Several members of the CNPS’ Kern Chapter have converted their lawns to native plant gardens. They have a wealth of knowledge of what grows well in Kern County and how best to develop your own native garden.
Join us for a spring tour of native plant gardens in Bakersfield. Check the events page for date and time.
We also offer a discussion of gardening with natives at each of our monthly meetings from 6.00 to 7.00 pm.
For more information on gardening with natives, see the links below.
Visit the state CNPS website for amazing resources on starting and caring for your garden.
Find the perfect native plants for your garden in just 4 questions with our Calscape garden planner.
Loving the Low Maintenance Yard
by Monica Tudor
April 2, 2019
Little by little, home owners and businesses are discovering the benefits of drought tolerant native gardens. Here’s my story of how we changed our front yard to a beautiful low maintenance, drought tolerant, native garden, and are loving it.
I’ve wanted to ditch my lawn in favor of a native garden for several years, but had to get my husband, Ed, on board before embarking on such a dramatic change. We already had a nice “California Garden” in the back 50 feet of our yard, but otherwise our house looked like any other typical suburban home. The front yard was grass with flowerbeds along the edges, a few purple plum trees and some rose bushes. When we moved in we actually would put in seasonal annuals twice a year. And it looked wonderful! But after a few years of that, we decided to put in plants requiring less maintenance (and less expense). So we put lantana in the flowerbeds and set up a border of river cobbles along the house and around the trees. That looked great for a while, too. But we still had lots of maintenance: trimming the lantana, pruning the roses and the purple plum trees, putting in rye grass, mowing… you get the picture.
Periodically, I’d suggest converting the front yard, but my husband liked the traditional look. A few years ago during a visit to Palm Springs, he noticed the desert landscaping and started to appreciate its esthetics and water saving aspect. Then last year the California Native Plant Society had a garden tour and I convinced him to go with me. Even though our back yard was the first stop on the tour, it turned out that he was impressed with the front yards he saw that day. So the next time we talked about our front yard he said we could go Native!
We did our research. We visited the Friends of Mercy Foundation Walking Park at Mercy Southwest Hospital, designed by Monji and using only native plants. (If you have not visited the park, you should, it is a treasure.) We did drive-bys when we saw homes for sale featuring native or drought tolerant yards. We looked online and through magazines for inspiration.
Next came the time to draw out our design. Since I had my California garden already, I make a list of those native plants which I found to be easy to grow. I sent a picture of my front yard and my plant list to Bob Sussman, owner of Matilija Nursery in Moorpark. He gave me suggestions for a design/layout. I made a sketch and showed it to my husband. We negotiated a bit and I got what I wanted and he got what he wanted.
While we were doing our research, we had stopped watering the front yard. We were ready for action! Ed rented a turf cutter and he and our son cut the Bermuda grass into strips and loaded it into our neighbor’s trailer we had borrowed. I was worried about the Bermuda roots, they were still obviously there even after using the turf cutter. I started to dig them out but decided to rent a bobcat to move the dirt around faster and easier. That was fun but we really found ourselves over our heads. In the meantime, Ed had contacted Olga See from O See ‘Em Bloom. Olga was great! She looked at my plant layout/design and said it would work, then she looked at the heaps of dirt and rocks we had created and said she could make it work. Over a period of three days, her crew graded the yard and made low berms, cleared out the river cobbles and Bermuda roots, installed drip lines and an automatic irrigation timer, and placed rocks and boulders. Olga suggested better spacing for the plants and really gave a professional touch to the design. Wow. What a difference!
With April around the corner, we’ve noticed the plants have almost doubled in growth from their original one-gallon size. They are also beginning to bloom and will peak around mid to the end of April, with some blooms continuing throughout the rest of the year. Ed and I love to look out at the native plants. We will read the paper an watch the hummingbirds fly around. My favorite comment from him is, “I didn’t realize how much I enjoy not mowing the yard.”
Every spring the Kern Chapter of the California Native Plant Society hosts a garden . Most years our front yard is the first stop. If you would like to see our garden and other mature native plant gardens, send an email to email@example.com to get the addresses. We love to share our native plant gardens and look forward to seeing you there!