California Native Plants for the Garden

Los Olivos might seem like an unlikely address for a publishing house, but in this electronic age, anything is possible. Cachuma Press does indeed have its headquarters in Los Olivos and the principal editors, graphic artists, and proofreaders all live in Santa Barbara County. Their latest publication, California Native Plants for the Garden, is also authored by one very local woman, Carol Bornstein, and two other Southern California residents, David Fross from Arroyo Grande and Bart O’Brien, a fifth-generation Californian from Claremont. Their collaboration has resulted in a beautiful, useful, and well-written book all about gardening with California native plants.

Introductory chapters give an overview of the subject including a short history of the use of California natives in the landscape and nursery industry, as well as a fine introduction to the diversity and uniqueness of the local zone known as the California Floristic Province. This geographic region contains one of the most diverse sets of plants in the world — approximately 6,300 different taxa (species and their subsets such as subspecies, varieties, and forms) — and covers most of the state, and even extends into Baja California del Norte. Also included is a chapter discussing issues relevant to designing a garden that incorporates California natives and another devoted to maintenance of these special plants. Of particular relevance is the detailed advice on watering methods and regimes necessary for these summer-drought adapted plants. The majority of the book, though, is made up of plant profiles for “more than 200 featured plants as well as another 300 species, cultivars, and hybrids that are more briefly described.” Each profile includes information about the plant type (tree, shrub, etc.), the geographic zone where it can be expected to grow well, how much light it will need to thrive, what type of soil it is adapted to, how much water it will require during the year, and its natural habitat and range. For some entries, the main species is appended with information about related species or cultivars. The 20+ manzanita (Arctostaphylos) selections, for example, are divided up by ultimate size and discussed in more than seven pages of text and photographs. The photos, by the way, are crisp and complement the text very well throughout the book. Available in hardback or soft bound, it is on sale now at local bookstores including Chaucers, Tecolote, and, of course, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden gift shop. The public is invited to a free lecture and book signing with the authors on Thursday, December 15, 7:30 p.m., at the Solvang Branch Library on Mission Drive. It is hosted by the Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society.

Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to

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