Matanzas Creek Natives


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


Edible Garden


California Natives


Deer Resistant


Drip Irrigation


Pesticide Free


Rainwater Harvesting System


Rain Garden


Reclaimed/Recycled Materials


Sheet Mulching


Lawn Conversion


Lawn-Free Landscaping


Wildlife Habitat

Partner: Santa Rosa Water

Nestled near Montgomery Village in Santa Rosa, our suburban abode boasts a modest yet inviting 1/3-acre plot that gently kisses the banks of Matanzas Creek. With over four decades of gardening experience under my belt, my journey has evolved from merely planting what pleases the eye to cultivating a thriving ecosystem that harmonizes with nature.

Recognizing the importance of water conservation, we’ve implemented various strategies to minimize our environmental footprint. From redirecting downspouts into a front yard swale to harvesting rainwater in blue barrels and IBCs in the backyard, every drop is cherished and repurposed to nurture our landscape.

In our quest for sustainability, we’ve replaced conventional lawns with lippia repens, providing a safe and inviting space for our granddaughter to frolic while embracing a lawn-free ethos. Embracing the vibrant hues of native flora, our garden serves as a haven for local wildlife, offering both beauty and functionality in equal measure.

While I’ve always had an eye for color, my focus has shifted towards creating habitats that cater to the needs of all creatures, great and small. With each season, our garden continues to evolve, a testament to our ongoing commitment to ecological stewardship.

Though the journey has been challenging at times, the rewards have been immeasurable. Today, our garden boasts a picturesque path along the creek’s edge, inviting visitors to stroll and linger amidst the tranquil beauty of nature. While gardening alongside a seasonal creek presents its own set of challenges, it also offers a profound sense of connection to the rhythms of the natural world.

As we continue to nurture our garden, it remains a labor of love—a testament to the transformative power of sustainable landscaping and the enduring beauty of native flora. And while our journey is far from over, we take solace in knowing that with each plant we tend and each creature we welcome, we’re contributing to a brighter, more vibrant future for generations to come.

We now have a path that allows you to walk along the creek edge and even sit for a while if you have time. I have included a photo of the creek when it is flooding to illustrate what a challenge it is to garden by a seasonal creek. It will be much gentler when you visit.

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

Mimulus aurantiacus and hybrids

Sticky Monkey Flower

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
Manzanita bush

Arctostaphylos spp & cvs

Manzanita, 'Dr. Hurd'

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

Eriogonum spp


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.


  • 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

Lupinus spp


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

Penstemon heterophyllus

Blue Foothill Penstemon, California Penstemon

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

Favorite Plants


Red-flowered Buckwheat

Eriogonum grande var. rubescens


Sonoma Coast Yarrow

Achillea millefolium ‘Sonoma Coast’


Concha Ceanothus

Ceanothus ‘Concha’


Silver Bush Lupine

Lupinus albifrons var. collinus


Siskiyou Oregon Sunshine

Eriophyllum lanatum ‘Siskiyou’

Favorite Garden Suppliers

Cal Flora

2990 Somers Street Fulton

Urban Tree Farm

3010 Fulton Road Fulton

Pricketts Nursery

5875 Sonoma Highway Santa Rosa

Recommended Resources

Designing California Native Gardens

Written by Keator and Middlebrook


Calscape offers a database of plants native to California, along with details on their characteristics and habitat requirements. Additionally, it aims to promote the use of native plants in landscaping to support biodiversity and to conserve water.

Nature's Best Hope

Written by Doug Tallamay

East Bay Native Garden Tours

A garden tour in the Bay Area.

Gardening Tips


Be kind to yourself.

if plants die or do unexpected things – nature is like that.


Take pictures of your garden.

So you can see how it grows and changes with the seasons.