Beyond Xeriscaping
Embracing the California Native Garden

Photo credit: Don Graham
Sunnylands Cactus Garden    Photo credit: Don Graham

There’s a garden look that we all know and love, imported from England, replicated on the East coast. Lush, flowery, verdant and full of variety, there’s also a version of it to be found in the Mid-west, and the West Coast is not exempt. The very idea of a garden is planted in our minds, and we keep recreating it. Here’s the problem: the drought is here to stay, and we need to quit striving for a look that’s been rendered unreasonable by water restrictions. We’re Californians. We’re innovators by nature. Don’t we embody the adventurous American spirit? If so, it’s time for us to recognize that recreating English gardens or even “improving” upon them to save water isn’t the same as developing our own ideas for drought-proof gardens.

What if we clear the slate—as much as that’s possible—and start over? We’ll reconsider our land, our plant palettes, our lifestyles and our preferences, and come up with a hole new ideal for the California garden. The goal will be to create beautiful, functional gardens that are in conversation with our reality, and not an English notion of what a garden should be.

California native plants are those that existed here before European settlers arrived in the late 1700s, and these have always been and will always be the best choices for our gardens. We shouldn’t venture outside the native circle, because one day soon our irrigation systems will have to be turned off, and then we’ll be forced to make a change anyway. Why not cut the cord now and go back to our roots? If you’re on the cusp of making yourself a new garden, this bud’s for you. It’s a Monkeyflower. It’s pink, it’s pretty, and it’s native.

Photo credit: Sharin (hit_the_snow)
Monkey Flower    Photo credit: Sharin

There are plenty of shrubs that can be used to delineate garden rooms: Mountain Lilac, Sugarbush, Toyon, certain Sages, Silk Tassel Bush and many more. For specimen plantings, there are desert plants like Cacti, Agaves, Joshua trees, and California Fan Palms.

Photo credit: Pierre Andrews
Mountain Lilac    Photo credit: Pierre Andrews
Toyon blooms Photo credit:
Toyon blooms    Photo credit: Ron Kraus
Cedar Waxwing enjoying Toyon fruit
Cedar Waxwing enjoying Toyon fruit    Photo credit: Ken Pitts

Don’t forget to check out native flowering annuals, perennials and flowering shrubs: wildflowers, Pacific Coast Iris hybrids, and Matilija poppy for sun; and an equally compelling collection for shade. This is just the beginning. Explore the plants that live here happily without irrigation.

Pacific Coast Hybrid Iris Photo credit: Don Rusk
Pacific Coast Hybrid Iris    Photo credit: John Rusk
Matilija Poppy Photo credit:
Matilija Poppy Photo credit: Oranjepiet
California native wildflowers Photo credit: Rob Pearce
California native wildflowers Photo credit: Rob Pearce

Click HERE for a list of California natives
Click HERE for a smart article on irrigation
Click HERE to get your head around irrigation requirements of common garden plants

Thanks for reading!

Sneak peak into our next blog post…

Dining Outdoors: How the Garden Brings People Together Guest Post by Megan Padilla, former Lifestyle Editor of Garden Design Magazine

05 photo_Megan Padilla

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