Purple Victorian Pollinator Paradise


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


California Natives


Pesticide Free


Sheet Mulching


Lawn Conversion


Lawn-Free Landscaping


Permeable Surfaces


Wildlife Habitat


Pollinator Plants

Partner: City of Petaluma

After moving to Petaluma in 2020, and completing some major renovations on our 1906 home that forestalled any planting, I was finally able to design and install a California native pollinator garden in our front yard in Spring 2023. During renovations, we let the front lawn die, and I dug up and removed any persistent grasses. Permeable gravel pathways bisecting the garden were added and the heavy compacted clay soil was amended with green (no manure) compost. Prior to planting, modified sheet mulching was done to help block weed growth. In just the first six months, the many flowering plants attract numerous butterflies and a variety of bee species, as well as lizards that shelter in the low retaining wall. A small recirculating fountain brings in bird visitors.

Heavily influenced by author Doug Tallamy and the urgent need to provide a garden that supports life, the plants chosen are almost entirely California native species. The many blooming perennials, shrubs and annuals provide color, texture, fragrance and flowers for cutting over a long bloom season, as well as pollen and seeds for birds, insects and wildlife. All plants were planted from 4” and 1 gallon size pots – you’ll be able to see how bountiful and colorful a native garden can be in just one year!

Plants in this Garden

Plant Picker
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
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

Erigeron spp

Beach Aster, Seaside Daisy

Group of flowering annuals and perennials mostly native to North America. Two species are commonly grown in California gardens. Beach aster (E. glaucus, 12” x 18”) is native to coastal California and Oregon and has purple flowers with yellow centers from spring into summer. Santa Barbara daisy (E. karvinskianus, 10-18” x 2-3’) has white and pink flowers with yellow centers. This plant can self-sow aggressively but is easily pulled.

Examples: E. g. ‘Wayne Roderick’ has deep purple flowers. E. g. ‘White Lights’ is a white- flowering form from Sonoma County.

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

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

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

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

Verbena spp


Fast-growing perennials that thrive in hot locations and produce clusters of small, showy flowers in summer.


  • V. bonariensis (3-6’ x 2-3’) is an upright perennial from South America with long, airy flower stalks. Reseeds readily and should not be planted near riparian areas where it can be invasive.
  • Garden verbena (V. x hybrida, 6-12” x 2-3’) is a popular and showy groundcover available in many colors.
  • Cedros Island verbena (V. lilacina ‘De La Mina’, 1-2’ x 2-3’) from the Cedros Island off the coast of Baja California is a popular native for its deep purple flower color and uniform growth habit.
  • Water: Very LowLow
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained

Favorite Plants


Margarita Bop Penstemon

Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita BOP’


De La Mina Verbena

Verbena lilacina ‘De La Mina’


Bountiful Seaside Daisy

Erigeron glaucus ‘Bountiful’


Mound San Bruno California Coffeeberry

Frangula californica ‘Mound San Bruno’


Russian River Coyote Mint

Monardella villosa ‘Russian River’

Favorite Garden Suppliers

Cal Flora Nursery

2990 Somers Street Fulton

Recommended Resources

Nature's Best Hope

Written by Doug Tallamy

California Native Plants for the Garden

Written by Bornstein, Cross & O’Brien

California Native Gardening: A Month-By-Month Guide by Helen Popper

Written by Helen Popper


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.

Gardening Tips


What you plant matters.

For a garden that is nurtures life, plant California natives that support birds, bees, butterflies and other creatures.


Preparation is key.

Get to know your garden (sun/shade, soil, drainage, etc.), improve the soil if needed, sheet mulch to minimize weeding, and plan before you plant.  Until you’re ready to plant, you can grow many California natives in containers.


Embrace imperfection.

Plants don’t always behave as described. Plan to leave at least enough space for their full mature size and width.