Growing California Native Plants

I used to eagerly anticipate Marjorie Schmidt’s articles in Fremontia, the journal of the California Native Plant Society for her keen writing and observational skills, informed by practical “dirt under the nails” experience. Her book, Growing California Native Plants, published in 1980 and at that time was the only comprehensive guide focused on gardening with California natives, became a well-loved resource for the then relatively small cadre of California native plant gardeners.

Katherine Greenberg, author of the newly released second edition of Growing California Native Plants has done a great job retaining the spirit and best qualities of the original while expanding and updating its content. The result is a wonderfully contemporary expression of native plant horticulture. The new book begins by establishing a historical context for human interactions with native plants and the evolution of native plant gardening. The following chapters offer succinct coverage of California’s Mediterranean climate, native plant communities, design concepts and propagation.

Like other botanical field guides, plant description pages are color coded for easy reference with categories for trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, bulbs, vines, and grasses. Some listings, such as those for manzanita and ceanothus which contain numerous species or cultivars, are covered in table format with basic but useful information on each plant.

The book concludes with a comprehensive plant selection guide organized by eighteen different garden requirements or special features, such as coastal conditions, lawn alternatives, meadows, or planting under oaks; these lists are further broken down by plant category.

The book is relatively small making it a useful pocket guide and a handy, portable reference easily carried to nurseries and botanic gardens. Illustrated by two hundred color-photos, it is a comprehensive and visual gem.

Phil Van Soelen, partner, California Flora Nursery
Fulton, California