I love to read about plants and listen to people talk about them, but I learn the most hands-on, when I can touch and smell plants and see how they fill space.
A number of upcoming gardening classes and other events offer opportunities to see and touch native plants in person. You can still volunteer for many of these events; they are a good chance to meet amateurs as well as experts.
• Whether you're new to growing native plants or an old hand, you should know about the Gardening with Natives group that meets at 7 p.m. the first Thursday of the month at the Peninsula Conservation Center, 3921 E. Bayshore Road, Palo Alto. The meetings are a forum for people interested in learning about California native plants and how to introduce them into their gardens.
• The Ulistac Natural Area, 41 acres of land off Lick Mill Road in Santa Clara, has scheduled a Wildflower Celebration featuring native-plant gardening classes, guided tours and other activities 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 7. Ulistac hosts restoration workdays twice a month, with volunteers concentrating on the 5-acre oak woodland and savannah and the nearly 1-acre Bird and Butterfly Garden.
• The local chapter of the California Native Plant Society has scheduled a spring plant sale 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 7 at Hidden Villa, 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills. Native-plant gardeners will be on hand to answer questions and offer advice. Volunteers grow the plants at the sale. Call Jean Struthers at 941-2586 to find out about native nursery work sessions.
• Carol Bornstein, one of the authors of "California Native Plants for the Garden" (Cachuma Press, 2005), is scheduled to speak 7:30 p.m. April 11 at the Western Horticulture Society meeting at Covington Elementary School, 205 Covington Road, Los Altos. Bornstein, affiliated with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, will discuss perennials. Nonmembers pay $5.
• More than 400 wildflowers, arranged by plant family, will be on display at the Wildflower Show 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 14 and 15 at Mission College, 3000 Mission College Blvd., Santa Clara. Volunteers collect the plants - with necessary permits - from surrounding areas a few days prior to the event. The show features classes in wildflower and native-plant gardening and tours of Mission's native garden. Park free in Lot C.
• Native Hill, a public garden at Foothill College, 12345 S. El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills, sponsors occasional weekend workdays. Call Phil Higgins at 941-4752 to volunteer.
• Register now to attend the free Going Native Garden Tour, scheduled 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 29. The tour will feature more than 40 gardens in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. You can preview some gardens on the Web site, www.goingnativegardentour.org.