Magazine article Sunset

A Walk on the Wild Side

Magazine article Sunset

A Walk on the Wild Side

Article excerpt

Native plants are the crown jewels of our wildlands. But what makes them look so at home-whether in the moist shade of a forest floor, among giant saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert, or in a sunny California meadow-is the community of plants with which they grow. To know their habitats is to learn how to grow them. Before choosing which natives you want to grow, first assess your garden's conditions. Is it shaded by tall oaks or conifers? Misted by frequent fogs? Or is it dry, sunny, and hot, perhaps surrounded by rolling hills? Choose plants that are most at home under these conditions.

For design ideas, take a walk. National and state parklands are great and glorious natural gardens. Most ranger stations sell top-quality field guides for the plants that are native to that area-whether foggy coast or low desert.

Ranger-led walks are also good sources for ideas. Take a notebook and a camera. Notice how seemingly incompatible plants combine. In the Cascades, for example, Western columbine clusters in the partial shade of cow parsnip. In Saguaro National Monument, note how young saguaros grow in the shade of mesquites-their "nurse" trees. …

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