Home Ground Habitats is dedicated to helping our community create positive and lasting changes on a very local basis. Our philosophy is based at home and in helping our friends, neighbors, and colleagues learn more about caring for their own land, and all the other creatures that we share natural resources with. As a real and tangible asset for the community, Home Ground offers hands-on learning opportunities, lots of educational resources, an extensive selection of unusual plants, and beautiful and bountiful organic gardens in which to learn more about and to help promote the new paradigm in mindful landscaping for California. However, we could not accomplish all this without our broader community!
Marin chapter, California Native Plant Society
I have been a member of the Board of Marin CNPS for the last eleven years, serving in various capacities, including that of chapter President from 2014 to 2016, invasive plants chair, and membership chair. I am now serving as co-chair of Gardening with Natives; co-chair of Plant Sales; and chair of the School Garden Program. I joined CNPS, which is a statewide non-profit, because I believe in the bigger picture, but I am happier dedicating my energies to a more locally directed sphere of influence.
Working with my Gardening co-chair, Laura Lovett, we designed and oversaw the installation of the Native Plant Pollinator Garden in front of the Bay Model in Sausalito. For this project, Marin CNPS also collaborated SPAWN, which contributed both beautiful plants and lots of volunteer help with the installation. I also spearhead other special collaborative projects, such as Milkweeds for Monarchs with the Marin Audubon Society, and the California Native Hedgerow Project along the perimeter fence at the organic farm on the Indian Valley campus of the College of Marin.
In collaborative projects such as these, Home Ground Habitats also plays a special part by growing and providing many of the plants used. These projects really bring the local community together, with members of each group sharing goals and making connections to people holding similar interests.
Marin CNPS holds two native plant sales each year at a location in central Marin. In the spring, wildflowers and a variety of small flowering shrubs and perennials are featured, and for the fall sale, native bunchgrasses, bulbs, perennials and shrubs. Home Ground Habitats provides more than half the plants offered for sale, and in so doing, provides a reliable source of income for the chapter. Home Ground also sells our collection of beautifully packaged native seeds and shares our educational materials at these sale events.
Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN)
The current headquarters of SPAWN (and Turtle Island Restoration Network) are in one of the remaining old buildings along the Lagunitas Creek that used to be part of the small railroad towns of Jewell and Tocaloma. I’ve lived in Marin long enough (more than 40 years) to remember when people actually lived in these tiny towns!
Now, most of the old homes have been demolished to make way for a more natural and historic floodplain, and a major creek restoration project is underway with guidance by staff biologist Preston Brown. The goal is to restore the natural functions of the creek, not only to benefit salmon, but the entire ecosystem that relies on these processes.
SPAWN grows many of the native plants necessary for the restoration projects with the help of volunteers. Their small nursery is on site and their full-time nursery manager, Audrey Fusco, is doing a great job growing healthy and vigorous native plants from seeds, cuttings and divisions. All plant materials are from local genetic stock, and are collected within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
SPAWN, and in particular, thoughtful and gentle Audrey, and her groups of energetic young interns, are collaborating with both Marin CNPS and Home Ground on our School Garden Program. We hope to get more and more native habitat and pollinator plants installed at local schools that have the interest, dedication, and room for gardens as well as hands-on activities in these living classrooms.
Both Home Ground Habitats and Marin CNPS provide plants and support for the school programs; Home Ground will be working with SPAWN by growing some of the native shrubs, vines, and trees for a long-term restoration project at Roy’s Pools and, hopefully, the re-wilding of the now defunct San Geronimo Valley golf course.
Marin Resource Conservation District (MRCD)
Sarah Phillips, the Urban Streams Program Manager for MRCD, is a remarkable young woman tasked with helping Marin residents gain better insight into, and become better stewards of, the creek and watershed systems that abound in our beautiful county. In surveying homeowners who live next to streams, she found that they understood the value of restoring the natural ecology of the riparian system and were eager to help, one property at a time.
One way to achieve this goal is to remove the weedy, nonnative vegetation and replace it with California native plants that would normally be present in riparian zones.
However, purchasing these plants in the quantities necessary can be very costly to the individual property owner. Sarah decided the answer was to enable property owners to grow some of the plants they needed.
That’s when Sarah contacted me about teaching a series of Plant Propagation classes. The classes are all geared towards small, home-scale nursery and propagation systems.
Home Ground will continue to support Sarah’s efforts by offering plant propagation classes at our new location. And homeowners will have a way to grow the plants they need at a fraction of retail cost.
Novato Streetscape Maintenance Coalition Advisory Committee
It often takes the energy and vision of one person to get things moving in the right direction; CNPS member Marcia Basalla is just that sort of woman! Over the last several years, she has adopted several traffic islands in Novato, re-landscaping these areas with California native plants together with her energetic volunteers. She works closely with Novato DPW, and has been instrumental in convincing the city to incorporate more native plants in all their landscaped areas.
Marcia’s concept is to convert these traffic islands to habitat corridors, allowing more safe passages with needed resources between natural open spaces. Home Ground Habitat’s volunteers are growing many of the native plants needed for her projects. Our plants have been donated over the years to help Marcia’s team create these resource-rich passageways.
Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership
SMSWP holds an annual spring garden tour and I’ve opened my Novato habitat garden for this tour each year since 2014. Chad Singleton, the Programs Specialist with the Sonoma County Water Agency, does a great job organizing it; he collaborates with Ryan Grisso, the Education and Outreach Specialist for the North Marin Water District.
The tour is usually scheduled in late spring, right at the height of wildflower season! Each year my garden is a little different, so we often have repeat visitors. Home Ground volunteers are on hand to sell a selection of habitat plants that we’ve propagated, so that’s another draw for visitors, and I’ll usually offer a short demonstration on a home composting system or plant propagation for tour-goers, also. The tours are fun for all of us, and seeing a thriving habitat garden helps inspire another hundred or so garden visitors each year.
Our community extends even further through this website to all the people seeking a gentler and more thoughtful way of living with the land—and all the “others” that we share the land with. We hope you find lots of resources and inspiration here. Our designers, Laura Lovett / By Design, and Maya Butterfield / Coconut Moon, have created a website full of easy-to-access information, beautifully illustrated with photographs generously supplied by Bob and Mieko Watkins, Saxon Holt, Suzi Katz, Marc Kummel, and many others. Thank you!