More California Wildlife Garden Top Picks

In the last post, we left Ms. Town Mouse and Ms. Country Mouse in beautiful Tilden Regional Park, listening spell-bound to the teachers of the Gardening for Wildlife class. Sure, sometimes it got a little--surreal.

Teacher:"And then you want to have multiple water sources for the birds, but you don't have to change the water every day, every 3 or 4 days is enough."
Town Mouse:"Well, I had the water district mosquito abatement people check my garden, and they said if the birds use the birdbath, you don't need to worry about mosquitoes. Stirring up the water is enough."
Teacher:"Yes, I agree, you don't have to change the water every day, but scrub it out really well every 3 or 4 days."
Town Mouse (thinking to herself) "If the birds drink from a puddle, it's not freshly scrubbed either."

But then, more plants to admire. Here's the selection of wildlife plants for the woodland.

Holosiscus discolor (Ocean Spray, Cream Bush). Larval host of Lorquin's Admiral butterfly, summer flowers attract beneficial insects. This 5x5 feet shrub likes full sun to light shade but blooms better with some sun. It's a perfect understory for under native oaks. I bought two plants last year, for the shady area near the redwoods, and hope to see the beautiful flowers next spring.

Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry). A nectar source for bees in early spring and source of berries for birds in fall. This gracefully arching deciduous shrub with clusters of small pink flowers likes part shade and is drought tolerant but adaptable to garden water. This photo from Las Pilitas shows off the berries nicely.

Festuca Californica (California Fescue) provides cover for insects and seeds and nesting materials for birds. Long a favorite in the Town Mouse garden, this bunch grass likes part shade and is drought tolerant. The teacher added a propagation tip: The seeds germinate readily with bottom heat. This prize winning photo shows off the golden grass nicely with some Monardella villosa in the background.

Heuchera (Coral bells) bloom abundantly in April and May and attract hummingbirds. They are perfect in dry, shady areas , though adaptable to garden water. Established plants can be divided in late fall. I actually have a lot of Heuchera in my garden, including some hybrids with lime green and plum foilage, but realize I have hardly any photos! But here is one photo of beautiful Heuchera maxima, tall, elegant, and self sufficient.

Dudleya species entice hummingbirds and insects with their flowers and are well suited to light shade. I can very much agree with that; my succulents in the front garden look truly terrible in the summer sun and perk up only when the rainclouds of fall and winter start to arrive. Here the unlikely flower of a chalk dudleya (Dudleya pulverulenta), which blooms for quite a long time in summer and is indeed beloved by hummingbirds.

At this point, we were so inspired, we were ready to run out, go buy some plants, and wait for the wild creatures attracted by the bounty. But there was more information to come: Wildife plants for Chaparral areas (soon on this blog).


Nice that some of these favorite plants of mine are also favorites of the critters. I still haven't seen hummingbirds on my Dudley pulverulenta, but I can see how the red flowers would draw them in.
Gail said…
I feel the same after a good garden presentation.~Hummers love anything red in my garden and head there first. Then they visit the Agastache rupestris which is an interesting mix of western sunset colors. gail
For bird baths I usually rig a section of the drip irrigation line to run into the bird bath to ensure it gets filled every time the system runs. I think the most important thing is to give the bath some shade to help prevent algae growth, and not let the poop accumulate.

We're lucky have ocean spray and snowberry in abundance here. I'm just letting them both grow where ever they pop up. The snowberry actually makes a decent light ground cover. I've been looking at getting the California red fescue as the grass seed to mix in with our annual wildflowers, as it's more economical than some of the sedge grasses.
Christine said…
Yeah, there was certainly some kind of disconnect in that conversation! I'm wondering if anyone out that has experienced the birds eating snowberries, as Las Pilitas says in their description that they're only eaten in bad years. I'm glad the teacher mentioned Holodiscus- they seem so lovely.
Also, I loved how she also told us how skippers drop their eggs as they fly over bunch grasses- I love imagining what that looks like!
Joe said…
Pardon my ignorance, but what kind of plant is in the first picture, with the prickly leaves and red berries ---it's awesome! Thanks :).
P.S. I check your blog all the time for updates and thoroughly enjoy it!
Town Mouse said…
Joe, I'm ashamed to admit I don't know what that plant is. I did snap a photo of it at Tilden last Saturday, it was pretty close to the entrance to the right. It seemed to fit the theme so well I could not resist posting it.
Joe said…
bAlright I just showed the picture to a friend who studies native plants and she's pretty sure it's a Rhamnus ilicifolia, Holly Leaf Redberry.
I'm considering planting it because the berries look so ornamental and it will be a great native alternative to my invasive coteneaster I removed today! :)
Genevieve said…
Didn't occur to me that our native Fescue would provide nesting materials, but it makes perfect sense. Thanks for these lovely posts highlighting such great California plants and the reasons to plant them. Nice!
Terry Jenkins said…
The plant with the red berries doesn't seem to be the Rhamnus, its much too prickly for that. I think it must be a Mahonia (Oregon grape) and I too would love to have it identified!
Joe said…
I read somewhere that Holly Leaf Redberries leaves are highly variable. Similar to Interior Live Oaks, it can be prickly or smooth edged or semi-prickly. I am no expert, but I doubt it's a Mahonia as that genus' berries tend to be purple/black/blueish. But I could be wrong :)
Terry Jenkins said…
Google "mahonia with red berries" and you will find several. I really think it is one of those! I have seen quite a few of the red berry rhamnus growing in different areas, and although some is quite prickly, it has tighter, rounder leaves with a different look, and berries more scattered. My vote is a mahonia, but which one? I want one!