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California Native Plant Society Symposium

SONORA — The California Native Plant Society (CNPS), Sierra Foothills Chapter announces their 2017 symposium “Gardening with Natives: Native Gardening in the Mother Lode – the New Normal,” on Saturday, Sept. 9.

“The new normal” refers to the wide shifts in yearly weather conditions that, in recent years, resulted in gardening with a restricted ability to water, persistent drought conditions, and the large-scale loss of trees.

While the winter of 2016/2017 had much above normal levels of precipitation, it takes little reflection to remember that we’ve seen this pattern before – drought years followed by a winter of above normal precipitation, followed by below normal, followed by drought years.

This pattern has been repeating itself, growing in intensity with each new dry cycle, since the mid-1970s, creating challenges for gardeners to maintain healthy landscapes.

The Gardening with Natives symposium is designed to help gardeners build resilience and water-efficiency into home landscapes. While the emphasis of the symposium is on gardening in the Sierra foothill region, the plants and principles discussed will apply to valley home landscapes as well. Most plants which are suitable to the foothill region can be grown in a variety of California landscapes.

The keynote speaker will be Bart O’Brien, Director of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden at Tilden Regional Park in the Berkeley Hills.

O’Brien will draw upon his many years of experience with native plant gardening at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden and at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, to demonstrate that native plant gardening is as beautiful as it is resilient.

Local landscaper George Kirk, of Solomon’s Garden will discuss new design strategies to use in home gardens.

Susie Kocher, Forester with the UC Cooperative Extension, will provide information to choose the right native trees to replace those which were lost to drought or bark beetles, taking into consideration the shifting weather patterns.

Meteorologist Rob Carlmark of ABC10, will break down what is driving these wide shifts in weather patterns and give a glimpse of what the future might hold.

Toby O’Geen, Ph.D., a Soils Scientist with UC Davis and the UC Cooperative Extension, will interpret local foothill soil characteristics, sharing observations used to diagnose soil health, and recommend some gardening practices to improve home landscape soils conditions.

Bonnie Bladen, of Intermountain Nursery, will reveal the multitude of native shrubs and perennials appropriate for local foothill gardens.

John Whittlesey, a landscape design professional and owner of Canyon Creek Nursery and Design in Oroville will share his current passion of pollinators by showing the native plants that support them, illustrated by his fabulous photography.

“After reading about the line-up of speakers, I am really excited about attending the symposium,” says Stephanie Garcia, Master Gardener and Fall Plant Sale Chairperson for the Sierra Foothills Chapter of CNPS. “It looks like the speakers will be addressing the gardening problems we are currently having here in the Motherlode.”

The symposium will be on Saturday, Sept. 9, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Sierra building, at the Motherlode Fairgrounds in Sonora.

Registration is $40 before Sept. 1, and $50 at the door. Space is limited so early registration is recommended. Registration includes lunch and refreshments.

A variety of native plant books will be offered for sale. John Whittlesey will have his book, “The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias (The Plant Lover’s Guides)” on hand for sale.

CNPS is a state-wide, non-profit organization made up of botanical professionals and enthusiasts. The mission of the California Native Plant Society is to conserve California native plants and their natural habitats, and increase understanding, appreciation, and horticultural use of native plants.

The Sierra Foothills Chapter encompasses Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne and Mariposa Counties. They hold two native plant sales per year and have donated books about native plants and native plant gardening to local schools and libraries.

Over the years, the Sierra Foothills Chapter has made donations to several schools enabling them to purchase native plants to grow in gardens on school grounds.

The symposium brochure, with more information and a registration form is available at

For more information or to request a paper copy of the brochure with registration form contact Nancy Piekarczyk, at, 209-533-2017.

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