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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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May 25

Color by Nature

Posted on May 25, 2017 at 11:28 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

WildflowersWithout a doubt, spring is my favorite season. Nature comes out of a long winter rest and awakens with an amazing show of color. At the moment, the dogwoods and western redbuds are the highlights as I drive to the ranch in Lassen. California poppies flood the meadows with their intense orange flowers, and phlox line the roadways in various shades of pink. 

The best part of this show is this beauty requires no maintenance, as these plants did not need to be pruned, fertilized or watered. 

Native plants are sometimes an afterthought in our gardens, yet the red bark of the manzanitas, intense blue flowers of Ceanothus and the display of Pacific Coast iris can take a person's breath away. 

How often do we drive by these plants flaunting their beauty and are too busy to see them? Have you ever noticed the naturalized Centranthus growing in the steep hillside as you approach the Golden Gate Bridge? Okay, I will give you that one if you are driving, but how about the bright reds and oranges of Mimulus growing along the pathways to Alpine Lake? 

There are so many sizes, colors, textures and varieties to choose from if you plant natives in the garden. Or, perhaps you might just enjoy nature's beauty in its natural state but are unsure where to find the best showing.

Marin is fortunate to have an excellent chapter of the California Native Plant Society, which has a schedule of hikes listed on their website. OneTam and Marin County Parks are other great resources for getting out into nature and seeing local color. Tours and events are sure to fill your calendar and take you to some awesome sites. 

Do yourself a favor, check out their websites and join in on the fresh air and good company, get in some exercise, and soak in the beauty around you. Then check back in and let me know your findings!
May 19


Posted on May 19, 2017 at 8:28 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

weed eating
 What keeps gardeners going in the face of weeds like this? Passion.
A friend stopped by yesterday and found me in the backyard weed-eating some very healthy knee-high vegetation in a yet-undeveloped area of the yard. She shook her head as she looked at the scope of the garden and commented that she would go crazy if she had to take care of so much.

Her observation got me thinking. It’s interesting to compare one person’s opinion of too much to another person's view of perfect. As we walked through the garden, she further commented on the beauty of the color, textures and peacefulness in the developed areas. Her comments made me wonder about the difference between the joy of observing beauty and the joy of creating or maintaining it. The answer came easily: It is passion.

Typically when we are passionate about an interest—whether it be writing this blog, pulling weeds, photographing the perfect rose bud or teaching a child to plant a garden—the action is no longer considered "just a job." The joy and reward are found not just in the results, but in the process. For passionate gardeners, the hours of soil preparations, weed-eating, cardboard mulching, installing or maintaining a well-designed irrigation system, double-digging a vegetable bed, composting, worm farming, pruning and all other related garden chores can be just as rewarding as the outcome.

Of course, the outcomes are pretty rewarding, too. This includes the joy of seeing the wonder in a child's eyes as they pull their planted radishes from the ground, or as they stand in awe watching a pumpkin seed develop into a future jack-o-lantern. Then there is the joy of watching hard, tiny seeds develop into an edible crop, or seeing a mass of weeds disappear under sheet mulch. As for me, the garden represents joy in the beauty of nature as I watch the birds, butterflies and bees envelop an area that would otherwise be vacant of their presence. And one of the greatest rewards is being able to share my own passion and knowledge through this blog, and to read about yours in response. 

Sharing our gardening ideas is a way to pay it forward so others can embrace the love of nature and learn ways of mitigating challenges. As it were, another friend stopped by earlier this week to drop off her over-abundant inventory of kale, cabbage, cauliflower and basil seedlings. I happened to mention I was seeing a few ants scouting out a potential invasion in my bathroom. She asked if I sprinkled cinnamon about. Cinnamon? I tried it and the ants disappeared! Passionate gardeners love to share their knowledge and unexpected tips for what works. 

Do you have ideas, suggestions or tried-and-true practices that you enjoy sharing with others? Conversely, are you challenged by your garden and looking for helpful tips and strategies? If so, seek out a friend or associate who loves gardening and I bet you will see their faces beam as they share their passion with you. 
May 18

The Land of Misfit Plants

Posted on May 18, 2017 at 9:51 AM by Ann Vallee

poppy for blogMarin-Friendly Garden in Mill Valley

misfit plantsWho would have guessed that this creative Mill Valley garden serves as a halfway house for plants that simply need a second chance? The owner, a landscape designer at M2 Design and Construction and a garden educator, brings home plants that are unwanted at her clients’ gardens and introduces them into her own. In this way, the garden serves as a sort of plant laboratory where new plants are tried and tested throughout this constantly evolving landscape. 

Having limited time for maintenance, the owner carefully selects plants that are both deer-resistant and drought-tolerant, including many California natives and attractive succulents. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds regularly visit the vibrant blooms that abound. Some of the favorite plants featured in this garden include Grevillea ‘Superb,’ Leucadendron sp., Leucospermum sp., Aeonium sp. and Otatea acuminata aztecorum

Inviting walkways and attractive walls are crafted from recycled materials, and a simple drip irrigation system applies just the right amount of water to each plant. A collection of found objects is tucked in among the plants, giving the garden a sense of playfulness. The garden even hosts a “Little Library” that offers passersby the chance to exchange books. By creating this welcoming space, the owner strives to support her neighbors and family, as well as local pollinators and—perhaps most importantly—plants that simply need a second chance. 

Take a video tour of this Marin-Friendly garden below and scroll down for more photos. Explore more Marin-Friendly gardens at:

Land of Misfit Plants 1

Land of Misfit Plants 2

Land of Misfit Plants 3

Land of Misfit Plants 4

Land of Misfit Plants 5

Land of Misfit Plants 6