And even in winter...

This week, I had the great pleasure of accompanying the Garden Selection Committee of the Going Native Garden Tour on another round of garden visits. What really struck me this time was how beautiful each garden was, even now. 

Above, a dry stream bed with some Juncus patens in the foreground and a native mallow, Sidalcea or Checkerbloom in the background. Here's another picture of the mallow. 

And here's a close-up.
This particular garden was also interesting because the owners were using permeable pavers for the paths, and had replaced their driveway with permeable pavers. The pavers were laid in permeable concrete to keep weeds down. The driveway and paths looked beautiful, here's part of a path with a rain chain in front. 

But I was even more impressed when I saw that the owners had used the concrete for the surface surrounding the pool in the back. Here, a different shade of permeable concrete was being used, and the effect was really quite stunning. 

In the next garden, the front remake had been postponed, so we ended up suggesting the owner reapply next year. But I couldn't help myself and had to snap a picture of the bubbling fountain in the back. Quite stunning, to see the lush grasses, the water, the stone steps...I do hope the owner will reapply.

The next garden had a delightful combination of shade lovers, including native maples and iris, against the house, and sun lovers further out in the front garden. Here some buckwheats, grasses, and already blooming Ceanothus (California wild lilac).

I especially liked the low retaining wall along the sidewalk edge of the garden, which provided drainage and an attractive border. 

And I was amazed that both the Ceanothus and some Salvias were starting to bloom. Even in winter!

But possibly the best feature of the garden was the pebble mulch. It seems that just about everyone where I live uses bark, and here was someone who thought differently. Isn't that pretty?

The next garden was an interesting example of what happens when the design places the plants too closely. The garden was actually quite attractive, with blooming verbena in the front. 

There were also grasses and an annual we could not identify in the foreground. 

Also a blooming Arctostaphylos pajaroensis. And a blooming current in the back garden. Even in winter! I said. Even in winter.

The back garden was even more overgrown than the front, and while the aesthetics suffered, we could not believe how many birds we saw. They came to the bird feeder, yes, but just seemed to enjoy hanging out -- though they were a bit indignant about the intrusion. It was probably my favorite garden, just look at this (abandoned) bird's nest nestled in the freshly pruned rosebush (not a native). 

I'm not sure whether the garden will be on tour. Our audience are people who are afraid that natives will make their gardens look wild and unkempt -- and this particular garden was just that. We tend to be careful not to reinforce that prejudice.

But I personally loved this garden (and so did the birds). 


I do know that the native garden of the Purissima Hills Water District Demonstration Garden will be on tour.  We were delighted that the water district, which could have just focused on drought-tolerant plants, chose natives. 

The garden was using dry steam beds to keep run-off on the property. It combined Techline irrigation with micro-spray to demonstrate the use of those two types together. And we found a nice selection of mature plants, well cared for. 

 The woman on staff was very enthusiastic and showed us around. We hope that the garden will have many visitors on tour day, and we know it sets a great example. 

The final garden for the day was a fairly small front garden and parking strip that amazed us with its richness and variety. A Western redbud (dormant right now), buckwheats, and grasses in the parking strip. More grasses, buckwheats, and an attractive manzanita in the front garden itself. 

But here's where it gets interesting. There are also a flagstone path, a wrought iron bench, and small bird bath -- all in the small space. Yes, the owner kept the Camelias -- not native -- in the shade next to the house. But this garden was a perfect example of what a happy combination of native and non-native plants might look like. 

Don't you want to sit on that bench, next to the Heuchera maxima, and wait for the next bird to come to the bird bath? And enjoy the fragrance of the salvia? Even in winter...

So, if live in the area, and if you're interested in seeing these gardens (and many more), do sign up at  You might even consider volunteering. We're still looking for docents, great if you know a bit about CA Natives, and sign-in volunteers. That link is also on the web site, and 3 hours of volunteering gets you a T-shirt, and a fun morning or afternoon. You can then spend the other 3 hours looking at gardens. 


Benjamin Vogt said…
I sure like that tall and low grass around the one fountain--wow. And I hope my mallow comes back this year, first winter trying it out! (Why don't more builders install permeable conrete driveways?)
Gail said…
I would sign up in a heart beat...the commute is a bit much right now! I love plants that intermingle and some gardeners can do that well without the garden looking too wild...Me, I am trying to get there! gail
WiseAcre said…
Sounds like fun. Around here I have to bundle up like a toddler to keep warm when I go out. There's nothing much garden wise to see except the thick blanket of snow that covers everything.
ryan said…
Looks like some nice healthy gardens. That's good that they have a committee. The gardens for the native tour up here are all chosen by a single person.
Your tour-takers will have some great spaces to check out! I can relate to the too-closely-spaced garden example since I'm still often placing things too close together--me, wait two or three seasons for plants to grow together? The gravel mulch makes sense on a few levels: It doesn't decompose; it doesn't add unwanted organic nutrients to the soil; it looks good. My complaint with it is that the upkeep can sometimes be high when plants drop leaves onto it. Still, in the areas of the garden I've used it, I've found that a careful sweeping can remove most of the leaf litter.
Christine said…
Especially in winter, I say! I'm getting so excited to see all the plants wake up from their summer naps. What fun it must be to peek into all these gardens- a very inspiring day!
Brent said…
"There were also grasses and an annual we could not identify in the foreground. "

It looks like Phaecelia tencetifolia.

@ Benjamin - The upright short reed/ tall grass around the fountain appears to be a Juncus.

Those are some nice gardens!