Happy 2-Year Anniversary: Where Did the Plants Come From?
On October 6 and 7, 2012, the 20th Street garden was planted by community volunteers. Over half the species planted in the 20th Street Garden are California natives and many are San Francisco natives, but they didn’t just pop up here. Most of the native plants came from a nursery called Nature’s Acres (naturesacresnursery.com) located in the North Bay.
Nature’s Acres was founded by ecologists Josiah Clark and Andrew Scavullo in response to the shortage of native plants for the landscape industry. Although smaller retail native nurseries existed, professional landscapers had a hard time finding plants in the quantity needed and in the timeframe required for large projects. Plants are grown from seed collected in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Many commercial nurseries clone their plants, growing from cuttings to ensure a consistent product, but often leaving the plants vulnerable to disease because the genetics are too identical. Growing from seed allows for genetic variability, so that at least some part of the population will be more disease-resistant.
Josiah Clark has been working in habitat restoration and wildlife monitoring for over 20 years and is an expert on local bird and wildlife. In addition to teaching adults and underserved youth about nature in the Bay Area, he has led bird tours in Latin America and worked with indigenous groups in Ecuador and Venezuela to catalog bird diversity in their homelands. In late 2012, he led a volunteer workshop at the Southern Exposure art gallery. I attended this workshop, where we built birdhouses out of scrap wood and placed them in the trees on Alabama Street and on 20th in front of what is now Sightglass Coffee. These houses have been seeing some bird action!
Andrew Scavullo has a diverse educational background with studies in Engineering from Montana State, a degree in Rangeland Management from UC Berkeley and studies in earth science and environmental studies from UC Santa Cruz. In additionl to being the co-owner of Nature’s Acres, he is currently a Civil Engineer on staff with the geotechnical firm of Rollo and Ridley and also runs their soil testing lab.
The online plant inventory list indicates the source of the seeds (San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino or San Mateo) but call first to see what is actually in stock. Plant photos and descriptions can be found by clicking on “Species Accounts” from the home page.
It’s best to contact them initially by phone rather than email. Plant orders can be sent via email once the first phone conversation has been achieved. Plants can be delivered to the site for a fee (minimum order may be required) or sometimes picked up at a San Francisco location.
When chosen properly for the site, native plants help save water and provide food for birds, butterflies and bees. Many of them also spread or reseed themselves for free plants elsewhere in your garden. I hope these photos inspire you to give natives a chance, whether you plant an entire native garden or mix some in with non-natives.
Ellyn Shea is a gardener and garden consultant in San Francisco. Visit her online at http://www.garden-guidance.com