Lemons and Lavender Homestead


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


Edible Garden


California Natives


Drip Irrigation


Pesticide Free


Rainwater Harvesting System


Reclaimed/Recycled Materials


Lawn-Free Landscaping


Urban Homestead


Wildlife Habitat

Partner: North Marin Water District

I have a small suburban homestead in Novato.

My garden demonstrates many permaculture techniques, which is a sustainable system of gardening, and provides food, beauty, and entertaining space for my family. I cook a meal for the four of us almost every day, and it’s safe to say that nearly every meal I make uses at least one ingredient from my garden, whether it is something freshly harvested, something I have harvested in the past and preserved, or an herb from my culinary & medicinal herbal plant collection. Most of my garden has been made using reclaimed materials, and it is always a work in progress!

About the Garden:

Many people think that growing food takes a lot of water, but with the right techniques this isn’t necessarily true. A few of the things I do that help keep my water usage lower are building up healthy organic soil that holds moisture, mulching thickly, shaping the land to collect rainwater during our wet season, and relying heavily on perennial food plants.

A Wild Looking Landscape:

When seeing my garden for the first time, people often remark on how “wild” it seems for a food garden. There are no neat and tidy rows anywhere! I plant a lot of reseeding annuals, and I sometimes let the plants come up themselves and grow wherever they are happiest. I find that plants that have chosen their own location grow best, sometimes without any fussing or care at all. Plants like California poppy, nasturtium, borage, cerinthe (honeywort) and feverfew are a few plants that will fill in wherever I don’t have anything planted.

My garden is also home to many pollinator-friendly, drought tolerant and native California plants. Many California native plants can provide food and medicine, like the Elderberry tree and the herb Yerba Buena. The wildlife that these native plants support also helps to keep my food plants healthy and productive. It makes me happy to know that my garden is a home not only for my family, but also for many other families of wild creatures.

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

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
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Gray GreenGreen
  • Flower Color: PinkRedYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

Favorite Plants


Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’

Bee’s Bliss native sage is a fantastic, low maintenance ground cover.  It has beautiful, silvery leaves, and spreads low and wide, suppressing weeds and helping to keep moisture in the soil.  Perfect for sunny slopes. In the spring, showy purple flower spikes attract pollinators, giving this native sage its name.


Salvia greggii

Pollinator friendly and comes in lots of bright colors.


Clinopodium douglasii

A wonderful groundcover for shady areas.


Passiflora incarnata

Unusual & beautiful, a host plant for Gulf Fritillary butterflies.


Santa Rosa Plum

So, even though this tree is not a California native plant in the traditional sense, it is a fruit tree that was developed by Luther Burbank specifically for our Sonoma/Marin climate.  It is very easy to grow, self-pollinates (so you only need one tree to get fruit), and produces heavy yields of deliciously sweet purple plums. It is a perfect choice for someone wanting to start growing fruit at home.  One of my favorite home orchard varieties!

Favorite Garden Suppliers

Harmony Farm Supply

3244 Gravenstein Highway North Sebastopol

Cottage Gardens

3995 Emerald Drive Petaluma

Recommended Resources

Gardening Tips


Start with the Soil!

Add organic matter & mulch thickly to keep nutrients and water cycling through your landscape.