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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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Sep 15

A New Acquaintance

Posted on September 15, 2017 at 7:58 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Caryopteris clandonensis
Caryopteris clandonensis
Once in a while a plant will cross my path that I am not familiar with. It's what I best love about gardening—we can never know it all. As I perused a garden website a few months ago, a picture of a plant known as Caryopteris clandonensis caught my attention. As I read, it sounded like a good fit for a few newly developed backyard planting areas, with the bonus of blooming when most other plants fade during the late summer/early autumn. 

The misguided common name for this plant is blue spirea—misguided in the respect it is not a true spirea (Spiraea). Besides its late blooming season, it has other amazing properties. Deer don't like it, and rabbits don't either. It is fragrant, makes for a good cut flower, grows in the sun, will thrive in lime soil, and attracts bees and butterflies. It grows to a compact 3-4 feet in height and width, plus it is a fast grower with a minimal amount of water needed to sustain it. These features might make it a good choice if you’re looking for a pretty screen.

Does this plant have a down side? Yes: It doesn't like wet feet, so establishing it in clay soil would be a challenge unless the soil is well amended and provides great drainage. It also doesn't have a long life as one would expect from some plant material. However, that shorter life span isn’t a significant issue as it is very easy to propagate. Each spring it needs to be pruned back about six inches. To propagate, simply take the new wood cuttings from your pruning efforts, add a bit of root stimulator and place the stems in damp sand. Keep the cuttings shaded and moist until the roots establish. As tough as this little plant is, it is reasonable to expect beautiful blue flowers in the early fall. 

Pairing this plant with orange poppies would knock this combination out of the park. For a dynamic container display, try placing this plant in an urn with white alyssum or white lobelia trailing underneath. I created a mecca for beneficial insects in one large area by planting a mixture of peonies and ornamental strawberries for spring and Caryopteris with large Agastache for late summer and fall. The bees and butterflies throng to this planting area. Now to add a slurry of water to provide a place for these insects to drink.

Can I challenge you to try a new plant you may not be familiar with? There are many wonderful garden possibilities that go by unnoticed. Upon closer inspection you might find them captivating—a plant to behold!
Sep 12

Free Water Education Programs for Schools

Posted on September 12, 2017 at 1:49 PM by Ann Vallee

MMWD watershed field tripIt’s back-to-school time, and we’re excited to once again offer free water education programs for schools in our service area.

Through our diverse lineup of programs, students have opportunities to learn about water conservation and supply, restore habitat on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed, search for water leaks at home, sing along with musical watershed assemblies, and much more. Every year, more than 5,000 K-12 students from public and private schools throughout the district take part.

To continue promoting water awareness for Marin students, this year we’ve added a new Water Scholars Program. The program invites high school seniors to share their best and most creative ideas about clean water, water conservation and watershed preservation through an original essay, with the opportunity to earn a $1,000 scholarship.

Learn more about all our school programs at:

Sep 08

Just Water

Posted on September 8, 2017 at 11:56 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

I woke this morning to the rumble of thunder and the pitter-patter of raindrops here in Lassen. The open bedroom window allowed the fragrance of freshly fallen rain to permeate the room. The rain was enough to wash the dust from the foliage of the plants, yet not enough to quench the parched soil. Still, what a blessing after the intense heat we have all experienced over the past week.

Water hand pump
 field trip
 Water bucket relay
This act of nature continued a theme I had been thinking about—that is, how easy it is to take water for granted. While attending the local county fair last week, I toured a display of antique water-carrying devices. There was a hand pump taken from a local kitchen some years back. The device required pumping a lever to bring well water to the surface before it could pour from the spout. Another device was more advanced yet very noisy: a motorized pump that moved water to the desired location. 

These water-moving devices reminded me of an activity MMWD’s conservation specialists teach as part of the district’s free field trips for schools. The specialists explain how children in some other parts of the world still need to carry water to their destination via buckets and other assorted vessels. They also talk about how heavy water is—more than eight pounds per gallon—and how it takes energy to transport it. The students are then divided into two teams for a relay race in which they have to carry buckets of water one at a time and pour them into a large container. The game is to see which team can fill the container first. Even as the kids are racing to complete the task, they become very careful not to splash the water out of their buckets in order to maximize the amount of water saved to win the game ... conservation at its best! More importantly, the students realize how very lucky we are to merely turn on a faucet for a cool and clean drink of water. 

We use water all the time—washing clothes and dishes, bathing, brushing our teeth—and yet often don’t give it much thought. During the recent heat wave, we relied on water to cool off, run air conditioners, hydrate ourselves and our plants—not to mention fight fires around the state. We depend on water for our very lives, yet rarely do we consider how our lives would change if we needed to bucket and sterilize our own drinking water to survive. In the past I have heard that water falls free from the sky, and it does. It’s another matter to store, treat and transport it to our homes. Luckily, for most of us all we have to do is turn on a faucet. This blogger would like to take the time to thank those at MMWD for making it that simple!