Friday, August 29, 2014

Davis Ace makes water-wise investment in Cal Naturals

Sophie Sears arranges plants in the Cal Naturals section of Davis Ace, along Fourth Street downtown. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | May 09, 2013 |

The cost of water went up in Davis last week, but lawns aren’t thirsting for it any less. That’s a dilemma for those who want to see their yards healthy and green without concern for the monthly bill.

Now, conscientious homeowners have a new resource to turn to: Cal Naturals, a nursery showcasing plants that are low in water use. Davis Ace Hardware and Aggie Ace opened Cal Naturals in late April, with the goal of helping local residents transition to more water-efficient landscapes.

“It’s kind of an experiment,” said Jesse Sareñana, operations manager at Davis Ace. “We think it’s something that will grow. I live in West Davis, and I’ve seen yards starting to change — lawns taken out, low-water plants put in. People are wanting to conserve.”

The impetus for this nursery was voter approval of the Woodland-Davis surface water project, which will cost Davis ratepayers $113 million. Higher water rates took effect May 1.

Sareñana credits Sophie Sears, a Davis Ace garden sales associate, with bringing the project to life. She organized details with vendors, designed the operation, ordered the plants and even hung the signage.

Sears said it’s important to her that the new nursery showcased plants native to California, as its name implies.

“Because it creates a sense of place about where you live,” Sears explained, “and the heritage and culture of your area, in an environmental sense.”

Standing in front of blooming manzanitas, ferns standing upright in the shade, thick succulents and other vibrant plants, Sears said there is no aesthetic sacrifice in shifting to a low-maintenance garden.

“Some people are worried that they’re going to lose something by getting rid of their lawn,” Sareñana chimed in. “When I look around at all this stuff, it’s really beautiful.”

Getting creative with the selection of Cal Naturals’ offerings — including more than 160 varieties of plants, and potentially many more as special orders come in — should be enough to fulfill whatever your idea of an appealing garden may be.

“Heck, I’ve seen a palm tree and a cactus right next to each other here in Davis,” Sareñana said with a laugh. “So I guess anything can work.”

It’s no coincidence that Cal Naturals’ location is across from Davis Ace’s rock yard on Fourth Street. Rocks are another option that those looking to do away with a water-hogging lawn have employed, along with artificial turf and wood chips.

There are plans for the retailer to offer water-efficient drip irrigation supplies, as people continue to look for ways to cut down on water usage. And empirical evidence from Cal Naturals employees says there’s never been a time in which Davis residents are more interested in this shift.

“Even before the water rates went up, people were wanting to conserve water for their own principles,” Sears said. “The monetary aspect has been a push for them to do it quicker. (Cal Naturals) gives them the opportunity to scope it out.”

“We have a lot of new things come in that we get excited about, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen more excitement than we have with the people working on this,” Sareñana explained. “It’s because we all believe in it.

“The people working here love plants, love gardens. … I hate to use this cliché, but it’s a labor of love.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett



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