Date: 8 November 2011

Tonight we’re learning about and celebrating California native plants. Our guest is Germain Boivin, founder and owner of Floral Native Nursery, which has 150- species of California natives.  We’ll also be sharing some poetry about the beauties of California native plants.

Listen to the Program

California Plant Poetry

Honeysuckle Hunting

It could be anywhere.
We stand stock still and sniff
the green breathing of daisy, vine and leaf.

Ears pricked and noses high,
we listen for the drowsy hum
of yellow golden honey.

There, on the fence!
We’ll steal it from the bees,
pluck a tiny trumpet blossom,

pinch the end with finger and thumb,
like biting the vanilla-dripping tip
of an ice cream cone.

Slowly, slowly, draw it out–
pull the stamen through, tongue poised
to catch one crystal drop of sweetness.

~Heidi Mordhorst
from Squeeze: Poems from a Juicy Universe, 2005

Western Redbud

spring unleashed, it blooms
pink kisses flirt with the sun
Kool-Aid explosion

— Susan Taylor Brown
From her website

California’s Cup Of Gold

The golden poppy is God’s gold,
The gold that lifts, nor weighs us down,
The gold that knows no miser’s hold
The gold that banks not in the town,
But singing, laughing, freely spills
Its hoard far up the happy hills;
Far up, far down, at every turn,–
What beggar has not gold to burn!
Joaquin Miller

In this poem, the mountain mahogany  is used as a chisel stick and the occasion for metaphors about the past—the notches and the smoothness describing a history.

The Tally Stick

Here from the start, from our first of days, look:
I have carved our lives in secret on this stick
of mountain mahogany the length of your arms
outstretched, the wood clear red, so hard and rare.
It is time to touch and handle what we know we share.

Near the butt, this intricate notch where the grains
converge and join: it is our wedding.
I can read it through with a thumb and tell you now
who danced, who made up the songs, who meant us joy.
These little arrowheads along the grain,
they are the births of our children. See,
they make a kind of design with these heavy crosses,
the deaths of our parents, the loss of friends.

Over it all as it goes, of course, I
have chiseled Events, History–random
hashmarks cut against the swirling grain.
See, here is the Year the World Went Wrong,
we thought, and here the days the Great Men fell.
The lengthening runes of our lives run through it all.
See, our tally stick is whittled nearly end to end;
delicate as scrimshaw, it would not bear you up.
Regrets have polished it, hand over hand.
Yet let us take it up, and as our fingers
like children leading on a trail cry back
our unforgotten wonders, sign after sign,
we will talk softly as of ordinary matters,
and in one anotherís blameless eyes go blind.

Found on J J’s blog

The final poem we’ll share with you has elements of a creation myth. Here we see how  the ponderosa comes to dominate the sky.
Tale of the Mighty Ponderosa and the Sky

Once, the mighty ponderosa
Scratched the underbelly
Of the piercing blue sky.
Letting it know
That its reign over
The mountain top world
Was over.
But the sky
Had the clouds
And clouds
had Thor
hiding in its midst
It sent a jolt
Of electric light
Upon its crown and
the once green tree
turned a shade of black.
Bruised and bare,
So the sky saw,
believed the ponderosa
learned its lesson well
And held back its fickle
But the ponderosa,
that mighty tree,
stayed its ground
on top of that mountain.
Until the sky realized
that nothing will move it
and it was here to stay.
So the sky never bothered
when the mighty ponderosa
recovered and when
it grew green again.
It scratched its underbelly
but the piercing blue sky
Saw its futility and
Let it grow
and grow
until it became
the true king of its
Mountain top realm.

Online at
Our Discussion with Germain Boivan

Germain Boivin founded the FLORAL NATIVE NURSERY in 1998. In his years in California, he has learned about and experimented with California native plants and plant breeding.

1. How did you become interested in California native plants?

2. How do you know what’s a native plant and what’s been introduced to the region?

3. What sorts of native plants are there in California?

4. How do you go about propagating native plants? What has been your process of developing for market 150 California natives?

5. What is the value of using California native plants in gardening and landscaping?

6. What are some of the most popular plants that grow in our region?

7. Are there micro climates or micro environments in our region? Are there some plants that grow better in the valley and some in the foothills?

8. I learned from your website that you also provide native plants for habitat restoration. That must involve a lot of plants that can become relatively self-sufficient pretty fast. Can you tell us about the process of habitat restoration? What sorts of plants are particularly useful for restoration?

9. When is the best time to start a native plant garden? What kinds of conditions do native plants need?

10. We were interested that some of the plants you propagate are labeled as having medicinal uses by Native Americans. That must be interesting research. How did you learn about native medicinal uses?

11. I know you also provide resources for people who want to learn more about California natives as they are developing ideas for their gardens. Can you tell us about some of those resources?

12. How can people contact you?


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We’d like to thank our good friend Sue Hilderbrand for sitting in for us last Tuesday on Ecotopia.

We’ll be away again next week, and Bill Fritsch will be here on Ecotopia. Please join him.

Playlist for Ecotopia #163

  • Back To The Garden    4:03    Jason Webley    Against The Night
  • Pagan Poetry    5:40    Björk    Livebox Sampler
  • Royal Garden Blues    1:54    Don Byron    Bug Music
  • Golden Poppy    3:09    The Mother Hips    Do It On The Strings: Acoustic Live in California November 2010
  • Red Bud    7:32    MaMuse    Strange And Wonderful
  • Garden Song    5:34    MaMuse    All The Way