Moving to the West Coast from the East Coast...

Zaqa(10b)June 10, 2014

Hello -

I have a very important question regarding plants and my horticultural literature. I have lived on the East Coast, and a few years in the Mid-West, for my entire life and I have amassed many horticultural literature and plant seeds from my areas. With that being said it is the NE and from zones 5a to 7b for the most part, maritime and landlocked farther inland. As I move to the West Coast I am realizing that many of my books (Peterson's Edible Wild Plants of the NE & C, Weeds of the NE, Peterson's Medicinal Plants of the NE et cetera) as well as my plants may become mute. Roughly speaking, how much of the flora is unable to grow on the West Coast? Are my books worthless and my plants unable to properly grow out there?

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

The west coast of the US is 1200 miles long and incorporates a staggering variety of climates and microclimates, all the way from temperate rainforest to semi arid scrub.

Where exactly are you moving to? 20 miles can make a big difference.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 3:39PM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

Welcome to the wildish west, Zaqa! I agree with hoovb about the importance of giving us an idea of where you will be located. Some plants grow well on both coasts, others don't like the heat and/or warm winters of SoCal, but may grow fine in the Bay area or colder regions.

Sunset Western Garden Book is a very useful resource for the western states. The Sunset zones are much more useful than the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. If your destination is CA, I also use Landscape Plants for California Gardens by Bob Perry, but it is pricey @ about $75.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 4:21PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Hah! Had to laugh just a bit at your post, Zaga :-) I'm a native born S. California gal, who lived in Indiana for 10 years, and Maryland for 3, then back home to San Diego coastal area. As hoovb mentioned, you question is like asking about moving to the "east coast" from Florida to Maine :-) MANY different climates and 3 times as many micro climates. So, tell us exactly where you're moving to, and we can be more specific. First off, Gyr is right the 'Sunset Western Garden Book' is our garden bible, here. Really, you cannot live without it, and we go by our Sunset zones here, not the USDA zones, which are essentially worthless. I am USDA zone 10, but there are probably 10 different Sunset zones within my USDA zone, all having very specific climate features and issues. You can see in my "Zone" line, I list both my USDA and my Sunset zones, and for our forum purposes, we use the Sunset zone.

Also, several other Sunset books that are applicable, such as 'Sunset Western Garden Book of Landscaping', 'Sunset Western Garden Edibles', etc. And, of course, 'Sunset Magazine', which is a very nice monthly magazine that covers all aspects of living out in the Western part of the USA, including a large portion of the magazine dedicated to gardening.

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sunset Web Site

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 5:10PM
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Haha, My sincerest of apologies and most hearty of laughs. I was actually in the process of following up on my original post with my location, but I was side-tracked and then forgot after the issue that side-tracked me was completed.

I will be moving to West LA. However, I am not sure as to whether that will entail as far north, ha, as Santa Monica or farther south such as Long Beach or Hermosa. In the future I may move uopward to the Bay Area, which I am sure will alter my horticultural abilities drastically.

Thank you so very much all of your help and I am glad that this post commenced on such a silly lapse of attention my part. Ha.

And hoosierquilt, I must laugh. I am from NJ, grew up for a bit in IN and then went to school in IN, moved back to NJ and lived in NYC and now I am preparing to move out to CA!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 5:53PM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

West LA? Oh, geez. Nothing grows there, Zaqa.

lol I'm kidding, of course. The choices in plant material that will grow here (I live in similar Orange County) may be overwhelming. But you won't have the winter chill of the NE, so you will probably have to gain some new favorites. And the horticulture practices here will likely be different than what you are used to, but not difficult to pick up.

If you want to share some of your favorite plants from your current location, and what you like about them, we may be able to suggest plants that you way want to consider for your garden here.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 7:12PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I would get the Perry book before sunset western garden. I haven't touched sunset since getting the perry book.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 7:44PM
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CA Kate

CT to LA 20 years ago, now in Fresno.

Forget everything you once knew! ;-). Other than good gardening practices, no rules now will apply. House plants are rampant garden plants; and one worries about transpiration rates instead of fungus infestations. The list goes on and on. Have fun relearning gardening.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 8:47PM
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Ah, true Gyr. I will choose my top ten favorites or so and get an opinion on thje matter from yourself and the other participants on this post. Thanks!

Thank you nil for the tip concerning Perry's book.

And thank you westelle for shattering my hopes and intelligence concerning horticulture, haha. It is always fun to learn new things though... I look forward to the challenge! :D

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 8:02AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I had an experience similar to Westelle's. The other issue you will notice is that almost every gardening publication will be fairly useless because they are directed to everyone else but us.

When you get the Perry book, pay very close attention to irrigation information in the front of the book. Learn it. Understand ET0.

The one thing I will say is that the Perry book is a horticulture book. If you are looking for info about vegetables or medicinals, you won't find it there.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:15AM
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Okay, thanks nil. So in other words I should not complete my set by purchasing the Peterson's Medicinal Plants of the NE/Central US as it will be useless. Ha. I primarily garden for the fun and uniqueness/aesthetic values. Recently I have begun to delve into more edible plants with an interest in the medicinal as well. What would be a good book for topics such as edible wild plants nad medicinal plants? I no longer can use my Perterson's Edible Wild Plants of NE/C or Peterson's Medicinal Plants of NE/C...

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 8:39AM
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gyr_falcon(Sunset 23 USDA 9)

I am not an enthusiastic local plant eater--many just don't taste good in my opinion. Optunia fruit isn't bad; raw yucca blossoms were overrated. Stuck in the backcountry, I'd prefer to hunt down a rattlesnake for dinner. Here is a link to a site that might get you started. Above the plant list is mention of a few reference books, but I have not viewed them personally. I mainly use the site for plant growing information, and a smile. ie "Don't crawl out of the hospital and yell at us..." :D

Here is a link that might be useful: Edibles, if you must

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 3:50PM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

"Roughly speaking, how much of the flora is unable to grow on the West Coast?" Seems like it's usually more like what won't grow here? (Often with bad consequences, in the case of invasives.) For instance, my mother is endlessly frustrated by my interest in native plants (she is in New Mexico), as she says "You can grow ANYTHING there and you plant plain old Apricot Mallow???!" lol. Of course, I still have a lemon tree, orange tree, palm tree, tea tree, orchid tree, hibiscus, hydrangea, avocado etc....Full disclosure: I am a newbie and just got some actual dirt a year ago - but it has been amazing to learn about this amazing climate - which is Mediterranean btw.

Often I wish there was a California version of every forum here - particularly veggies, since our planting times are totally different. Some books I like: Mediterranean Kitchen Garden: Growing Organic Fruit and Vegetables in a Hot, Dry Climate by Mariano Bueno, Pat Welsh's Southern California Gardening, and California Native Plants for the Garden by Carol Bornstein et al. The Sunset Bible is also on my shelf.

The micro-climate is crucial - I am in East LA and have a totally different zone than you will in Santa Monica.

One thing that I'll add to look into for native plants is the Theodore Payne Foundation which is local - it's really a neat non-profit nursery and educational resource.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 4:49PM
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socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24

For LA I second Pat Welsh's Southern California gardening book. Among other things, it will tell you when to do what. Some annual flowers that I hear would be planted in spring elsewhere are planted in the fall here.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 9:35PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I'll second that recommendation. The timing change is really hard to wrap your head around at first. Winter is just a really long cold fall/spring thing with random hot flashes. Fall is ungodly hot and dry. All the normal green happy garden time is over by the beginning of May. Well at least inland a bit. The coast is even less seasonal.

This post was edited by nil13 on Thu, Jun 12, 14 at 22:06

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 10:02PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Well slowjane, let me start by saying the options available to us are enormous, far greater than a lot of places. However, there are different issues that prevent us from growing everything. One is chill hours and dormancy. Thos is most commonly associated with fruit trees like cherries, but also plays a role in other plants like some grasses. If they don't go fully dormant, they end up growing for a while but just fade quickly. Another is a lack of humidity or water. Sure there are ways to overcome some of these but they might not be worth it. For instance, we can GROW tulips here but we have to dig the bulbs up and stick them in the fridge if we want them to grow and bloom again. Back east you just have to stick them in the ground.

But whatever, screw tulips. Plant amarylis. They have to dig those up and keep them warm in the winter. We can stick them in the geound.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 10:19PM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

Yes, you're totally right nil13 - and I was thinking too that some plants get leggy and crazy without the winter reset button - just because it says "annual" doesn't mean it is here it seems like... and of course, fruit and bulbs that need to get cold are a problem. But if you embrace the native flora there are so many interesting plants available - but very different from the European garden traditions...

And, yes, also: DROUGHT. That will be a major adjustment.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 1:00PM
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Haha, thanks Gyr_Falcon, thanks for the laughs! :D

I like the mentality slowjane, I will be doing the same, and of course freeing my houseplants! :x Ha! Thanks for the literary references. The whole citrus armada will be at my disposal as well and many an herb, mwahaha!

Haha, I love the enthusiasm regarding the tulips nil and thanks for the points.

This is great information, thank you everybody!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 8:59PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

Are you moving to a condo or a planned community or do you have acreage? If you are strapped by a Home Owners Association, God Help You! You will become a sneaky gardener, putting everything in pots so they can't say a word. Been there, done that.

Southern California is a Mediterranean climate, and you can grow anything they grow in Italy! Have fun.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 9:27PM
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elysianfields(9b CA)

I'm in NorCal next to a canyon and have about five microclimates in my yard alone. It's said we have a Mediterranean climate here. Through lots of mistakes I've actually settled on planting things that can freeze as my foundation plants then adding in annuals and perennials I've found that work. My garden goes a bit dormant in the winter as it gets quite cold up here. I'm originally from the Midwest and the winters always messed with my need for green. I had a grand selection of houseplants inside though as a perk from working at a florist. You'll have warmer weather in SoCal, you can plant what you want.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 4:41AM
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VWbrownthumb(10/Sunset 24)

Hi all - new to this forum, enjoying this thread tremendously.

My suggestion to anyone moving here would be - don't forget the value of getting to know your neighborhood, see what's doing well with your neighbors. Check the local nurseries. And try to find local enthusiast clubs for your favs.

Some things do better here than anywhere, my aunt in upstate NY cries she can't grow Bird of Paradise while my mom really misses the lilacs she grew up with (CA lilacs aren't the same at all). Although you may not have the same things growing, you might find some others you'll love that you couldn't grow before.

My 2 cents - welcome to California!


    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 5:28PM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

I moved from the mid-southern east coast 30 years ago to San Jose (what a shock to a gardener who thought she knew what she was doing!) and when, after 9 years there, we moved only 30 minutes south and a little nearer to the ocean influence, I had to begin all over again because the microclimates here are so different, even so close together. And like some others, I have a few different climates here on our stair-stepped property, with old oaks above and a creek below which further complicates the learning process. All I can advise is to be aware of what grows around you, experiment and have fun! I am betting you will. Min

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 7:20PM
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