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Friday, November 22, 2013

Designing Your New California Garden: 6. Discovering Your Garden’s History


Each garden comes to the present moment with its own unique history.  Part of that history is ancient – bound up in the rocks that form its soils, the rivers and volcanoes that shaped its topography and the effects of other natural forces.  In the more recent past, the land where your neighborhood lies was host to a number of plant and animal species, as well as the human inhabitants that subsisted on them. 

 In the even more recent past, your garden has a history that includes the development of your property, past gardens/gardening practices and even the current conditions.   Learning more about your garden’s past is an important part of designing your landscape plan.  

Perhaps you have remnant native plant species, such as an oak or Toyon,  already growing in your yard.  These can form the basis for your landscape plan.  As you look around your neighborhood you may find other native relicts that can provide inspiration – perhaps even seeds or cuttings – for your garden.   There is nothing more exciting than knowing that you’re providing a home for plants that are native to your immediate location!

Even if your neighborhood currently includes no native plants, learning about the plants that once occupied your land can suggest species that may thrive in your garden.    Learning about the plant communities that existed in your local area can also suggest palettes of plants that ‘go together’ – both in terms of their requirements as well as in how they look.   Some good resources for learning about California’s Plant communities include:

·        Designing California Native Gardens: The Plant Community Approach to Artful, Ecological Gardens  (paperback) - by Glenn Keator, Alrie Middlebrook and Phyllis M. Faber
   We also have very useful plant lists available for several local plant communities - see the 'Native Plant Gallery' page on right of screen.


You may become fascinated by the ecology of the plants and animals of your area and want to explore further.    Learning more about the Native Californians who live in your area can suggest ways to properly manage your native plants.  After all, the Native peoples were the first stewards of our native plants!

How your property was developed – and when – can also influence the design of your landscape plan.  Were your soils compacted?   Was fill brought in?  These and other factors may influence the plants you choose and the preparations needed to produce a thriving landscape.  Perhaps your garden was once the site of an orchard, a cattle pasture or an oil field.   This sort of history comes with its own set of challenges. Knowing about your site’s history will help you to plan for them.   Can you find any old pictures of your home/home site or neighborhood?   These can often be helpful

Finally, considering the gardening history of your yard may suggest additional factors to consider when developing your garden plan.  Knowing whether fertilizers, pesticides and soil amendments were used, and when, can be useful.  Some landscape plants change the pH or other soil characteristics.  Knowing the gardening history of your site can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Learning about your site’s history can take time and research.  Some information will be unavailable.   Just do the best you can in filling out the History Worksheet (http://www.slideshare.net/cvadheim/your-gardens-history-worksheet    ). File it and old pictures, articles etc. that you discover in your Garden Notebook.   Any knowledge of your site’s history will be useful when you – or a designer you hire – designs you New California Garden.



We value your comments (below).    You can also contact us directly at mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com.


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