The shrublands of the Point Reyes National Seashore, which include the northern coastal scrub and maritime chaparral, hooked me long ago with their vibrant charms. Found on slopes within the influence of the sea, they hug the land as tightly as a knitted sweater, shrugging off the challenges of wind, salt spray, and fog.
Chaparral and scrublands are often overlooked, dismissed even, as valuable habitat in places like Point Reyes National Seashore. But the unassuming assemblage of low-lying shrubs and herbs are the right tools for the job in many difficult landscape situations, and hold a beauty of their own. Perhaps it’s time to rethink scrublands as a rightful native habitat, good in the wild and garden.
Wake up and smell the tarweeds, the scent of summer.
Think of the western scrub jay: screeching, assertive, a bully and glutton at backyard bird feeders. But also, as Judith Larner Lowry has noticed in her West Marin yard, caching acorns, bay nuts, and other seeds, many more than the birds could ever hope to recover. Given that these seeds can’t move uphill on their own, we owe our oak-studded hillsides in part to the forethought, and forgetfulness, of this very familiar bird. Lowry’s advice? Sit back and let a few of our local jays’ missed meals take root.
Years ago, there was a quail refuge on the outskirts of the town of Bolinas. Seeking to restore her yard to the coastal prairie it used to be, Bolinas writer Judith Lowry decided to shape her garden to meet the quail’s habitat needs. In the process, she discovered how a covey of quail can stitch together a sometimes fractious neighborhood.