Garden tour goes virtual

Local bees love native plants. See for yourself during the 10th annual Gardens Gone Native Tour, which will be presented online starting April 25. (Photo courtesy of Sacramento NPS)

Instead of canceling during coronavirus, Native Plant Society will host online

Gardens Gone Native is going virtual.

Instead of canceling this popular Sacramento-area garden tour during the coronavirus shutdown, organizers decided to create an online equivalent, keeping patrons safe while still sharing the beauty of native plants.

“Everybody is doing everything from Zoom or on their computer, so why not?” said Colene Rauh of the Sacramento Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society, which hosts the tour. “We’re going to include garden descriptions and label main plants. We hope to still provide information.”

Because many of the featured plants bloom only in spring, rescheduling to summer or fall was not a realistic option. So instead Sac Valley CNPS will present the virtual Gardens Gone Native Tour on the same date as the scheduled in-person tour, April 25.

“We may even have it ready before that,” Rauh said. “Our hosts are taking photos of their gardens or having one of our volunteers take the photos. We have 26 gardens; just about everybody who originally planned to participate.”

The virtual tour will appear at

That’s also where patrons can find background information and photos of past tours.

With another month of stay-at-home orders, organizers sent out this message this week: “Due to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, the 2020 Gardens Gone Native Garden Tour has been converted to an online virtual tour. Images of the same gardens as well as garden descriptions will be available on April 25, 2020, and thereafter on our website.”

Now in its 10th year, Gardens Gone Native showcases local gardens with at least 50% native plants. Gardens participating this year are in Sacramento, Woodland, Davis. Citrus Heights, Granite Bay, Fair Oaks and Carmichael.

Last year, more than 1,200 people signed up to take the free tour. “We already had 361 registrations a month before the tour, so there’s a lot of interest,” Rauh noted.

March rain has reinvigorated native gardens and brought out the blooms, she added.

“The gardens are looking good,” she said. “February was really dry, but we had quite a bit of rain in March. What kind of [native plant] season we have will depend on what happens between now and [late April].”

The important thing is keeping people healthy, Rauh noted, a sentiment echoed in the tour’s official statement:

“We regret the tour will not be able to move forward, however our primary concern is the health and safety of our wonderful tour supporters. We wish you all good health and hope to see you next year for the 11th annual Gardens Gone Native Garden Tour.”

Virtual radio appearance

Farmer Fred Hoffman, Sacramento’s longtime radio garden show host, is still broadcasting, but from his home in Folsom instead of KFBK/KSTE’s Sacramento studio. Sunday, he’ll be joined on the air by Sacramento Digs Gardening creators Debbie Arrington (yours truly) and Kathy Morrison.

For myself and Kathy, the radio appearance will be virtual; we’re being patched into the broadcast from our separate homes.

We’ll tackle spring gardening news (including how coronavirus has impacted Sacramento’s gardening scene) and offer tips for newbie gardeners anxious to grow their own food. Hear us at 9 a.m. Sunday on KFBK (1530 AM) and at 10 a.m. on KSTE (650 AM).

Debbie Arrington, an award-winning garden writer and lifelong gardener, is co-creator of the Sacramento Digs Gardening blog and website.

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