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Creating native spaces : Native plant group meets Jan. 6 to answer questions

RICHLAND -- Want to spend more time enjoying, not maintaining your landscaping? Interested in saving water, improving wildlife habitat and still having an attractive yard?

Take your questions to the Jan. 6 meeting of the Columbia Basin chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society.

Five chapter members, each with a different area of expertise in choosing, planting and caring for drought-tolerant plants, will be fielding questions from the audience along with Rebecca Currans of Rugged Country Plants in Milton-Freewater and Nora Parkhurst of Walla Walla who designs gardens using native plants.

"We've noticed that whenever our chapter has a booth at public events, we get lots of questions from the public," said Mickie Chamness of West Richland.

What people want most to know, she said is:

"What can I put in the corner where the sprinklers never hit?"

"I've tried digging up plants in the desert but they always die. How come?"

"How do I get native shrubs and flowers to grow in the two acres behind my house?"

"I want a low-maintenance yard. What plants can I use that require less work and less water?"

Mid-Columbia residents are increasingly interested in reducing the amount of water used to maintain yards and more people are learning to appreciate the plants that can grow in our dry, hot environment, she said.

The meeting will begin with a short presentation and slide show reviewing two very different native plant gardens.

One, owned by Kathy and Jim Criddle of Richland, is an example of how to turn a rocky slope into a naturalized garden featuring native and low-maintenance plants.

Criddle calls it "crowbar gardening," but once the rocks were placed where she wanted them, she was able to plant yellow blooming rabbit brush, purple sage bushes and other drought tolerant plants. Now her landscaping grows just fine with very little help from her.

But while Criddle wanted to save water and add plants needing little maintenance, she also received an unexpected bonus. The real treat, she said, is when you mimic the natural landscape of an area you also attract native wildlife -- birds, small animals, even insects such as butterflies.

The second garden, owned by Sally and Dave Simmons of Benton City, is an example of how homeowners who are building on undisturbed land can take advantage of the native plants already growing there. Instead of having to do a lot of rock moving and planting they took advantage of the bounty Mother Nature provided.

The panel moderator will be Dave Nelson, a Washington State University Extension Master Gardener and native plant enthusiast. The panel members and their area of experience are:

Carol Coker -- Native plants at a home in Pasco with a sandy environment. She'll also share some information on code restrictions on what the city requires for a lawn.

Dave Nelson -- Alpine and subalpine plants.

Shannon Hays-Truex -- Dealing with weeds and starting installation of a native plant garden at the McNary Education Center near Burbank in a sandy environment.

Donna Lucas -- Salvaging native plants from construction sites for replanting.

Rebecca Currans -- Stratification, germination and transplanting seedlings for a native plant nursery. She is from Rugged Country Plants in Milton-Freewater.

Neil Ofsthun -- Making room for birds and bees by creating a bird- and bee-friendly environment.

Nora Parkhurst -- Designs gardens using native plants for Inter-mountain West. She also teaches at North Seattle Community College Continuing Education.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in Room 120 of the Washington State University Library and Consolidated Information Center on the WSU campus in Richland.

For more information and directions, go to www.wnps.org/cbasin/index.html.

* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com.

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