In The Garden With A Conservancy Naturalist

Photograph courtesy of Irvine Ranch Conservancy

Santa Ana resident Matilde De Santiago is a program coordinator and naturalist at Irvine Ranch Conservancy. What is your role?
I oversee the Augustine Nursery in Limestone Canyon and the Quail Hill Nursery in Irvine. I’m constantly growing native plants for projects such as trail enhancement. I put a little bit of cultural history into my programs. I teach people about the uses of plants by different groups. People used plants for medicine, food, or building materials.

Why are restoration projects important?
Not only can we as humans enjoy these pristine areas but also wildlife. If we don’t have the right plants, it’s not going to be a healthy ecosystem for them. We will not only displace them but threaten them to extinction.

What’s your favorite trail?
Dripping Springs trail in Limestone Canyon. We converted that truck trail into a single-track trail and planted thousands of plants such as coastal sagescrub, white sage, black sage, buckwheat. It takes you to a natural water feature used as a water trough by many animals.

What native wildflowers can people look out for in the spring?
You’ll find lupines, mariposa lily, the California poppy, owl’s clover, and chia.

Any gardening tips?
I promote creating your own California drought-tolerant garden. I have used white sage, black sage, and purple sage in my yard because they don’t require a lot of water. Not only are you creating habitats for critters, but if you want to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard, these are the plants to have—very aromatic plants and great pollinators. They will thrive and adapt to this climate and our soils.

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