Planting for the Future


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


Edible Garden


California Natives


Deer Resistant


Drip Irrigation


Pesticide Free


Rainwater Harvesting System


Reclaimed/Recycled Materials


Sheet Mulching


Smart Irrigation Controller


Lawn-Free Landscaping


Permeable Surfaces


Wildlife Habitat


Monarch Waystation


NWF Wildlife Habitat

Garden Development

We purchased our property in Fall of 2021 and began an immediate garden overhaul. 

Our prime motivations centered around doing our tiny part to address the biodiversity and climate crises. Our goal has been to transform the landscape into our personal produce aisle as well as providing food, water, and shelter for wildlife to thrive and raise young.  We aimed to accomplish this without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, using smart and efficient irrigation and with a focus on native drought-tolerant plant/tree species.  The first step was to use all our moving boxes to sheet mulch the front yard, which was taken over by invasive non-native weeds.  Next, we removed diseased/stunted fruit trees and used the logs and chipped branches for mulch and garden borders.  We improved permeability by removing concrete, unearthing discarded pavers and applying compost, mulch, and crushed stone.  We established our vermiculture and traditional compost systems and imported additional compost to give our soil a much-needed boost.  Finally, we hired the amazing Dan Dufficy at California Native Landscapes to design a pollinator-positive and biodiverse garden that could feed us as well as the local wildlife.

Garden Features

Over the past few years, we’ve added numerous native plant and tree species, including hosts to beneficial insects and food for pollinators, which deliver tremendous pest management and pollination benefits to our 12 fruit trees and variety of annual and perennial vegetable and berry plants and shrubs.  Our front yard pathway and our backyard raised beds were designed and installed by CNL.  They incorporated locally sourced materials and salvaged pavers.  Our efforts to attract wildlife to our property have been hugely successful, and we document observations on the i-Naturalist app.  We have Bewick’s Wrens, Western Blue Birds, Eastern Gray Squirrels and bats, who are raising young in a collection of bird houses and a bat house.  We also built a chicken coop and keep two beehives in the backyard.  To further support biodiversity and positively influence neighbors, we certified our house as a monarch waystation and NWF wildlife habitat and joined the CA Native Plant Society, all of which is on display via front fence signage.

Water Use

For our CA native plantings, we strictly keep to watering deeply once per week in the summer and reduce in the cooler months for the first two years until established, with the goal of not having to apply any water to our CA natives once established.  Some of our particularly drought tolerant species already do not receive any supplemental water.  To strategically apply water during the rainy months, we installed two 205 gallon rain barrels and direct all rooftop stormwater to remain on the property.  We took advantage of Marin Water’s rebates for our Flume leak detection device and for the Rachio smart irrigation controller.  Our raised veggie beds and the recently planted natives along our front pathway are watered via drip lines, otherwise we water by hose.

Plants in this Garden

Muhlenbergia spp

Muhly Grass, Deer Grass

Large, showy, clumping, warm-season grasses native to the Southern United States, Mexico, and Central and South America. Can be grown in masses but require sufficient space for the mature size and form to develop. Arching plumes of flowers on long stalks provide significant ornamental value to these low-maintenance and drought-tolerant grasses.

Examples:  Pink muhly (M. capillaris, 2-3′ x 2-3’) with feathery pink flowers; pine muhly (M. dubia, 2-3’ x 2-3’) with light purple flowers; Lindheimer muhly (M. lindheimeri, 3-5’ x 4-5’) with creamy yellow flowers that provide a pronounced display; and the California native deer grass (M. rigens, 3’ x 3-4’).

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: CreamPink
  • Blooming Season (s): SummerFall

Aristolochia californica

California Pipevine

Important northern California native habitat plant that is the sole larval food source for the pipevine swallowtail butterfly. This deciduous vine grows naturally along stream banks and in woodlands and performs well under native oaks. Dutchman’s pipevine is relatively slow-growing and takes a few years to establish. Pendulous pipe-shaped flowers bloom in early spring, followed by soft, bright green, heart-shaped leaves. Best grown as a groundcover to provide protection for pipevine swallowtail larvae but will also twine up other plants and structures. The real show comes in late spring as larvae feed on the plant and grow into spectacular horned, black caterpillars with red spots!

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Partial ShadeShade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Leaf Color: Green -Light
  • Flower Color: Pale Green
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringWinter

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

Festuca spp


Large group of mostly cool-season, perennial, bunching or spreading grasses. Bunch grass varieties can be used as a no-mow lawn replacement, help to stabilize slopes, and have ornamental value. Festuca californica (California fescue, 1-2’ wide x 2’) prefers part shade and works wonderfully massed under the dry shade of native oaks. Festuca glauca (blue fescue, 1’ x 1’) is a small, clumping grass with bluish gray-green leaves. Festuca idahoenis (Idaho fescue, 1-2’ wide x 1’) also has bluish gray-green leaves and is more drought-tolerant and longer lived than blue fescue. Festuca rubra (red fescue) grows from rhizomes and has long, fine-textured leaves that lay over to form a pleasing drift effect as a no-mow lawn.

  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Blue GreenGray GreenGreen
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

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

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

Rhamnus [Frangula] californica


Evergreen shrub that has insignificant flowers followed by black berries. Flowers are attractive to pollinators, especially bees, and berries provide a food source for birds. Cultivars commonly sold in nurseries have differing growth habits and are often smaller than the species which grows 5-18’ x 10-18’.

Examples: F. c. ‘Eve Case’ (6-8’ x 6-8’), R. c. ‘Leatherleaf’ (5-6’ x 5-6’), R. c. ‘Mound San Bruno’ (6-8’ x 6-8’) with a dense, mounding growth habit.

Note: California coffeeberry was formerly classified as Rhamnus californica and is now classified as Frangula californica.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer
  • Fruit Color: BlackRed

Favorite Garden Suppliers

CNL Native Plant Nursery

254 Shoreline Highway Mill Valley

Oaktown Natives

254 Shoreline Highway Mill Valley

Recommended Resources

Golden Gate Gardening

Written by Pam Peirce

Cal Academy of Science's

For help identifying the living things in your garden and contributing to citizen science I recommend downloading Cal Academy of Science’s app I-Naturalist.

Merlin Bird ID

For help identifying and tracking birds in your garden I recommend downloading the Merlin Bird ID and eBird apps.

Gardening Tips


Research indigenous peoples of your area.

I highly recommend researching the indigenous peoples of your local area to discover the numerous plants they used for food, medicine, clothing, tools and ceremony.