A post at Garden Rant about home owner associations and the restrictions they impose on what can be planted on your property got me thinking. I wrote a comment on that post about how our county requires at least 50% natives be planted on new commercial landscapes. I wrote, "I have a problem with people who dictate what species and style of plants can or can not be planted. If you do a commercial landscape in The City of Placerville the requirement is 50% of the plants be natives. Not hybrids mind you, but the species! If you want to plant drought resistant Arctostaphylos (Manzanita) you can't plant Arctostaphylos "Emerald carpet" which establishes well under landscape conditions. You must plant Arctostaphylos sp., the actual native, which does not establish well under typical commercial landscape conditions."
What happens is the species are often hard to propagate so most nurseries don't grow them. They won't live well after the soil has been stripped by machinery and all the beneficial micro-organisms which allow them to live in the wild have been destroyed. The land owner, in an attempt to pacify the county plants what they want, and within a year is pulling them out and replacing them with what the land owner wanted anyway. Why can't we plant the hybrids, which are also drought resistant but establish better so the landscape will last?
Where does this fifty percent rule come from? Why not 40% or 60%? What happens when government gets involved in private property landscaping?
Those of us in California recognize the In 'N Out Burger chain. Long a southern California icon they finally opened two here in Auburn and Placerville. They are now the two most northern In 'N Out's in the state. The founder, Harry Snyder's favorite movie was "I's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", which is why many stores have the crossing palm trees in front. Remember the giant "W" in the movie, made with four crossing palm trees? The money was buried there! I can still hear Jonathan Winters saying, "It's the Big "W", I tell ya! The Big "W"!"
The county declined the palm trees be planted here, as it would put the landscape over the 50% non-native rule. A few years pass and the new manager of the store decides to put the "two palms crossing" in. They are quite distinctive and can be seen from Hwy.50.
Just last week the county told In 'N Out to take them out! So these trees which had already been planted had to be removed. The manager apologized and said it was not his intention to go against the county's wishes, just that he was unaware of the rule.
These trees take up less than 10% of the total landscape that wraps around In 'N Out, Office Max, and a Chevron station. Why make things so difficult for business owners and landscapers who want to add some pizzazz to the landscape. Why force people to plant natives, when most of the time they perform poorly in these manufactured landscapes?
It seems that the words "native plants" has taken on a power of their own. Even though it is not a good horticultural practice to plant species that will never provide the results we desire, it doesn't matter. Just give us our 50% "native" landscape, or else.