Drought Resistant Garden


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


California Natives


Deer Resistant


Drip Irrigation


Pesticide Free


Rainwater Harvesting System


Wildlife Habitat

Partner: Marin Water

Building a Pollinator-Friendly Garden.

The house was built in 1924 and has always been owned by avid gardeners, so when we bought it in 2009, we were blessed to start with a beautiful, well thought-out, mature garden. Over time, we have worked to replace less eco-friendly non-natives with natives, focusing on drought-tolerant flowering plants, including replacing a large section of ivy with a variety of salvias, santa barbara daisy and other native plants, and replacing boxwood and nandina with ceanothus. We also seek out plants that attract bees and hummingbirds.

The original owners had installed a well, but the next ones filled it with scrap concrete and dirt. In 2011, in conjunction with a replacement deck and new patio, we cleared the well and connected it to a water catchment system, which also collects rainwater, and tied the entire system into the irrigation. We now water the whole yard, except the vegetable garden, with well-water fed by San Anselmo creek (which runs by the back of the property).

Plants in this Garden

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

Cercis occidentalis

Western Redbud

Western redbud is an ornamental, multi-trunked and deciduous, large shrub or small tree with year-round interest that provides a California native and very low-water alternative to the moderate-water Cercis canadensis. Magenta to rosy pink blossoms that resemble pea flowers cover bare branches in late winter to early spring. Apple green, heart-shaped leaves emerge to accompany the flowers. Over the summer, the leaves become more leathery and bluish green, and seed pods mature and remain into the winter months.

  • Water: Very Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils

Chitalpa tashkentensis


Fast-growing, medium-sized, deciduous tree with clusters of showy trumpet-shaped flowers from late spring to fall. Chitalpa is a sterile hybrid between Catalpa bignonioides, common catalpa, and Chilopsis linearis, desert willow. It combines the larger flowers of the former and the drought-tolerance of the latter. Since the flowers are sterile, they do not form seed pods or fruit. There are two popular cultivars, ‘Pink Dawn’ with lavender-pink flowers and ‘Morning Cloud’ with white flowers.

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

Iris douglasiana & cvs

Douglas Iris, Pacific Coast Hybrids

Iris are a large and diverse group of perennials that grow from either bulbs or rhizomes. The California native Douglas iris and cultivars known as Pacific Coast Hybrids are an excellent choice for summer-dry gardens and understory plantings. Fall rain brings new growth in the form of thin, upright leaves, followed in late winter to early spring by the first blossoms. Douglas iris commonly ranges in color from lavender to purple, but cultivars are available in a range of colors including white and yellow. Established plantings can be lifted and divided after the first significant fall rain and either replanted or put into containers to share with others.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Partial ShadeShade
  • Soil: Most Soils

Juncus patens

California Grey Rush

California gray rush is a go-to species for the summer-dry rain garden. It will thrive in moist conditions and its roots will help stabilize soil and filter stormwater runoff. It is also tolerant of extended periods of drought. Clumps of stiff, upright foliage provide an interesting contrast among other perennials. ‘Elk Blue’ is a widely available selection from Mendocino County. Its bluish gray foliage is shorter than the typical gray rush.

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

Favorite Garden Suppliers

Green Jeans Nursery

690 Redwood Highway Mill Valley

California Native Landscapes

254 Shoreline Highway Mill Valley

Recommended Resources