Naturalistic Gardens

Blooms, California Native Plants, Native Gardens, Naturalistic Gardens, Pollinators

Now Blooming in My Garden, San Jose, CA

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Above: California Wild Lilac and Santa Barbara Daisy, both low in water use.

Lupinus succulentus 'Rodeo Rose' California native hybrid

Lupinus succulentus ‘Rodeo Rose,’ a California Native Hybrid Lupine which self sows–even in gravel, this year also sowed itself in the container above–how convenient!


Rosmarinus officinalis, quite happily blooming in an 18″ container, beloved by bees and amazingly similar in bloom color and form to our California Native Wild Lilac above and below.

Above: A bee enjoys a potted California Wild Lilac before its friends arrive. California Wild Lilac is a favorite of local and European bees throughout California. It is evergreen and can be long-lived if it is not watered during the summer.

All this beauty and spring has just sprung! TTFN!



Landscape Design, Low Water Plants, Modern, Naturalistic Gardens

Lush and Low Water Modern Garden Design Hanchett Park

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Lush and Low Water Modern Garden Path Hanchett Park San Jose CA Dymondia Groundcover Olive Tree Lomandra longifolia 'Breeze'

This front garden was designed for a historical home located on a palm-lined street in the quaint neighborhood of Hanchett Park in San Jose, California. The fabulously flexible clients reduced their old lawn for a much smaller, low-water native sod lawn, and added low-water groundcovers, such as Ground Morning Glory (Convolvulus mauritanicus) and Silver Carpet (Dymondia margaretae), in addition to a water-wise no-fruiting olive tree as a focal point. The color palette selected leaned toward silver/blue/white to repeat the house colors.  The energetic homeowners did an amazing job installing this garden themselves, with the help of the owner’s brother.

Plant selections included in this garden are Lavandula intermedia ‘Provence,’ Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast,’ Rosa floribunda ‘Iceberg,’ and Salvia clevelandii ‘Alan Chickering,’ Achillea millefolium, Carex divulsa, and Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm).

An unusual selection unfortunately not pictured close up, but much beloved by the lady of the house, is Aristea inaequalis which is both lovely and tough, and available through Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.  Lomandra longifolia ‘Breeze’ and many of the other plants found in this garden were ordered for the client through Capitol Wholesale Nursery.

Lush and Low Water Modern Garden Path Hanchett Park San Jose CA Ground Morning Glory Fan Aloe Carex Divulsa Yarrow

Lush and Low Water Garden Hanchett Park San Jose CA Dymondia Groundcover Ground Morning Glory Sago Palm Yucca 'Color Guard' Carex divulsa Lomandra longifolia 'Breeze' Silver Brocade Artemisia

California Native Plants, Low Water Plants, Native Gardens, Naturalistic Gardens

No Supplemental Irrigation Required For Native Garden Design

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From Left to Right: Ceanothus 'Yankee Point,' Western Redbud, California Wild Rose, Ceanothus 'Dark Star'

The garden above was created as a private test garden in San Jose, California, and features California native plants in a wild, naturalistic design, according to the client’s wishes. Featured in the photo from left to right are Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point,’ Western Redbud, California Wild Rose,* and Ceanothus ‘Dark Star.’

There was no tilling or soil preparation for this site (other than weed clearing), and no fertilizers were added to the soil prior to or after planting in the late spring of 2010.

Planting holes were dug no larger than the plant containers to encourage the roots to grow through native clay soil. During planting, no attempt was made to loosen the soil around the rootballs and the soil surrounding the rootballs was not disturbed except to briefly and lightly brush the soil with gloved hands. Six inches of redwood mulch was added to the site to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Surprisingly, the mulch has not needed replenishing!

Below, blooming California Native Wild Lilac ‘Ray Hartman’ blooms spectacularly above California Native Ceanothus ‘Diamond Heights’ Variegated Carmel Creeper underplanted as groundcover.

Blooming California Native Wild Lilac 'Ray Hartman' and California Native Ceanothus 'Diamond Heights' Variegated Carmel Creeper Below as Groundcover

Immediately after planting, each plant was watered in for approximately 15-20 minutes, thoroughly and deeply saturating the rootball and surrounding area. Following the initial watering (during their first summer), plants were watered every few days if needed, tapering off to watering twice a week in the cooler weather of fall, at which time plants were watered once a week until winter rains arrived consistently enough to rely upon. Since the plants’ first year in the garden, there has been no supplemental irrigation to this site! Pruning and weeding is performed just twice a year, making this garden fairly low maintenance. Weeds are hand-pulled to avoid the use of pesticides which would harm the environment and creatures (including humans) enjoying it.

Amazingly, these plants bloom beautifully and reliably each spring. Native butterflies, birds, and lizards are happy in this habitat and iridescent native bees frequent the garden. Photos were taken in the Spring of 2017.

*California Wild Rose (Rosa californica) can be utilized as a barrier to intruders as it spreads freely by runners when happily situated, forming a dense thicket over time if left unchecked, so plant with caution!

California Native Plants, Fall Color, Low Maintenance Plants, Low Water Plants, Naturalistic Gardens

Lawns Converted to Naturalized Living Space


In this landscape design, I encouraged my clients to take advantage of a lawn landscape rebate program and the result was an extra living room in the front yard! The lawn made way for a meandering path and seating area beneath some mature trees.

Although the landscape rebate program has been suspended due to the funding cap being reached, many incentives to replace lawn with less water-thirsty alternatives remain, including the satisfaction of knowing you are doing your part to reduce water usage and the consequentially making it easier to meet your state mandated water reduction target each month.

Below is a photograph of the yard shortly after installation.

Dwarf plumbago groundover

The primary plant used to replace the lawn and create a similar low-level visual plane is drought-tolerant groundcover is Dwarf Plumbago (Cerastostigma plumbaginoides) which is filling in nicely approximately a year later (below). We created a cozy reading alcove for two under an existing red maple.

Outdoor living room replaces lawn in naturalized setting

Dwarf Plumbago offers seasonal color in the fall and lovely blue flowers (close-up below).

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Dwarf Plumbago) Drought-Tolerant Groundcover

Other drought-tolerant plants added included Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) and Blue Lavandin ‘Provence’ (Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’) seen below nestled into the client’s existing David Austin Rose ‘Lady Emma Hamilton.’

David Austin Rose 'Lady Emma Hamilton'; Blue Lavandin 'Provence' (Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence'); Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ears)

Below, Vitis californica ‘Roger’s Red (Wild California Grape Hybrid), to be trained along an existing fence, provides fall color and has already provided some tasty treats.

Vitis californica 'Roger's Red (Wild California Grape Hybrid)

An existing Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima), although lovely, is considered invasive (UC Master Gardener Program Statewide Blog), so it was replaced with Lamb’s Ears for a completely different contrast with the existing Japanese Maple (L-R: before and after seen below).

Rosa Cl. Cecille Brunner (Sweetheart’s Rose, Climbing Cecille Brunner), which is actually a low-water user once established, compliments the existing Lady Emma Hamilton rose and brings a similar color to another part of the yard’s side fence (close-up below).

Rosa Cl. Cecille Brunner (Sweetheart's Rose, Climbing Cecille Brunner)

The client’s previous back lawn area is now a naturalistic and fragrant plant palette including Salvia officinalis (Garden Sage), Erigeron karvinskianus (Fleabane), Eriogonum gigantum var giganteum (St. Catherine’s Lace), Dymondia margaretae (Dymondia), Achillea millefolium californica (California Yarrow), Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree), Cistus Grayswood Pink (Grayswood Pink Rock Rose), and Salvia clevelandii ‘Winnifred Gilman’ (Winnifred Gilman Cleveland Sage).

White-flowered Erigeron karvinskianus (Fleabane) and Cistus 'Grayswood Pink' (Grayswood Pink Rock Rose)
White-flowered Erigeron karvinskianus (Fleabane) and Cistus ‘Grayswood pink’ (Grayswood Pink Rock Rose)
Salvia clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman' (Winnifred Gilman Cleveland Sage) blooming in foreground and Eriogonum gigantum var giganteum (St. Catherine's Lace) blooming in background
Salvia clevelandii ‘Winnifred Gilman’ (Winnifred Gilman Cleveland Sage) blooming in foreground and Eriogonum gigantum var giganteum (St. Catherine’s Lace) blooming in background.

The fragrance from the salvias in this part of the garden can be enjoyed through the kitchen and dining windows, as well as from within the garden itself.

The added fragrance and seating areas entice the client out to the garden. In addition to using much less water than before, both the front and back yard have increased visual interest now that the lawn is gone. The client is out there more and enjoying their new living space!

Garden Maintenance, Native Gardens, Naturalistic Gardens

Maintaining Native Gardens – Keeping Your Native Garden Enjoyable for All


butterfly-17057_1280 monarch

High expectations ~ instantly set while being bombarded by hundreds of picture-perfect garden images on media sites, when browsing through brilliant garden magazine photo shoots, and while watching gardens pop up in the blink of an eye on garden DIY shows. The realities, of course, are different. Gardens don’t have to be highly manicured or flawless to be successful and gratifying! Benjamin Vogt, owner of Monarch Gardens, explores ways to change our perspectives on maintaining naturalistic native gardens. Check out his article (in which I’m proud to be featured!) on here.