How "green" is your garden?
Lots of water and chemical fertilizer can make any garden look lush, but that route may not be the kindest approach to our ecosystem.
Learn how to have a beautiful garden while being "green," too, at today's Elk Grove Greener Gardens Festival.
To be held at Miwok Park, the festival in its second year is dedicated to water-wise, eco-friendly landscaping. The free event features speakers, demonstrations and workshops devoted to "river-friendly landscaping." Vendors will sell edible and native plants plus garden products.
"We're at it again, only bigger and better," said organizer Soleil Tranquilli, a green-certified garden designer.
The festival includes a free drive-yourself garden tour, showcasing local homes that converted their front yards to water-wise landscaping. (Sign up online for a map.)
Among the tour highlights: Elk Grove's new Rain Garden Plaza, the largest of its kind in the region. A 1-acre educational watershed park, the rain garden features many low-water use perennials and shrubs.
For this event, Elk Grove Greener Gardens teamed up with Cosumnes Community Services District's parks department for its annual Creek Week cleanup, Tranquilli said.
"The big message is that creeks and rivers are affected by our personal practices and decisions in the landscape and beyond," Tranquilli said. "So, Creek Week is the perfect tie-in for showing off river-friendly landscaping practices to the public."
Water-efficient landscapes save money as well as water. According to the American Water Association, converting a 2,500-square-foot lawn to low-water use plants can save 372 gallons a day during growing seasons. That can add up to more than 44,000 gallons a year, Tranquilli said.
And it's not just about saving water. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides flow off our lawns and gardens and into local streams and rivers, affecting the whole ecosystem.
"Transitioning from a traditional lawn into a greener garden can have numerous positive environmental results and help save you money," she said.
Greener Gardens sprouted first in Elk Grove, and the idea is spreading, Tranquilli added. Roseville plans to kick off its Greener Gardens program June 2.
Cornflower open house
Also in Elk Grove today, Cornflower Farms will host its annual spring nursery day.
Renowned for its huge collection of California native plants, the farm is rarely open to the public. But from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, gardeners can browse the farm's many perennials and hard-to-find native plants, then take some home.
As their name would imply, native plants were made to grow here and are perfectly adapted to our climate. That helps them save water, too.
Specializing in California native plants since 1981, Cornflower Farms is at 9811 Sheldon Road in Elk Grove. Find it online at www.cornflowerfarms.com.
Tagging Capitol's trees
It took help from the state Legislature, but the California Federation of Women's Clubs and the Antelope-North County Women's Club have started a project to put name tags on the trees at Capitol Park.
"It sounds easy, but this project literally took an act of government to enable us to purchase these tags," said Dori Kelsey, representing the Antelope club.
The 40-acre park that surrounds the state Capitol is home to hundreds of trees, several more than a century old. Over the decades, many of their official identification plaques have been lost or destroyed.
According to Kelsey, the club determined that 1,500 trees need new tags, which cost $15 apiece. Because it's on state property, the tags had to meet state requirements (and get approval) while still being affordable.
"Why do the trees need tags?" she said. "Many of the trees come from all over California and the world."
Identification helps visitors find trees that they might want to add to their own gardens. They can learn about tree diversity and different varieties.
"Besides, it is fun to know what you are looking are and to know its name," she added.
ELK GROVE GREENER GARDENS FESTIVAL
Where: Miwok Park, 9344 Village Tree Drive, Elk Grove
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today
This festival focuses on sustainable, water-wise landscaping with free workshops, demonstrations, children's activities, expert advice, plant sale and more. Sign up online for a free drive-yourself garden tour of water-wise home landscapes, also to be held today.
Call The Bee's Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.