Bringing it to Life: Altacal Audubon’s Backyard Habitat Certification Program

November 15th, 2014

This time of year is marked for me by the early morning calling of a great horned owl, who roosts (and hunts) from a line of blue oaks at the end of my garden. In the mid-day, the sound of hummingbird activity still dominates – nectaring in the last of the lavender and salvia, and hunting for bugs among the blue oaks’ falling leaves, along with cheerful little crews of bushtits enjoying their own foraging. The sweet simple call of the white crowned sparrow punctuates the heat of the day, and if I ever lose track of which season is upon us, the song of fall and winter’s flicker reminds me.

I’m lucky that my current garden came to me with everything wildlife love – big native trees, nearby water in a creek, plenty of flowering perennials almost year-round.

But you don’t need all of this to have a thriving habitat garden. This past week I worked in a small suburban garden that while very different mine was still humming with life. Three years ago the owner removed the lawn in front and back of her house, which is still flanked by lifeless, albeit green, lawn up and down her development street. Although her garden has no large trees, her tapestry of spring, summer and fall blooming perennials and some well-chosen vines and shrubs attract and sustain hundreds of pollinators and birds. As I worked, I had to talk softly to the bees, working around remaining blooms so as not to remove all their food. This was a perfect illustration of how little effort is required to have a habitat friendly garden no matter its size or location. In this small rich garden I was companioned by hummingbirds, dragonflies, many many bees, and butterflies. I could hear mourning doves, kill deer and meadowlarks going about their days.

Plant it and they will come. Who would not want such a lively garden?

Perhaps people are hesitant to take on the task of transforming at least part of their resource-draining-and-lifeless-lawn-landscapes because they’re not sure where to start and the process seems daunting?
Well, some regional help is here, Altacal Audubon, a regional chapter of the National Audubon Society, recently kicked off a new Neighborhood Habitat Certification Program with the specific goal of encouraging and supporting people who are interested in converting unused lawns to lively wildlife habitat.

This program, in the works for a over a year, is headed by Altacal’s Education Chair, Melinda Teves, whom I met first at a lawn to garden workshop in Chico sponsored by the Butte Environmental Council. Melinda writes that “Altacal will support participants by providing resource packets and a Neighborhood Habitat garden sign. Some of our [Altacal] members are already enjoying the benefits of having bird-friendly landscapes,” but not all. And “It’s a wonderful experience to watch a yard come to life” with birds and other wildlife.

“By replacing unused lawn with primarily (but not exclusively) ‘native’ California plants, the benefits are many. The birds and pollinators that have evolved alongside these plants, for thousands of years, will have a reliable food source. This means more wild visitors. And plants that are native to our valley are generally drought-tolerant. This is valuable to our community - now, during the drought, and also for the long term as we face larger water issues. In addition, our native valley plants are beautiful. We don’t want to wait for a weekend hike to enjoy them!”

Resource packets will include local demonstration garden locations, local expert contacts, a calendar of workshops, favorite bird-friendly plants, local business coupons, best books & websites, irrigation tips, and other educational resources. Some some easy-to-attain criteria regarding plantings, water-wise irrigation, and wildlife stewardship, will earn you your garden sign.

Melinda eloquently shares her motivation: “I think that one of the things i like most about the program, aside from restoring habitat and protecting our valuable water, is that the program is kind of empowering. We don’t really need to wait for new legislation or new sanctuaries. We can look out at our yards, and see that much of the land in California is in our own hands. We have the power to do great things. We can rebuild wildlife corridors and conserve and protect our water, one yard at a time. And every yard counts. That’s what I like about the program. And I’m so grateful that others see value in it too.”

Plant and it and wildlife will come – bringing seasonal joy and improved habitat health to your every day.

Jewellgarden.com/In a North State Garden is on Facebook

To submit plant/gardening related events/classes to the Jewellgarden.com on-line Calendar of Regional Gardening Events, send the pertinent information to me at: Jennifer@jewellgarden.com

In a North State Garden is a twice-monthly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs two weekends a month on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time.

Timing: November in the Garden & North State Calendar of Regional Gardening Events

November 1st, 2014

PHOTO: Autumnal bumble bees resting in an an aster.

Timing is everything isn’t it? It’s as true in baseball as it is in politics as it is in the garden. Good timing, and an intuitive understanding of timing, makes everything you do or are preparing to do, come along more easily.

PHOTO: Fall trees. Read the rest of this entry »

Legacy: October & The North State Calendar of Gardening Events

September 27th, 2014


As I compose this month’s calendar piece two things are foremost in my mind. The first is that it is raining. Really raining and the sound and smell and light of this much anticipated seasonal weather has a forceful and visceral effect on me and my outlook. While not a drought ending rain, it’s certainly a welcome easing of us and our gardens from late summer into fall.

PHOTO: Me and my paternal aunt Diana Bingham left, and maternal aunt Bettina Balding Blackford at a gardening symposium at White Flower Farm in Litchfield Connecticut in 2003. Read the rest of this entry »

A New Rose Garden in Chico, the City of Roses

September 22nd, 2014

Rose gardens are among the most ancient and storied of cultivated gardens in human history - along with physic gardens. Roses themselves are among the most storied of flowers. And our North State Mediterranean climate actually provides some remarkably good rose growing conditions. Which is lucky for all those rose-lovers out there. Read the rest of this entry »

September in the Garden & North State Calendar of Regional Gardening Events

August 30th, 2014

PHOTO: Ripe Ribes sp. (roezlii?).

September in the North State garden begins in earnest our biggest and best window of opportunity to plant in our gardens. From mid-September to the end of October, from Davis to Redding, a generous number of arboreta, plant societies and nurseries will host plant sales to get us started on our annual garden additions. From perennials to fall and winter vegetables, from trees to shrubs and vines and bulbs and even the broadcasting of annual wildflower seeds, from drought tolerant natives to fruit trees – now begins the best time for us North State Gardeners to dream it, plan it and plant it. Read the rest of this entry »

Succeeding with Natives - Mt. Lassen CNPS Horticulture Symposium September 14

August 17th, 2014

On Sunday September 14th, 2014 the Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society will host a day-long symposium on designing your garden space to include more native plants while at the same time using far less water, creating far less maintenance for yourself, and having more life and beauty than you’ve had till now (registration on-line at: mountlassen.cnps.org) Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait of an Empress, August in the Garden & North State Calendar of Regional Gardening Events

August 3rd, 2014

I never did get a get picture of her. Not a drive-by snap shot, not a proper portrait. Despite regularly remarking on how lovely she was. And now that she’s gone – with the others – I go out of my way to avoid driving where I used to see her. Why bother? It’s painful to see the gaping hole, painful to know I had never taken the time to get a good photograph of this beautiful life by which I seasonally marked my place in time and space. She was a marker on my internal compass and now she is gone. I am regretful, wondering if I perhaps I never acknowledged her or appreciated her enough. Read the rest of this entry »

A Penny For Your…..The Penny Pines Reforestation Program in CA

July 12th, 2014

A penny for a …..pine? As they have for the past 50 years, this year the Chico Horticultural Society – along with other garden clubs statewide - chose honorees to receive a Penny Pines Plantation. I was among this year’s honorees, and to me it is a high honor indeed.

According the US Forest Service, national forests in California cover some 20 million acres, or about 1/5 of the state - an area just slightly larger than the state of South Carolina. Stretching from the Mexican border to Oregon, these forests include a variety of terrain and vegetation. These areas of great beauty and majestic stature are routinely affected by natural and man-caused fire, pests and disease, which - while often part of the natural life cycle of a forest - do also damage and reduce them in several ways. Given enough time, the land will recover naturally, but Penny Pines provides a helping hand. It is a cooperative conservation program in which everyone can participate.

In 1941 the Penny Pines Program was officially launched under the sponsorship of the San Francisco Sportswomen’s Association. Recognizing the great need to help restore forest areas, the association sent donations to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Northern California.

Over the years since, Penny Pines – so-called because in 1941 a seedling tree could be purchased for about 1 cent - has grown into a statewide initiative, and individuals, community organizations, and groups of all sizes have participated in the program, donating well over 1 million dollars in the past 73 years. Garden clubs, women’s clubs, men’s service organizations, youth groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts, and schools have all contributed.

Other states have cooperative planting programs, but the Penny Pines Program is unique to California. Almost every National Forest in the State has a Penny Pines plantation area, featuring a sign that lists contributors.

By 1964, Penny Pines was so successful that money contributed to purchase seedlings far exceeded funds available for site preparation, planting and care, and so the conservation agreement was rewritten to provide that Penny Pines funds be used for reforestation activities in general.

According to long-time member and club historian, Emilie White, the Chico Horticultural Society purchased their first Penny Pines Plantation in 1963 at the Chaparral in the Butte Meadows area, and has since purchased more than 70 plantations honoring individuals and groups. Recently the club’s honorees included firefighters of the Lassen, Plumas and Mendocino National Forest.

Today $68 buys a one-acre Penny Pines Plantation of over 300 tree seedlings. Trees of 16 species are used throughout the state, including Ponderosa Pine, Jeffrey Pine, Douglas Fir and Incense Cedar.

Current Forest with Penny Pine Plantation sites:

• Angeles National Forest, 701 N. Santa Anita Ave. Arcadia , CA 91006 (626) 574-1613
• Cleveland National Forest, 10845 Rancho Bernardo Rd., Rancho Bernardo 92127 (619) 673-6180
• Eldorado National Forest,100 Forni Rd., Placerville 95667 (530) 622-5061
• Klamath National Forest, 1312 Fairlane Rd. , Yreka 96097 (530) 842-6131
• L. Tahoe Basin Mgt. Unit, 870 Emerald Bay Rd., S. Lake Tahoe 96150 (530) 573-2600
• Lassen National Forest, 2550 Riverside Dr. Susanville, Calif,.96130 (530) 257-2151
• Los Padres National Forest, 6755 Hollister Ave. Suite 150, Goleta 93117(805) 968-6640
• Mendocino National Forest, 825 N. Humboldt Ave., Willows 95988 (530) 934-3316
• Plumas National Forest, P.O. Box 1500 159, Lawrence St., Quincy 95971 (530) 283-2050
• San B’dino National Forest, 602 South Tippecanoe Ave, San B’dino 92408 (909) 382-2600
• Sequoia National Forest, 1839 South Newcomb ST , Porterville 93257 (209) 784-1500
• Shasta-Trinity Ntl Forest, 3644 Avtech Parkway , Redding 96002 (530) 226-2500
• Sierra National Forest, 600 Tollhouses Rd., Clovis 93611 (209) 297-0706
• Stanislaus National Forest,19777 Greenley Rd. , Sonora 95370 (209) 532-3671
Tahoe National Forest, 631 Coyote St. , P.O.Box 6003, Nevada City 95959 (530) 265-4531

Follow Jewellgarden.com/In a North State Garden on Facebook

To submit plant/gardening related events/classes to the Jewellgarden.com on-line Calendar of Regional Gardening Events, send the pertinent information to me at: Jennifer@jewellgarden.com

In a North State Garden is a twice-monthly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs two weekends a month on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time.

Unity of Opposites: July in the Garden & North State Calendar of Gardening Events

June 28th, 2014

“I hear my mother calling when the summer wind blows,
Go out into the garden in your old, old clothes…”

Rosemary Wells, “First Tomato”

The garden in the height of summer is a source of deep comfort for me despite some contrasts between the reality of it and the idea of it. This quote from Rosemary Wells’ childrens’ book “First Tomato” captures the essence of this comfort for me in both the tangible place of the garden - and the garden as a state of mind.

July in the garden is likewise a unity of opposites: the heat of the summer days, the cool of the summer mornings; the fireworks of early July, the fatigue of late July, the long - seemingly slow - days and yet both mine and my plant’s urgent need for water and shade - which truncates my gardening hours spent in labor or appreciation to the first and last few hours of light each day. Read the rest of this entry »

Oreganos: Ornamental, Useful, Fragrant & Tough

June 14th, 2014

Ahhh, despite heat and drought, these tough-as-nails beauties are in bloom again….enjoy revisiting this summer garden treat: oreganos.

I’m a big believer in Beauty for its very own sake, but in a gardening life where choices must be made as to what we will give room, resources, time and attention – it’s always nice to love a plant that is both beautiful and useful beyond this beauty. Read the rest of this entry »