Totally Unexpected Food Forest


Garden Features


Drought Tolerant


Edible Garden


Graywater System


California Natives


Drip Irrigation


Pesticide Free


Rainwater Harvesting System


Rain Garden


Sheet Mulching


Smart Irrigation Controller


Lawn Conversion


Lawn-Free Landscaping


Living Roof/Wall


Permeable Surfaces


Urban Homestead

Partner: Santa Rosa Water

We purchased our home in Coffey Park in 2015, and at that time it had a swimming pool, palm trees, lawn, concrete patio and an outdoor kitchen.

We lost it all in the 2017 Tubbs Fire and chose to rebuild. We attended workshops sponsored by Santa Rosa Water and decided “responsible and sustainable” fit more with what we needed in our lives and in the life of the planet. While we waited for our plan to come to fruition we planted Yellow Mustard and Crimson Clover to help restore the soil.

We met Permaculture Artisans, our designer/builder, at the workshops and felt that PA would be able to guide us and fulfill our needs. Everything in our yard is food for something: birds, bees, butterflies, us, or the planet. We have rain gardens, rain capture in a 5000 gallon rain tank, laundry to landscape, greywater, native plantings, chickens, compost pile and worm farms.

We also included solar with battery backup, a recirculating hot water heater on a timer so we don’t heat water at night, and a whole house fan to reduce air conditioning use. And through it all we still line-dry our clothes and capture water from our kitchen sink in buckets.

In May of 2022 the City of Santa Rosa and Santa Rosa Water awarded our yard a Certificate of Achievement as our “conservation efforts are estimated to save over 32,500 gallons a year!”

We also have approximately 25 different kinds of fruit growing on bushes, vines and trees including four different kinds of Asian Pears on a multi-graft tree and four different kinds of Apples, also on a multi-graft. And, of course, there are raised beds for seasonal vegetables. All the fruits and vegetables are fed with worm-tea.

We have two rain gardens, one fills directly from a downspout from the roof and the other is overflow from our Rain Tank. Both are filled with native Coastal and Riparian plants including: Mugwort (Artemisia), Ithuriel Spear, Carex Pansa (Sedge), Foothill Angelica, California Bee Plant, Yerba Mansa, Monkey Flower, Cow Parsnip, California Buttercup.

We also have a pollinator garden with: Yarrow, pink and yellow, Mexican Marigolds, Buckwheat, Borage, Beach Fleabane Daisies, Milkweed – which sustains Monarch Butterflies.

We didn’t expect to lose it all and rebuild, so now we have the Totally Unexpected Food Forest (TUFF).

Special Events
Santa Rosa Water Table

Plants in this Garden

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’ (2’ 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 (8’ x 8’), 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

Agastache spp

Hyssop, Licorice Mint

Shrubby perennial in the mint family with aromatic gray-green leaves from southern Arizona and northern Mexico. Tubular orange and lavender flowers from midsummer to fall. Can be short-lived in clay soils.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Gray GreenGreen
  • Flower Color: LilacLavenderOrange
  • Blooming Season (s): Summer

Asclepias spp, CA native


Colony-forming, herbaceous perennials with several species providing important habitat and larval food sources for the monarch butterfly while attracting a diverse array of insects.

California milkweeds remain dormant during the colder months. Stems that emerge in April or May bear clusters of small, star-like flowers in summer followed by silky-tailed seeds that are dispersed by wind. A. fascicularis (narrow-leaved milkweed, 1-3’) is the preferred food source for monarch larvae. A. speciosa (showy milkweed, 2-4’) has larger, soft foliage, showier flower clusters, and is also a food source for monarch larvae. A. cordifolia (heart leaf milkweed, 1-2′) has heart-shaped leaves and is also a food source for monarch larvae.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: Pink
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

Achillea spp & cvs


Yarrows are variable low-growing, spreading herbaceous perennials with finely divided leaves that inhabit many temperate regions in the Northern Hemisphere. Flattish clusters of flowers form in spring and well into summer and provide an important nectar source for pollinators and insects. Yarrow can help to stabilize slopes and is a good addition to the upper level of rain gardens and swales. Colors include yellow, pink, and red.

California native spp & cvs: A. millefolium (common yarrow), A. m. ‘Calistoga’, A. m. ‘Island Pink’, A. m. ‘Sonoma Coast’, A. m. ‘Terracotta’.

Other yarrows: A. filipendulina (fern leaf yarrow), A. f. ‘Coronation Gold’, A. ‘Moonshine’, A. tomentosa (woolly yarrow).

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Most Soils
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Gray GreenGreen
  • Flower Color: PinkRedYellow
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummer

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

Favorite Plants






Milkweed (Asclepias)


California Buttercup


Lthuriel's Spear

Favorite Garden Suppliers

Harmony Farm Supply

3244 Gravenstein Highway North Sebastopol

Recommended Resources