Go-To Landscaping Plants

Gardener’s Corner | Questions and Answers with Local Experts 

By Dan Songster, 2017 May

This column is a regular newsletter feature offering chapter members and local experts a chance to briefly share information on many things related to gardening with natives. The question for this newsletter is: “What are your three ‘Go-To’ native plants when designing or renovating your garden?”

Leon Baginski – “Malosma laurinaRhus integrefoliaRhamnus cultivars. Rhus is very drought friendly, Rhamnus grows fast and takes well to pruning and Malosma has interesting fragrance and when in bloom attracts multitudes of pollinators. Can’t go wrong with these three but Catalina Cherry is also so easy.”

Susan Krzywicki – “St. Catherine’s Lace (Eriogonum giganteum), Coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis ‘Pigeon Point’) for slopes and “wall-to-wall shag carpeting”, Verbena lilacina ‘De la Mina’ for color.”

Laura Camp – “Buckwheat, Manzanita, and Dudleyas.”

Rama Nayeri – “My 3 ‘go to’ native plants that I have had lots of success with over the past year are Cleveland Sage, Catalina Silverlace, and Seaside Daisy.”

Greg Rubin – “Although I use hundreds of different species, selections, and cultivars, if I had to narrow it down to just a few plants that occur in almost all of my gardens, I would say Salvia ‘Pozo Blue’, Arctostaphylos ‘John Dourley’, and Baccharis ‘Pigeon Point’ are three of the most common. But I am also trying to call attention to a few native plants that are fantastic performers but are little used, such as Forestiere neomexicana (pubescens)  –  Desert olive; Ceanothus ‘Heart’s Desire’  –  groundcover wild lilac; Constancea nevinii  –  Catalina silver lace; and Tetraneuris acaulis – Angelita daisy.”

Mary Arambula – “Just three? Sages (Cleveland and black), buckwheats (giant and “California”), Epilobium canum (spreads underground, handles neglect well, long bloom season), toyon, and Muhlenbergeria rigens…. Sorry, couldn’t limit the list to 3 plants! Can you tell that I want to water only once a month in the summer?”

Sima Bernstein – “Manzanita, I’ll take any or all of them. Love the Big Berry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca).”

Chuck Wright – “We live in a coastal sage scrub area and the 2 main plants of that community are California sage and buckwheat. Buckwheat is such an important nectar source and larval food plant. Now I don’t know what is important about sage other than as cowboy cologne. Hmmm.”

Jutta Burger – “Eriogonum fasciculatum (California buckwheat) because it is hardy, attractive and important to bees and butterflies; Solidago velutina (California goldenrod) because it too is hardy and attractive in the summer, and Dudleya (live forever) – pick your species – because everyone needs a Dudleya in their yard!”

Thea Gavin – “I am a huge fan of buckwheats; they are green (or silver, in the case of Eriogonum crocatum) year-round, and have gobs of flowers that native insects go ga-ga over. ‘Dana Point’ is such a nice tidy mound (give it a 4-5′ wide spot), compared to its more “wild” relatives (straight Eriogonum fasciculatum) that create interesting sprawly thickets. E. fasciculatum takes pruning/shearing very well, though, and in one place in my yard it’s become a six-foot-high ‘wall.’”

Rob Moore – “My go-to’s are Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’ – perfect aesthetic, adaptable, just the right size for any yard; nectar attracts insects for birds late winter; and again with berries in the fall. Then, Artemisia ‘Montara’, compact, adaptable, looks great year-round, aromatic, no maintenance required. And finally, Eriogonum fasciculatum, California Buckwheat – a local favorite, tons of long-lasting flowers, fast growth and a very important butterfly plant. A good reminder that all our Buckwheat species are pillars within their respective plant communities!

John Gossett – “My first choice is Sphaeralcea ambigua – it comes in apricot, pink and lavender. A medium-sized, open bush with an upside-down chandelier shape and waving branches, it survives complete drought or light watering. All the California Artemisias work very well, but the lacy A. pycnocephala ‘David’s Choice’ is low to the ground, and glitters from a thousand points after a light rain. There is a Ceanothus shaped for every landscaping need. Their evergreen ever-clean foliage provides a foil for the gray-green and soft silver foliage of other drought-tolerant natives.

Dan Songster – “Buckwheats and sages are good in any garden and grow to various sizes depending on the species chosen, have great habitat value, plenty of spring blooms, grow in most soils, and can be planted in “off” seasons. Throw in some summer/fall bloomers like California fuchsia down low and a desert willow for a small tree and you are halfway there. Oh, and if you are not worried about the sharp tips, Hesperoyucca whipplei for the great accent it is while you wait about four years for the most brilliant of flower stalks!”


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