LA Times on invasive plants

Thursday's LA Times has an article on invasive plants in the Home and Garden section.

According to the article, a four year effort by Sustainable Conservation has resulted in the Plant Right organization, which matches botanists, gardeners, and a region sensitivity to encourage nurseries and big box stores to do the right thing. The bad news is that it relies on good will and chiding to get the nursery trade to go along.

"...hummingbird sage is a beautiful native that would grow in cool wet areas, especially in Solstice Canyon. Instead, those areas are full of periwinkle and nasturtiums. [invasive garden escapees]

"In Solstice Canyon, we're trying to reintroduce steelhead trout. They need a native plant community to generate the insects to feed the trout. Instead, right now they have periwinkle and nasturtiums."

Brigham's eyes do not light up at the sight of fountain grass fluttering in the breeze along our roads. "It offers wildlife none of the forage of the native sunflowers that it displaces," she says. "What's more, it's not particularly good at stabilizing slopes."

...regional solutions are crucial. Although ice plants are destructive in a coastal dune setting, they're a water-wise and fire-resistant ground cover for inland gardens. So a surgical approach to targeting the offenders was needed.

Nicholas Staddon, director of new plant introductions for Monrovia Growers, agrees. Monrovia was one of the first backers of PlantRight, and although his company still grows and sells invasives, he says, it's working hard and in earnest to keep them off store shelves in sensitive areas. Give nurseries terms they can work with and they'll buy in, adds Terri Kempton, PlantRight manager for Sustainable Conservation.

Now the group is focusing on big-box stores. Lowe's confirms that it is beginning the exhaustive and complicated process of inventorying its stock, pulling offending plants and retraining its growers.

Skeptics need only point out the nasturtium seeds for sale in just about every garden center in Southern California, and PlantRight can seem toothless and wishful. Still, a start is a start, and as a start, PlantRight is exceptionally well organized. A newly revamped website, www.plantright.org, allows gardeners to click on their region and look for local solutions.

The beauty of having botanists and skilled gardeners behind the effort is that consumers are not in for a scolding. For every "don't," there are two or more "do's." Giant reed is discouraged, but clumping bamboo and New Zealand flax are recommended. Fountain grass is discouraged, but blue oat grass, deer grass and sedges are offered as alternatives.

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