Ann-Marie’s invitation to BLOOM! CALIFORNIA
A gorgeous display of farewell to spring (Clarkia amoena var huntiana), one of the Bloom! California selections. Photo: Suzi Katz
Valley of Enchantment, in the San Bernardino Mountains, is in many ways as idyllic as it sounds. I grew up here. Our front yard held a creek dogwood and across the street was the national forest, filled with pines. We played in the forests and grew up with the trees in a way that allowed for a love of California’s native plants and beauty to be a foundation of my childhood and education. It was a rural upbringing and one I was incredibly lucky to have experienced. Though different from the upbringings of many others, the lessons imparted on me in the forest are surely similar to some of the lessons found in the seaside vistas, urban parks, rooftop gardens, or manmade lakes across our great state.
Since those formative years, my career has taken me on a path that has allowed me to work in nature and introduce people to native vegetation. I’ve planted cottonwoods in riparian areas and seen bobcats sitting in their shade. While running kayaking trips, I’ve been able to show people how native willows provide habitat. And now during COVID-19, I’ve had the luxury to work for and be surrounded by native plants.
I joined the California Native Plant Society team as the Horticulture Outreach Manager in March 2020, right as the nation and world were beginning to feel the devastating effects of the global pandemic brought on by COVID. To say that this was an interesting time to start a new job would be a gross understatement, as everything that once seemed “normal” was about to be flipped upside down. On my first day at CNPS, I was excited to meet everyone and to figure out what we were doing and how we did it. This was my normal first day in the office — and then we went into shut down mode.
‘Pink Island’ yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Photo: Betty Young
From Global Pandemic to a Gardening Revolution
The pandemic impacted (and continues to impact) my new job in numerous ways, but despite it, joining CNPS at this time allowed me the opportunity to continue pursuing my passion. Two of my greatest joys during the past year have been working with a terrific team of people and watching the native plants in my garden grow, thrive, and change throughout the seasons.
Despite the struggles associated with the pandemic, many people have found solace in the natural world, including the gardens around them. People wrote to us to say that when they were at their most isolated, their gardens — or even just a flower pushing through the cracks of the sidewalk — helped them feel less alone and a little more hopeful. Sheltering in place, it seems, gave many a deeper appreciation for the life found in our own front yard or our neighborhoods.
From apartment balconies and community spaces to newly landscaped front yards, native plants are showing up all around us… native plant nurseries (including CNPS’s own network of chapter nurseries) are seeing incredible sales.
Today, gardening — and native gardening — is thriving! And for me, this is a lovely silver lining. From apartment balconies and community spaces to newly landscaped front yards, native plants are showing up all around us, creating wildlife corridors in the suburbs, adding much needed green space to our cities, and restoring our connection to the natural world. Meanwhile, native plant nurseries (including CNPS’s own network of chapter nurseries) are seeing incredible sales. Native plant online workshops and presentations are seeing record responses, and everyone seems to be posting garden photos on Instagram!
Let’s keep this momentum going!
‘PCH Sunset’ iris. Photo: Betty Young
Bloom! California: Why Now?
For those of us who work in the native plant or gardening industry, we have an incredible opportunity to make a lasting difference through our built landscapes. That’s why I’m encouraging nurseries and plant professionals throughout the state to join us in Bloom! California, a new three-year campaign aimed at increasing the sale and use of California native plants. My role within this campaign is to support native plant nurseries in carrying, caring for, and selling these native plants, and to help people enjoy their own personal connection with California native plants.
Bloom! California is supported by a group of statewide partners that understand the important role native plants play in providing ecosystem services in both natural and urban settings. It is these ecosystem services — water efficiency, drought tolerance, habitat and food for pollinators, and more — that make the potential of this campaign so exciting. And to make sure the campaign succeeds at a statewide level, our partners selected an ecologically-friendly group of plants that we thought would be popular in all parts of California, in a variety of settings.
For those of us who work in the native plant or gardening industry, we have an incredible opportunity to make a lasting difference through our built landscapes. That’s why I’m encouraging nurseries and plant professionals throughout the state to join us in Bloom! California
During the first phase of our three-year campaign, CNPS is recruiting industry leaders to help support and promote the campaign. We are asking retailers, nurseries, and growers who participate in the campaign to carry some or all of the plants and help market the campaign to their customers once the consumer campaign launches in Sept. During the second phase of the campaign (starting in Sept. 2021), CNPS will spearhead a public marketing campaign, encouraging Californians everywhere to purchase native plants from our selected list.
The need is clear. With California once again barreling towards drought, and with climate-related disasters continuously on the horizon, California native plants provide a critical tool accessible to almost anyone in the quest for a sustainable future.
I hope you’ll join us. Learn more at www.bloomcalifornia.org.
Funding for Bloom! California was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM200100XXXXG032. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.