Eco-Friendly Garden Tour – Urban Wildlife Habitat Garden


Junior College Habitat Garden

The Scolari family has lived and gardened at their early 20th century bungalow near downtown Santa Rosa for 17 years. They do all of the planning, installation and maintenance themselves. It remains an ongoing work in progress.

The unifying theme of this garden has been to promote habitat for urban wildlife ‘hidden’ in plain sight using familiar garden conventions. The garden is drought tolerant and chemical free. In just under 3,000 square feet of outdoor space the Scolaris have found that providing food, water, shelter and a place to raise young — central tenets of the National Wildlife Federation’s backyard habitat program — enriches the lives of humans and wildlife alike.

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Along the front fence and sidewalk parking strips, visitors will find a mix of hardy local natives often encountered hiking in Annadel or Sugarloaf: June and melic grasses, poppies, checkerbloom, soap plant, Douglas iris, sages, buckwheats, ceanothus and manzanita. In place of lawn there are meadow style patches of local fescue and western gramma bunch grasses. Locally sourced boulders reinforce the open chaparral feel of these spaces.

Along the east side of the property is an English style cutting border that replaces thirstier traditional perennials with summer dry native and Mediterranean flowering plants. Several of these play host to the larval stages of local ladybugs and butterflies. Almost all nourish many varieties of pollinators through several seasons. Of interest here are showy milkweed, Dutchman’s pipevine, matilija poppy and hummingbird sage. The decorative wicket borders and plant supports are woven seasonally by the homeowner using white willow cuttings from the property.

In the west side yard, a private Japanese style spa garden is being developed in dry shade that substitutes natives such as bush anemone, vine maple, gray rush and five fingered fern for the customary Asian plant palette.

Vines and climbers popular in the arts and crafts era can be found in foundation plantings of wisteria, jasmine and mock orange; heirloom roses grown on their own roots include Mermaid, Sally Holmes, Mdme Alfred Carriere, and yellow Lady Banks. A collection of flowering dogwoods benefit from afternoon shade provided by the house. Traditional landscape plants such as these can be surprisingly drought tolerant and resilient in maturity.

At the front entryway and in the backyard, Mediterranean standbys of olive, cypress, citrus and lavender are paired with seasonal vegetables and herbs both in ground and in containers. Native groundcover yerba buena makes a lovely companion for the more familiar creeping thyme woven throughout extensive hardscape of permeable pea gravel and flagstone.

Drip irrigation divided into a dozen very specific zones supports minimal water use in this garden. Some zones receive supplemental water only once every two or three weeks in summer. Other water saving strategies include a weather based ‘smart’ irrigation controller, deep seasonal mulching to retain moisture while supressing weeds, companion plantings to shade roots, and night watering.

The Scolaris hope you enjoy their garden and look forward to the tour. Plant lists will be available for those who wish to enhance larval and nectar foods in their own gardens.

City of Santa Rosa Irrigation Recommendations & Restrictions


WaterSmartwebbannerThe City of Santa Rosa provides weather based irrigation scheduling recommendations based on data from weather stations located in Santa Rosa. Visit the WaterSmart website or call (707) 543-3466.

Drought Restrictions

On April 1, 2015 Governor Brown requested a 25% statewide reduction in water use, up 5% from last year’s request of 20%. The new restrictions reflect the need for more conservation as California’s drought continues. The Governor’s Order requires the State Water Board to require water providers to reduce usage to achieve a 25% statewide reduction in water use when compared to usage in 2013. On May 5 the State Water Resources Control Board adopted an emergency regulation to achieve the reduction.

Santa Rosa City Council adopted Stage 1 – Mandatory of the City’s Water Shortage Plan on August 5, 2014 to comply with the State’s drought emergency regulations. Mandatory water-use restrictions and prohibitions include:

  • Outdoor irrigation must occur between 8pm and 6am
  • No washing down of hardscapes, unless required for public health and safety
  • No use of potable water for street washing
  • Must use shut-off hose nozzle on all garden and utility hoses
  • Restaurants must participate in the “water-on-request” program
  • Hotels and motels must allow guests the option of not having linens and towels laundered daily
  • Fountains may only operate if water is recirculating
  • No irrigation allowed during and up to 48 hours after measurable rainfall