New Oak Woodland

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Garden Features

1

Drought Tolerant

2

California Natives

3

Deer Resistant

4

Lawn-Free Landscaping

5

Wildlife Habitat

My wife and I built a house on a 2.2-acre grassy field in northwest Petaluma 23 years ago. I started planting trees, mainly native oaks, in the lower field, approximately 1.5 acres, away from the house. I now have about 14 20+-year old Quercus agrifolia and Quercus lobata. In addition, I planted 14 Sequoia sempervirons ( clearly a mistake), two Arbutus menziesii, and a number of non-natives, including some Plantanus acerfolia (Bloodgood London Plane), some Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweetgum), a Quercus coccinea, and some Acer rubrum ( scarlet maple), and others, in the same time frame. Over the years I’ve gradually added more trees, mostly native oaks. More recently I’ve been attempting to create a more diverse habitat in this “oak woodland” and have tried a variety of drought-tolerant native shrubs. Some have done well and others haven’t. I currently have a scattering of about 50 shrubs, most relatively young. I find this to be a hostile environment for new plantings, mainly because any attempt to water new plantings invites vicious attacks by gophers who prevent any roots from growing outside the gopher basket! Other stressors include hotter than usual summers, drier than usual ground, strong winds coming through the Petaluma gap, and nutrient-poor sandy loam soil. I find that the heartiest plants in these circumstances are a variety of manzanitas and ceanothuses.


I initially installed a drip irrigation system but found that it was impossible to continually trouble-shoot such a large system for damage caused by gophers. That system is now decommissioned. I currently hand-water new plantings every one to two weeks in the summer.

A variety of wildlife are utilizing this property, including a bare minimum of 33 species of birds, as well as deer, badgers, racoons, opossums, skunks, foxes, coyotes, gopher snakes, king snakes, one rubber boa, and a few amphibians. I’m constantly trying to attract more!

Plants in this Garden

Aesculus californica

California Buckeye
Organization

Large, multi-trunked shrub or small tree. Silvery gray bark with green leaves and clusters of fragrant white flowers. Summer deciduous, defoliating in early July and growing during wet winter and spring months. Only buckeye native to California, small trees are found in Southern regions while large shrubs are found in Northern regions.

  • Water: Very Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: White
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerWinter
  • Bark Color: Gray

Arbutus spp & hybrids

Arbutus, Strawberry Tree
Organization

Group of evergreen trees and large shrubs with attractive foliage and bark, small urn-shaped flowers, and reddish fruit. Prefer sunny locations and well-drained soil. A. ‘Marina’ (20-30’ – 15-30’) and A. unedo (strawberry tree, 15-30’ x 15-30’) are most commonly planted in California landscapes, either as multi-stemmed or single-stemmed, large shrubs or trees. While the two trees are similar in appearance, A. ‘Marina’ has cinnamon-brown shedding bark, whereas the bark of A. unedo is more brown. A. menziesii (madrone, 20-100’) is native to the west coast of North America, including the foothills of Sonoma and Marin counties. A. menziesii is less common in landscapes as it is notoriously difficult to establish.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: GreenGreen - Dark
  • Flower Color: White
  • Blooming Season (s): FallWinter
  • Fruit Color: OrangeRed
  • Bark Color: Cinnamon-Brown

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

Ceanothus spp & cvs

Ceanothus, California lilac, 'Ray Hartman'
Organization

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
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: GreenGreen - Dark
  • Flower Color: BlueWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

Quercus agrifolia

Coast Live Oak
Organization

Woody perennial, evergreen tree. Large, dense and broadly rounded with green, spiny margin leaves. Native along coast and coastal mountains from Northern California. One of the best local natives for large properties. Susceptible to Sudden Oak Death.

  • Water: Very Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark

Quercus lobata

Valley Oak
Organization

Woody perennial, deciduous tree. Fast growing and one of the best local natives for large properties. Dark green leaves and dark brown to pale gray, ridged bark. Not susceptible to Sudden Oak Death.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Blooming Season (s): All Year
  • Bark Color: BrownGray

Quercus douglasii

Blue Oak
Organization

Woody perennial, deciduous tree. Slow growing local native with blue tinted foliage. Native to dry, rocky slopes in foothills. Not susceptible to Sudden Oak Death.

  • Water: Very Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Leaf Color: Blue GreenGreen - Dark
  • Blooming Season (s): SummerFall

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Toyon
Organization

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
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: White
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFall
  • Fruit Color: Red

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