Firewise Oasis

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Garden Features

1

Drought Tolerant

2

California Natives

3

Deer Resistant

4

Drip Irrigation

5

Pesticide Free

6

Rain Garden

7

Sheet Mulching

8

Smart Irrigation Controller

9

Lawn Conversion

10

Lawn-Free Landscaping

11

Permeable Surfaces

12

Wildlife Habitat

Partner: CNPS

I LOVE native plants and the creatures drawn to them. The garden is an oasis of beautiful 100% native plants with a riot of textures and colors that attract humans, butterflies, birds, bumble bees, and other pollinators. A friend visited last spring and a hummingbird, initially interested in our California fuscia, hovered 12” from my guest’s face attracted to the red flower on her hat.

I’m a very busy person, so my garden is low maintenance, requiring a minimum amount of pruning and trimming a few times a year, and also uses very little water. Downspouts are directed into cobbled swales, which concentrate and conserve water in the soil well into the summer.

Our goals included creating defensible space to protect the home from burning during a wildfire. After “hardening the home” by installing 1/8” mesh over all vents and around the perimeter of the deck, to keep embers from entering, we installed a 5’ edging of decorative gravel around the home and deck, removing all flammable material. Without the traditional “foundation planting”, which can create a fire hazard, the edging of gravel is very attractive and integrates with the other firewise features, like islands of low native shrubs, perennials, grasses and annual plants in the 5-30’ zone around the home. The planting islands, filled with Salvia, Epilobium, Eriphyllum, Monardella, Baccharis pilularis, Arctostaphylos (prostrate and shrub), Penstemon, Diplacus (Mimulus), Lupinus, and a number of different native grasses, are separated by non-flammable flagstone and gravel pathways that allow you to meander through, with seating areas to afford different views of the plantings and surrounding valley oak savannah, and distant Atascadero Creek.

In the Graton area we have a wide temperature gradient in summer, with highs in the 100s on some summer days, and lows in the 40s. Fortunately much of the garden is partly shaded by a large valley oak, allowing us to experiment with part-shade loving plants like Festuca californica, Potentilla, and Heuchera.

Overall in two short years we have achieved our goal of creating a garden that is lush and attractive all year, provides food and shelter for a variety of wildlife and pollinators, and beauty and safety for humans. Please come join us!

Special Events
CNPS Table

Plants in this Garden

Achillea spp & cvs

Yarrow
Organization

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

Arctostaphylos spp & cvs

Manzanita, 'Dr. Hurd'
Organization

Manzanitas vary from carpet-forming groundcovers to small trees. Manzanitas have varying shades of striking, reddish brown bark and can provide structure to a garden. These plants have evergreen foliage, small white-to-pink, urn-shaped blossoms in late winter to early spring, and then small fruits that resemble tiny apples.

Groundcovers: A. ‘Emerald Carpet’ (1’ x 3-6’), A. ‘Pacific Mist’ (2-3’ x 6-8’), A. nummularia ‘Bear Belly’ (1’ x 3’), A. uva ursi ‘Radiant’ (6” x 4-6’), A. uva ursi ‘Wood’s Compct’ (1’ x 3’).

Shrubs: A. ‘Howard McMinn’ (5-7’ x 6-10’), A. ‘John Dourly’ (3-4’ x 5-6’), A. ‘Lester Rowntree’ (8-10’ x 10-15’), A. ‘Sunset‘ (5-7’), A. bakeri ‘Louis Edmunds’ (8-10’), A. manzanita ‘Sentinel’ (6-8’ x 5’), A. hookeri ‘Wayside’ (3′ x 8′).

Trees: A. manzanita ‘Dr. Hurd’ (10-15′)

  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: PinkWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringWinter
  • Fruit Color: Reddish Brown
  • Bark Color: Brown

Baccharis pilularis & cvs

Dwarf Coyote Bush
Organization

Flowers are inconspicuous but provide a source of pollen, nectar, and seeds for wildlife. Shrubby varieties can be cut back to maintain a more tidy and compact appearance. Perennial varieties can be divided in fall or early spring. Excellent choice as support for more showy plants in the garden.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: White
  • Blooming Season (s): Fall

Eriogonum spp

Buckwheat
Organization

Diverse group of flowering, evergreen shrubs and perennials and annuals found throughout the western United States. Most available in nurseries are native to California and generally prefer drier sites. Flowers colors include yellow, white, pink, and red and are held above foliage in umbels that dry over time and are popular in flower arrangements. Buckwheats provide pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies, larval food for butterflies, seeds for birds, and cover for many creatures.

Examples:

  • Santa Cruz Island buckwheat (E. arborescens, 3-4’ x 4-5’) densely mounded with white flowers.
  • Saffron buckwheat (E. crocatum, 1-2’ x 2-3’) with chartreuse-yellow flowers and pale leaves.
  • California buckwheat (E. fasciculatum, 2-3’ x 3’) and its low-growing cultivars such as E. f. ‘Warriner Lytle.’
  • Catherine’s lace (E. giganteum, 4-8’ x 6-10’) with delicate, white flowers and soft pale leaves.
  • Red-flowered buckwheat (E. grande var. Rubescens, 1-2’ x 2-3’) low-mounding perennial with rose-pink flowers, coastal bluff buckwheat (E. latifolium, up to 12” x 1-2’.)
  • Sulfur buckwheat (E. umbellatum, 6-18” x 1-3’) with intense yellow flowers and cultivars E. u. var. aureum ‘Kannah Creek’ and E. u. Var. ‘Shasta Sulphur’.
  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: EvergreenHerbaceous
  • Leaf Color: GrayGreen
  • Flower Color: PinkYellowWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFall

Festuca spp

Fescue
Organization

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

Rhamnus [Frangula] californica

Coffeeberry
Organization

Evergreen shrub that has insignificant flowers followed by black berries. Flowers are attractive to pollinators, especially bees, and berries provide a food source for birds. Cultivars commonly sold in nurseries have differing growth habits and are often smaller than the species which grows 5-18’ x 10-18’.

Examples: F. c. ‘Eve Case’ (6-8’ x 6-8’), R. c. ‘Leatherleaf’ (5-6’ x 5-6’), R. c. ‘Mound San Bruno’ (6-8’ x 6-8’) with a dense, mounding growth habit.

Note: California coffeeberry was formerly classified as Rhamnus californica and is now classified as Frangula californica.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer
  • Fruit Color: BlackRed

Iris douglasiana & cvs

Douglas Iris, Pacific Coast Hybrids
Organization

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
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: LavenderPurpleVioletYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): Spring

Juncus patens

California Grey Rush
Organization

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
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Gray Green
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringWinter

Mimulus aurantiacus and hybrids

Sticky Monkey Flower
Organization

The orange, tubular flowers of sticky monkey flower can be enjoyed in many locations throughout Sonoma and Marin counties in spring and summer, a testament to how well this plant is adapted to hot and dry conditions. The slightly sticky leaves benefit from light pinching and pruning to maintain an attractive appearance and support for the beautiful flowers. Many hybrids provide color variation. Do not confuse this plant with the red-flowered scarlet monkey flower (Mimulus cardinalis), an herbaceous riparian plant that requires regular water to thrive.

  • Water: Very Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Sandy
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: OrangeRedWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

Lupinus spp

Lupine
Organization

Popular group of annuals, perennials, and shrubs with distinctive divided leaves that are common throughout the western United States, including California. Pea-like flowers are displayed on spikes and are attractive to bees and other pollinators. Most native lupines are purple-flowered, while some are yellow. Provide full sun and good drainage and watch out for slugs and snails.

Examples: Silver bush lupine (L. albifrons, 3-4’ x 3-4’), prostate lupine (L. albifrons var. collinus, 12-18” x 12-18”), coastal bush lupine (L. arboreus) available with either blue or yellow flowers but can be invasive in some north coastal dunes, and blue-and-white lupine (L. bicolor) a low-growing, annual wildflower.

  • Water: Very Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: GreenSilver
  • Flower Color: BlueVioletYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

Penstemon heterophyllus

Blue Foothill Penstemon, California Penstemon
Organization

Penstemons are a large group of woody or herbaceous perennials with narrow leaves and tubular flowers. Foothill penstemon is a widely known and grown California native with iridescent purple-blue flowers during spring and early summer that are attractive to hummingbirds. The cultivar known as ‘Margarita BOP’ is widely available, reliable, and garden- tolerant. Remove spent flower spikes to encourage more flowers.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: Blue
  • Blooming Season (s): Spring