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MEETING REPORT: September Meeting Report

By Sabine Prather.

Due to Rosh Hashanah celebrations at Congregation Beth Israel, September's meeting took place in the Museum of Photographic Arts theatre, with stars in the ceiling, at beautiful Balboa Park.

Raffle prizes were two handmade bowls—one made of local ash and one of local sycamore— and one bee house. All sizes of bee houses were also for sale, from 'apartments' to large 'complexes'.

Speaker Clayton Tschudy is an environmental biologist who has practiced sustainable landscape design for over fifteen years throughout California and was previously the Water Conservation Garden's director of Horticulture and Exhibits. His company, CJT Ecologics, specializes in water conservation, restoration, and habitat garden designs.

California Floristic Province. Image copyright © 2018 Regents of the University of California.

Clayton gave a very engaging presentation. He explained that he has a botany background and a special interest in native habitats, especially those of Southern California. Most of California is a floristic province and one of five biodiversity hotspots with a Mediterranean-type climate, characterized by cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Only two percent of the world has this type of climate. What’s more, California has many different microclimates in a relatively small area: coastal ranges, central valleys, Sierra mountain ranges, and high desert plains. These microclimates can be broken down further into north- and south-facing slopes. North-facing slopes are wetter and fairly green compared with south-facing slopes.

Clayton is very interested in endemic species, which are native species that are restricted to certain areas. There are over 2100 endemic species in California's biodiversity hotspot. Many species are in grave peril.

Clayton went over the basic principles of native landscaping:

1. Minimize invasives

2. Avoid pesticides

3. Provide food (e.g. nectar, berries, seeds, flowers)

4. Provide water (e.g. in ponds and swales)

5. Provide cover (e.g. brush, leaves, wood, rocky soil)

6. Provide places for young (e.g. bee, bird, and bat houses)

Additionally, if you can, leave some spaces alone for nesting and raising young.

Clayton is working towards a more fully integrated plant community design. He recommends doing the same by using local resources to do the same, like the San Diego Natural History Museum's San Diego Plant Atlas and California Native Plant Society's Calscape. He also touched on the principles of landscape ecology, like connecting patches with corridors and having a natural matrix in the landscape.

Clayton also spoke to the persistent power of nature; whether you just cut weeds in your own garden or go for a full restoration, you’ll find that new native flora and fauna that you didn’t plan will just show up.

Clayton is working on a book that will be out in the next year or so, along with a companion blog. It will include plant communities organized by zip codes and references to resources like Canyonlands and the Water Conservation Garden. He’ll include guidance on how to create a swale and a firewise landscape.

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