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Friends of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden

No Thursday plant sales
May 2014

We're preparing for our annual plant sale on
April 19, 2014




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The garden is located at the intersection of Wildcat Canyon Road and South Park Drive in Tilden Regional Park near Berkeley, CA


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January 2014

A Message from the Garden’s New Director

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It is a pleasure to be writing this message from my new office overlooking the heart of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden (RPBG)―a veritable jewel-box garden and collection of California’s native plants. How did this happen? I have known Steve Edwards as a highly valued friend and colleague since the 1980s, and have always thought of him as one of my contemporaries―so I was quite surprised when he called me over a year ago with the news that he would be retiring after 37 years of service to the Garden. Previous to that conversation, I had thought that I would never have the opportunity to lead this extraordinary Garden. This is, perhaps, the only place that could (and did!) successfully tempt me away from my work at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG).

The RPBG has an especially rich history, and I am proud to be its fourth leader. The 73-year legacy of such horticultural and botanic luminaries as James Roof, Wayne Roderick, Stephen Edwards, and many others is evident in the extraordinary garden, collections, writings, and programs that we enjoy today. The Berkeley Hills area is widely recognized as one of the most favored horticultural climates in the country, and the Garden’s site in Wildcat Canyon was chosen and developed to provide an astonishing array of microclimates in order to grow and display a wide range of native plants. Within our ten-acre domain, we are able to grow almost everything from Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis) to Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera). Additionally, how many public gardens have served as the direct catalyst for the creation of a highly effective statewide native plant focused conservation organization? Just one: the Regional Parks Botanic Garden. Threats of development brought together a dedicated group of citizens to defend the Garden. Such was the nature of the group that after their goal of saving the Garden was achieved they decided to continue their efforts to address the conservation needs of our native flora at large, resulting in the birth of the California Native Plant Society in 1965.

As many of you may know, I am a familiar figure in California botany and horticulture. I was born in Hollister, California, and visited the Regional Parks Botanic Garden for the first time in the 1970s. After college, I spent the early parts of my career in the South Bay and the Peninsula before leaving the region in early 1990. I worked at RSABG for 23 ¾ years, first as Director of Horticulture and lastly as Director of Special projects. In recent years, my botanic and conservation work at RSABG has been focused on documenting and cataloging the rare, endangered, and endemic plants of northwestern Baja California (the California Floristic Province portion of the Baja peninsula), and producing the first ever thorough checklist of the flora of the region. You will be hearing much more from me on these topics in the future.

To remind me that I have moved significantly northward, my first days at the Garden were especially cold, and led to frozen ponds and lawns―and spectacular displays of hoar frost. As insurance against freezing water pipes, the Garden’s water supply was turned off and the irrigation system was drained for nearly a week. A number of our plants clearly show frost damage―prostrate blue blossom (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. repens) and some specimens of seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus)―but most of our flora is well adapted to these periodic sudden freezes. Those that are known to be frost sensitive were already well covered and protected by staff. Despite the cold temperatures, the new floral year is well underway, with numerous manzanitas in full bloom, followed closely by the first blossoms of giant hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum grande) that opened this past weekend, with numerous currants and gooseberries (Ribes spp.) just beginning to show their first flowers. As I finish writing on Christmas Eve, I note that our specimens of the highly endangered Ione manzanita (Arctostaphylos myrtifolia), Santa Cruz manzanita (A. andersonii), and the Paradise manzanita (A. pajaroensis ‘Paradise’) are especially floriferous and beautiful.

A garden cannot grow and prosper without talented and capable people tending to every one of its needs. Here at the RPBG, we are indeed fortunate to have such a cadre of dedicated staff, volunteers, docents, and friends. I most certainly am looking forward to working with each of you to assure that our Garden’s future is healthy and bright.

―Bart O’Brien

hoarFrost hoarFrost

The Jepson Herbarium Workshops for 2014

The Jepson Herbarium has announced its public workshops for 2014. Programs include trips to San Pedro Martir of Baja California, Mount Eddy, and the Sierra Nevada; seaweeds of northern California; beetles; and macrolichens. You can find the complete schedule and other information by clicking here.

Docent Training at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden

If you enjoy spending time in a beautiful setting, learning about native plants, and sharing your knowledge with others, you can help the Regional Parks Botanic Garden share our rich native plant heritage by becoming a garden docent. As a volunteer educator, you’ll help young students and other garden visitors understand and appreciate California plant life in this exceptional all-native garden in the Berkeley hills. No prior experience or knowledge is necessary, but we’re especially looking for volunteers who are available on weekdays and interested in leading tours for children.

Docent training covers a broad array of topics, including basic botany and plant identification, plant geography, pollination, ethnobotany, and teaching techniques, and prepares docents to lead tours of the garden. Each session features a lecture followed by a walk in the garden. The primary instructor is Dr. Glenn Keator, a respected botanist, educator, and author of a number of books on native plants.

Being a docent has many benefits, including continuing education classes and field trips as well as the intangible rewards of sharing a child’s joy of discovery or enriching a visitor’s experience of the garden.

WHEN: Tuesdays, January 7 - June 10, 2014


9 am - 12:30 pm
WHERE: Regional Parks Botanic Garden
  Wildcat Canyon Road at South Park Drive
  Tilden Regional Park, in the Berkeley hills



$155 for the training course and text



Contact the Garden staff / 510-544-3169



Contact Sue Rosenthal or 510-496-6016

There are still a few spaces left in this year’s training course; sign up by January 5 if you would like to become a docent at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden.



Upcoming Classes

A click here will take you to a fuller description of the class as well as the class registration form

Sunday, February 23, 10 am–2:30 pm

Manzanitas of San Bruno Mountain

Space Available
Saturday, March 29, 9:30 am–12:30 pm

Drawing Leaves and Plants

Space Available

Saturday, April 5, 10 am–3 pm

Botanizing California: Spring Flowers After the 2013 Fire on Mount Diablo

Space Available

Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, 10 am–2:30 pm

Learning the Brodiaea Clan and Their Uses in the Garden

Space Available
Saturday, May 10, 9 am–5 pm

Botanizing California: The Special Habitats of the Santa Cruz Mountains

Space Available

Sunday, June 8, 10 am–1 pm

Creating Hypertufa Containers

Space Available

Saturday, June 21, 10:30 am–2:30 pm

Butterflies for Beginners

Space Available
Illustration/Photo Credits

©Bart O'Brien

Hoar frost (4 pictures)

©Terry Smith

Docent Training