Surroundings play big role

Plants are often chosen for their beauty and fragrance but we should never forget the environment in which a plant grows. We should take into account a plant’s fitness for its environment. When a plant is appropriately chosen and placed, it will have greater pest resistance, require less care, use fewer resources and generate less waste. Gardeners exercise the power of selection, whether the plant itself or its environment, all the time, so their choices have powerful consequences. Since soil is the matrix in which all plants grow, knowing your soil and choosing plants that grow well in it will go a long way toward ensuring success.

Climate selection not to be overlooked

California is one of the few places in the world to have a wet winter and sunny, dry summer. This compares to a Mediterranean climate, which brings with it a special growing condition, most notably the need to choose plants that are well adapted to an annual six-month drought. According to the climate zones identified by the Sunset Western Garden Book, Alameda County (California) includes zones 14-17. Knowing your particular zone provides a useful shorthand for many of the factors that influence which plants are likely to succeed in your garden.In addition to the broader conditions that influence your garden, every site also creates its own conditions, or microclimates of those shady spots or dry patches, or the place where the soilÕs rocky.

Conditions vary in significant ways

In the same way that there can be microclimates within a garden, conditions can vary in small but significant ways on the landscape scale as well. A plant that is native to an area with a Mediterranean climate often  requires less water, fewer pesticides and fertilizers, and possibly less pruning than a species that originated in, say, a humid rainforest. California native plants are ones that occur naturally somewhere in the state. Most are drought-tolerant; many are a good bet for your yard.

Use all opportunities to plant.

Urban hardscape areas often need some landscaping to make them more attractive and habitable for users. Trees may provide needed shade for the users and also absorb reflected heat and glare. Planting beds may provide visual relief from the surrounding hardscape. Sometimes, a small, park-like setting within a large expanse of pavement can provide a precious, outdoor space for urban dwellers. These areas are highly developed shorelines such as the San Francisco waterfront along the Embarcadero or the Jack London Square in Oakland. These landscapes contain mostly hardscape with paving and buildings set close to the shoreline and have minimal space left for planting.

Frame and maintain views to water.

Urban shorelines often have trees planted in a regular rhythm along the shoreline or a parallel roadway. Place these trees so that they do not block view corridors to the water. Pay attention to hydrology and aeration in urban landscapes.Although it can be difficult to provide optimum planting conditions in urban settings, it is important for street trees to receive adequate water and air to their root systems, which often lie beneath paved areas. This can be accomplished by placing gravel filled tubes vertically in the tree wells, in order to deliver adequate water and air to the tree root systems.

Choose plants to fit the urban conditions.

Plants in the urban environment must be able to withstand many harsh conditions including air and water pollution, extreme wind gusts and vandalism. Also, the form and appearance of plants appropriate for an urban setting are different than plants found in a more natural environment. These qualities should be carefully considered when selecting plants for an urban landscape. This information is courtesy of the San  Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

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