It always seems to rain on the date slated for Clovis Botanical Garden’s annual fundraising event, the Spring Into Your Garden Festival. It has been a couple of years since I last attended the festival, a volunteer driven day which includes walking tours of the garden, children’s activities, speakers and a very nice plant sale focused on water-wise selections. I was really pleased to see the clouds clearing as I drove across town and even more excited to see all that the CBG has added since my last visit.
The Clovis Botanical Garden is a 3 acre water-wise demonstration garden composed of plants that thrive in the hot summers and cool winters of California’s Central Valley. Their mission statement reads: “To promote water conservation in the California Central Valley landscape through excellent gardens, exhibits and programs that educate and inspire the public.” The land is owned by the City of Clovis. The garden is sustained by the community through memberships, grants and donations and is maintained entirely by volunteers.
The plant sale is always popular and this year was no exception. Plants are provided by several local nurseries and the selections focus on natives and plants that have proven themselves to adapt and grow well in our low water, hot summer environment. Amazingly, I came home empty handed but I enjoyed seeing what my garden girls Rosemary and Donna were interested in as we browsed. The festival offers a plant sitting service to hold your selections while you enjoy the rest of the garden, enabling you to pick them up and pay on your way out!
Fresno County Master Gardeners and CBG volunteers were on hand to help with plant sale selections as well as answer festival goer’s plant and pest questions.
Today’s speakers greeted their guests in a recently built 1,500 square foot pavilion–a far cry from the folding chairs we sat in as we clutched our umbrellas just a couple of years ago. The garden’s newest addition is the Home Landscape Demonstration Garden. This area has four very small gardens vignettes: a low allergy garden, a condo garden with edible plants, a millennial garden relying on more rocks than plants and what the CBG has designated a traditional Valley landscape. This last one is more an example of what we should be doing, not necessarily what we traditionally have been doing! The vignette features plants requiring only moderate irrigation, a low flow irrigation system, no lawn in the front yard and synthetic lawn in the back yard. One feature in this area I especially appreciated was the signage pictured below, outlining the seven principles of Central Valley friendly landscape:
Conserve Water and Ensure Water Quality
Conserve Energy and Protect Air Quality
Nurture the Soil
Reduce Garden Waste
Practice Integrated Pest Management
Select Appropriate Plants
Create and Protect Wildlife Habitat
The plantings of the CBG are divided into a number of smaller areas, each with a narrow focus, and include a California native plant garden, a cactus and succulent garden, a Mediterranean garden and a garden featuring plants from South Africa and Chile.
One of the design aspects of this botanical garden that is so pleasing is the use of large numbers of specimens of the same plant grouped together, forming broad masses of consistent color and foliage form. We all know the landscape design principle of planting in groups of 3, 5 or 7 to provide calming repetition but I have never seen it used better than in this garden.
This broad bed is a veritable sea of Lavandula dentata. The backdrop for all this French lavender is a large grouping of rockrose which has just started to put on a few of its signature paper like fuchsia blooms.
Before we leave the Mediterranean area take a peek at small portion of the display of Cynara cardunculus, or artichoke thistle. These giant architectural plants stand at least 5 feet tall and are the focal point of a large bermed area planted in mostly silver grey plant selections. In the foreground you see Convolvulus cneorum, commonly called bush morning glory. This fast growing evergreen shrub forms a neat 2-3 ft mound and sports bright white simple funnel shaped flowers.
There are several large Torrey pines in the garden and the new growth just coming on was striking!
In the California native garden this wonderful Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’ was in full bloom.
Although it was a little past its prime bloom, I was drawn like a magnet to this stunning Silver Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons.
Both these native selections are negligible water users and prefer poor, rocky soil with excellent drainage. In these lean water years, residential gardeners may find more success in growing Ceanothus spp., the California lilac. Many of us have killed them with kindness in the form of water and fertilizer when trying to integrate them into traditional moderate water landscapes full of turf, roses and annuals!
It was pretty exciting to this Australian native, Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’ in bloom. There are many species of this plant whose common name is the Emu bush and we are starting to seem them in the retail trade in areas of California trending toward low water landscapes. They are typically winter to early spring bloomers with flowers ranging from pink to red. This tough, mounding evergreen shrub will reach about 5′ X 5′ and is a good choice to pair with others that thrive with virtually no summer water after they are established.
A coalition of local groups including the City of Fresno Water Conservation Program, the University of California Cooperative Extension and the Central Valley Friendly Landscape Committee were on hand with volunteers to answer questions and a great group of brochures to pick up for reference later–the Plant Choices & Water Conservation Tips is a great resource you can slip into your bag as you head out to look at water-wise choices at your favorite garden center.
This small but mighty garden is a welcome educational resource for gardeners looking for ideas specific to our region’s climate. You won’t see any hothouses full of exotic tropicals or collections of plants from cool alpine climes here! You will leave with practical, do-able and maintainable ideas you can adapt to your patch of paradise in the Central Valley.
NEXT UP: In a few days I am on the road to the Theodore Payne Foundation Native Plant Garden Tour in northern Los Angeles County. This is a two day event with 32 gardens, both public and private landscapes. If you’d like to learn more about the Foundation or the gardens on this year’s tour check it out on the web at http://www.theodorepayne.org