Sonoma County Garden


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


Edible Garden


California Natives


Deer Resistant


Drip Irrigation


Pesticide Free


Sheet Mulching


Smart Irrigation Controller


Lawn-Free Landscaping


Permeable Surfaces


Wildlife Habitat

Partner: Santa Rosa Water

Perched amidst the breathtaking vistas of Northern California, this hillside country garden epitomizes serenity and sophistication. Designed to harmonize with the natural landscape, our vision was to craft a contemporary, informal sanctuary that seamlessly blends with the rugged terrain and celebrates its inherent beauty.

Drawing inspiration from the rugged boulder formations, silhouetted native oaks, and wild meadow grasslands that grace the site, our design sought to honor and enhance these natural elements. Despite the challenging topography, we embarked on a phased approach to garden development, allowing the landscape to evolve organically over time.

In selecting plantings, we embraced a Mediterranean palette, carefully curating native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and exotic species from Africa and Australia that could thrive in these rugged conditions. By integrating these diverse elements, we aimed to create a cohesive tapestry that seamlessly melds with the natural diversity of the surroundings.

The result is a garden that pulsates with life, its ever-changing tapestry of textures and colors mirroring the shifting seasons and infusing the landscape with a sense of dynamism. From the tranquil seating areas that beckon relaxation to the meandering pathways that invite exploration, every element of the garden is designed to foster a deep connection with nature and evoke a profound sense of tranquility and wonder.

Plants in this Garden

Plant Picker

Aesculus californica

California Buckeye

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
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

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

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

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

Favorite Plants


Coulter's Matilja Poppy

Romneya coulteri





Penstemon varieties



California Poppy

Eschscholzia californica


California Lilac


Favorite Garden Suppliers

Emerisa Gardens

555 Irwin Lane Santa Rosa

Devil Mountain Wholesale Nursery

499 Pepper Road Petaluma

Urban Tree Farm

3010 Fulton Road Fulton

Cottage Gardens of Petaluma

3995 Emerald Drive Petaluma

Annie's Annuals

740 Market Avenue Richmond

Recommended Resources

Planting the Natural Garden and Planting: A New Perspective

Written by Piet Oudolf

The American Meadow Garden

Written by John Greenlee

What Makes a Garden

Written by Jinny Blom

The Life and Lessons of a legendary Gardener

Written by Rosemary Verey

California Native Plants for the Garden

Written by Carol Bornstein

Ground Studio Landscapes

Written by Bernard Trainor

A Well Tempered Garden

Written by Christopher Lloyd