Do You Have a Garden Theme?

Gardener’s Corner | Questions and Answers with Local Experts 

By Dan Songster, 2013 January

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. This Issue’s question was “What is the dominant style or theme of the native garden you have installed (or are planning to install) to replace your lawn?

Celia Kutcher – “My garden is based on southern OC coastal CSS natives, includes a few elements from SoCal’s offshore islands & southerly San Diego county, all in an informal, naturalistic layout. In large containers, a more eclectic selection includes summer-flowering species from Baja and Sonora.”

Rama Nayeri – “I recently did a design in Laguna Beach that was a combination of natives and edibles. That is the style that I am currently intrigued by. I love using natives but also enjoy the idea that you can feast from your own garden.”

Ron Vanderhoff – “Theme? I always have great intentions, but the theme usually evolves to ‘Whatever catches my eye – that the cats won’t kill – that is cheap – that is rare – that is ultra-low maintenance – that is cool.’ Every once in a while one or two of those criteria intersect.”

Laura Camp – “I have a mostly Baja plants garden in my front yard, and a local natives/Ortega Highway plants garden in my side yard and back yard. I also have quite a few plants, especially manzanitas, that come from other parts of the state.”

Alison Shilling – “My theme is Eclectic collector’s. I ripped up the lawn in September of 2008, went to a local native nursery, and bought 1 to 3 of each of my favorites. My ‘design’ consisted of planting tall ones at the back, small at the front, and shade lovers under the eaves. Whenever I find myself at a plant sale, I have to buy at least one and find a place for it!”

Bob Allen – “My soil in Mission Viejo is 100% sand with no NPK and no organics! I’ve learned that plants from the Channel Islands do best.”

Sarah Sarkissian – “Front yard mostly local natives with some Mediterranean while the back yard is mostly local natives, with edibles in different zones.”

Stephanie Pachecho – “My dominant style is to combine a wildlife habitat with natives, plus a “transition” garden with fruits, vegetables, and rain barrels.”

Charles Wright – “Our tiny townhouse garden in Irvine has a cottage garden theme for my wife, roses being the main feature. To this are added water source for birds, bougainvillea for cover, and California natives that fit in: blue-eyed grass, maidenhair fern, Cleveland sage for pollinators, coral bells, and ribes and more to come to attract hummers and butterflies. Our mountain home is almost all native appropriate for a high desert environment with herbs and a few other plants for color. I’ve had best luck nurturing what is there.”

Mark Sugars – “Local Habitat is the dominant theme of my front yard; therefore, the plants are those of Irvine’s Coastal Sage Scrub community, and all are the wild variety thereof: Rhus integrifolia, Salvia apianaSalvia melliferaBaccharis pilularis, Artemisia californica, Eriogonum fasciculatum and Encelia californica, with Rosa californica representing the former natural wetlands near my home—one does what one can.”

Thea Gavin – “My back yard is eclectic, full of lovely locals (buckwheat, needlegrass, coyote brush, sagebrush) mixed with some desert beauties (desert willow, desert lavender, big basin sage). Then it rains. Then the wildflowers pop. All the time, the vegetable garden welcomes the pollinators, birds and lizards who make their homes in the native plants.”

Trude Hurd – “The theme for our curbside is Short Perennial Natives. I wanted southern California native plants that were no more than 1-3 feet high so they didn’t block the view of the house, leafy all year, a variety of flower colors, enduring full sun and low water. So I planted Seaside Daisy, Blue-eyed Grass, Yarrow, Sundrops, and Desert Penstommen with two species of Dudleya at both ends. It took us 2.5 months and 23 saw blades to remove all the liquid amber tree roots (many as big as my arm and thigh) plus the entire Thanksgiving week vacation to break up the hardened clay and gravel layer. Neighbors noticed our hard work, and I hope next year they will see how attractive CA natives are and consider them for their own yards since too many are “planting” concrete or gravel. I want to educate them in addition to having something nice for wildlife and myself!”

Dan Songster – “When I finally remove my dying olive tree and launch into my front yard landscape, I plan a blend of coastal sage scrub and chaparral in the front half of the yard and mostly oak woodland plants in what will become the courtyard. Of course, there will be the inevitable addition of odd plants from my travels or plant gifts that I cannot resist. Oh, and native bulbs!”

Sarah Jayne – “The inspiration for my garden came from many walks in the backcountry of Crystal Cove State Park. I wanted all the scents and textures in my own back yard. Now I have a sixty-foot sycamore so anything that required full sun is gone. But the sycamore provides shade in the summer and bare branches in the winter. I still love it, fallen leaves and all.”


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