Invasion of the natives (plants, that is)


Some things you just have to do.

Like when you’ve been digging holes in the yard and your back tells you to sit down.

Or when you hear that Phil Wimer’s band is playing at the clubhouse and you notice that you’re already wearing your dancing shoes.

Royal Calkins

Or most recently when you stumble onto a request for volunteers to help with Native Plants Live Here’s Fall Plant Sale. 

I felt compelled to raise my hand because I’m new here and don’t know most of my neighbors. And I like plants, especially the kind that belong, and because I figured, correctly, that the other folks who felt compelled to participate over this past weekend would be amiable sorts able to carry on pleasant conversation. If there were any fights over masks or no masks, vaccinations or not, I missed them. 

A bonus arrived in the form of a lovely springlike autumn day. Another, the smell of horses at the Equestrian Center and a third, the proximity to the Valero and its excellent supply of diet soda.

It was advertised as a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. affair but under the highly capable direction of Patty Groos the plants had disappeared and we had cleaned up an hour ahead of the announced closing time. All that was left was the lingering scent of sage. And horses.

If you missed it, and some of you did, you can still benefit from the existence of Native Plants Live Here and its knowledge of what grows well here, what doesn’t, what attracts deer and what repels them. I assume most of the types of vegetation sold Saturday are at least somewhat drought tolerant. Patty and Leslie Lipton would know. There is also information available on how and when to plant the various varieties. Find information on their website,, Facebook, NextDoor, or email the group directly at

As for what to do when you are actually planting your plants and your back starts talking to you, that’s between you and your back.

Royal is a semi-retired journalist who has worked for newspapers in Fresno, Santa Cruz and Monterey. He has killed numerous plants in those cities.


A quilt for a soldier

My name is Patty Cramer and I’m a YLP resident.   I am a fourth generation quilter who has been quilting for over 50 years.   I met Dr. John McMillan’s  wife Yvonne playing canasta and then learned that her husband, who has a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration, was a World War II veteran.  This prompted me to get busy and make him a quilt to honor him and his service to our country. John and Yvonne have lived in YLP for 21 years.  John received his quilt during the monthly birthday club at Black Bear Diner in Fresno.  Along with John’s quilt, he was presented with a flag which flew over the U.S. Capitol and Certificates of Recognition from both Congressman Tom McClintock and State Senator Andreas Borgeas.

By Patty Cramer

John Mc Millan was just a small town boy from Grove City, Pennsylvania when World War II broke out.  John and some of his high school buddies were all called for their physical for the service.   Their results were returned and all of them were 1A.  John knew he was going to be drafted, so he chose to enlist.  He was allowed to finish his semester of college and then was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for basic training.

John recalls an incident during basic training when he was being trained on a 105mm Howitzer.  The gun was fired, came up off the ground and a shell shot through a tree where soldiers were standing close by.  Needless to say, this incident triggered a visit from the upper echelon inquiring about what happened.  It was certainly a close call.

Yvonne and John McMillan with the quilt.

After leaving basic training, John was sent to Weinheim, Germany.  He lived in a German home, as all the homes had been taken.   Later on he was moved to “fancy quarters.”

He remembers how kind the German people were and also how desolate the women had become, many living on potatoes.  Seventy five percent of the men between the ages of 15 and 60 had been killed.  John remembers watching the women moving bricks from destroyed buildings, looking for bodies.  That memory is as real today as it was back then.

Strong in John’s memory was the segregation that occurred in the service, he remembers Blacks getting all the dirty work.  This bothered John.

John was a sports editor in college and when he was in basic training, the commander had a clerk-typist who couldn’t type.  One day, the commander asked if anyone could type, John (against advice to never volunteer for anything) raised his hand and became a clerk-typist for the service. 

While John never thought about making the Army a career, he did became the sports editor for “The Trooper” while serving in Germany.

Yvonne, John’s wife of 72 years, was always attracted to men in fatigues, but when she saw John in a suit she knew he was the one for her.  

John received the World War II Victory medal, which reads, “Freedom of Fear and Want, Freedom of Speech and Religion”.

John is proud of his time spent as a soldier and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

On behalf of a grateful nation, we appreciate your service to our country.   Thank you.

Native plants for YLP: Sages

by Patty Groos (“Poppy Patty”)

#2 in our “5 for YLP” series, Cleveland Sage and its related sages can form key elements of your YLP native garden.  We describe five of our favorites that will be available at our Nov. 14 plant sale.  Named after plant collector Daniel Cleveland, Cleveland Sage is often referred to as the “fragrant” sage — its leaves fill your garden with luscious scent.  As close to completely deerproof as any plant there is.

View Sage photo gallery

Cleveland Sage and its hybrids

Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii) is native to Southern California and northern Baja California, growing in lower elevations of coastal chaparral habitat.  Cleveland Sage and its hybrids (genetic combinations with other native sages) are standout plants in YLP.  Easy to grow and thriving in drought, these Sages enjoy full sun and resent supplemental water after mature.  Watch out, though!  Some of these can get 6’-8’ wide, so leave them lots of room when you plant them.  Different selections bloom at different times, so you can easily have blooms from March through July. 

Allen Chickering Sage (Salvia ‘Allen Chickering’) is a spectacular hybrid of Cleveland Sage and Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla). The Cleveland Sage part gives this sage its dramatic flowers, while Purple Sage contributes size.  Tolerates almost any soil type.  Deep lavender flowers in late spring, lasting through June, and attracts native bees and butterflies.  Fast growing to 4’-5’ tall and 5-8’ wide.

Pozo Blue Sage (S. Clevelandii ‘Pozo Blue’), with its unusually long flowering stalks, is a magnet for hummingbirds and butterflies!  Same parents as Allen Chickering, but a different selection. This is one of the most adaptable sages, tolerating most soils.  I have planted it in very poor soil on granite slopes, and very shallow soil in flat areas.   Lavender/purple flowers on towering stalks in late spring, lasting through June.  Fast growing to 4’-5’ tall and 5’-8’ wide.

Gracias Sage tumbling down a slope, late April

Gracias Sage (Salvia ‘Gracias’) and Bee’s Bliss Sage (Salvia ‘Bees Bliss’)are workhorse plants for our YLP gardens: easy to grow, fabulous groundcover, great habitat plant.  There is some confusion in the trade about what they are “made” of: definitely our spreading Sonoma Sage (Salvia sonomensis), plus either Cleveland  or Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla). Gracias and Bee’s Bliss are essentially identical in appearance.  I planted several of each two years ago, thinking the Bee’s Bliss would appear more “draping” than the Gracias, but they look the same.  They grow low and wide, making them an excellent ground cover and habitat plant for barren areas and rocky hillsides. This year, I discovered a clutch of quail eggs hidden within the depths of a mature Gracias Sage growing in the front yard.  This sage tolerates more water than most sages.  In fact, if planted in full sun in YLP,  it will need some supplemental water to flourish during our hot summer months, otherwise it can become summer deciduous or even die back.  Summer watering of native plants should be done as early in the morning as possible, and before temperatures reach 85 degrees.  Purple flowers in early spring are lovely, though not spectacular. Fast growing to 1’ tall x 6’-12’ wide.

Celestial Blue, late May

Celestial Blue Sage (Salvia ‘Celestial Blue’) is a hybrid of Cleveland Sage and Rose Sage (Salvia pachyphylla).  What’s really interesting about this hybrid is that although  Rose Sage, one of our most spectacular sages, is difficult to grow, Celestial Blue is easy.  Very late spring/early blooms are purple/blue on deep pink flowers above silvery leaves, and will take your breath away.  Fast growing to 4’-5’ tall and as wide.

Cleveland Sage Winifred Gilman (Salvia c. ‘Winifred Gilman’) is actually a clone of the Cleveland Sage – a “true” Cleveland selection, and not a hybrid.  Its more compact form and smaller leaves distinguish it from other Cleveland Sages.  Blooming later than most other Cleveland Sage or hybrids, it has deep, long calyxes (tubular bloom) and blooms with intense violet-blue flowers.  3’-5’ tall x 4’-6’ wide.

Native plants for YLP: Deergrass

This is the first in the series 5 for YLP: 5 Easy-To-Grow CA native plants for a waterwise, deer-resistant, wildlife-friendly native garden.  Most of these plants will be available at the November YLP plant sale.

#1 of 5 for YLP: Deergrass

Two years ago, my husband was walking along Yosemite Springs Parkway, and just as he was heading towards N. Revis Way, he saw a plant that he really liked.

“I want to have that in our garden” he told me.  It was a most beautiful large clump of bunch grass, shaped like a spouting fountain.  Its upright, flowered panicles towered above a dense, green tufted base. 

It was growing at the top of a steep driveway near a “Native Plants Live Here” sign.  My husband said he would arrange for me to meet the Native Plants Lady who tended that garden, so I could learn more about it. 

We met shortly after that, and the Native Plants Lady said that it was a Muhlenbergia rigens, commonly known as Deergrass.  I thought to myself, “Why would I want to buy one more plant for the deer to eat?” 

But it turns out that our local deer do not eat it – although they may lay down beside it.  That Deergrass at the top of the driveway was the spark that began my friendship with Leslie Lipton, the Native Plants Lady.

I soon discovered that Deergrass is one of the easiest and fastest California native plants to grow.  On our YLP properties, it is a spectacular accent plant, lines paths beautifully, or can create repetition that moves the eye through the garden.  It’s great on slopes, next to boulders, or in a flat area.  Plant one or three at the street around your address numbers! 

When young, Muhlenbergia rigens tolerates weekly watering during the first summer, matures quickly in just a couple of years, and needs very little supplemental water after that.  The tuft grows 2-3 ft tall and 4 ft wide, with flowering stalks up to 4-5 ft tall.  It is an evergreen grass, meaning that it doesn’t die back in the winter.  Every few years, cut it way back in the winter and then watch it come back even better.  It prefers sun or part shade, and loves to be under our oaks. It has an extensive root system, providing soil stabilization on slopes.

Only one of the seven Deergrass I planted was nibbled by some critter (a bunny?) when it was young and tender, but it’s doing fine now, so it might be wise to cage it during its first spring/summer.  In the wild, it is found in sandy or gravelly soils, but you can grow it in almost any well-draining soil.  It has insignificant flowers in the spring/summer that attract seed-eating birds. 

Deergrass will be available for purchase at the Native Plants Live Here plant sale in YLP on Nov 14.  Whether this is your first native plant, or your 100th, I highly recommend this as a foundational plant for your California native garden.

Have fun in the garden,

Poppy Patty.” Groos

Offices return to pre-pandemic status

Excitement is in the air at YLOA/YSPUC, as we will be returning our operating hours to their pre-pandemic status beginning this Monday, Oct. 4. Office hours going forward will be 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.  

Our dedicated staff appreciates your continued patience and understanding with helping us transition to our “new normal” and we look forward to assisting you.

ALSO: Please attend our Town Hall scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19 at the Clubhouse to learn about the enhancements we have made for our Customer Service Experience.