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Beet 2021 11 Nov

Why Natives Part 4

By Beet 2021 11 Nov

Why Native Plants?  Plant Choice Matters!

Part 4 of a four-part series

In past articles, I discussed the importance that native plants play in providing ecosystem services.  Part three of this series focused on their benefits in cleaning and managing water, providing food, and supporting pollinators.  The final two ecosystem services that native plants provide are addressed in this article.

Enriching and stabilizing soil: Long roots and drought tolerance allow native plants to penetrate the soil substrate much farther than non-natives. Natives demand much less water, and pull carbon deep into the soil, making plant tissues available to soil microorganisms and macroorganisms to feed upon. As the life forms in the soil grow, die and decompose, the soil becomes richer and more friable.  Native plants save you money on your water bills!

Sequestering carbon – Plants build their bodies from carbon that they take from the atmosphere. Using chlorophyll, plants harness energy from sunlight to combine carbon dioxide and water into long sugar chains. Oxygen is also made and released into the atmosphere.  

Yes, that is photosynthesis (photo=light, synthesis=building).  Plants are literally building their bodies using sunlight. Roots, stems, trunks, leaves – all plant parts rely on photosynthesis to combine CO2 with water to create the building blocks for plant life. Native plants can store carbon in the ground for a longer time than non-native plants! 

Quercus garryana – Oregon White Oak

One last important concept for folks wanting to grow the most beneficial native plants – use those that increase the ability of our birds to breed and increase their populations; that’s the idea of KEYSTONE PLANTS.  These are the plants that grow the most species of caterpillar.  In other words, keystone plants are the best bird feeders you can grow.  In Southern Oregon, the top three keystone plants are native willow, native cherry and native oak.  If you can plant any or all of these in your landscape, please do so.

Native plants are not always easy to find in local nurseries. Specialist nurseries and native plant societies are local sources. As more gardeners ask their garden to support insect and bird species, they can in turn ask nurseries to stock more native trees, shrubs and perennials. 

Prunus virginiana – Native Chokecherry

Down here in Southern Oregon, the Jackson County Master Gardener Association has undertaken a project to propagate native plants from cuttings and seeds. We’re fortunate to have native shrubs and perennials in our Demonstration Gardens which can serve as sources for the cuttings. We sell these at pop-up sales at our Extension site. To help folks envision how natives might fit into their own landscapes, we have a Native Plant Demonstration Garden and are expanding our use of native trees, an important contributor to insect support.

Home gardeners with the time and interest can propagate natives themselves. A great source for propagation how-to is Geoff Bryant’s book, Plant Propagation A to Z. Just be sure you are propagating an Oregon native plant.  Use the sources below to find plants suited to your location.

Oregon Flora

Native Plant Finder

Plant choice matters!  Garden for Life!

Congratulations Class of 2020!

By Beet 2021 11 Nov

Greetings and congratulations, Graduates!  We have celebrated a momentous occasion, honoring your perseverance and determination to complete the Master Gardener Program. I welcome you all as fully certified Master Gardeners to our incredible organization:  Jackson County Master Gardener Association.  We hope you will remain with us, and continue to work, learn and teach with us as the years progress.  The best way to hone your gardening skills and help your community is to learn from the amazing group of volunteers who make up our association.

If you read the Garden Beet, you have seen me use our slogan GARDEN FOR LIFE at the end of all my articles.  This really is what we believe in.

In JCMGA, you will find community, friendship, support and a joy in learning and sharing knowledge that is unsurpassed.  We want all of you to stay involved and welcome you and the talents you bring.  Each of you has unique expertise and gifts and yours are needed now, more than ever.  

We are looking to the future with hope and need your help.  Come spring, we will need volunteers in our gardens on campus and in the Native Plant Nursery.   Our Board of Directors is always looking for new talent.  If you have experience in communications, fundraising, business, member services, community outreach, education or administration, please refer to the organizational chart in your directory and see where you might plug in.  Contact a board member or a Working Group chair and ask how you can get involved.   

Once we can meet in person without restrictions, we will need volunteers to help with the social events we hold on campus as well – picnics, meetings, banquets, work days.

Our Working Groups meet monthly and are happy to welcome new members.  Communications WG is responsible for our JCMGA website, Facebook, YouTube channel, the Garden Beet, document storage, membership database, and marketing and publicity. If you are a techie, we could certainly use your help. 

Membership Services WG is for you if you love planning and staging social events, field trips, the Garden Buds program and all things people related. 

Community Gardens WG oversees our community garden and school garden grants, scholarships, and runs our Speakers Bureau.  

Fundraising WG is in charge of making money to run our programs through fundraising, corporate and private donations, sales and grants.  

Program Support WG runs the MG class and the Plant Clinic and oversees Practicum and Seed to Supper. 

The Gardens and Grounds WG coordinates the demonstration Gardens, along with irrigation and garden enhancement projects.

Our two major educational events each year are Winter Dreams, Summer Gardens – coming to you virtually this November 5, 6 and 13, and Spring Garden Fair, hopefully live, the first weekend in May. Sign up for Winter Dreams, Summer Gardens now on our website.

As we go forward into 2022 and beyond, I want to reassure you that learning about gardening is not just a matter of taking a class or a course of instruction.  Gardening is a PRACTICE, and just as teachers and doctors get better in their “practices,” so will you.  JCMGA sees you as the newly-planted Master Gardeners here in the Rogue Valley.  We know you will need care, and food, and encouragement to grow, just like any young plant.  We are here to provide that for you so that you can grow and thrive and become the best gardener you can be.  If you want to attend this year’s Practicum, please let me and Erika know so we can get an idea of numbers.  And of course, you are always welcome to sit in on Master Gardener classes starting in January.  

Gardening, helping, learning and teaching about gardening is a great gift that we give to ourselves and others.  JCMGA pledges to support you.  We hope you will support us as we all GARDEN FOR LIFE.

Congratulations Graduates!

By Beet 2021 11 Nov

Dear Master Gardeners,

The biggest news of the month in the world of Jackson County Master Gardeners (in my opinion) is that the class of 2020 has finally graduated! This class has worked so incredibly hard and has endured so many challenges over the last year and a half.  I extend a big congratulations to you all, and a very warm welcome as official OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers!  Graduates include Lisa Brill, Sharon Bryson, Seán Cawley, Debbie Connolly, Mindy Folsom, Carolyn Gale, Ann Hackett, Lindsey Herberger, Karen Layfield, Linda Low, Barbara Lowe, Joanne Mitani, Lesley Moehle, Lucy Moore, Carolyn Piatt, Romina Ramos, Cas Toews, and Lora West.

While we could not meet to celebrate in person, we had a very fun graduation ceremony via Zoom (see photos!).  We had a chance to connect, congratulate each other, and celebrate with our favorite gardening hats (and refreshments).

Congratulations to the class of 2020, you have certainly earned your certification as Master Gardener Volunteers!


Plummeting Through Autumn

By Beet 2021 11 Nov

Although we’re finally far from those scorching, smoke-hazed summer days, they were “Plum Good” ones for the Elephant Heart plum. Named for its oblong fruit reminiscent of a heart, its meat is sublimely sweet, succulent, and red as the richest Burgundy wine.  However, given their tenderness, you’ll likely never see or savor one unless it’s from your own tree.

Fortunately for us gardeners, this plum grows wonderfully in the home garden.  Although partially self-fertile, if you have the space, it produces even more if planted near (within 50 ft) a Santa Rosa variety pollinator plum.  

The Elephant Heart plum is a member of the Rosaceae family, as is an apricot. Both are in the Prunus genus, where their shoots have a terminal bud and side buds are solitary, not clustered as with others. Flowers grow in clusters up to five together on short stems and fruits have a groove down one side and a smooth stone.


Luther Burbank, who was instrumental in developing many plum varieties, created a gift for us with the development of the Elephant Heart plum in 1929. 

The Elephant Heart, or simply elephant or blood plum, is not only a very decorative specimen tree but produces one of the most striking and deliciously-flavored plums to be had.

The fruit of the plum is also a drupe, meaning it has an outer fleshy part (exocarp or skin and mesocarp, or flesh) surrounding a pit (or stone) with a seed inside. The true characteristic that defines a drupe is its hard lignified stone derived from the ovary wall of its flower.

The plums can be up to 7”-8” across, have freestone pits and have been nicknamed “blood oranges” for their luscious, richly red meat. Sliced or wedged displays on platters, or atop salads or other dishes, Elephant Hearts make a real showstopper along with the brilliant autumn leaves. They store remarkably well, so your late August-September harvest should last several months if stored in the fridge.

One of these heirloom plums will thrive if you have a sunny, well-drained spot to plant a tree in. A variety with a dwarf rootstock is available (see below). With diligent pruning, you’ll be rewarded bountifully each year. 

So, why not plant a tree of your own to pluck from it an impossible-to-find-elsewhere Elephant Heart plum?

A Bit of Trivia

Did you know?

  • Plums can be as small as a cherry or up to 3” in diameter. The Owen T cultivar is considered the largest, at 3” in diameter. For comparison, a U.S. baseball is up to 9” in diameter.
  • Plums grow on every continent except Antarctica. 
  • There were tart-tasting native plums in North America when the first European settlers arrived,
  • Plum remains have been found in Neolithic age archaeological sites along with olives, grapes and figs. 

Sources for Elephant Heart Plum trees:

One Green World

They have very good stock in a number of sizes.

The author of this article has been using them for over 20 yrs.


Plummily Colossal Crumble

Preheat oven to 350°F and oil bottom and sides of a 9” square baking pan

Crumble mix:

1 cup white whole wheat flour (or gluten free alternative)

½ cup oat flour

1½ cups regular rolled oats (not instant)

½ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

2/3 cup organic brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon each ground allspice and nutmeg

¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Pour the oil into the dry ingredients and mix with hands until topping begins to clump together.

Fruit filling:

½ cup organic sugar

2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour (or gluten free flour)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

6 cups plums (about 8-10) washed and each cut in to 6 wedges.

2 tablespoons organic honey

zest and 2 tablespoons of juice from one organic lemon

Mix together dry ingredients.  Add plums, lemon zest and juice, and fold gently together until well-coated.

Spread fruit in prepared pan then cover with topping.  Bake on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes until bubbly and top is browned.  Serve warm with whipped cream, vanilla yogurt or ice cream.  Makes about 8 servings.