San Anselmo Hillside Sanctuary


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


California Natives


Pesticide Free


Permeable Surfaces


Wildlife Habitat

A low-water garden, irrigated with drip irrigation with several succulents, CA natives, South African and Australian plants. The upper most patio with a curved seat wall looks out to one of the majestic live oaks and beyond into the distant hillside.

This vast hillside landscape in San Anselmo, Northern California, with dramatic hillside views, has evolved over the years and is the personal sanctuary of Landscape Designer Eileen Kelly, owner of Dig Your Garden Landscape Design. This sustainable garden also serves as Eileen’s “living laboratory” where she observes and learns from the habits and growth of her extensive selection of plants. They include hundreds of varieties of low-water, low maintenance and pollinator plants. Some appropriately nestled below the majestic oak trees, others that thrive in the sunny spots and others in shade. The plant palette ranges from California natives to plants from other Mediterranean regions such as South Africa and Australia, as well as an extensive  variety of succulents and a few exotics from Hawaii and other regions. ​ Several patios and sitting areas have been incorporated to enjoy the natural setting and the lovely views.

Design Elements

  • Stairways, pathways and patio areas throughout the landscape offer places to pause or linger to take in the natural surroundings and views both up close and in the distance.
  • Diverse plant varieties, including CA natives, succulents and plants from other Mediterranean regions offer an abundance of pollinator plants, biodiversity and ecosystem for the birds, the bees and the butterflies. Fire-wise plants and gravel mulch installed in areas closest to the home.​
  • Retaining walls constructed with Sonoma fieldstone, patios, decking and a variety of seating areas with bluestone and other natural materials.
  • ​Decomposed granite (DG) and flagstone incorporated in the pathways and patio areas.

Plants in this Garden

Lomandra longifolia

Mat Rush

Clumping, grass-like Australian evergreen perennial that grows 4-5’ tall and wide. Adapted to various soil and sun exposure conditions. Flowers in spring and into summer with fragrant clusters of smaller yellow flowers. L. l. ‘Breeze’ is a smaller cultivar that grows 2-3’.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
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
closup of pink grevillea flower

Grevillea spp


Group of flowering, evergreen shrubs and trees from Australia with many variations in growth habit and leaf shape. Red is the most common flower color, although some species flower in other colors.

Examples: G. ‘Canberra Gem’ (8-10’ x 10-12’) with needle-like leaves, G. ‘Noellii’ (3-4’ x 4-5’) also with needle-like leaves, woolly grevillea (G. lanigera, 3-6’ x 6-10’), the more prostrate C.I. ‘Coastal Gem’ (18” x 4-5’) and G. l. ‘Jade Mound’ (2’ x 4-5’), lavender grevillea (G. lavandulacea (2-5’ x 6-8’), and rosemary grevillea (G. rosmarinifolia, 6’ x 6’).

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

Agave spp


Large group of succulents that can provide a sculptural focal point. Mostly from warm, dry areas of the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central America. Well-adapted to California gardens, especially with well-drained soils.

Examples: A. americana, (century plant, 6’ x 10’), A. filifera (threadleaf agave, 2’ x 2’), A. parryi (artichoke agave, 3’ x 3’), A. shawii (Shaw’s agave, 2’ x 5’), A. weberi (5’ x 10’).

  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained

More About Favorite Plants:

  • Cuphea vermillionaire – Large Firecracker Plant (tough, low water, a hummingbird magnet)
  • Agave ‘Blue Glow’ – Blue Glow Agave (shown with other succulents)
  • Lomandra ‘Breeze’ – Dwarf Mat Rush (grass-like plant)
  • Ceanothus ‘Ray Hardman’ – California Lilac ‘Ray Hartman’
  • Grevillea lanigera ‘Mount Tamboritha – Wooly Grevillea

Recommended Resources

Dig Your Garden Landscape Design

Designing landscapes since 2005.

Gardening Tips


Learn About Plant Growth Habits, Site Needs And Spacing Before Planting.

Use site-appropriate plants that include CA Natives and those from other Mediterranean regions, similar to ours, that include plants from South Africa and Australia to provide a year-round abundance of pollinator plants that support the birds, bees and butterflies.


Don't Forget To Add A Water Source To Your Landscaping For The Birds, Bees And Butterflies!

For plants, use an efficient drip irrigation system to save water and I highly recommend using qualified/licensed landscape contractors and others for proper installation.  Mulch plants to conserve water further.


Be Fire-Minded.

Select plants that are less flammable close to your home. Succulents are a great choice.  Several years ago I planted one Aeonium succulent cutting and over the years they have multiplied through easy propagation, and I now have hundreds. These succulents thrive without much water in the summer and prefer a partly sunny area, and also thrive well in shade. Great under the canopy of oaks.