Habitat Yard


Sebastopol | Large 3/4 acre Sloping Garden

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Homeowner Deborah introduces her yard.

Rather than “garden” I call this patch a “habitat yard.”

Twenty years ago it was a degraded site, with a few trees, invasive grasses and weeds, a huge patch of Himalayan blackberry, and ivy that crept in from the neighboring lots and hung like ropes from adjacent trees.

Now about 75% of the plants in are natives. Some non-natives— already here when we moved in– have been torn out or transplanted to appropriate areas of the yard. A few other non-natives have been included for habitat/low water value.

The overall consideration for plant selection was whether one fit into the local oak woodland/mixed evergreen forest plant community where the yard is located. Thus, for example, I encouraged the Oregon White oak and Coast live oak seedlings that emerged from the acorns from the adjacent oak grove. I collected nearby Valley oak acorns and planted them. Much of the manzanita on the property was propagated from manzanita growing nearby on the side of Hurlbut Avenue. Miner’s lettuce and poppies were on the site already.

Value to insects and birds is another criterion for inclusion.  Thus you find madrone, elderberry, coyote bush, dutchman’s pipevine, toyon, ceanothus, currants, evening primrose, salvias, etc.  Many of them belong to the local plant community. Some are from elsewhere in California, such as the red buckwheat that carpets the southwest corner of the house

The yard is watered very little. To establish a plant I rely upon winter rains, Dri-Water, and occasional watering from the hose. The patch of grass in the front is being converted to native creeping red fescue, which will reduce the already low watering requirement. Even the exotic roses are not watered.  Along with the meadow grasses, golden current, and California roses in the south part of the yard, they are planted over the leach field. Rosarians would not recommend this, but the moisture is enough to get them through the year.

The swale was built to follow the actual course that rainwater takes to the bottom of the hill, where it pools. There was no grading or change in the route with one exception. At the top we enlarged the pond/puddle feature to help spread the flow. And to slow it down, California fescue is planted extensively.

Although there is so much that remains to be done, and weeding is constant, it is gratifying to see and hear pollinators enjoying this environment throughout the year.

Events at Habitat Yard

  • Poster: Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly Life-cycle


Plants to Look out For

Deb’s Top 10 Plants!

  1. Manazanita (Arctostaphylos sp.) – Howard McMinn, Howell’s, Hurlbut, Monica, Rincon Ridge
  2. Vine maple (Acer circinatum)
  3. California pipevine (Aristolochia californica)
  4. Bolander’s Phacelia (Tanacetifolia california)
  5. Sage (Salvia sp.)  Sonomensis, Black, Cleveland, White, Hummingbird, Purple, Brandegeei, Bees’ Bliss
  6. Buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.)  Rosy, Sulphur,  St. Catherine’s lace,
  7. Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
  8. Deergrass (Muelenbergia rigens)
  9. California Lilac (Ceanothus sp.) – Cliff Schmidt, Ray Hartman, El Dorado, Thyrsiflorus
  10. Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis)

A complete printable plant list for Habitat Yard can be downloaded using the blue button below.