The Wild Yard Project

Storyteller and native plant evangelist David Newsom’s Wild Yard Project seeks to transform the lawn wasteland of our built environment. According to the mission statement of the Wild Yard Project,

The World Wildlife Fund recently announced that the natural world is losing 10,000 species a year, due largely to habitat loss. At the same time, we here in the United States have displaced over 40 million acres of native-habitat with costly, lifeless lawns. Astonishingly, lawns are the biggest crop in the US, but we don’t eat them, and much of that acreage goes to waste when it could be inviting back in the tens of thousands of essential and threatened species we have pushed out. The Wild Yards Project combines a powerful team of award winning filmmakers with esteemed botanists, biologists and native plant landscapers to generate media and local projects aimed at inspiring and educating people to transform their lawns back into vibrant native plant and animal habitat. One yard can save a species, but many yards can transform the world.

We’ll have David on the podcast to talk more about this important project soon. In the meantime, take a look at the video, read an essay by Kim Radochia, “A Meadow Grows in West Gloucester” and sign up for the Wild Yards Project newsletter. Then get out there, wherever you are, and plant gardens that support life.

Lessons from the 2018 Theodore Payne Garden Tour

The gardening equivalent of Beyoncé’s triumphant 2018 Coachella performance took place on the very same weekend. Theodore Payne’s annual garden tour reunited pollinator friendly plantings, low water use and great design in a sort of horticultural equivalent of the return of Destiny’s Child. Lush and traditional garden design even made a Jay-Z like cameo appearance at the stunning stunning Wilson/Leach garden in Altadena (seen above). Native plants gardens in Southern California don’t have to look like a desert!

An ad in the back of the tour brochure neatly summed up the vibe:

In: Architecture-Enhancing Designs Out: Boring Expanses of Lawn
In: Vibrant Climate-Compatible Blooms Out: Stuffy Rows of Annuals
In: Lush, Leafy Native Foliage Out: Heat-Amplifying Gravelscape
In: Materials that Go with the Flow Out: Stiff, Straight Patios/Drives
In: Taking Design Appeal to the Curb Out: Conformist Parkways
In: Enjoying your garden

The big takeaway for me from the garden tour this year was that sometimes you’ve got to call in a garden design professional unless you have a knack for design (and I don’t). Our ticket contest winner (who gave us the most beautiful basket of home grown fruits and preserves ever–thank you Donna!) came to the same conclusion.

We’ve hired a designer, which is why our backyard looks like a strip mine:

A crew took out an ugly concrete patio last week and has been digging down to lower the level of the new patio they will install. The old patio was above the level of the sill plate and was causing the back part of the house to rot. I’ll post more in-progress photos over the next few months. We’re also working on the inside of the house. When all is done we hope to have some events here and open up the house for idling and entertaining.

If you can’t afford a crew to do the work you can, at the very least, hire a designer to do a consultation and offer some suggestions. I really wish we had done this 20 years ago when we bought this place!

Last Chance to Win Theodore Payne Garden Tour Tickets, A Note on Our Backyard and a Mini-Rant


A reminder that you have until 5pm today to enter our Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour ticket giveaway.

We have slowly introduced more and more native plants into our garden for a few reasons: to reduce water use, to sustain wildlife and to reduce maintenance. On that last point I’ll note that there is no such thing as a zero maintenance garden, but I will say that California natives are, generally, a lot less fussy than annuals.

This year we’ve also decided to hire a professional to come up with a design for our troublesome backyard. The first order of business is to jackhammer out an ugly concrete patio and deal with some possible foundation issues. I’m hoping, with our designer’s permission, to share the work in progress. I’ll just say at this point that it’s really helpful to have an outside set of eyes especially if you’ve been living with a space for so many years that you’ve lost perspective and openness to new ideas.

Lastly, I must toot my digital horn and note the excellent timing of my February 28th anti-Facebook rant. It’s time to #DeleteFacebook and #StartGardening with #NativePlants.

Win Two Tickets to the 15th Annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour

If you’re a Southern California local we’re giving away two tickets to the 15th annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour that will take place on April 14th and 15th. It’s a self-guided trip through 40 gardens in the region and includes 19 new locations (including our neighbor Lora’s house!). If you’re thinking of including native plants in your garden or pondering a garden re-design, the Theodore Payne Garden Tour is a great way to get ideas.

To enter our contest leave a comment on this post naming your favorite native plant. Please make sure to enter your email in the comment form (your email will not be published nor used for anything else other than contacting you to send the tickets). We’ll choose a lucky winner at random and the contest will close on Friday March 23rd at 5pm.

California native plants are beautiful and sustain our wildlife companions.  They also help you reduce your water consumption in a climate that is rapidly changing. In addition to the use of plants, the Theodore Payne Garden Tour has a lot of great examples of hardscaping and ways to make the best of small and challenging spaces.

Kelly and I plan on going and we hope to meet the winner of this contest on the tour!

087 Foraging Controversy with Lisa Novick

goldfinches

Goldfinches on Hooker’s Evening Primrose. Photo: Lisa Novick.

On the podcast this week we talk to Lisa Novick Director of Outreach and K-12 Education of the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants. We contacted her after seeing her blog in the Huffington Post, Forage in the Garden, Not in What’s Left of the Wild. In that post Lisa expresses her concern about foraging and suggests that people grow native plants in their yards and in public spaces. While our conversation is California-centric, I think, the principles we discuss apply to other regions. During the podcast Lisa mentions:

Hooker's Evening Primrose in bloom. Photo: Lisa Novick.

Hooker’s Evening Primrose in bloom. Photo: Lisa Novick.

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

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