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Op-Ed: California Native Plants and Drought

One way to conserve water is by transitioning your home and office gardens to feature drought-tolerant, climate-appropriate California native plants, which ultimately conserve water

image of native Ceanothus growing in the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, photo by Alan Weisskopf

January 30, 2014

Dr. Steve Windhager

Dear Editor,

In response to recent news of our state’s drought emergency declaration, I would like to offer our community some water- (and cost-) saving advice.  One way to conserve water is by transitioning your home and office gardens to feature drought-tolerant, climate-appropriate California native plants, which ultimately conserve water.  I say ultimately, because the time to have planted these hearty and beautiful plants, was last year – BEFORE drought conditions worsened.  However, with the threat of continuing drought ever-looming, this is an investment each and every one of us should make.  In the long-term, California native plants which are well adapted to our local environment, will not only save our community valuable water, they provide greater support for pollinators, improve wildlife habitat, and provide a unique sense of place like nowhere else in the world.  To sweeten the deal, many municipalities (including the City of Santa Barbara http://www.sbwater.org/) have water conservation incentive programs which offer tremendous rebates on resource-saving investments including irrigation supplies and plants.

Here is a list of five native plants which are readily available (at the Garden’s Nursery and elsewhere) that will help you conserve water, support wildlife, and bring beauty to your landscape during these dry times.

  • lemonade berry (Rhus integrifolia)
  • 'Ray Hartman' California lilac (Ceanothus arboreus x C. thyrsiflorus var. griseus)
  • 'Winnifred Gilman' sage (Salvia clevelandii)
  • 'Howard McMinn' manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflorus x)
  • red-flowered buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens)

I would encourage all residents to also utilize the Garden as a resource by visiting our website at www.sbbg.org or speaking to one of our knowledgeable horticulture staff members the next time you visit.

Dr. Steve Windhager
Executive Director, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden