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By surrounding ourselves with landscapes that reflect the true nature of our region, we embrace the unique character that makes California such a wonderful place to live. The California garden is tended nature in miniature. It’s not about the plants. It’s about generosity. It’s about giving back to the land and giving oneself the pleasure and satisfaction of loving, getting involved, and tending a garden modeled after the natural beauty of the region. It’s about giving to everyone that sees and enjoys it, the opportunity to experience authentic California…

The ultimate reward for this effort is the reappearance of wildlife (songbirds, hummingbirds, beneficial insects lizards, etc.). These magical creatures will be drawn to nest, forage and seek cover in this newly restored bit of nature.

Naturalistic Plantings

Create a truly inspiring setting right outside your door! With a naturalistic approach to planting your outdoor spaces, you can add life, depth and a sense of intimacy, while stimulating the senses of those who seek the solace of the outdoors. This concept deals with gardens that nurture the spirit and bring the healing experience of nature up close. The following five principles are key to designing and caring for a California nature garden: 

  1. Diversity of Natural Communities: Coastal sage scrub, oak woodland, chaparral and grassland themes should be the local models on a small scale when formulating your design and selecting plants. Choose one to several species of trees (evergreen and deciduous) and even more shrubs, subshrubs, herbaceous and woody perennials, succulents, bulbs, grasses and annuals. Naturalistic gardens display much greater species diversity than conventional landscapes, which tend to overuse the same few plants. 
  2. Appropriate Spacing: In nature, you will observe areas that are sparsely vegetated. In the garden, this allows plants to grow to mature size and be admired individually. Bare places between plants reduces competition for moisture and minimizes pruning requirements. Birds and lizards use bare ground for hunting and foraging.
  3. Layered Plantings: Tall, medium and low plants growing together adds depth, interest, and privacy to gardens. A canopy layer, shrub layer and groundcover layer of locally native plants also increases habitat value.
  4. Natural Features: Borrowed from nature, these details lend authenticity and a sense of place to the California garden. Rocks and boulders, fallen branches, rolling mounds of soil, a dry streambed… all are artful and functional elements in naturalistic plantings. A water feature makes a wonderful focal point. Furniture, pottery, fencing and paths can be made of natural materials like twigs, clay, wood and stone.
Loose arrangements of plants and other elements that represent nature… The soft lines, subtle textures and rich fragrance of the wild… The untamed spirit of authentic California

Maintenance Practices: A ‘hands-off’ approach is best for native, naturalistic plantings. Most importantly, water only when necessary. Become familiar with your soil type and how long it holds moisture. Also, the traditional standards of regular, heavy pruning, raking and spraying will not apply. Leaf litter should remain under plants and light pruning should only be done once a year, if necessary.

Chaparral Trail
Chaparral trail

Quercus agrifolia, Coast live oak

Quercus engelmanii, Mesa oak

Heteromeles arbutifolia, Toyon, California holly 

Rhus integrifolia, Lemonade berry 

Arctostaphylos ‘Lester Rowntree’, Manzanita

Romneya ‘White Cloud’, Matilija poppy

Salvia clevelandii, Blue sage

Penstemon spectabilis, Showy penstemon 

—add a few boulders and rustic walkways….

Woodland Garden
Woodland Garden

Pinus sabiniana, Foothill pine

Cercis occidentalis, Western redbud 

Carpenteria californica, Bush anemone 

Frangula (Rhamnus) californica, Coffeeberry

Mahonia ‘Golden Abundance’, Oregon grape 

Salvia spathacea, Hummingbird sage

Monardella villosa, Coyote mint

—add some potted Irises and Monkeyflowers….

Southern Coastal Paradise 
Coastal Paradise

Pinus torreyana, Torrey pine

Ceanothus megacarpus, Big pod ceanothus 

Dendromecon harfordii, Island bush poppy 

Baccharis ‘Pigeon Point’, Coyote bush

Eriogonum ‘Dana Point’, Dana Point buckwheat

Encelia californica, Coast sunflower

Epilobium canum, California fuchsia

Diplacus aurantiacus var. puniceus, Red monkeyflower

—add seeded wildflowers on a hillside….

Mountain Meadow 
Meadow vibes

Mahonia ‘Golden Abundance’, Oregon grape 

Ribes aureum, Bitter gooseberry 

Deschampsia caespitosa, Tufted hairgrass 

Solidago californica, California goldenrod 

Fragaria vesca, Wild strawberry
—add a shallow pond

San Diego Foothill Courtyard 

Ornithostaphylos oppositifolia, Baja bird bush 

Arctostaphylos otayensis, Otay manzanita 

Xylococcus bicolor, Mission manzanita

Romneya coulteri, Matilija poppy

Trichostema lanatum, Woolly blue curls

Viguiera laciniata, San Diego sunflower

Asclepias fascicularis, Narrow-leaf milkweed 

Epilobium canum, California fuchsia

Lessingia filaginifolia, California aster

—add a water source for butterflies and birds…. 

Shaded Canyon Hideaway 
Shady canyon

Quercus agrifolia, Coast live oak 

Carpenteria californica, Bush anemone

Ribes malvaceum, Chaparral currant 

Iris douglasiana, Coast iris

Salvia spathacea, Hummingbird sage

Aquilegia formosa, Red columbine 

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Bearberry manzanita

—add a winding dry creek bed….

Island Retreat 
Island Retreat

Lyonothamnus floribundus aspleniifolius, Ironwood 

Arctostaphylos catalinae, Catalina island manzanita 

Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’, Wild lilac

Dendromecon harfordii, Island bush poppy

Galvezia speciosa, Island snapdragon 

Eriogonum giganteum, St. Catherine’s lace 

Ribes viburnifolium, Evergreen currant 

Heuchera maxima, Island alumroot

Acmispon argophyllus var. argenteus, Silver lotus

—add a few well-placed benches….

Desert Paradise 

Parkinsonia floridum, Palo verde 

Chilopsis linearis, Desert willow 

Simmondsia chinensis, Jojoba

Justicia californica, Chuparosa

Encelia farinosa, Brittlebush 

Sphaeralcea ambigua, Apricot mallow 

Penstemon centranthifolius, Scarlet bugler

—add a low adobe wall…