Catch the Rain


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


Edible Garden


California Natives


Drip Irrigation


Pesticide Free


Rainwater Harvesting System


Smart Irrigation Controller


Lawn Conversion


Lawn-Free Landscaping


Wildlife Habitat

Partner: Santa Rosa Water

In 2013, my wife and I embarked on a search for a home in Santa Rosa, driven by a vision of sustainability and historical charm. Our quest led us to Burbank Gardens, a neighborhood steeped in botanical heritage, where the legacy of horticulturist Luther Burbank thrived. Nestled on Tupper Street, we discovered a gem—a century-old house, one of the few original dwellings remaining from 1908.

Envisioning a sanctuary that seamlessly merged tradition with modern sustainability, we were drawn to the ample space for fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and even a butterfly sanctuary. Equally crucial were features conducive to eco-friendly initiatives, such as rain catchment systems and ample roof space for solar panels.

Our first endeavor was the installation of twenty-one Blue Barrel rain barrels, strategically positioned around the detached garage, boasting a total capacity of 1055 gallons. Complementing these were three Bushman water tanks—one with a capacity of 420 gallons, nestled against the main house, and another with 865 gallons, discreetly integrated into the property. A third, larger Bushman storage tank, boasting a substantial capacity of 2500 gallons, stood behind the back shed, poised to collect overflow from other barrels and tanks during bountiful rainy seasons.

The metamorphosis of our property truly took flight in 2018, as we embarked on the transformation of the once-traditional lawn into a verdant, eco-conscious oasis. With careful planning and attention to detail, pathways, lighting fixtures, patios, and latticework emerged, seamlessly blending functionality with aesthetic appeal. While the landscaped areas flourished with purposeful design elements, we intentionally preserved the ‘Back 40’—a rugged expanse where fruit trees thrived, a butterfly haven flourished, and our beloved canine companions reveled in freedom.

In embracing the spirit of Burbank Gardens, our home became more than a dwelling—it became a testament to our commitment to sustainability, a haven for biodiversity, and a cherished gathering place for friends and family alike. – Dean Briggs

The genesis of our garden stemmed from a desire to cultivate familiarity amidst the backdrop of a new environment, following our relocation to Santa Rosa from Los Angeles in 2015. Serendipitously situated in Luther Burbank’s historical domain, our property served as a fertile canvas for our gardening aspirations.

Drawing inspiration from our Southern California roots, we began our gardening journey with propagated Salvia and herb cuttings, leveraging recycled rainwater and the nutrient-rich soil hallowed by Burbank’s legacy. To our delight, nature took its course, and our garden burgeoned with remarkable vigor and abundance.

In just a year’s time, our once-overlooked wasteland, marred by detritus and dog excrement, underwent a miraculous transformation. Through our concerted efforts and the introduction of indigenous plants, our garden blossomed into a vibrant sanctuary teeming with life. Bees, butterflies, ladybugs, and birds flocked to our newfound haven, their presence serving as a testament to the restoration of a harmonious ecosystem.

Observing the natural rhythms and interactions of our garden’s inhabitants has not only enriched our surroundings but also become an integral part of our daily lives. As we immerse ourselves in the symphony of nature’s melodies, we find solace and connection, forging bonds with the land and its inhabitants that transcend mere cultivation—they embody a profound communion with the living earth. – Elyse Briggs

Special Events
Blue Barrel Rain Catchment Demos

Plants in this Garden

Plant Picker

Olea europaea 'Swan Hill'

Swan Hill Olive

Classic, slow-growing Mediterranean evergreen tree with willow-like foliage that can be grown as a standard or multi-trunk. Trunks of younger trees are generally smooth and become more gnarled as they age. Pollen is highly allergenic to many people, and fruit and seeds can be messy and even invasive. Seeds can be spread by birds and mammals and have become invasive in parts of southern California and the Central Valley. Low-flowering and non-fruiting cultivars are available.

Examples: O. e. ‘Bonita’ (25-30’ x 25-30’) is nearly fruitless; O. e. ‘Franz Fruitless’ (25-30’ x 25-30’) produces no pollen and nearly no fruit; O. e. ‘Little Ollie’ (6-8’ x 6-8’) is a dwarf non-fruiting hybrid with dense foliage; O. e. ‘Majestic Beauty’ (25’ x 20’) only develops small amounts of fruit; O. e. ‘Swan Hill’ (25-30’ x 25-30’) is a non-fruiting olive free of airborne pollen.

  • Water: Very Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained

Lavandula spp


Classic, aromatic, small, Mediterranean evergreen shrub that works well in a mass or mixed planting in a sunny location with good drainage. Blue-to-purple flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies, and seeds provide food to birds. Shear plants by one-third to one-half after flowering to maintain a neat appearance. Vulnerable to root rot in damp locations or if organic mulch is too close to plant crown.

Examples: English lavender (L. angustifolia, 1-2’ x 2-3’) and many cultivars, French Lavender (L. dentata, 3-4’ x 4-6’), hedge lavender (L. x intermedia, 1-2’ x 2-3’), Spanish lavender (L. stoechas, 2-3’ x 2-3’) featuring large and showy bracts on top of flower spikes.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained

Salvia spp


Salvias are a huge group of more than 900 species that include annuals, perennials, and shrubs adapted to a variety of climates and have varying water requirements. Salvias are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, and are generally ignored by deer. Sages that are native to California are generally drought-tolerant, prefer full sun, and little to no fertilizer. Annual pruning in late summer or fall generally helps to keep plants tidy and healthy.

CA native sages:

  • S. apiana, white sage (3-4’ x 4-6’), silvery-white, aromatic leaves with tall flower spikes of white flowers, popular for honey production and in bundles as a natural incense.
  • ‘Bee’s Bliss’ (1-2’ x 6-8’), superb, light gray groundcover with light purple flowers on long spikes; damp conditions can cause mildew which will clear with warm weather and sunny conditions.
  • S. clevelandii, Cleveland sage (3-5’ x 3-5’), medium-sized shrub for hot, dry locations known for pleasant fragrance and deep blue whorls of flowers; popular cultivars include S. c. ‘Allen Chickering’, S. c. ‘Pozo Blue’, and S. c. ‘Winnifred Gilman’.
  • S. leucophylla, purple sage, includes plants with both an upright growth habit, such as S. l. ‘Amethyst Bluff’ (3-5’ x 3-5’) and others with a sprawling form, such as S. l. ‘Point Sal’ (2-3’ x 6’), both of which are from Santa Barbara county.
  • S. sonomaensis, Sonoma sage (1-2’ x 3-4’), groundcover that prefers light shade and will not tolerate damp conditions; cultivars include S. s. ‘Dara’s Choice’, S. s. ‘Greenberg Gray’, and S. s. ‘Hobbit Toes’.
  • S. spathacaea, hummingbird sage (1-2’ spreading), herbaceous groundcover that grows well in dry shade and spreads slowly by underground rhizomes; large leaves have a wonderful fruity fragrance; the only red-flowered native sage.
  • S. mellifera, black sage (6′ x 10′), evergreen shrub that grows well in full sun and well drained soils. Dark green leaves with pale purple flowers in late spring and early summer.

Non-native sages:

  • S. chamaedryoides, germander sage (2-3’)
  • S. chiapensis, Chiapas sage (1-2’ x 3-4’)
  • S. greggii, autumn sage (1-4’ x 1-4’)
  • S. leucantha, Mexican bush sage (3-4’ x 3-6’)
  • S. microphylla, cherry sage (3-4’ x 3-6’)
  • S. officinalis, garden sage (1-3’ x 1-3’)
  • Water: Very LowLowModerate
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
California Lilac

Ceanothus spp & cvs

Ceanothus, California lilac, 'Ray Hartman'

Ceanothus is a group of fast-growing, evergreen shrubs that vary from groundcovers to small trees, many of which are native to California. They provide a spectacular display of flowers in spring that will attract a multitude of pollinators. Flowers are followed by seeds that provide food for birds. The clusters of tiny flowers range from white to deep violet. Plants perform best with good drainage and minimal irrigation once established. Some do best in cooler coastal climates, but many thrive in hotter inland climates. Pay close attention to the mature size when selecting ceanothus to ensure that it has sufficient space for its natural form.

Groundcovers: C. ‘Centennial’ (1’ x 8’), C. gloriosus var. gloriosus ‘Anchor Bay’ (2’ x 8’), C. griseus var. horizontalis ‘Diamond Heights’ (variegated, 1’ x 4’), C. griseus var. horizontalis ‘Yankee Point’ (3’ x 12’), C. maritimus (2’ x 6’).

Shrubs: C. ‘Blue Jeans’ (6’ x 6’), C. Concha (6’ x 6’), C. ‘Dark Star’ (6’ x 8’), C. ‘Joyce Coulter’ (4’ x 12’), C. ‘Julia Phelps’ (8’ x 10’), C. cuneatus (8’ x 8’), C. thyrsiflorus ‘Skylark’ (4’ x 6’).

Large shrubs: C. ‘Frosty Blue’ (10’ x 12’), C. thyrsiflorus (20’ x 20’), C. t. ‘Snow Flurry’ (white flower, 20’ x 20’).

Trees: C. ‘Ray Hartman’ (15′ x 15′)

  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained

Achillea spp & cvs


Yarrows are variable low-growing, spreading herbaceous perennials with finely divided leaves that inhabit many temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere. Flattish clusters of flowers form in spring and well into summer and provide an important nectar source for pollinators and insects. Yarrow can help to stabilize slopes and is a good addition to the upper level of rain gardens and swales. Colors include yellow, pink, and red.

California native spp & cvs: A. millefolium (common yarrow), A. m. ‘Calistoga’, A. m. ‘Island Pink’, A. m. ‘Sonoma Coast’, A. m. ‘Terracotta’.

Other yarrows: A. filipendulina (fern leaf yarrow), A. f. ‘Coronation Gold’, A. ‘Moonshine’, A. tomentosa (woolly yarrow).

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
fescue grass

Festuca spp


Large group of mostly cool-season, perennial, bunching or spreading grasses. Bunch grass varieties can be used as a no-mow lawn replacement, help to stabilize slopes, and have ornamental value. Festuca californica (California fescue, 1-2’ wide x 2’) prefers part shade and works wonderfully massed under the dry shade of native oaks. Festuca glauca (blue fescue, 1’ x 1’) is a small, clumping grass with bluish gray-green leaves. Festuca idahoenis (Idaho fescue, 1-2’ wide x 1’) also has bluish gray-green leaves and is more drought-tolerant and longer lived than blue fescue. Festuca rubra (red fescue) grows from rhizomes and has long, fine-textured leaves that lay over to form a pleasing drift effect as a no-mow lawn.

  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained

Favorite Plants



All kinds of Salvias!

Favorite Garden Suppliers

Emerisa Gardens

555 Irwin Lane Santa Rosa

Urban Tree Farm Nursery

3010 Fulton Road Fulton

Recommended Resources

Gardening Tips


For the propagation of salvia - aerated soil with a thin layer of vermiculite on top.