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Greg Rubin

Sub-Region: Southern California Coastal, Inland
State: California
Business: President - California's Own Native Landscape Design, Inc.
Website:  www.calown.com

Biographical Information

I started out as an aerospace engineer, but followed my true passion of landscaping with native plants about 12 years ago and haven't regretted it a bit. I do a lot of public outreach and guest lecturing about California's diverse plant materials and how to use them in a landscape situation (different from an ornamental horticultural approach). I have written a number of articles on this topic, and my company has installed over 400 landscapes in the greater San Diego area.

Please tell us briefly about your favorite cause/business/product in which you are involved that you would like to share with the general public and why.
The future of ecological preservation is really in people's back yards. If people can learn to embrace the many great qualities of native landscapes, available habitat would be increased immeasurably. Our motto is "restoring California, one plant at a time".

Where can members get more of your advice?
We have a website at www.calown.com, which has pictures of our work, discusses philosophy, and has all of our contact info. We are available for consultation, design, and installation.

Background Information

Briefly describe the climate where you garden now (climate zone, state, area) and any other areas where you have gardened in the past.
San Diego, Zone 19-21. San Fernando Valley, Zone HOT!

How long have you been gardening?
35 Years.

What triggered your interest?

What is your specialty, expertise or claim to fame?
California native plants - their ecology and horticulture.

What formal education do you have?
BS in Engineering from Cal State Northridge, 1989.

Greg's Book Recommendations

Sunset Western Garden Book
Contains virtually all native plants we use and is a good overall guide.

Landscape Plants for Western Region: An Illustrated Guide to Plants for Water Conservation
Great pictures, tables & descriptions; 1st book to address specialty plant groupings (basically, plant communities)

California Native Plants for the Garden
Great pictures of native landscapes and plants, nice descriptions.

  Greg's Favorite Websites

California Native Plant Society
I like their native plant discussion forums.

Las Pilitas Nursery
this is THE best resource ever published on California Native Landscape ecology, design, and protocols, with lots of info on other topics as well.

The Mulch
an excellent all purpose gardening information website

What formal horticultural training do you have?
Extensive personal library and personal training from Las Pilitas Nursery.

What is your favorite garden or plant-related topic? Tell us a little about them.
Native Garden Design - using evergreens to establish year round structure and backbone, while using the color spot native perennials along paths where you can see the color and get at it easily to dead-head. Keeps native landscapes from looking like tumbleweeds in Fall.

What is your biggest gardening pet peeve? Tell us about it.
Designers who bash native plants but don't have a clue what they are talking about.

How much time per week do you spend gardening?
4 hours.

How much time per week do you spend working at the business of gardening, such as consulting, reading, writing or talking about your gardening subject?
60 hours per week.

What gardening or horticultural clubs, societies, or organizations (or any other interest) do you belong to?
California Native Plant Society, San Diego Horticultural Society, Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens, California Landscape Contractors Association, Pesticide Applicators Professional Association, Nature Conservancy.

What other biographical information would you like to share?

Gardening Questions

What do you like most about gardening?
Observing, watching the plants grow, color, birds and butterflies.

What do you dislike most about gardening?
Bending over.

What individual has influenced your gardening interest the most? How?
Bert Wilson, the owner of Las Pilitas Nursery. He has been a great mentor to me, teaching me about the amazing ecology of native plants and how to successfully use them in home landscapes. He dispelled a lot of rumors about natives, and taught me to emulate natural ecology in the landscape, rather than using an ornamental approach, which tends to doom most native landscapes.

What is your favorite place or activity in the garden?
I love to hang out in my Chaparral garden, watching things grow and observing all the butterflies and birds that frequent it.

What is your favorite time in the garden?
Early morning or late afternoon.

What is your favorite public or private garden in the world? Why?
Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden - best and most extensive use of natives in all kinds of situations.

What is your favorite color in the garden?
Purple and blue combination.

If you could grow only one plant, what would it be?
That's the thing - you can't grow only one plant with natives. You have to establish a symbiotic plant community of at least 5 plants to provide the biodiversity required for long term stability and mutualistic support. This is a very important concept that has frankly been ignored by horticulture.

What plant have you tried to grow that has given you the most trouble? Or, what plant would you like to grow and can't, and why?
Woolly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum) are probably the most finicky native. Monkey flowers (Mimulus spp.) are tricky too.

What is your favorite gardening outfit or costume?
Shorts, T-Shirt with Pocket, tennis shoes or boots.

Do you have a gardening philosophy you would like to share with other gardeners? What is it?
Landscape with nature, not despite it.

Who is your own favorite gardening personality on TV, radio or in print? Why?
Tom Piergrossi and Andy Maycen.

What is the one question about gardening you would really like people to ask you?
Why should I landscape with California Native Plants?

And what's the answer?
It's a chance to capture a sense of California's lost identity, to save water, to attract birds and butterflies, to experience true reality, not artificial construct (on life support!). Native gardens can be enjoyed on so many levels that each trip into the landscape is a new adventure. It's a great way to make a difference and to be different.

What is a garden myth you hear frequently which you know is untrue?
That natives are difficult, unstable, ugly, and can only be planted in Fall.

And, what is the reality?
The reality is that they are amazingly beautiful (you don't go to Yosemite for the palms and red apple, do you?), easy when you apply native ecology instead of ornamental horticulture, and they can be planted year round, as long as you give them a little extra water in Summer (just like any other plant).

What group or kind of person do you think would benefit most from the advice you can give on gardening?
People desperately searching for someone who knows how to implement truly drought tolerant/native gardens. We constantly hear things like "you guys get it" or "I wish I knew you before we landscaped" and "landscapers/architects always try to talk me out of natives when I tell them what I want".

Would you like to participate, or can you recommend someone who you think should? We're always looking for more expert gardeners to tell about their philosophies and give their plant recommendations contact us and we'll get started (it's easy and a great way to promote yourself).

About the Author
Greg Rubin, President and Founder of California’s Own Native Landscape Design, Inc. is a licensed landscape contractor (C-27 No. 717147) who has been working with California native plants since 1985. His company has designed over 700 native landscapes in Southern California. Specialties include residential, commercial, and institutional landscapes that cover an array of garden styles while providing year round appeal, low maintenance, water efficiency, rich habitat, and fire-resistance.
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