Debbie Arrington

Seeds: Find inspiration for fall gardening at these events

It’s a Sacramento axiom as old as our valley oaks: Fall is for planting.

To beginning gardeners, this seems counter-intuitive. (Isn’t nature getting ready for its long winter’s nap?) But warm autumn weather creates ideal conditions for strong root development, and a healthy start for new transplants.

So, if you’re considering replacing some of your thirsty lawn with more water-wise landscaping, it’s time to start shoveling.

But what to plant? Due to their natural drought tolerance, many California native shrubs and perennials are often recommended as alternatives to turf or traditional landscaping. For example, the UC Davis Arboretum suggests dozens of native plants in its Arboretum All-Stars, Durable Delights and New Front Yard collections. The Regional Water Authority’s online guide to water-wise gardening features hundreds of native plants, including many not on the arboretum’s lists.

Once you fall in love with a particular penstemon or ceanothus, the next question can be harder: Where can you buy that plant?

Here’s your opportunity – with advice thrown in free of charge. The Sacramento Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) hosts its huge fall sale this weekend at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center in McKinley Park. Grown locally to assure the best success, hundreds of native plants will be offered for sale at bargain prices.

With so many plants to choose from, it’s easy to go wild over natives. But even though they’re all Californian, they don’t all have the same needs and wants. Some natives prefer sandy soil in the sun; others like silty clay in the shade.

To help formulate a garden plan and learn how to mix and match natives for success, two workshops will be offered today by CNPS experts. At 11 a.m., Bernadette Balics of Ecological Landscape Design will give pointers for “Creating Bird and Pollinator Friendly Gardens.” At 12:15 p.m., Hedgerow Farms manager Jeff Quiter will show how to use “Native Plants and Grasses in Home Gardens.”

Both days, native plant aficionados will staff an “experts” table to field questions on specific plants (such as which California lilac has the bluest flowers) or general concepts (like integrating natives into an established landscape). Gardening advisers will roam the room to offer tips on plant choices.

Admission is free, but bring cash or your checkbook. You’ll likely go home with a new favorite native to add to your garden.


Want to meet the people behind the plants – and other nursery products, too? Today, El Dorado Nursery & Garden in Shingle Springs hosts its seventh annual Plantapalooza, a fun-filled and sometimes wacky way to get gardeners excited about fall.

“This is an outdoor education day that brings many of my suppliers here to answer difficult questions and show what is really new to the garden,” said El Dorado’s Chris Aycock.

At this free event, fruit tree growers Burcell Nursery will offer a tasting of their most popular varieties. Other growers will show off their new flowers, shrubs and perennials for 2014 and explain what makes these introductions different. Kellogg Garden Products landscaping and organic gardening experts will dish the dirt on making better soil.

At 2:15 p.m., barn owl expert Austin Ford will tell how to use these winged predators to solve rodent problems as well as cut down on mosquitoes. (They’re very effective in pastures and vineyards.)

Always a highlight at this event will be Sacramento radio host and master gardener Farmer Fred Hoffman, who will dole out his advice for surviving drought and gardening smarter. At 11:30 a.m., Hoffman will get specific about that favorite subject – food –while discussing “Everything You Need To Know About Fall Veggie Gardening.”

Speaking of food, Plantapalooza boasts a free family barbecue for hungry gardeners and their kin. And this hoedown has its own music makers: The Bonanza King country band will play two sets during the event.

Plantapalooza runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at 3931 Durock Road, Shingle Springs. For more details, click on or call (530) 676-6555.