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My Garden of California Native Plants
History of the garden
Beginning in 1999,
I have planted dozens of California native plant species in my small, 620-square-feet
backyard/patio. The goal is to create a garden that supports plant and animal life
adapted to local conditions (this means dry and cool summers, mild and wet winters), with minimal human interference. The inspiration came naturally,
from years of hiking in the glorious California outdoors. In order to simulate natural
conditions for my backyard eco-system, I only use organic fertilizers and no pesticides. Gardening with native plants saves water resources, attracts native
wildlife, is very good for the environment. Everyone should try it.
Half of my native plant specimens came from nurseries, the rest came from field collection.
Yerba Buena nursery is the main specialty nursery for native plants
in the Bay Area. The East Bay chapter of California Native Plants Society
conducts native plant sales twice a year, usualy in April and October. I have acquired some native plants from local
nurseries, notably the East Bay Nursery, Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, and Westbrae Nursery in Berkeley.
The only mail-order nursery I have shopped from is the Forestfarm in Williams,
Oregon. When selecting plants, I primarily focus on scale (for a small garden), foliage and twig form (to provide interest
when not blooming), and blooming season (to balance spring blooming plants with those blooming in other seasons).
Located on bayside flats with northeastern exposure, my garden faces several challenges: heavy clay soil, drainage problems, lack of direct winter sunlight, and windy conditions. Despite these challenges, a large number
of California natives have survived and thrived in my garden over the last 7 years. Here is the complete list:
Drought tolerant plants for sunny places
California Native Trees and Shrubs (all evergreen):
California Native Vines:
- California Wax Myrtle
Myrica californica (Mendocino County): elegant form, very easy to establish; already 12' high in 5 years.
- Sticky Monkeyflower
Mimulus aurantiacus (Contra Costa County): heavy bloomer for 3-4 months in summer, very easy to establish, needs leaf pruning and dead-heading in fall.
- Silver Bush Lupine
Lupinus albifrons (Alameda County): heavy bloomer in early spring, beautiful silvery foliage, very easy to establish.
- Toyon (Christmasberry)
Heteromeles arbutifolia (Contra Costa County): elegant form, tropical-looking foliage, moderately easy to establish;
flowering after 5 years.
- Black Sage
Salvia mellifera (Alameda County): very fragrant, vigorous, very easy to establish.
- Bush Anemone
Carpenteria californica: large showy blooms in spring, easy to establish.
- Blue Blossom Ceanothus
Ceanothus thrysiflorus: easy to establish, fragrant blooms in winter and spring.
- Manzanita Arctostaphylos: elegant form, beautiful burgundy bark color, slow growing.
- California Sagebrush Artemisia californica (Marin County): strong fragrance, easy to establish, requires plenty of sunlight.
California Native Perennial Wild Flowers (most are winter-dormant):
- Virgin's Bower Clematis ligusticifolia: vigorous, easy to establish; white blooms in summer;
deciduous, needs heavy pruning in fall.
- Wild Grape Vitis californica: deciduous, wine red fall color.
Non-native Trees and Shrubs:
- Woodland Strawberry
Fragaria vesca (San Mateo County): lush ground cover, white flowers in spring, fragrant edible fruit.
- Beach Strawberry Fragaria chiloensis (San Mateo County): larger white flowers in late spring, evergreen ground cover.
- California Poppy
Eschscholzia californica: showy golden flowers in spring.
- California Fuchsia Epilobium canum: exquisite red flowers in late summer.
- Blue bedder Penstemon
Penstemon heterophyllus: tubular flowers in summer.
- Blue-eyed Grass Sisyrinchum angustifolium: exquisite bluish-purple flowers with yellow centers in early summer.
- Sea thrift (dwarf) Armeria maritima
- Rosey Buckwheat Eriogonum grande: heavy clusters of pink flower heads in summer.
- Beach Sage Artemisia pycnocephala: unique furry silvery foliage.
- Blue Rush
Juncus patens (Contra Costa County): strong linear texture, evergreen, extremely easy to establish.
- Yarrow Achillea millefolium
- Island Buckwheat Eriogonum arborescens: succulent-like, slow growing.
- "Mission" fig
- "Red Flame" grape
- "Tulip" magnolia
Drought tolerant plants for moderately shady places
California Native Trees and Shrubs:
California Native Vines:
- Cascara Buckthorn
Rhamnus purshiana (San Mateo County): deciduous, moderately easy to establish; birds love the berries; already 14' tall in 5 years.
- Pacific Madrone
Arbutus menziesii: the most elegant native tree; very particular.
- Incense Cedar Calocedrus decurrens (Marin County): evergreen, beautiful foliage, easy to establish, already 9' tall in 4 years.
Rubus spectabilis (Mendocino County): very easy to establish from cutting; now 9' tall; evergreen, hot pink flowers in spring, needs leaf pruning in winter.
Rhamnus californica (San Mateo County): evergreen, beautiful foliage.
- California Bay Umbellularia californica (Contra Costa County): elegant foliage; slow growing.
- Tan Oak Lithocarpus densiflorus (Marin County): slow growing.
- Coyote Mint
Monardella villosa: sweet fragrance, dainty form, evergreen, purple flower heads in summer.
- Redwood Penstemon
Keckiela corymbosa: evergreen, deep red flower clusters in summer; dried leaves turn reddish.
- Douglas Spiraea
Spiraea Douglasii: deciduous, fuzzy pink flower clusters in summer.
- Evergreen Huckleberry Vaccinium ovatum: elegant form, reddish new foliage in spring.
- Lewis' mock orange Philadelphus lewisii
- Western azalea Rhododendron occidentale
California Native Ferns:
- California Honeysuckle
Lonicera hispidula (San Mateo County): Easy to establish, evergreen, dainty pink flower clusters in summer.
California Native Perennial Wild Flowers and Succulents (most are winter-dormant):
- Giant Chain Fern
Woodwardia fimbriata (Marin County): strong tropical-like form, evergreen, easy to establish.
- Bracken Fern Pteridium aquilinum (Alameda County): beautiful foliage patterns, deciduous, invasive.
- Lady Fern Athyrium felix-femina (Alameda County): dainty foliage, deciduous, less tolerant of sun, wind, and drought.
- Coffee Fern
Pellaea andromedaefolia (Contra Costa County): gorgeous foliage, ground-hugging form, evergreen; more drought tolerant than most ferns.
- Coastal wood Fern Dryopteris arguta (Alameda County): deciduous.
- Deer Fern Blechnum spicant: beautiful form, needs plenty of shade.
- Five Finger Fern Adiantum aleuticum
- Checker Bloom Sidalcia malviflora (Marin County): vigorous ground cover, pretty evergreen foliage,
delicate pink flowers in summer.
- Redwood Sorrel Oxalis oregana: pretty textured ground cover, evergreen, requires deep shade.
- Stream Orchid
Epipactis gigantea: tropical-like foliage, cute yellowish-green flowers; susceptible to aphids.
- Douglas Iris
Iris douglasiana (San Mateo County): evergreen, delicate purple flowers in spring; fast multiplying.
- Tiger Lily
Lilium pardalinum: dies back from fall to spring, quick tall growth in mid-summer, amazing orange flowers.
- California Buttercup Ranunculus californica (Contra Costa County)
- Pink Flowering Currant Ribes sanguineum: exquisite flower clusters in early spring.
- Western Bleeding Heart
Dicentra formosa: elegant clusters of heart-shaped flowers bloom for months in spring.
- Summer Columbine
Aquilegia eximia: elegant red flowers in mid-summer.
- Elegant Brodiaea Brodiaea elegans: elegant purple flowers in early spring, dies back from
summer to winter.
- Western Spring Beauty
Claytonia lanceolata: evergreen, lush glossy foliage, dainty white blooms stay for months in summer.
- Rock Lettuce
Dudleya farinosa (Sonoma County): succulent, beautiful rosettes, evergreen.
- Stonecrop Sedum spathulifolium (San Mateo County): succulent, evergreen, requires moderate sun to bloom.
- Soap Lily
Chlorogalum pomeridianum: dainty white lilies only open at dusk; very short bloom time in mid-summer.
- Fremont's camas Zigadenus fremontii (Contra Costa County): elegant flower clusters in early spring.
- Hounds Tongue Cynoglossum officinale (Alameda County)
California Native Trees and Shrubs (most are evergreen):
Non-native Trees and Shrubs:
- Pacific Rhododendron
Rhododendron macrophyllum: elegant plant; very particular.
- Chinquapin Chrysolepis chrysophylla (San Mateo County): beautiful golden foliage.
- Vine maple Acer circinatum
- "Wonderful" Pomegranate: doesn't like windy places