Real Gardeners Propagate

I have this notion that real gardeners have secret ways to engage with the cycles of nature and bring forth new life, and it's so very deep and mysterious and wonderful - that I've always been afraid to start. Well, over a winter break this year I got going finally.

To get some basic ideas, and to support the cause - I started helping out the Santa Cruz CNPS propagation group, once a month. I've learned a lot and had a great time doing that. I hope to be more involved with the California Native Plant Society ongoing, and, if time permits, other worthy groups such as Alrie Middlebrook's California Native Garden Foundation.

I also read up a bit - Judith Larner Lowry's book, The Landscaping Ideas of Jays, definitely inspired me to get going.

My goal is to propagate and plant the natives that grow here endemically. I gathered seeds from Foothill Needle Grass (Nassella lepida), Sticky Monkey (diplacus aurantiacus), and California Fuschia (Epilobium canum I think) and planted those.

But I also planted seeds from nursery stock and cuttings from some really pretty nursery-bought Sticky Monkey (mimulus "Eleanor" and mimulus "Trish"). Among many different natives I planted in the fall of '07, the penstemons and Shasta Sulphur Buckwheat really put on a great show spring and summer of '08.

“Margarita BOP” (Or maybe Penstemon azureus)

Umbellatum 'Shasta Sulfur'

I'd been preparing a bed in the "south garden" (a flat sunny area on the ridge top by our house) for a few months. I cleared it, watered it, cleared it, watered it, cleared it, cleared it, cleared it. - I'm sure some weed seeds will remain but I can say I did due diligence for sure. As Ms Larner-Lowry advised, I even got floating row cover to keep the critters off while the seedlings hopefully germinate and sprout. She said she did an experiment, planting without the cover, and the birds ate every seed.

The fencing is just to keep our rat terrier off the seeds as he runs through. It was used to enclose the front entrance beds, which I've left open now, to see how deer resistant those plants really are.... (BTW, you can see some of our neighbor's garden in the background - they love fruit trees, South African plants, and palm trees.)

To try out another method, I made a mix from fairly equal parts organic potting mix, coarse sand, and perlite, and planted seeds and cuttings in flats and pots:

My partner knocked together some shelves out of old closet doors. That's a native grape in the big pot, btw, and some wild Toyons behind the pool fence. Looks nice and sunny but in fact the area is shady and cold except for late afternoon.

I consolidated them and wrapped them up in plastic to help keep them warm and moist - but made a real mess of it. I can't get in to water and check them. I'll try again or maybe look for a better solution. I've been showing my partner pictures of cold frames, for example :-). But I think I might also just move them up to a deck area with morning sunshine.

Will I get plants? Will I be able to pot some and plant some and share some with neighbors? Time - and enough water, warmth, and the deeply mysterious operations of nature - will tell.


Town Mouse said…
Ha! I hope you'll remember that I'm your (distant) neighbor when you have all the goodies to give away ;->. My propagation operation is pretty pityful, though I am seeing green on some of my pots already. Maybe I'll make some photos some time soon.