Riparian Woodland Meadow


Garden Features


Edible Garden


California Natives


Deer Resistant


Drip Irrigation


Pesticide Free


Rainwater Harvesting System


Rain Garden


Reclaimed/Recycled Materials


Smart Irrigation Controller


Lawn Conversion


Lawn-Free Landscaping


Permeable Surfaces


Wildlife Habitat

Partner: Santa Rosa Water

In October of 2022 we moved from a townhouse with a small garden on two sides to a home in Rincon Valley with 1/2 acre of land. A huge change for us! The house sits exactly in the middle of a deep lot. We were somewhat daunted by the size and condition of the garden but knew that we wanted to do what we could do to help it return to health.

We decided to start with the front area, for our own pleasure, but also as an offering to our new community. Because we knew we needed professional help for a project of this scale, we contracted with a landscape architect and hired a professional landscaper.

There were many delays, but finally, by the very end of June, the front garden was planted with over 400 native plants and had a beautiful dry creek bioswale to help keep rain water on the property. The house faces a small open space preserve running along Austin Creek. As soon as the plants were in, our land and the native space across the way joined visually, becoming one, large, beautiful sweep of land. Very satisfying!

This garden is not fenced in and we were terrified that we would wake up the first morning after planting and see that deer had munched our baby plants. They did not, and have not, to date. We did plant “deer resistant” plants. Also, fortunately, this year has been wet enough that it seems the deer have not needed to come down this far from the hills for food. Hopefully by the time they do, our plants well be well enough established that they can withstand some chomping.

As much as possible we repurposed materials that were already here. The entire bioswale is filled with rocks that were on site when we arrived. In the garden I chop and drop, leaving the cut material as mulch for the plants.

The garden is ALIVE! It is really cool to see little birds hopping up to snatch a bit of seed from the grasses for breakfast. The Verbena De La Mina hums with bees and butterflies abound. The hummingbirds cannot stay away from the scarlet, native fuchsia.

In addition to the native garden, we have solar panels, a battery backup for them, and an electric car. We have replaced the old heating system with mini splits, which are much more energy efficient than the tired central heating that was here. Our south facing, double front doors had been painted black, we changed them to red, which has greatly reduced the heat they collect in the summer. 

Plants in this Garden

Chitalpa tashkentensis


Fast-growing, medium-sized, deciduous tree with clusters of showy trumpet-shaped flowers from late spring to fall. Chitalpa is a sterile hybrid between Catalpa bignonioides, common catalpa, and Chilopsis linearis, desert willow. It combines the larger flowers of the former and the drought-tolerance of the latter. Since the flowers are sterile, they do not form seed pods or fruit. There are two popular cultivars, ‘Pink Dawn’ with lavender-pink flowers and ‘Morning Cloud’ with white flowers.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Leaf Color: GreenWhite

Clematis lasiantha

Pipestem Clematis

The deciduous pipestem clematis is native to dry foothills of California and Baja California and is one of the few flowering vines that requires little-to-no supplemental water. Pipestem clematis produces an abundance of 1-inch, creamy white flowers in spring that develop into attractive, fluffy seed heads. Allow to grow through shrubs or trees or train on a pergola, archway, or fence.

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

Zauschneria [Epilobium] spp

California Fuchsia

Group of highly variable, semi-evergreen subshrubs and herbaceous perennials distributed over a wide geographic area, including California. Epilobiums bloom in late summer with tubular flowers providing a food source for hummingbirds migrating south and are also attractive to bees and butterflies. Epilobiums range from low-growing groundcovers to upright plants of several feet. Flower colors include orange-red, white, pink, and salmon. Most can be pruned back in late autumn to maintain a more compact form and be rejuvenated for the following year.

Low-growing examples: E. ‘Schieffelin’s Choice’; E. canum ‘Calistoga’, a selection from Phil Van Soelen from California Flora Nursery from the Palisades east of Calistoga; E. canum ‘Cloverdale’, a selection from U.C. Santa Cruz Arboretum from along the Russian River north of Cloverdale with exceptionally orange flowers; E. c. ‘Everett’s Choice’, E. c. ‘Summer Snow’ with white flowers, and E. septentrionale ‘Select Mattole’, a somewhat redder flowering selection that is more shade-tolerant.

Upright examples: E. c. ‘Bowman’s Hybrid’ (2-3’), E. c. ‘Catalina’ (3-4’), E. c. ‘Liz’s Choice’ (3’) selected by Milo Baker Chapter CNPS Fellow Liz Parsons, E. c. ‘Marin Pink’ (2’) with pink flowers.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Gray GreenGreen
  • Flower Color: OrangePinkRedWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): Fall

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

Iris douglasiana & cvs

Douglas Iris, Pacific Coast Hybrids

Iris are a large and diverse group of perennials that grow from either bulbs or rhizomes. The California native Douglas iris and cultivars known as Pacific Coast Hybrids are an excellent choice for summer-dry gardens and understory plantings. Fall rain brings new growth in the form of thin, upright leaves, followed in late winter to early spring by the first blossoms. Douglas iris commonly ranges in color from lavender to purple, but cultivars are available in a range of colors including white and yellow. Established plantings can be lifted and divided after the first significant fall rain and either replanted or put into containers to share with others.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Partial ShadeShade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: LavenderPurpleVioletYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): Spring

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

Quercus lobata

Valley Oak

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