Terraced Wildlife Garden


Santa Rosa | 5,000 sq. ft. Front & Back Gardens

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

CNPS Plant & Book Sale at this location 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The Sessers bought their home 39 years ago because of the large back yard. The house is on a quarter acre lot. The yard has been a work in progress from the beginning. Pat, a passionate gardener, originally planted mostly ornamental flowers and vegetables then she discovered the California Native Plant Society around ten years ago and the garden has taken on a new life.

The front lawn was sheet mulched with newspaper plus 4 inches of compost in 2007. Wildflower seeds were scattered the first spring. California native shrubs, grasses and perennials have been planted since then. Native bees and butterflies enjoy the sages, buckwheats, California fuchsias and other blooming plants throughout the year. Drip irrigation is installed in the front yard as well as the back yard.

A large redwood tree dominates the backyard hillside which is terraced with native plants that attract birds, butterflies, native pollinators and other wildlife to the garden. Most paths are left as bare dirt to provide nesting places for many of our native bees.

The lawn on the second terrace was removed and planted with native bentgrass (Agrostis pallens) last summer. It uses half the water of a regular lawn and can be mowed but also looks nice unmowed as a floppy meadow grass.

Pat loves colorful flowers and has found many showy native plants that bloom during the summer. On the second terrace there is a large Saint Catherine’s Lace buckwheat with beautiful cream colored flowers alive with insects with a pink native morning glory winding its way through it. Many of the flowering plants are also host plants for butterfly caterpillars. Yampah and Angelica are used by Anise Swallowtails, Buckeye butterflies lay their eggs on Plantago and Common Lippia. There are 3 species of milkweeds in the garden for the Monarch butterfly to lay her eggs on.

As you wander up the hill you will find beds with flowering annuals of clarkia, tarweed and other wild flowers plus many flowering perennials such as penstemons, buckwheats, blue-eyed grass and monkeyflowers. Hazelnut, dogwood and other shrubs are also planted here and there. At the top of the hill there is a large buckeye tree, Pacific Wax Myrtle, coyote bush, Manzanita,Toyon and a Yankee Point Ceanothus.

Winter rains can be a problem on a hillside. Native grasses have been planted for both habitat and for erosion control. Berms and swales are also constructed each fall to keep water on the property.

The garden is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat.

There will be native plants and books on gardening with natives for sale at this garden. Proceeds will benefit the work of the California Native Plant Society.

Plant List

Some of the key plants in this garden for this time of year are listed below. You can also download a printable full plant list for this garden.

  1. California buckeye (Aesulus caifornica)
  2. Bentgrass (Agrostis pallens)
  3. California sagebrush (Artemisia californica ‘Montara’)
  4. Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina)
  5. Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium)
  6. Spice bush (Calyanthus occidentalis)
  7. Purple western morning glory (Calystegia purpurata spp. Purpurata)
  8. California lilac (Ceanothus arboreus ‘Cliff Schmidt’, C. ‘Blue Jeans’)
  9. Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis)
  10. Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis)
  11. California Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var. californica)
  12. Saint Catherine’s Lace (Erigonum giganteum)
  13. Coast silk tassel (Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’)
  14. Toyon (Hetermoeles arbutifolia)
  15. Pacific coast hybrids (Iris douglasiana)
  16. Santa Cruz Island Ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. aspleniifolius )
  17. Sticky monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus)
  18. Mock orange (Philadelphus  lewisii)
  19. Western labrador tea (Rhododendron columbianum)
  20. Sugar Bush (Rhus ovata)
  21. Golden Current (Ribes aureum)
  22. Salvia Calamity Jane (Salvia ‘Calamity Jane)
  23. Salvia Amethyst Bluff (Salvia leucophylla ‘Amethyst Bluff’)
  24. Black sage (Salvia mellifera)

Why Garden with Native Plants?

Gardening with native plants allows you to bring the beauty of California into your landscape while also receiving numerous benefits.

  • Save water: Once established, many California native plants need minimal irrigation beyond normal rainfall.
  • Lower Maintenance: Native plants do best with some attention and care, but require less water, fertilizer, pruning, less or no pesticide, and less of your time to maintain than do many common garden plants.
  • Reduce Pesticides: Native plants have developed their own defenses against many pests and diseases.
  • Invite Wildlife: Native plants, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects are “made for each other.” Research shows that native wildlife clearly prefers native plants.
  • Support Local Ecology: California native plants can help provide an important bridge to nearby remaining wild areas.

Further information can be be found on the California Native Plant Society webpage.