Changing Times, Changing Gardens was held in Santa Rosa on October 15 & 16 2016. I had the pleasure of attending this weekend educational event presented by the Pacific Horticulture Society. I was grabbed by the description: exploring how gardens are evolving in the face of climate change, with discussion about what we can learn from our natural surroundings as well as the latest information about innovations in water conservation and land management.
Topics covered at the Summit included:
- Creating landscapes that support the environment
- The art and ecology of garden making
- Creating water conserving landscapes
- Using native and summer dry plants
- Reclaiming biodiversity and habitats within the human landscape
- Watershed sensitive gardens
- Rainwater harvesting
Much of the discussions focused on observing plants in the wild environment for clues on how and what will grow for us. Thomas Rainer pointed out that mostly all ground in the wild is covered in layers. From the trees to the ground covering plants, no ground is left bare. The ground cover plants act as a living green mulch. Without this layer, the soil degenerates quickly. In the mid layer is the medium sized perennials and shrubs. The trees act as the focal topmost layer.
The diagram from the book by Thomas Rainer & Claudia West Planting in a post-Wild World
The California Flora Nursery owner Phil Van Soelen talked of giving our landscapes an authentic spirit of place. He has been exploring and offering California natives in his Santa Rosa nursery. Many of the plants he discussed are already familiar to us here in Humboldt County, Manzanita, Buckeyes, Ceanothus,& Ribes being just a few mentioned. When I visited his nursery I was excited to see quite a few of the plants offered originated from my own backyard, the Kings Range. And yes, I did buy a few plants. He showed us examples of biodiversity, how the native plants, insects and animals needed each other to survive.
Marilee Kuhlmann and Michelle Sullivan both discussed soil health, permeable hardscaping, rain water catchment & bio retention. I can proudly say that these subjects are ones we have been currently working on here in Southern Humboldt. We have put in our storage tanks and made sure our road runoff is being filtered through the berms. Thanks to our nieghbor Sanctuary Forest, these techniques are well known locally.
I have been heavily thinking about the subject of gardening into the future, having a rather large garden. Our gardens are planted with perennials, shrubs and trees. most plants are useful for our flower shop. With the climate changes, while we are enduring yet another year of drought, I just can’t rationalize growing any water thirsty cut flowers. Even with the best soil practices, annual cut flowers take a lot of water. The perennials, shrubs and trees are not quite so demanding. We have pushed our gardens to their limits, withholding water, forcing them to survive on almost no supplemental irrigation. Some of our garden beds have not seen summer water in years!
My passion for gardening was the reason I started this flower business in the first place. Where the business ended up has been the natural flow of learning and adapting. What I learned at this Summit will echo in my brain for a long time. As gardeners, there is always something to learn. As a business ,following trends naturally leads to unexpected places. Sometimes those things learned are so surprisingly simple,it makes me wonder why it didn’t become obvious sooner. So, lesson learned, I can still garden, and take care of the earth at the same time!
The people I met were lovely, friendly, and passionate about gardening! To garden is always a bit of dreaming of the future, and we gardeners dream of a future that includes our gardens.What a great thought, that the gardeners of this world together can help heal our big garden, our earth, together.