Quick Take:

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Too many coastal Californians are buying plants wrong for our climate and installing gardens more suitable for conditions east of the Mississippi, says Martin Quigley, director of UC Santa Cruz’s Arboretum & Botanic Gardens.

Current climate change means we need to avoid water-guzzlers such as hydrangeas, hostas, tropicals, bluegrass lawns and plants better suited to New England or Costa Rica. Many of the plants we buy at the “big box” stores are doomed to die here on the Central Coast.

Quigley is an animated lecturer with an encyclopedic knowledge of plants, a Ph.D. in plant ecology and a flair for the dramatic. He’s also a landscape architect and avid gardener.

He takes us on a fun-filled five-minute tour of UCSC’s 135-acre gardens and points out the kinds of shrubs and trees we here in Santa Cruz County and on the Central Coast should consider for our homes. He fondles a spiky twig of banksia, points to its woody cone and teaches us how these plants thrive, despite wildfires.

Quigely focuses on botanical sex appeal — it’s not just the visual array of color or the seductiveness of scent, but also the actual structures of flowers and fruits that attract pollinators and deter predators, while tempting seed dipersers to take a bite.

Quigley teases the flowers of some South African pincushion plants and strokes the spiky leaf edges on Australian specimens, while pointing out even nastier (in the most delightful way) jagged-edged plants from Australia that are pre-adapted to Santa Cruz’s Mediterranean climate. Our weather pattern exists in only five places worldwide and covers only 2% of the world’s land area.

In subsequent videos, Quigley will talk about luscious aromatics and succulents and “take us” to New Zealand and Chile, which also share Santa Cruz’s unique climate. While some of his statements might seem racy, it’s all in the service of improving our relationship with our plants. That means touching and fondling and smelling and tasting the flowers that have evolved for this particular climate — designed for where we live, “native” or not.

Join us. It’s more fun and cheaper than therapy.

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Don Lane is a former mayor of Santa Cruz. He serves on the governing boards of Housing Santa Cruz County and Housing Matters and has been a homeowner for 40 years.