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

In 2013 when my wife and I wanted to buy a house in Santa Rosa we began looking for one with specific features. We found such a house in the Burbank Gardens on Tupper Street. This was the same street where horticulturist Luther Burbank had built his houses and gardens. Our house was one of the four remaining original houses on the street built in 1908.
The house had a large area for fruit trees and a vegetable garden and a butterfly sanctuary. Also an area for patios and paths and, in general, a backyard for gatherings of friends.
We needed a property where we could install rain catchment systems and have sufficient roof areas for solar panels.
The first project we accomplished was the installation of twenty-one (21) Blue Barrel rain barrels with 1055 gallons of capacity around our detached garage. We also installed three (3) Bushman water tanks. Two (2) were placed against the main house. One with a capacity of 420 gallons and the other with a capacity of 865 gallons. A third Bushman storage tank was installed behind our back shed with a capacity of 2500 gallons. This tank would be filled by pumping water from the other barrels and smaller tanks if, hopefully, there was an overabundance of rainwater collected during that year.
The transformation of the old lawn area into a landscaped back yard began in 2018. Paths, lighting, patios and latticework were put in at this time. We left the ‘Back 40’ of the property a bit wilder with fruit trees, the butterfly garden and an area for our dogs to run and roam in.
– Dean Briggs

Our garden grew from the desire to create familiarity in a new environment as a result of our relocation to Santa Rosa from Los Angeles in 2015.
Thanks to our property being in Luther Burbank’s backyard, literally, we discovered that with propagated Salvia and herb cuttings from SoCal, recycled rainwater and Burbank’s rich soil, our garden grew itself, and in massive proportions.
With that success rate, in a year’s time, and with the addition of indigenous plants, we transformed an ignored wasteland filled with trash and dog poop into a haven for bees,
butterflies, ladybugs and birds. Watching their natural behavior, has become part of ours.
– Elyse Briggs

Special Events
Blue Barrel Rain Catchment Demos

Plants in this Garden

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
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Blue GreenGray Green
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFallWinter

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
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Gray Green
  • Flower Color: BlueLilac
  • Blooming Season (s): Summer

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
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: GrayGreen
  • Flower Color: LavenderPinkPurpleYellowWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFall

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
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: GreenGreen - Dark
  • Flower Color: BlueWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

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
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Gray GreenGreen
  • Flower Color: PinkRedYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

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
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Blue GreenGray GreenGreen
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

Favorite Plants



All kinds of Salvias!

Favorite Garden Suppliers

Emerisa Gardens

555 Irwin Lane Santa Rosa

Urban Tree Farm Nursery

3010 Fulton Road Fulton

Gardening Tips


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