By Jeanne Halpern
T. S. Eliot notwithstanding, April is not the cruelest month. In Glen Park, in fact, it may be the kindest month for the senses, when native plants in public and private gardens seem to have no goal other than to delight. Walk the trails in Glen Canyon Park and, at the boardwalk, savor the bright yellow of seep monkey flowers beside the deep blue of Douglas iris. Or visit any or all of more than twenty private gardens open to the public for one day only on the San Francisco Native Plant Garden Tour.
That day is Sunday, April 28, and this year, about half of the gardens are in the Glen Park-Noe Valley-Sunnyside-Mt. Davidson area. You’ll discover native plants in sun and shade, in front and back yards, in driveways and on small sidewalk strips, and in flower pots on decks, porches and patios. You’ll see traditional gardens where native plants have been combined with exotics from far and wide. You’ll find gardens with California natives only – and even gardens with only San Francisco natives. Some gardens are easy-access and others are webbed with trails and stairways. Fortunately, the garden lists provided on the website (see below) indicate the few gardens that some people might find challenging. In any case, a walking stick and sturdy shoes can be helpful.
Sponsored by the Yerba Buena chapter of the California Native Plant Society, the 2013 tour will also offer opportunities to talk with local gardeners about starting native plant gardens and which plants thrive in this area. You’ll be able to pick up pamphlets about the advantages of natives, such as saving on water bills, attracting more birds, insects and butterflies to your garden, and keeping your garden colorful all year round. In my garden, for instance, forty-eight species of natives were in bloom last April and sixty-two in May, but even January boasted thirteen, including manzanita (pink and white), ceanothus (many shades of blue), tree mallow (bright fuchsia) and the graceful silk tassel (luminous white). There’s never a month without a bloom, and where there are blooms, can birds and bees be far behind?
The self-guided tour is free and open to the public on Sunday, April 28, from 11am—3 pm. For information and maps for the 2013 tour, go to http://cnps-yerbabuena.org/gardentour in April. To get a general sense of what the tour has been like in recent years, go to the same website and look at the 2012 or 2011 tour any time. If you have specific questions, contact the tour chairperson, Susan Floore, at email@example.com and be sure to write “Garden Tour” in the subject line.