CNPS holds two Native Plant Sales each year at a location in central Marin. In the spring wildflowers, native bulbs, and perennials are featured, and for the fall sale, native bunchgrasses, perennials and shrubs.
Home Ground Habitat provides more than half the plants offered for sale, and in doing so, provides a reliable source of income for the chapter. Home Ground also makes our collection of beautifully packaged native seeds available at these sale events.
I have been a member of the Board of Marin CNPS for the last nine years, serving in various capacities, including that of President from 2014 to 2016. I am now chair of ‘Gardening with Natives’, co-chair of the Plant Sales, and chair of School Programs.
I also spearhead various special projects such as annual Native Plant Week activities.
Sarah Phillips, the Urban Streams Program Manager for MRCD, is a remarkable young woman tasked with helping Marin residents gain better insight, and become better stewards of the creek and watershed systems that abound in our beautiful county. While surveying the homeowners who live next to some of these streams she found that they understood the value of restoring the natural ecology of the riparian systems, and were eager to help, one property at a time.
One way towards achieving this goal is to remove the weedy, non-native vegetation and replace it with California native plants that would normally be present in riparian zones.
However, purchasing these plants in the quantities necessary to have a positive effect, can be very costly to the individual property owner. So, Sarah decided the answer was to enable the property owners to grow some of the plants they needed.
That’s when Sarah contacted me about teaching a series of Plant Propagation classes. The classes are all geared towards small, home-scale nursery and propagation systems.
Sarah teamed up with the volunteer association at Pt. Reyes who were also interested in training volunteers to support the range and vegetation management programs at the Seashore by establishing a volunteer-based nursery. With my years of hands-on experience in propagating plants on a small scale, I was able to help them set up an efficient and productive little nursery.
I volunteer my time and energy to create the curriculum and handouts and teach the classes (which I LOVE to do!), and the Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA) provides classroom space in the Red Barn for the propagation classes.
The classes are offered at no cost; everyone is welcome to attend any of the classes. Of course, people are encouraged to take the whole series of 5 or 6 classes in order to learn the whole scope of propagating from seeds, cuttings, or divisions!
The headquarters of SPAWN and the Turtle Island Restoration Network is currently in one of the remaining old buildings along the Lagunitas Creek that used to be part of the small railroad towns of Jewell and Tocaloma. I’ve lived in Marin long enough (more than 40 years) to remember when people actually lived in these towns!
Now, most of the old homes have been demolished to make way for a more natural and historic floodplain, and a major creek restoration project is underway with guidance by biologist Preston Brown. The goal is to restore the natural functions of the creek, to benefit not only the salmon but the entire ecosystem that relies on these processes.
SPAWN grows many of the native plants necessary for the restoration projects with the help of volunteers. The small nursery is at the same site and a new, full-time nursery manager, Audrey Fusco, is doing a great job growing healthy and vigorous native plants from seeds, cuttings and divisions. Plants propagules are collected from Open Space preserves in the San Geronimo Valley area, and also from the Cross Marin trail in Samuel P. Taylor State Park.
Catie Clune, SPAWN’s Education Specialist reaches out to the schools and other community groups to offer classes, lead creek walks, and a California Naturalist’s Training Program once a year. That’s where I help out, as a volunteer instructor, to share my love of all of nature, and hopefully inspire others to pay more attention to - and participate in - the natural world that surrounds us all!
It often takes the energy and vision of one person to get things moving in the right direction; CNPS member, Marcia Basalla, is just that sort of woman! Over the last several years, she has ‘adopted’ several traffic islands in Novato, and works with volunteers to re-landscape these areas with California native plants. She works closely with Novato DPW and has been instrumental in convincing the city to incorporate more native plants in all their landscaped areas. Home Ground Habitats volunteers are growing many of the native plants needed for her projects.
I’ve opened my Novato Habitat Garden for this tour each year since 2014. Gregory Plumb, the Programs Specialist with the Sonoma County Water Agency, does a great job organizing this tour; he collaborates with Ryan Grisso, North Marin Water District's Education and Outreach Specialist.
The tour is usually scheduled in late spring, right at the height of wildflower season! Each year my garden is a little different, so we often have repeat visitors.
Home Ground volunteers are on hand to sell a selection of the habitat plants that we propagate; so that’s another draw for visitors, and I’ll usually offer a short demonstration on a variety of home composting systems or plant propagation for tour-goers also.
The tours are fun for all of us – and seeing a thriving habitat garden helps inspire about a hundred gardeners each year.
After retiring in 2004, Bob and Mieko Watkins decided to leave the foggy Richmond District of San Francisco in order to enjoy the sunny weather and tranquil beauty of Marin County. Bob took full advantage of the scenic trails of Marin with daily hikes, and quite by chance discovered a talent for photography. Now, with sophisticated camera equipment along on every walk, Bob is always on the lookout for birds and other animals to photograph and finds his hobby has helped him develop an ever increasing knowledge about birds and their habits.
Mieko is from Japan and created a photo blog in order to share the beauty of her new Marin home with friends and relatives. Strolling through the grounds of the Marin Art and Garden Center, Mieko saw beautiful flowers to photograph but wanted to know more about them. Charlotte, then Garden Education Manager at MAGC, was able to help with plant ID, and both Bob and Mieko have generously shared their beautiful photographs ever since.
The Habitat Corridor Project's mission is to create and promote California native plant restoration gardens in the urban environment. The Habitat Corridor Project (HCP) is a nonprofit 503(c)(3) organization and all donations are tax deductible. HCP was created in 2013 by April Owens, Landscape Designer and Nancy Bauer, author of The California Wildlife Habitat Garden. Home Ground Habitats supplies plants in support of their projects.
Stay connected to your favorite wild places while you're at home with a wildlife garden emphasizing California native plants for habitat restoration. Your garden can be a link in a chain of habitat gardens, uniting your home ground with the wider, wilder world beyond your neighborhood, and Suzi can help you get started.