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Get your hands dirty digging into native plants

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.

Horticulturist Tanya Kucak grows natives, edibles and herbs organically. For more information, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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