The Fall Native Plant Sale of the El Dorado Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) takes place Saturday, Oct. 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the El Dorado County Government Center, 330 Fair Lane in Placerville.
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This annual fall plant sale (another chapter plant sale takes place in the spring) is timed to coincide with the optimal fall planting conditions for native plants, offering local gardeners and landscapers a chance to buy select native perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs, and inexpensive wildflower seeds, to begin fall and winter planting.
The sale offers many natives that aren’t readily found in regular nurseries. Several local and regional nurseries are represented at the sale, including Cornflower Farms of Elk Grove and High Ranch Nursery of Loomis, both noted for their wide selection of beautiful perennials.
Local growers at the sale include Steve Dowty, a wholesale grower who specializes in native grasses and meadow plants and the new Flourish Nursery that’s primarily mail order. Individual members of the California Native Plant Society will also be selling special homegrown stock, including some unusual and harder-to-grow plants.
California native plant gardening experts insist that fall is the best time for planting natives.
El Dorado Chapter President Rosemary Carey, a landscape designer in the Placerville area, said, “In our Mediterranean climate, fall is equivalent to spring in the humid eastern half of the country, at least as far as planting is concerned. The cooler climate and winters rains help plants get their roots established before the following year’s dry season. Fall planting is a strategy that will increase your success rate, resulting in more thriving plants than those planted at any other time of year.
“The reason is simple. New transplants are vulnerable to heat stress. In the fall the sun is lower and less intense, resulting in lower temperatures, less stress on the plant. The plants can put more energy into growing strong roots and roots grow quickly in autumn soils warmed by months of hot weather. You won’t see a lot of growth above ground right away, but the roots are growing steadily this time of year. Your plants will be healthier in the spring and are better able to withstand California’s summer drought conditions with less watering.
Fall is the time to be planting and she added, “In western El Dorado County, mid-November is a perfect time to start planting. Fall-planted plants establish at their site more quickly. If the plants are selected to best suit the site conditions, like sun or shade, south or west-facing, soil type, etc., by the second year after planting, most California natives are established and will need very little, if any, care.”
This year’s fall sale will also feature very affordable California native wildflower seeds especially selected for the El Dorado County region. These are better than the wildflower seed packets that are not specific to California, and often contain seeds of non-native plants that turn invasive or weedy in the California climate.
There will be extremely knowledgable CNPS members on hand to answer gardening and landscaping questions.
A highlight of the sale is a display of invasive plants and plant photos, along with a CNPS “weed expert” to answer questions or identify particular weeds, and offer “best practice” tips as to how to eradicate that particular weed.
If you have an unusual plant or weed you want identified, CNPS asks that you bring as much as possible of the plant, including the root (if it’s a weed), in a plastic bag.
If you’re wondering how to begin your own native plant garden, green thumb or not, CNPS members are eager to share their knowledge, skill and on the ground experience.
For those wondering what plants to begin with, El Dorado Chapter Board Member Verne Pershing, whose business “Cowboy Gardener” specializes in native plant landscaping, said his “favorite five” are: the beautiful Muhlenbergia rigens (deer grass); Achillea millefolium (common yarrow, but a local version); Festuca californica (California fescue, another type of beautiful grass); Fragaria vesca (woods strawberry, colorful and edible), and Sequoiadendron giganteum (giant Sequoia).
“With the recent rains, this fall season will be a planting boon for native plant gardeners,” Pershing said.
CNPS will also be selling books and posters on native plant identification, landscaping, gardening and wild-crafting plant uses. For shoppers that become CNPS members or renew their membership at the sale, there is a special 10 percent discount on books.
For more information see the El Dorado Chapter Website at eldoradocnps.org or on Facebook facebook.com/eldoradocnps. To sign-up for the chapter e-alerts for field trips, plants sales and more e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the best selection of plants plan to attend early. The sale accepts checks and cash only, no credit cards.