Plant lovers: It’s all about butterflies and quirky tomatoes right now

Butterflies and gardening tools being held against a pink background
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

Remember rain? You know, that wet stuff that used to fall out of the sky in Southern California around January and February? Well, once again in drought-leaning SoCal, the precipitation predictions look pretty bleak, with dry blue skies forecast well into March.

But that just makes the need for a water barrel all the more important, because when we do get rain, SoCal gardeners will want to save every drop they can. For those Angelenos who already have rain barrels, L.A. Sanitation is offering a free webinar on March 5 at 10:30 a.m. about how to maintain those rain capturers. Pre-registration is required. For those who don’t have rain barrels, now is the time to get them installed, especially since the Metropolitan Water District is offering up to two $35 rebates for rain barrels that hold 50 to 199 gallons. They also have rebates of $250 to $350 for cisterns that store 200 to more than 1,000 gallons.

In the meantime, take advantage of our relatively mild weather to attend some flower shows, plant sales and gardening classes now into March. Email garden- and plant-related events to at least three weeks before they happen, and we might include them in the calendar.

Through Feb. 19
Theodore Payne Foundation Winter Plant Sale at the foundation’s nursery, 10459 Tuxford St., Sun Valley, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The sale includes native seeds (including native milkweed for monarchs), books and other merchandise, as well as one of the region’s largest selections of native plants. Members receive a 15% discount, and nonmembers get a 10% discount on all plants, seeds and foundation gear. Masks are required on the grounds. Admission is free, but shoppers must preregister for specific dates and times. Each reservation is for one vehicle with up to four passengers (who do not need to make separate reservations).


Through May 31
The first Butterfly Garden Contest for gardens in southwest Riverside County, sponsored by the Santa Margarita Group of the San Gorgonio chapter of the Sierra Club. Gardens should include California native nectar plants for adult butterflies and host plants for the caterpillars (based on information on the California Native Plant Society’s database under the “butterflies” tab). Gardens must be in the communities of Canyon Lake, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Murrieta, Perris, Temecula, Wildomar or Winchester and will be evaluated in four categories, ranging from extra small (25 square feet or less, including container gardens) to gardens larger than 125 square feet. Gardens will be judged on their overall beauty and functionality for all local butterflies; to be eligible, they must be primarily composed of native plants. It’s free to enter. Winners will be announced June 10, with prizes ranging from $50 to $125, depending on garden size. Visit the website for entry forms and information.

Feb. 19
Apple Grafting Workshop with master grafter Arnold Bernstein at Ganna Walska Lotusland on Cold Spring Road in Montecito from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. The class explains how to graft a desirable branch or bud to a compatible new tree to produce fruit from the parent tree, a process used to produce most of the fruit we consume. In this hands-on workshop, participants will graft and take home a semi-dwarf producing apple tree, suitable for the coastal climate. All materials will be provided. Masks are required for the workshop. Register online. $125 ($95 for Lotusland members). In the event of heavy rain, the class will be canceled.

Feb. 19-20
Pacific Camellia Society 16th Show at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 19 and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20. The general public may enter camellia blooms for judging from 7 to 10:30 a.m. Feb. 19. The show is free to visitors after $15 admission to the gardens ($11 for seniors 65 and older and students with ID, $5 for children ages 5-12. Members and children under age 5 enter free). Masks are required indoors.

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Feb. 25-March 6
Tomatomania! at Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. This is Tomatomania’s first event of the 2022 tomato growing season, offering more than 100 varieties of peppers and 250 varieties of heirloom and hybrid tomato plants — including its Tomato of the Year “Bronze Torch,” a brick-red, grape-style fruit with dark green and gold striping. Tomato plants can be pre-ordered online Feb. 4-20.

Feb. 26-27
Southern California Camellia Council 62nd Spring Camellia Show at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 26 and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 27. This show is a joint event involving the region’s four camellia societies in Kern and San Diego counties, as well as the Pacific Camellia Society and the Southern California Camellia Society. The general public may enter camellia blooms for judging from 7 to 10:30 a.m. Feb. 26. The show is free to visitors after $15 admission to the gardens ($11 for seniors 65 and older and students with ID, $5 for children ages 5-12. Members and children under age 5 enter free). Masks are required indoors.

March 5-6
Tomatomania! at Mission Hills Nursery, 1525 Fort Stockton Drive, San Diego, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. This is Tomatomania’s second event of the 2022 tomato growing season, offering more than 100 varieties of peppers and 250 varieties of heirloom and hybrid tomato plants.

March 9
“Monarchs & Milkweeds: What Gardeners Need to Know” is the topic of Ron Vanderhoff’s talk at Sherman Garden & Library’s Lunch and Lecture, 2647 East Coast Highway in Corona del Mar. Vanderhoff, general manager of Roger’s Gardens nursery and chair of the plant science committee for the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society, will discuss the monarch butterfly’s intimate relationship with milkweed, its endangered species status and how gardeners can help with its recovery. Tickets are $45 ($35 for members) and include lunch prepared by Cultivar restaurant. Lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. and the lecture begins at noon. Admission for those who only want to attend the lecture is $5 (free to members).

March 11-12
Tomatomania! at Otto & Sons Nursery, 1835 E. Guiberson Road in Fillmore, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. SoCal’s renowned rose nursery makes room for Tomatomania’s more than 200 tomato heirloom and hybrid plants and some 100 varieties of peppers.

March 11-13
Tomatomania! at Fig Earth Supply, 3577 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

March 12
Nature Immersion Walk at Taft Gardens in Ojai, led by Elena Rios, a certified nature and forest therapy guide, from 8:45 to 11 a.m. The 2-mile walk begins with a greeting and introduction circle and takes participants beyond the cultivated parts of the garden into the 200-acre Taft Gardens Nature Preserve, ending with a ceremony sharing tea made from the native plants foraged from the area. This is a slow walk with a moderate incline over rocky terrain, without any benches or chairs, so participants are welcome to bring their own lightweight camping stools or yoga mats if they don’t want to sit on the ground. Tickets are $35, and advance registration is required.

Spring Bloom Tours at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., a guided walking tour to see what’s blooming at Descanso Gardens. Reservations aren’t necessary; just meet at the Center Circle. Free with $15 admission to the gardens ($11 seniors 65+ and students with ID, $5 ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 enter free).

March 12-13
19th Clivia Show & Sale presented by the Southern California Chapter of the North American Clivia Society, at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Society members will have more than 200 plants on display along with unusual varieties of clivias available for purchase. Visitors can also cast their votes for the show’s “People’s Choice” award. The show is free with $29 admission to the Huntington ($24 for seniors 65+, active military and students with ID and $13 for ages 4-11. Members and children under 4 enter free.)

March 13
South Coast Cactus & Succulent Society presents a free, in-person talk by succulent expert Woody Minnich about the cactuses and succulents of New Mexico from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Peninsula Center Library Community Room, 701 Silver Spur Road, Rolling Hills Estates. Minnich grew up in the Mojave Desert and now lives in New Mexico. This is the society’s first in-person event since the COVID shutdowns in March of 2020; please check the website for any last-minute changes.

March 18-20
San Diego Orchid Society Annual International Spring Show and Sale at the Scottish Rite Center, 1895 Camino Del Rio South, San Diego, from 3 to 7 p.m. on March 18, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 19 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 20. The show will include four orchid classes on March 19 and four on March 20 on topics such as caring for a new orchid purchase, reblooming an orchid, repotting an orchid and orchids to grow outdoors. The society will also have free printed materials about orchids available to take home, including care sheets for each of a dozen different type of orchids. Admission is $10 for one day or $12 for the weekend. Children under 12 enter for free.

Tomatomania! at Tapia Bros. Farm, 5251 Hayvenhurst,Encino, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

March 19, 29 and April 2
Three-part native bee workshop led by community scientist and photographer Krystle Hickman at the Theodore Payne Foundation nursery, 10459 Tuxford St., Sun Valley, on March 19 and 29 and a private garden in Altadena on April 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. each day. Hickman will discuss how to identify and photograph native bees, their relationships to native plants and how to garden for native bees. Workshops will be held both indoors and outdoors and are limited to 15 people. Participants should prepare for walking on steep, uneven surfaces and dress in layers as the classroom windows will be open for ventilation. Participants must provide proof they are fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 PCR test result and wear a mask while indoors. Register online, $150 ($130 for Theodore Payne Foundation members).

March 20
Spring Equinox Herb Hike at Taft Gardens in Ojai, from 8:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., led by Ojai naturalist Lanny Kaufer of and author of “Medicinal Herbs of California.” Kaufer will point out the medicinal and edible plants along trails in the uncultivated parts of the Taft Gardens Nature Preserve. Advance registration is required. Tickets are $60.