Charlotte T’s Habitat Garden


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


Edible Garden


California Natives


Drip Irrigation


Pesticide Free


Rainwater Harvesting System


Reclaimed/Recycled Materials


Sheet Mulching


Lawn Conversion


Lawn-Free Landscaping


Wildlife Habitat

This is a naturalist’s garden; where life itself creates conditions conducive to still more life! As such the garden is ever-changing, and the gardener simply assumes the role of a skilled editor.

The garden is large and ever expanding to accommodate new habitat zones, an expanding plant palette, and more water features. Strategic seating areas have been created to allow observation of all the activity in the garden. With over 45 different species and cultivars of Salvia, this garden is sure to impress!

Many of the plants growing in this garden, including trees and shrubs, were started by seed or cuttings, and grown on in a unique home nursery operation.


The garden is alive with birds and butterflies, native bees and beneficial insects, lizards and Pacific tree frogs. Larval host plants are provided for about nineteen species of butterflies; food, water, cover and nesting sites are provided for more than thirty-six species of birds that live here throughout the year. Nesting boxes, placed within the garden and nearby woodlands, have been home to broods of Oak Titmice, Bewick’s Wrens, Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Western Screech Owls. Barn Owls are in residence again, and fledged a large brood last summer.

The garden is sited in an Oak Woodland next to open space, so great care has been taken to avoid invasive plant species. Deer and lots of other free roaming wildlife are at home on our hillside, and visit the garden regularly. The deer-resistant ornamental front border is planted with a mixture of California native plants, grasses, and drought tolerant Mediterranean species. The food garden in back is the only area fenced in.

The boulders, dry-stack stone walls, and permeable gravel pathways create a heat sink, as well as offering shelter for all sorts of small creatures. Irregular stone surfaces make shallow pools of water available to wildlife; water is also provided in the form of bird baths, weeping stones and seeps, and several small ponds.

Native Plants & Organic Gardening

‘California Natives Live Here’ and the garden is also ‘Bay-Friendly’ and  a Pesticide-Free-Zone; only sustainable, organic gardening methods are used. Drip irrigation systems are used in some areas, in many other areas established native plants get no additional summer water. Mulch or compost is applied each year to beds and borders; other prunings are used to create extensive brush piles.

Plants in this Garden

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

Mahonia [Berberis] spp

Oregon Grape, Berberry

Some barberries may be referred to either as Berberis or Mahonia. The California species are a group of evergreen shrubs with glossy, spiny-edged leaves and clusters of yellow flowers in spring followed by small grape-like berries attractive to birds. Barberry foliage provides a display through the year as new leaf growth is often bronzy red that gives way to green- and finally purple-red tones in the winter months.

Examples: Oregon grape (M. repens, 1-3’ x 2-3’) is an excellent small-scale groundcover for lightly shaded understory locations; Nevin mahonia (M. nevinii, 6-8’ x 6-8’) with blue-green leaves from Southern California is a good screen plant; and California holly grape (M. pinnata, 4-6’ x 4-6’) with wavy leaves provides distinctive texture.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: Yellow
  • Blooming Season (s): Spring
  • Fruit Color: Blue

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

Asclepias spp, CA native


Colony-forming, herbaceous perennials with several species providing important habitat and larval food sources for the monarch butterfly while attracting a diverse array of insects.

California milkweeds remain dormant during the colder months. Stems that emerge in April or May bear clusters of small, star-like flowers in summer followed by silky-tailed seeds that are dispersed by wind. A. fascicularis (narrow-leaved milkweed, 1-3’) is the preferred food source for monarch larvae. A. speciosa (showy milkweed, 2-4’) has larger, soft foliage, showier flower clusters, and is also a food source for monarch larvae. A. cordifolia (heart leaf milkweed, 1-2′) has heart-shaped leaves and is also a food source for monarch larvae.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: Pink
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

More Favorites

  • Ghost Pine (Pinus sabiana)
  • Mt. Mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides)
  • Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans)
  • Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)
  • Bush Mallow (Malacothamnus fremontii)
  • Pink Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum)
  • Golden Currant (Ribes aureum)
  • Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii)
  • Cobweb Thistle (Cirsium occidentale)
  • Pacific Coast Iris – a collection
  • Sticky Monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus) and hybrids – a collection

Recommended Resources