From Biological Desert to Woodland Understory, Chaparral, Coastal Scrub and Veggies


Petaluma | Small Front and Back Gardens

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Garden SenseVeteran Eco-Friendly Garden Tour host and homeowner Karen introduces her garden. Karen is also a Sonoma County Master Gardener and a Garden Sense consultant.

This was a typical 1980’s house with lawn in front, deck in back.  I had the deck removed and we sheet mulched all the lawn areas (with the aid of a friend and some Mormon missionaries who happened to come to the door at the right time). Weed cloth, wire mesh and slate mulch were removed; the slate has been reused in the sitting area and around the water feature. Non-native trees have been replaced with natives. The dead and compacted soil in back was revived with compost, gypsum, mycorrhizal inoculate, and cover crops. I sketched a spiral design of berms and swales for the garden in back. Chris Reamer, a landscaper, refined the design, dug the berms and swales and installed the drip irrigation system. The rain gutters were extended to empty into the swales; the spiral design makes the water go around to its final drain and the drain itself has been impeded with a natural filter. The most water-thirsty plants are at the end of the water route. There is no more runoff from the property. I contracted Sweetwater Landscape of Forestville to build a recirculating water feature in the center of the spiral, which also functions as a birdbath. The ornamental plants are almost all California natives, with redwood understory plants under the neighbors’ redwoods in back, oak understory plants under the neighbors’ oak in front, and chaparral plants or vegetable rows in the sunnier areas.  Nearly all attract either bees, butterflies or hummingbirds.  The former lawn area in front is a wildflower and groundcover meadow from early spring to late summer, with succession blooming for the critters. A rare tree from the Channel Islands, the Catalina Ironwood, marks the entrance, where the few remaining shrubs from the original entrance will sooner or later be replaced with a front porch. We livened up the rather grim side fence with Mexican ceramic tiles on painted boards.

Events at From Biological Desert to Woodland Understory, Chaparral, Coastal Scrub and Veggies

  • Information table: Master Gardeners of Sonoma County Garden Sense Program

Garden Sense consultants will be on hand to provide information about the services that they offer. Garden Sense is a free program offered in Sonoma County. Drop in and see how they can help you in your garden!

Plants to Look out For

Karen’s Top 10 Plants!

  1. Catalina Ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp asplenifolius)
  2. Silver Bush Lupine, both bush and prostrate forms (Lupinus albifrons, L. a. collinus)
  3. Louis Edmunds Manzanita (Arctostaphylos bakeri ‘Louis Edmunds’)
  4. Sentinel Manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Sentinel’)
  5. California Lilac (Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’)
  6. California Buckeye (Aesculus californica)
  7. Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis)
  8. White Sage (Salvia apiana)
  9. Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia amoena ‘the real’)
  10. Pink-flowering currant (Ribes sanguinium)

A printable plant list for From Biological Desert to Woodland Understory, Chaparral, Coastal Scrub and Veggies can be downloaded using the blue button below.

Russian River-Friendly Landscaping

Russian River-Friendly Landscaping is a whole systems approach to design, construction, and maintenance of the landscape which supports the integrity of one of California’s richest and most diverse ecosystems: the Russian River watershed! Create and maintain healthy, beautiful, and vibrant landscapes with the following principals:

  • Landscape Locally
  • Landscape for Less to the Landfill
  • Nurture the Soil
  • Conserve Water
  • Conserve Energy
  • Protect Water and Air Quality
  • Conserve and Protect Wildlife Habitat

Explore the Russian River Watershed Association website for more information, or check out these simple 1-page guides: