Ocean Friendly Gardens
January 16 2015

Deepening Our Roots With The Native Plant Society

by Paul Herzog

Surfrider chapters in California were asked by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) to submit a proposal to lead a workshop at the recent 2015 CNPS Conservation Conference, which happens every three years. As it works out, the former chairperson of the Ocean Friendly Gardens Program for the Surfrider-San Diego Chapter, Susan Krzywicki, is now the CNPS Horticulture Program Director. Susan was instrumental in making the original "ask" of Surfrider.

CNPS is similar to Surfrider in that it is a grassroots organization, is focused on the environment, and has volunteer-run chapters - 33 to be exact. A handful of staff support the chapters. But CNPS's mission has tended to appeal to native plant "nerds:" "to conserve California native plants and their natural habitats, and increase understanding, appreciation, and horticultural use of native plants." So the 3 OFG presenters focused their talk on how natives can be a part of OFG's holistic approach to restoring watershed and cleaning oceans - or what is coming to be seen as the "watershed approach" (each site seen as a mini watersherd and to which to apply CPR: Conservation, Permeability and Retention).

First, Surfrider National OFG Program Coordinator, Paul Herzog, talked about Surfrider's background and the OFG program elements. Beth Crosse, Surfrider-South Bay OFG Program Chair (at left), explained the OFG criteria of Conservation, Permeability and Retention (CPR), giving examples of each. Beth drew slides from slidedeck linked to on the OFG homepage and on Chapternet. Beth also teaches classes for Surfrider partner, G3/Green Gardens Group, and is a G3 Certified Professional.

Lia Webb, Surfrider-Humboldt OFG Program Chair (at right), grounded the talk in the basics of how soil works likes a sponge to absorb water, filter pollutants and sequester carbon. Lia is a soil scientist who works for GHD Inc, a global company which provides "engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services to private and public sector clients." Lia also has good relations with CNPS members in northern California. Beth followed Lia, kicking off a segment about OFG projects (done by Surfrider chapters and others).

Lia brought along Samara Restoration, which is an Arcata, California-based company that does ecological design and landscape consultation, in addition to running a native plant nursery. Samara's Eric Johnson (at left), described at project at GHD's Eureka offices. Among several OFG elements, the project removed asphalt from the parking lot and installed bio-swales to capture and filter polluted runoff. All native plants were used and it was the first LEED Commercial Gold certified project in Humboldt County.

Samara's Josh Koepke (at right) walked everyone through a tricky project, that had a large amount of roof runoff to be run through a small landscaped area. They used rain chains to slow down the water, built up the soil's biological health, and used all native plants. Paul followed Josh, highlighting projects throughout the state that follow the watershed approach, legislation that is supporting the watershed approach, and growing interest in collaborating to develop the private-sector workforce development.

Ramie Allard, Surfrider-Monterey OFG Program Chair (at left) as well as a licensed landscape contractor and Central Coast Regional for G3 and is a G3 Certified Professional, outlined how training and certification by entities like G3 are helping build the supply of qualified professionals to assist those who are not going to do the landscape work themselves.

After the workshop, Surfrider gathered with for drinks and nibbles with workshop attendees and CNPS staff to talk about collaborating at the chapter and state level on projects such as promoting a watershed approach, neighborhood walks, maintenance training and more.

CNPS generously provided a small stipend to Surfrider for presenting the workshop.