California Native Hillside Garden


Mill Valley | 100% California Native Garden

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Garden features:

  • Pesticide Free.
  • Drought Tolerant.
  • Lawn Free Landscaping.

First time Eco-Friendly Garden Tour host David introduces his garden:

This unique, nearly 100% California native hillside garden is sectioned into distinct plant communities, including riparian woodland, coastal scrub, dry meadow, sedge transition meadow, hedgerow and chaparral. It was added to an existing front yard garden that has a more Asian feel and features boulders, a pond and waterfall, Japanese maples as well as some native plants. Steps follow a dry creek bed that wanders down the side of the house through an area of native riparian plants, including red twig dogwood, Pacific dogwood, alder, coral bells, California currant, elk’s clover and coastal irises. A crushed decomposed lava rock path then leads across; on one side a dry meadow featuring drought-tolerant grasses, lupines, gumplant and other perennials; and a coastal scrub area on the other. Two California live oaks, planted years ago by scrub jays, flank the back deck of the house. A theme of this garden is the wealth of garden worthy native plants local to Marin County that can create a beautiful and diverse garden landscape. Many of the plants are labeled, and over 90% of the approximately 200 species of plants in this garden are Marin County natives including varieties of manzanitas and ceanothus that grow only in Marin and a few other places. Each area of the garden is hydro zoned, and in most zones drip irrigation is used only infrequently during the dry season. The chaparral and hedgerow areas are no longer watered, flourishing only on water provided by Mother Nature. One of the joys of the native garden is the return of beneficial insects, bees and birds. The variety of native plants and habitats in this garden attracts beneficial insects that maintain a natural balance in the garden. No pesticides are used. California natives are adapted to surviving and, if happy, thriving in Marin without pesticides. Insects, nectar, seeds, berries, leaf litter and protective cover also attract a variety of birds, including nesting Bewick’s wrens, nesting scrub jays, ruby-crowned kinglets, hermit thrushes, golden-crowned sparrows and a resident pair of Anna’s Hummingbirds. Squadrons of dragonflies regularly patrol the yard in search of insects. This is not a finely manicured garden; most leaf litter is allowed to compost in place. The garden is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Habitat Garden.

Avoid Invasive Plants

Some plants are invasive when planted outside of their native habitat. They can establish themselves (like weeds) and cause ecological damage. In Sonoma and Marin County gardens one plant to avoid  is Mexican Feathergrass (Stipa/Nasella tenuissima). This delicate and fine textured ornamental grass is available at many plant nurseries. The plant produces thousands of seeds and self-sows readily throughout the landscape, as well as in cracks between hardscape areas. While Mexican feathergrass looks great upon installation, it soon looks messy without continual maintenance due to the profusion of seedlings that pop-up.

A similar effect can be achieved with alternative plants, such as Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’).

Visit the Plant Right website for a list of plants to avoid.