Thanks to a surplus from a city restoration project, Lake Cunningham Park has received a batch of native plants collected and propagated from a local watershed. On Thursday, December 24, 2015, 12 toyons were planted on Tully Road between White Road and Glen Angus Way in the bed adjoining the park fence. It rained off and on all morning, and the ground was nicely moist. The plants are off to a good start. In about 3 years, they will create a colorful, water-wise, and low-maintenance frontage for the park.
On Saturday, December 26, 2015, five volunteers performed a variety of tasks in the native garden. Their tasks will give you a good idea of what is involved with maintaining a large native garden in a public park.
1. Dead stems of California aster, narrow-leaved milkweed, yellow nutsedge, and soap lily were removed. This is not strictly necessary from a habitat point of view (no one does this in natural areas), but this makes the garden neat and appealing to its human visitors. When humans like what they see, they are more likely to support it and volunteer for it.
2. Dead stalks of elegant clarkia were removed with care, without disturbing the seedlings germinating below. These will form a tall stand of pink flowers in late April and May, loved by native bees.
3. A dead coyote bush was cut down and its branches collected and piled up into a brushpile. Again, this was not necessary for habitat value; we do this to make the garden look nice to human visitors. We do our best to minimize the impact to wildlife. The brushpile becomes a welcoming place for insects and birds seeking shelter.
4. Grasses in front of a stand of California buckwheat were removed to allow the buckwheat to expand.
5. A particularly large stand of coyote bush was growing close to the lakeside path. Three volunteers pruned it up and away from the path and to promote visibility on all sides of the shrub.
6. 2 box elder saplings made available by the City of San Jose were planted near the lake shore. They were planted among the existing coyote bushes where they will be safe from trampling or vandalism. When they grow to their full size, they will shade out the coyote bush, causing it to decline and eventually die. This is how plant succession happens in nature. Coyote bush is a pioneer plant, the first to colonize any open space; it plays an important role as a nursery for young native trees which will eventually replace it.
We observed many robins feeding on toyon berries on sycamore hill. Fran’s comment rang true: “If you plant it, they will come!”