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New Dry Creek Nursery manager shares vision for growing program

September 18, 2023 by Aaron

Ashley Robinson joined SRT recently as manager of its Dry Creek Nursery. The nursery is an important part of SRT’s program, enabling it to provide plants for restoration and mitigation projects as well as to educate the public about the value and uses of native and drought-tolerant plants. Currents recently interviewed Robinson about her vision and history that she brings to benefit SRT’s mission. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.


CURRENTS: Please tell Currents readers about your background particularly regarding how that prepared you for your current role.

ASHLEY ROBINSON: My first job in horticulture was at the Gardens in Tulare. I loved it so much that I decided to go back to school to learn more. I went to COS and earned an associate’s degree in Agricultural Plant Science and a certificate in Landscape Design. I worked at Luis’ Nursery for a few years and while there started a small business in landscape design. I am currently a student at Oregon State’s ecampus majoring in horticulture. I am passionate about creating spaces for clients that are beautiful, functional, and that benefit our environment.

C: How long have you been with SRT/Dry Creek Nursery?

AR: I began an internship with SRT in November of last year. In March of this year, I was offered and accepted the position of nursery manager and stewardship specialist. I found SRT while working on a project for a pollinator class at OSU. I called the office and spoke with my now supervisor to get some information on an endangered elderberry beetle. I then learned of the internship opportunity and applied right away. I was so excited to have the opportunity to work with SRT.

C: What is your vision for the nursery?

AR: Our biggest focus for the nursery is to be able to supply our community and other organizations with native plants, information, and support. We grow locally sourced native plants for restoration and mitigation purposes. We also grow native, drought-tolerant and pollinator supporting plants for landscapes. Our vision is to be able to provide these services on a larger scale. Another focus is to make the nursery a place for the community to come together. We host plant sales with local artists once a month and plan to start workshops this fall.

C: Why is xeriscaping important? Is it still a trend? How have customers responded to

the wet year; do they regard drought tolerance as still important?

AR: Water is a limited commodity within the valley, we have experienced many years of drought and although we experienced a wetter than normal year, weather whiplash is destined to bring the drought right back. I think as residents of the Valley, many of us know this well. As responsible gardeners it’s imperative for us to come together as a community and do our part in lowering our water use. As water restrictions have become more stringent within the Valley recently city planners, landscape designers and landscape contractors have been using more drought tolerant and native plants in their plans and installations. I have seen many clients and homeowners also transitioning to waterwise yards.

C: Who does the nursery serve?

AR: DCN aims to support and serve the community here in the Tulare Basin; homeowners, landscapers, city planners, ag businesses, other conservation organizations and schools. We support SRT conservation efforts by providing plants for restoration projects. We also support SRT’s education team and the many schools that use the nursery to learn more about native plants and horticulture.

C: How does patronizing DCN help SRT’s mission?

AR: SRT’s mission is to serve the land and people by conserving the lands and water within California’s heartland. DCN vision statement is to cultivate native plants for land restoration, education, and ecological landscaping on our natural, urban, and agricultural lands. The nursery’s vision gives the community an opportunity to contribute to conserving land and water alongside SRT.

C: What kind of stock is available?

AR: We have locally sourced native plants and trees that grow naturally on SRT’s preserves including trees, shrubs, grasses, flowering perennials, and even KOP grapes and blackberries. We also have horticultural varieties of many different shrubs. Our availability is listed on Inventory is taken monthly and can be shared by request.

C: What are the challenges of working with native plants in typical garden design?

AR: The biggest challenge working with native plants is getting the plants established in the landscape. This is challenging because many plants that are drought tolerant are drought tolerant once they are established. This means that during the first year to two years careful watering needs to be done in order to get the plants to the point that they can survive with little to no water.

C: What are the benefits?

AR: In addition to lowering water use native plants bring about so much biodiversity! Pollinators of all kinds will be attracted to the flowers, birds enjoy the berries and seeds produced, some provide beautiful fragrances, and some are wonderful herbs. Planting native plants provides these creatures with habitat corridors and are such an important part of connecting natural spaces.

C: Can natives perform well in traditional garden design? Must property owners adopt

a desert-like design in order to work with drought tolerant plants?

AR: Absolutely, native plants can perform well in the traditional garden design. An important aspect of any garden design is irrigation. Using drip irrigation offers the ability customize the amount of water given to different types of plants and to change the amount of water given to the plants as they mature. Switching from spraying sprinklers to drip irrigation will save on water, cut down on weeds and give the flexibility needed to assure the right amount of water is being given to different plants across the landscape. A desert-like design is definitely not the only way to go. Native plants are diverse, there are so many different textures, colors and smells. California landscapes are diverse and constantly changing; from wildflowers in the spring to colorful Sycamore leaves in the fall; native plants offer so much more then one option for the landscape. Stop by the nursery, reach out on our socials or through emails with any questions, I’d love to help. I’m sure that no matter the space, we can find beautiful plants that are right for you and your project. Hope to see you at the nursery!

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