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Western spicebush Calycanthus occidentalis is a bold textured deciduous shrub. In the wild it is found in the lower elevations of the mountains of California and Oregon growing along creeks, ponds margins, canyon bottoms and in moist woodland settings. Named for its strong scent in leaf, stem and flower, some say the aroma is camphor-like others declare Read more…


Foothill penstemon Penstemon heterophyllus is an eye catching many branched sub-shrub with flowers “in all nuances of blue.” So says Lester Rowntree famed for her 1930s solo plant exploration trips into the wilds of California. Rowntree is beloved by many for her writing from a gardener’s perspective about the plants she observed by driving up and down Read more…


by Nicole Witch-Hazel One of the delightful plants we propagate at Oaktown Native Plant Nursery is wild ginger Asarum caudatum. Wild ginger is an attractive evergreen ground-cover for under redwoods and moist, shady places. It also grows well in large sized deep containers, kept damp but with good drainage. Asarum loves a loamy sandy soil mix. It’s Read more…


Blue blossom (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. thyrsiflorus) is emblematic of our coastal California gardens and post fire successional plant communities. This magnificent large-scale, fast growing shrub also known as California lilac is hard to miss. The bloom is happening right now. On a walk through local gardens or in an open space area burned within the last 10 Read more…


Indian lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) is a wide spread annual common to coastal and mountainous regions of western North America. Typically seen cloaking the forest floor in cool moist places after the rains begin, it then dries up as the rains depart. During late summer and fall you will see no sign of the plant. Indian lettuce is Read more…


Each year at Thanksgiving time I enjoy the flaming foliage on the ‘Roger’s Red’ grape. This locally popular vine was originally wild collected by Roger Raiche in Sonoma County in the fall of 1983. Initially Raiche guessed it to be a variant of the California wild grape Vitis californica. The dominant fall color on the wild grape Read more…


Our November Plant Of The Month, Ithuriel’s spear Triteleia laxa is a spring flowering geophyte. The statement begs two questions. Why feature a plant that at this point in the autumn has long since died back? And what the heck is a geophyte? The answers are related. Fall is the time to plant native California “bulbs”. Often Read more…


With autumn equinox rapidly approaching we are deep into our natural cycle of summer drought. Many of the plants in the wild are in a dormant state, taking a pause as the soil in most non-wetland areas has dried out completely. Long gone are the spring wild flower displays, the native bulbs are but a memory, hillside Read more…


Looking into the blue elderberry outside my window is a great antidote to reading the news on my computer. There may be journalistic integrity in what’s written there on the screen but the news in the tree is much more engaging. Here at home there are all manner of streaming distractions, but then out of the corner Read more…


According to local restorationist Glen Schnieder  “the native cobweb thistle (Cirsium occidentale) is one of the great beauties of the drying time.” I’d have to agree. I took a side trip out to his project(s) at Skyline Gardens in mid-June to sit with the glorious magenta blooms in the afternoon light. As I perched on the ground Read more…