It is Christmas time! All the decorations are full on: the lights, the flowers, the tree, and yes, the wreath. Surely you have seen many different kinds of wreaths, some made with real plants, some plastic. Today, we are going to show you a very special one – a wreath that was made completely with California native plants. Here it is:
California is a wonderful place for plants. It has the most species and varieties of plants among all the states in the US. According to California Department of Fish and Wild Life, “California hosts approximately 6,500 species, subspecies, and varieties of plants that occur naturally in the state, and many of these are found nowhere else in the world.” Native plants are well adapted to California’s dry weather and use substantially less water than non-native species. Also, many California insects, bees, birds and butterflies can only consume leaves and pollen from native plants, as they have been co-existing in the environment for tens of thousands of years. As we strive to preserve the biodiversity, we need to start with having more native plants around us. A lot of native plants are also beautiful. They can add much beauty to our garden; at times like Christmas, they can also be used to make Christmas wreaths!
California Native Plants Society Santa Clary Valley Chapter hosted an event 2 weeks before Christmas, “Make a Holiday Wreath with Native Plants”. There, Sherri Osaka talked about what types of plants to use, how to secure them to a frame, and how to tie a bow and hand the wreath up. “Sherri Osaka is a licensed Landscape Architect and Bay-Friendly Qualified Designer who started her company, Sustainable Landscape Designs, over 20 years ago. She is our Chapter’s GWN chair and received the 2018 Water Champion distinction from the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Award Coalition.” During the talk, Sherri made three wreaths, the one shown above was one of them. The wreath was made mainly with 3 types of plants: Coast redwood, Toyon berries, and California bay.
Coast redwood “is an evergreen, long-lived, monoecious tree living 1,200–1,800 years or more. This species includes the tallest living trees on Earth, reaching up to 379 feet (115.5 m) in height (without the roots) and up to 29.2 feet (8.9 m) in diameter at breast height (dbh). These trees are also among the oldest living things on Earth. Before commercial logging and clearing began by the 1850s, this massive tree occurred naturally in an estimated 2,100,000 acres (8,500 km2) along much of coastal California (excluding southern California where rainfall is not sufficient) and the southwestern corner of coastal Oregon within the United States.” (Wikipedia). Before the West was developed, the California coast was full of the Coast redwood. Today, you can still easily spot them in mountain ranges close to the coast in northern California. The tree can be very tall (over 115m or 335 ft) and as wide as 9m (30 ft). They have distinctive tall, red trunks. The leaves are scale like, of dark green color, which make them a great base material for wreaths.
Toyon is “a beautiful perennial shrub native throughout the western part of California and the Sierra foothills. It is a prominent component of the coastal sage scrub plant community, and is a part of drought-adapted chaparral and mixed oak woodland habitats. It is also known by the common names Christmas berry and California Holly from the bright red berries it produces. ” The city of Hollywood was even named after it: before Hollywood became what we know it now, it was a place full of Toyons, or the California Holly, thus the name “Holly-wood”. Toyon often grows to be about 8 feet tall or even taller. The leaves are evergreen. But the most striking part is its bright red berries. In open spaces, often the first plant one would notice is the Toyon, with its clusters of red berries against dark green foliage. It is also called Christmas berry, for this wonderful red and green color combo. In gardens, Toyon is rather easy to grow. They are drought tolerant, can manage most soil types and and can make for a good hedge. For wreaths, there are no other more fitting materials: bright red and green. They are even called “Christmas Holly”!
In summary, California native plants are rich in species and varieties, support biodiversity, and can add much beauty to our gardens with just a fraction of the water required for lawns or non-native plants. They are great for our gardens. In addition to landscaping, they can be good materials for others, such as Christmas wreaths. Plant some native plants, at Christmas time, make a wreath or two: let’s grow and appreciate nature’s wonderful gifts in all seasons.