Graywater and Natives


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


Graywater System


California Natives


Pesticide Free


Rainwater Harvesting System


Lawn Conversion

The Transformation.

We bought this place in 2015, and sheet mulched a section of the back and side yards. In 2016, the lawn and weeds in those sections were gone and we began planting. Portions of the yard flood in the winter, but go completely dry the rest of the year. So we try to find plants that can handle both wet feet and extended drought – a tough call. Some plants die, some grow, and some spread wildly and duke it out with their neighbors.

About the Garden:

California Natives

All our plantings are California natives and we try for locally natives. We haven’t yet taken out all the non-natives that were planted previously. We’d like to recreate as much of a natural area as possible, to entice native insects, birds, and even on occasions racoons, fox, and yes, deer.

Soil & Irrigation

With an established and well mulched garden, hand watering is needed only a few times in the summer and fall. Because new plants need plenty of water when they are first setting root, our planting is done in the rainy season (when we have one).

Rainwater Capture and Graywater

We’ve collected rainwater in barrels here from the beginning, and toted water to needy plants throughout the summer and fall. But this has become more demanding as the plantings and dry season expanded. Conceding that our rain dances have failed, we began installation of a graywater system. The laundry-to-landscape system was completed in the winter of 21/22. The bathroom sink and shower components will follow when Permit Sonoma allows.

More About Russian River Friendly Landscaping

Create and Protect Wildlife Habitat

Plant and animal diversity is one of the many factors that makes the Russian River Watershed unique and beautiful. More than 1,400 native plant species bloom throughout the year, supporting hundreds of native pollinators, beneficial insects and other organisms that can reduce the need for pesticides. Birds and butterflies are attracted, bringing with them beauty, song and interest to a landscape.

Biodiversity is crucial to the health and resiliency of the local landscape, the Russian River ecosystem and its inhabitants. Yet the loss of habitat is threatening local biodiversity. The population of the Russian River Watershed is growing and expected to continue to do so. With increased populations comes development, which must be done with regard for wildlife habitat.

russian river friendly logo

And although we tend to rely on parks and open space for preserving wildlife habitat, both residential and commercial landscapes can also play an important role. Developed landscapes can provide food, water, shelter and nesting sites for birds, butterflies, beneficial insects and other creatures, thus helping to conserve valuable wildlife resources and restore damaged ecosystems. Small spaces or corridors, patched together over the entire Russian River Watershed, add up to a great opportunity for encouraging and protecting wildlife.

  1. Diversify
  2. Choose California natives first
  3. Provide water and shelter
  4. Use organic pest management
  5. Conserve or restore natural areas and wildlife corridors

Plants in this Garden

Plant Picker

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
dwarf coyote brush

Baccharis pilularis & cvs

Dwarf Coyote Bush

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
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

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

Grindelia spp


Group of herbaceous perennials in the sunflower family that are native to the Americas. Grindelia stricta is native to the west coast of America, including California, with yellow daisy-like flowers in the dry summer months. Spreading gum plant (G. s. var. platyphylla) is a low-growing groundcover form that can reach 6-10’ across. Suitable for meadow plantings.

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

Heteromeles arbutifolia


California native, evergreen shrub or small tree often seen growing in Sonoma and Marin county wildlands. Lacy, white flower clusters in spring attract pollinators; red berries in winter provide a splash of color and an important food source for birds. The name “Hollywood” was born from the abundance of toyon in the hills of southern California and its resemblance to European holly. The cultivar ‘Davis Gold’ has yellow berries and may be more disease-resistant than the species.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
close up of yellow and red gooseberries

Ribes spp

Currant, Gooseberry

Currants (without spines) and gooseberries (with spines) are grown for their graceful growth habit, attractive foliage, wonderful displays of pendulous flowers in winter-spring that are attractive to hummingbirds, and colorful fruit that provides a food source for birds. Most of the species listed are deciduous, going dormant in the summer months.

Examples: Some of the species suitable for California gardens, preferably with partial shade, are native to the Western United States:

  • aurem, golden currant (5-10’ x 3-6’), deciduous with small clusters of delicate yellow flowers and sprawling habit.
  • malvaceum, chaparral currant (4-8’ x 4-6’), deciduous with early clusters of pink flowers, a slightly vase-shaped habit, and more drought-tolerant than most species.
  • sanguineum var. glutinosum, pink-flowering currant (5-12’ x 5-12’), deciduous with maple-like leaves, a vase-shaped habit, and long pendulous clusters of pink, reddish, or white flowers in the spring; many available cultivars such as ‘Claremont’, ‘Tranquillon Ridge’, and ‘White Icicle’.
  • speciosum, fuchsia-flowered gooseberry (4-8’ x 6-10’), deciduous with spiny, arching stems and bright red fuchsia-like flowers along the stems in the spring that are attractive to hummingbirds.
  • viburnifolium, evergreen currant or Catalina perfume (2-4’ x 5-7’), evergreen groundcover that works well under oaks and can provide erosion control to slopes.
  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial ShadeShade
  • 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

Verbena spp


Fast-growing perennials that thrive in hot locations and produce clusters of small, showy flowers in summer.


  • V. bonariensis (3-6’ x 2-3’) is an upright perennial from South America with long, airy flower stalks. Reseeds readily and should not be planted near riparian areas where it can be invasive.
  • Garden verbena (V. x hybrida, 6-12” x 2-3’) is a popular and showy groundcover available in many colors.
  • Cedros Island verbena (V. lilacina ‘De La Mina’, 1-2’ x 2-3’) from the Cedros Island off the coast of Baja California is a popular native for its deep purple flower color and uniform growth habit.
  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained

California poppy – Eschscholzia californica (they spread their joyful splashes of color where many things fail, come back and spread)

‘Liz’s Choice’ California Fuschia – Epilobium canum ‘Liz’s Choice’ (bloom when most are gone, spread prolifically, and hummingbirds love them)

Bunchleaf Penstemon – Penstemon heterophylus – Margarita BOP (loved by insects, spreads to become a mass of purple flowers)

‘Allen Chickering’ Sage – Salvia clevelandii ‘Allen Chickering’ (they’re SO fragrant, hummingbirds love the flowers, and many birds love the seeds and the cover they provide year-round)

Woodland strawberry – Fragaria vesca ‘Montana de Oro’  (prolific, easy ground cover in the most difficult areas – arid or wet, under oaks in nearly complete shade, sweet little berries)

Pink-flowering Currant – Ribes sanguineum ‘Claremont’ (they start the flowering season and feed hummingbirds and insects when almost nothing else is blooming, they grow in difficult areas, under oaks and doug firs and in shade; need some summer/fall water)

Favorite Garden Suppliers

Harmony Farm Supply

3244 Gravenstein Highway North Sebastopol

Recommended Resources

California Native Plants for the Garden by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O'Brien

Somehow so comprehensive (>500 plants) and yet so easy and quick to use! Beautiful and useful photos (showing setting as well as close-ups of flora), simply indexed with summaries of type, zone, light, soil, water and habitat.