arne and thank you for all your hard work!

Visit the San Diego County Fair Pollinator Trail!

Where can you find some peace and quiet after a long day at the San Diego County Fair?

Why, at The Pollinator Trail, of course!

Across the nation, pollinators are disappearing. The Pollinator Trail exhibit at the county fair provides San Diegans with a look at how they can help pollinators like butterflies, bumble bees and hummingbirds thrive. This year, the exhibit overlaps with National Pollinator Week, June 19 – 25, 2017, which aims to create awareness about the importance and plight of our pollinators.

Exhibit Details: For the third year, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be one of several partners with the San Diego Pollinator Alliance to host the Pollinator Trail exhibit at the San Diego County Fair. The exhibit has several components to help the public learn and experience what can be done for pollinators at an apartment, house or garden. This includes three large native gardens, an example of a pollinator patio garden, a live honeybee exhibit and the Butterfly Flight House where visitors can come face to face with live flying butterflies.

The Pollinator Trail is located at the Farm (the infield of the track at the fairgrounds) and is ongoing from June 2 to July 4 at the San Diego County Fair.

Background: Pollinators are critical for our food supply, and they’re in trouble. Take the monarch butterfly for example: over the last 20 years, populations of monarch butterflies in North America have declined nearly 80 percent. Conserving pollinators and their habitat has positive cascading effects leading to conservation of other animals like songbirds and mammals. Pollinator habitat adds beauty to any setting with its vibrant displays of flowers and by attracting insects, birds, and other wildlife.

Our well-being depends on healthy animals. Pollinators are responsible for 75 percent of our food supply, and one of every three bites of food we eat. Pollinators also support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, flood protection and support other wildlife.

Join us at the Pollinator Trail to celebrate pollinators, walk the butterfly house, or learn about helping pollinators thrive.

The Pollinator Trail is a joint exhibit presented by:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Natural Resource Conservation Service
Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County
The Butterfly Farms
California Native Plant Society - San Diego Chapter
Sky Mountain Permaculture Institute

For more information about the exhibit, visit:


CALL OR WRITE your district Senator in favor of SB 249 BEFORE MAY 24!: Protect Our California Natural Areas from Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation

All forms of outdoor recreation have environmental impact, but not all forms have the same impact. As Californians, we face a continuous challenge to individually and collectively ‘do no harm’ to our common resources, so others - today and in the future - are able to enjoy them. While some forms of recreation (hiking, kayaking) demand little because the impacts are little, off-highway vehicle recreation demands a lot because the environmental damage is great. It is the nature of OHMVR activities that this environmental degradation is continuous and ongoing.