by Ellen Zagory, Director of Public Horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden
THIS YEAR OUR UC DAVIS ARBORETUM ALL-STARS CELEBRATE THEIR 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY. It’s an anniversary worth noting not just because it’s been a decade, but because of the impact the plants and overall program have had on the improvement in sustainability of our landscapes. This has become even more important as California continues in its fourth year of drought. We were ahead of the curve on our recommendation of water-conserving species, and I believe that is one reason the All Stars plant list has been adopted widely.
The Arboretum’s landscaping philosophy has always come from a place of conserving natural resources. From the beginning, the Arboretum relied on hoses and portable spray irrigation to establish and maintain plantings, and this “manual” system was operated by limited staff. That maintenance restriction meant that our horticulturists have always selected and tested plant species that could tolerate infrequent, but deep, irrigation. Then, a little over ten years ago, we decided that it was time to share the expertise we had accumulated about excellent, low-water plants for our region. There were other lists for California, but none that took into consideration the Central Valley’s blazing hot and dry summers and periodic freezing winter temperatures.
In order to create the list that ended up as our top 100 All-Stars, we developed strict criteria for selecting plants. We wanted plants that first and foremost needed very little water. They had to be attractive, easy for both beginning and advanced gardeners to grow, and have few problems with pests or diseases. We also especially wanted plants that supported native wildlife, such as birds and beneficial insects, and provided a variety of alternatives for year-round interest. We voted on those plants that we all felt best fit the criteria. And the Arboretum All-Stars were born!
We then developed an online database and planting plans, as well as signage on All-Star plants in the Arboretum. At the Arboretum Teaching Nursery we created demonstration gardens so people could easily see what an All-Star garden would look like. Many funders and donors, including our wonderful Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, supported this work over the years through grants, gifts, and time. Some supported the All-Stars Program directly, while others supported our nursery and plant sales program, which promote the All-Stars.
It is clear that the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars Program has come a long way in ten years. We hope you have found the All-Stars list and other resources useful as you have designed and planted your own garden. Whether you are new to these plants or have been enjoying them for years, we invite you to our FALL PLANT SALES to celebrate this milestone and take home some more sure-to-please All-Stars!