“Why are all your plants in cages?”
The cages around many of our plants are built to keep out birds, mice, rabbits, and other critters who like to dig around in the pots or munch on the plants, often injuring or killing the plants. Feel free to pry open the tops to get plants.

“I thought all native plants were drought tolerant.”
Many native habitats are moist or wet and the plants growing there require moisture. Creek monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), for example grows in seeps and along creeks. Many species of sedge (Carex) and rush (Juncus) grow along or near creeks, marshes, or springs.

We sell local natives from all types of habitats: chaparral, forest, creeks, lakes, marshes, prairie, savannah, etc.

“I’m looking for deer-resistant plants.”
Good luck. I don’t try to point out plants that may be deer-resistant because deer will browse a variety of plants, sometimes nibbling ones that are on some deer-resistant plant lists. They change their diets from year to year. The best strategy is to protect the plants with cages or netting until the plants get large enough to withstand browsing. And realize that deer are part of the ecosystems around here.

“Why don’t you have ________ plant that I saw in _________ book or on __________ website or __________ plant list from my gardener/landscape contractor?”
Our mission is to propagate and sell plants local to the two-county East Bay area (Alameda and Contra Costa counties), which is the boundary for the East Bay Chapter of CNPS. We have organized our stock into geographic localities based on where we collected seeds and cuttings in the East Bay (we have collection permits). Plants do best when they are planted in areas close to where their parent seed or cuttings came from. This strategy preserves local genotypes of plants, keeping the diversity within species to a maximum so that they are able to adapt to diseases, pests, and other natural and human influences. Local natives also provide food, habitat, and shelter for the local animals who evolved with them.

California is a large state and has a huge diversity of native plant habitats. Your plant list of California native plants may include plants from coastal southern California, the Sierra Nevada mountains, or northern California forests that do not grow in the East Bay. For comparison, imagine a list of plants native from New York to Georgia along the East Coast of the U.S.

Try this exercise next time you visit Native Here. Leave your books and plant lists at home. Come with an open mind and go to the section of the nursery where you live. If you live, for example, in El Cerrito, go to our El Cerrito section. See what plants we have there, reading the plant cards as you browse. Then go to neighboring sections to see how the selection changes or stays the same. As you go from bayside sections to inland areas, you’ll see some different plants. Also, many species grow in all areas, but often look slightly different from region to region. You’ll gain an appreciation for what grows in your area. I do this exercise every time I’m at the nursery, and after 13 years I have learned a lot.

To me, planting local natives is like historic preservation of buildings or fine works of art. I like to think about what used to grow in my area and try to bring back those plants. You can research what used to grow in your area by visiting parks and vacant lots nearby and looking for vestige populations of natives (although beware, many parks have natives that have been planted recently). Books with historical photos can be useful. The diaries and accounts from early European explorers are another source of information on what used to grow in areas of the East Bay. Fremontia has had articles over the years on what plants grew in California landscapes in the past. And just talking to knowledgeable people in native plants circles yields interesting tidbits of information as well.

“Why don’t you have ________plant right now? I drove many miles or took off work just to get ____________ plant?”
We are not trying to be the Home Depot or Con-Agra of native plants. Just like the locavore food movement that emphasizes eating what is in season, we collect seed and cuttings we find growing that year (with permits) and propagate them as best we know how. Some years certain plants don’t produce much seed. Annuals, especially, vary from year to year in their numbers, with some not emerging at all in certain years. And then we have variations in propagation success. Some years seeds produce many plants. Other years certain seeds don’t emerge well or get eaten by critters or killed by disease.

We usually have other similar plants that would be happy in your garden, so if you can cultivate a flexible attitude you may find something else with unexpected beauty.

“When is your plant sale?”
We are open for plant sales all year round. The annual Chapter plant sale has been supplanted by our Native Plant Fair in October, during which we sell not only local native plants, but host artists selling plant- or garden-themed wares and have talks about native plant-related issues.

The Regional Parks Botanic Garden just down the hill from Native Here has a plant sale every April around the 15th. They sell plants native to the entire state of California.

“This _________plant looks like a weed. I’d like something more showy.”
Since we collect from wild stock and don’t do any hybridizing or other selection the plants you see are the plants you would see in the wild. The advantages of plants from wild stock are that they are hardier and they are more adapted to the local climates, geology, and pollinators. Some flowers may look unspectacular to human eyes, but are perfect for pollinators. Native plants are more than pretty additions to your garden—they are the beautiful result of thousands of years of evolution with pollinators and other creatures and with their environment and they are collaborators in the current biological processes occurring today.

Margot Cunningham