BLOOMS, BIRDS AND BEES ...Gardeners and plant lovers alike are abuzz over the in-person return of the Growing Natives Garden Tour, which went virtual the last two years due to the pandemic. About 40 local private homes and public gardens landscaped with California native plants will be open to the public for free, in-person tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, and Sunday, April 3 (advance online registration is required to participate and get tour maps with addresses.) "Garden owners are very enthusiastic, and volunteers are really happy to be back in person," volunteer Cynthia Gingrich said. "I think there's a renewed interest in what native plants provide to the biodiversity of California." This year's gardens range from just over 1,000 square feet to a couple of acres and vary in maturity, with one garden only a few years old. Some of the gardens are public, including the garden at Bol Park in Palo Alto. The tour also includes two other gardens in the city: The Matadero Garden, which includes drought-tolerant shrubs like manzanitas and buckeyes, as well as old oak trees and other established plants, and the Middlefield native and edible garden, which is located in the front yard of a private home. It features native wildflowers that line the path, and a mound made up of perennial and annual vegetables at the center of the yard. To register event or view photos and videos of the gardens, visit gngt.org.
SEEKING ANIMAL STORIES ...The Palo Alto Humane Society's "Ambassadors of Compassion" story writing contest is back for a fourth consecutive year. The competition is open to seventh and eighth grade students in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Entries can be fiction or nonfiction. They must be between 800 and 1,000 words and demonstrate how animals and people help each other. "There are so many ways animals help people. From companionship to therapy to farm and rescue work, our bonds with animals and the ways in which we help each other are many," program director Carole Hyde said in a press release. Students interested in joining the contest can find inspiration from the previous first-place winners. Vandana Ravi's 2019 story drew from the donkeys at Barron Park and later turned into "Snapshot," a book being sold by the humane society. Aaron Huang's 2020 story, titled "The Sun," centers on a mother dog stuck in a puppy mill. Cindy Lin was last year's winner for her piece titled "A Silent Cry for Help." Cash prizes will be awarded to this year's winners: The first-place student will be awarded $500, and two runner-ups will receive $200 each. Winning entries will be published on the society's website. The deadline to enter is by midnight on May 31. Additional contest details can be found at 650-424-1901 or paloaltohumane.org.
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