A cultivar (abbreviation of cultivated variety) is a plant that possesses one or more unique features. Most of the fruits and vegetables we eat are cultivars. They are the product of breeding programs whose aim is to create flavorful, colorful, or vigorous plants. Many landscape ornamentals are cultivars as well. Some (e.g. roses, camellias, daylilies) are the handiwork of breeders, whereas others are chance discoveries made in the wild or in a garden setting. Most California native plant cultivars fall into the latter group, with monkey flowers, irises, and coral bells being three notable exceptions.
Most of the cultivars featured here are selections that I made from various wild populations in California or from the living collections of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (SBBG). Each one exhibited an unusual physical feature that caught my eye and made me want to share it with other gardeners. After testing at SBBG and other sites around the state, these selections were deemed garden-worthy and given cultivar names to distinguish them from other closely related plants.
For more information about SBBG’s cultivars and plant introduction program, see http://www.sbbg.org/learn-discover/gardening-with-natives