ELLEN’S PICKS: Dramatic and drought-tolerant plants

Ellen Zagory, director of public horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, is always on the lookout for plants that thrive in our region and serve multiple purposes.  The plants featured in this article will all be available at the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum plant sale THIS SATURDAY along with hundreds of other attractive, low-water, easy-care, region-appropriate plants.

“On campus we have fairly heavy soil and water that’s high in bicarbonates and boron, so I always think…if it grows well here, it will do even better elsewhere,” says Zagory.

“In light of limited water supplies and rising water prices we need to think even harder about plants that can survive with low or very low quantities of water, but they can still be pretty,” explains Zagory. ”You’d never know these were drought-tolerant considering the seasonal impact and drama they provide!”


Photo of foothill penstemon, Penstemon 'Margarita BOP'

Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’, foothill penstemon

The amazing Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’, foothill penstemon,  is reaching perfection making mats of  stunning purple and pink at some of the major intersections on campus.  Combined with orange California poppies it’s a real eye catcher!  Thrives on every two weeks water and makes a nice low mat that  will grow especially well on slopes or rocky areas.



Photo of Chilopsis linearis, desert willow

Chilopsis linearis, desert willow (small tree in the middle)

Chilopsis linearis, desert willow, is a small tree with delicate narrow leaves and large beautiful pink or lavender flowers.  Loved by hummingbirds it can be pruned to enhance its picturesque shape while requiring little water once established.





Photo of Solly heterophylla, Australian bluebells

Solly heterophylla, Australian bluebells

Solly heterophylla, Australian bluebells, is an evergreen twining perennial that produces adorable clusters of “bell” flowers commonly blue but sometimes also seen in pink or white varieties.  Extremely tough it grows in sun or shade and can be trained up given support to cover a fence or wall (needs support) or grown as a small shrub.







Photo of Solidago californica 'Cascade Creek', Cascade Creek goldenrod

Solidago californica ‘Cascade Creek’, Cascade Creek goldenrod

Solidago californica ‘Cascade Creek’, Cascade Creek goldenrod is a superior form of this native discovered by master plantsman Roger Raiche.  The flower heads are large and compact and do not flop like other types.  Perfect for habitat gardeners in low and very low water conditions it will attract a variety of creatures like native butterflies and other pollinators to the garden in summer and fall.







Photo of Calamagrostis Karl Foerster

Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster

Calamagrostis  x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’  for ornamental grass enthusiasts this variety is a workhorse in the garden.  A strong vertical element for behind lower growing rounded forms, the large tufts of  green foliage sent up tall spikes of flowers that morph from shimmering masses in spring to stately  six-foot tall golden vertical dried seed heads in fall.







Photo of Iris 'Canyon Snow'

Iris ‘Canyon Snow’ (while flowers in the foreground)

Iris ‘Canyon Snow’ is a hybrid native California iris that puts on an amazing show of large white flowers in April.  Of all the PCH (or Pacific Coast Hybrid) iris that we have tried this one is the most vigorous and adaptable to varying conditions.  It grows in sun or part shade although too much shade will reduce its bloom.  Can be propagated by division when the new roots emerge as temperatures drop at the beginning of autumn.


We hope you find these plant ideas helpful, and look forward to seeing you are our plant sale THIS SATURDAY!

10 reasons to support the Arboretum and Public Garden on May 6th–our region’s one-day challenge to raise funds!

Big Day of Giving_2014_Page_1The Sacramento Region Community Foundation, Placer Community Foundation, and Yolo Community Foundation, and regional partners are working with GiveLocalNow.org to  organize the region’s first BIG Day of Giving.  This 24-hour giving challenge, benefiting the non-profit community, will happen May 6th  12:00am midnight to 11:59pm.  The goal is to inspire and unite our community in supporting hundreds of local nonprofits including the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.

10 Reasons to give to the Arboretum on Tuesday, May 6:

  1. You love the Arboretum!
  2. You never have to pay to get in! We’re  community-supported, free, and open 24/7.  This is an easy way for you to give back!
  3. Your gift helps us create and sustain our public learning landscapes and amazing free family programs.
  4. The Arboretum inspires people about plants and helps everyone discover the beauty of sustainable gardening.
  5. The University provides critical support but a large portion of our annual funding comes from the community from people just like you.
  6. Your gift will be historic! This is the first regional BIG Day of Giving!
  7. Your gift will inspire and unite our community in supporting hundreds of local nonprofits.
  8. Your donation will be boosted by a pro-rated match. The more contributions we receive, the higher the matching percentage will be.
  9. We will thank you profusely via all of our social media outlets!
  10. The next time you enjoy yourself in the Arboretum a warm feeling of pride will wash over you!

How can I give?  Will my gift be matched?

What else can I do to help?

Please STAY IN TOUCH with us and SHARE this event with your friends through your social media networks!

Care to help in another way? Let us know!

Thank you for your generosity!

The Davis Enterprise: One-day challenge looks to raise funds for area nonprofits


Campus planner recruitment


The Campus Planning and Community Resources team at UC Davis is seeking a campus planner to help shape the future of the UC Davis campus. The campus planner will work directly with the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Campus Planning and Community Resources.

UC Davis is the largest University of California campus encompassing over  5300 acres. The campus is widely known for its academic expertise in the agricultural and environmental sciences, life sciences, engineering, medicine, veterinary medicine as well as the social sciences and humanities. UC Davis is an acknowledged leader in sustainable planning and development.

The campus planning function at UC Davis works best when its people develop a deep understanding of the unique culture of the place…

READ MORE:  download the introductory letter to all prospective applicants. (Adobe Acrobat required.)


  • Complete job description
  • Application instructions



Students offer edibles at public plant sales


Photo of edible landscaping intern Andy Codd tending to the edibles that will be offered for sale at the spring public plant sales.

Andy Codd, one of the Arboretum and Public Garden’s edible landscaping interns, tends to the edibles that will be offered for sale at our spring public plant sales. Please note: This photo was taken weeks ago! The edible starts are much, much larger now and ready to be transplanted into your home gardens! All proceeds go to support the edible landscaping internship program.


Andy Codd (seen above) will be selling his tomato, pepper, and herb starts at the Arboretum’s spring public plant sales. Proceeds of the sales will directly benefit the Edible Landscaping Internship program. Purchases will enable students to buy books, tools, irrigation, and other supplies to help them launch their projects.

Please be sure to come by and support their efforts at our April and May sales!
CASH or CHECKS only accepted at their stand just outside the Arboretum Teaching Nursery.

EDIBLE INVENTORY for April 5 public sale

LEARN MORE about these talented edible landscaping interns below.

Edible Landscaping Interns at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden

Inspired by student-initiated edible garden projects like the “Salad Bowl Garden” outside the Plant and Environmental Sciences building, the Arboretum and Public Garden launched a new year-long edible landscaping internship—one of the Arboretum and Public Garden’s many “Learning by Leading” opportunities.

This internship seeks to provide students with leadership opportunities that involve developing and maintaining edible landscaping projects throughout campus. The key to the program’s success is empowering student interns with horticultural and leadership skills. Training includes topics such as composting, propagation, planting, transplanting, garden design, permaculture techniques, strategic planning and visioning, budget development and tracking, marketing, and team dynamics. Armed with this unique range of skills, these students are going to be developing edible garden project sites that operate both independently and as part of a larger network of edible gardens throughout campus and as part of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.

In addition to the “Salad Bowl Garden,” project sites include the Domes, the Experimental College’s Community Gardens, the Good Life Garden, the Tri-Coops, and the Student Health & Wellness Center. Andy Codd’s project (see photo above) is devoted solely to propagating the annual vegetable starts and edible perennials that his fellow interns’ plans require.



YOU ARE INVITED: Community-created mural dedication

Community Built Association member and nationally-recognized muralist Caryl Yasko's draft "maquette" of the bike tunnel's east entrance.

Community Built Association member and nationally-recognized muralist Caryl Yasko’s draft “maquette” of the bike tunnel’s east entrance.

DATE: Monday, April 7
TIME: 5:30 p.m.
PLACE: Bike Tunnel (Far east edge of the Arboretum) SEE MAP
TRANSPORTATION: Please consider carpooling, walking, or biking to this event

Join the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and the City of Davis for the dedication of the community-created mural brightening the walls of the bike tunnel joining a newly-restored section of the Putah Creek Parkway with a newly-constructed portion of the UC Davis Arboretum.

For the last six weeks, thanks to a grant from PG&E obtained by the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, Caryl Yasko, Community Built Association member and nationally-recognized muralist, collaborated with Davis community members to design and paint this passageway. The name of the work “I am Quercus,” inspired by the Arboretum’s heritage valley oaks (Quercus lobata), turns the tunnel into a canopy of oaks with images pulled from public drawing and brainstorming sessions.

In addition to the new mural, the Putah Creek Parkway will also be home to a series of four new community-created art benches.  Lead artists and Community Built Association members Tom Arie-Donch and Donna Billick will be on site to show their progress in constructing sculptural and functional ferrocement benches inspired by the native plants and animals of Putah Creek.

Be one of the first community members to see these latest additions to the public art collection of the City of Davis, hear about the evolution of the project as well as the innovative landscapes surrounding it, and be treated to light refreshments. In addition to speakers from the City of Davis, the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, and the Community Built Association, Jack—a red-tailed hawk similar to the raptor featured in the mural—will be on hand to help educate visitors about this raptor species commonly found in the area. Jack is a resident of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s California Raptor Center.

The event is free; parking is free and available nearby (SEE A MAP). For questions call the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden at (530) 752-4880.

LEARN MORE: Davis Enterprise article dated April 6, 2014

CLICK HERE to see a PHOTO GALLERY of the community-created mural process.

Break with your lawn, use cardboard to say goodbye with no regrets

Photo of  Stacey Parker's lawn removal project.

Stacey Parker, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden GATEways horticulturist in her front yard during the sheet mulching lawn removal process. Stacey will be sharing her journey at http://publicgarden.ucdavis.edu/staceys-lawn-remonval.

Excerpted from a special to The Davis Enterprise
by Katie F. Hetrick

You hear it on the news. You read it in the papers. Then, there’s that nagging inner voice telling you every time you walk out the front door, “Break up! You’ve got to break up!”

But you ignore it all in favor of making the excuse that you don’t know where to begin and that you might regret it.

Stacey Parker, horticulturist for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and a new Davis homeowner, can empathize.

“I completely understand. Lawns are what we’re used to and they’re definitely appealing, but times have changed,” she says. “Having just bought this little house, I’m ready for the adventure of making my yard fit the real situation with the water supply.”

I’m the economizing type anyway, and I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned from working on campus. There are so many great plants out there that are happy with very little water — it just makes sense.”

With almost 95 percent of the state remaining in a drought despite recent rains, according to U.S. Drought Monitor reports, and city of Davis water rates rising every year, homeowners are looking to their landscape for help even without “Cash for Grass” programs like the cities of Sacramento and Roseville have offered their residents.

“The thought of lawn removal can be overwhelming,” Parker says. “There are so many ways to achieve the same goal. I don’t think it should be stressful, expensive or complicated.

“At the Arboretum and Public Garden, we’re all about involving the community so I figured why not extend that idea to my front lawn? I’ll make it an educational work in progress!”

Another important landscape component many homeowners consider revamping is their irrigation systems. Quite a variety of options are available, but it isn’t always necessary to change.

“I’m going as low-tech as you can go. I’m leaving my existing sprinkler irrigation system,” Parker says. “While drip is ultimately more efficient, I’m still going to save a bundle by decreasing the amount and frequency that I water based on my plant choices alone.”

As for the variety of lawn removal methods, homeowners can go the chemical route by spraying the grass with herbicides, removing it with sod cutters, solarizing it or sheet mulching over it, just to name a few.

“I’ve decided to utilize the sheet mulching method,” Parker says. “Late winter or early spring is the perfect time to start. Without added water, most California lawns will go dormant in the summer so it’s better to start this process in the spring, when the grasses are alive. The idea is to eliminate your lawn, not to keep it comfy until fall.”

There are five steps involved, four active and one inactive:

* Cut your lawn as low as possible;

* Cover it with cardboard;

* Dampen the cardboard;

* Add 4 to 6 inches of mulch; and

* Wait until fall to plant.

Sheet mulching with cardboard is an inexpensive way to remove a lawn that does not require chemical application or sheets of plastic. A single layer of cardboard is laid out over the areas of lawn no longer needed. When it eventually breaks down, the cardboard will add carbon back into the soil.

“I recommend using the largest size boxes you can get your hands on,” Parker says. “I used a bunch of bike boxes. I was able to obtain quite a few for no charge after visiting local bike shops. We’re lucky to have a few in the area.

“Dampen the cardboard as it is laid down to protect your layering work from disruption by wind,” Parker advises. “You’ll also want to overlap your edges to prevent weeds and grasses from weaving their way through. They can be quite tenacious.

“My other tip is to remove a border of lawn about six inches wide near your sidewalks. It will allow the cardboard to hug the edges more effectively,” she adds. “I used a pick ax, but you can use a trowel or any sharp tool. The little ditch creates a place for the cardboard and mulch to hunker down to keep your edges neater.”

The next step in the process is to add a layer of 4 to 6 inches of mulch.

“I’m in the process of adding mulch right now. So far I received one delivery and covered as much cardboard as I could, but it’s only about an inch thick. That’s not enough to smother a lawn,” she explains. “The idea is to make it impossible for the grass to see the light of day. I’ll be able to add enough mulch once my next delivery arrives.”

How much mulch homeowners need depends on the area of lawn they want to remove.

“It’s really easy figure out with all the online mulch calculators,” Parker says. “Then, for a large supply of mulch, I discovered on Craigslist that there’s lots of tree removal companies will deliver to your house for free.”

Step four is waiting out the spring and summer to make sure your lawn is gone.

“My yard will be neat, just not as green,” Parker says. “I’ve still got to finish the sheet mulching process over the rest of my lawn in the next week or so. Then I’m going to take the spring to improve other areas of my little landscape.

“Personally, I’m really interested not only in adding low-water plants for shade, but also attracting native wildlife by incorporating plants like the California pipevine.”

Homeowners like Parker who are making changes to their landscapes to save water and be more sustainable are developing what the UC Davis Arboretum has coined “the new front yard.”

For links to information that will help area homeowners in their quest to break up with their lawns and create a “new front yard,” visit http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu and click on “Drought Resources.” To see photos and follow along with Parker’s front lawn removal process, visit http://publicgarden.ucdavis.edu/staceys-lawn-removal.

Interested in talking to experts about the lawn removal process and getting inspired by a wide selection of water-wise plants? Attend one of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum’s spring plant sales, where you’ll find the area’s largest selection of attractive, low-water, easy-care, region-appropriate plants, as well as wide array of experts who can advise on topics like lawn removal.

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