Come fall, even the most amazing California natives garden starts to become a bit of a sorry sight. Mind you, all my neighbors' gardens here in the suburbs don't look much better. Tired knock-out roses. Shrivelled salvias. And let's not talk about the brown&green patchwork that used to be a lawn.
However, as a passionate gardener, I strive for a few eye-catching beauties year round, and here's where a few non-native, non-invasive plants - I call them "Friends of the Natives" come in.
Above a sedum that has done well in my garden and that harmonizes with Epilobium 'Calistoga', with some last yarrow blossoms, and with a native Artemesia.
Succulents, in general, do well in my garden. I'm focussing on succulents that get by with little or no water - a great match for my natives. And I like to pick succulents that bloom at a time when my natives are either done or not ready yet. Above, South African Cotyledon orbiculatum elongatum, with the beautiful "leaves" matching the greyish leaves of CA native Eriogonum arborescens (Santa Cruz Island buckwheat).
And above, the Cotyledon blossoms, showy at exactly that moment in summer when the CA annuals have started to fade.
A yellow blooming aloe (from Africa, I think) has also been a success - and it's blooming in early spring, where everything (except the manzanitas) looks a little dismal.
You might ask about native succulents - my experience has been that they are either from the coast - and prefer a little more moisture than is customary in my garden. Or they're from parts of the desert where it rarely freezes. I do have a lovely chalk dudleya and a few Dudleya traskiae (Santa Barbara live-forever). But they look their best in the spring, so I'm glad about the more exotic friends of my natives.
A surprising success story has been my combination of natives and fruit trees. I have several dwarf fruit trees in my garden, and they thrive (with some extra irrigation lines added). I love the first plum blossoms in the spring, and Mr. Mouse and I very much enjoyed the delicious fruit we harvested all summer.
My many spring-blooming natives have been pollinator magnets, and even when the weather looked so gray and wet that I didn't dare hope my plum tree would be pollinated, some industrious little critters were out there getting a snack and helping me out at the same time.
Of course the big challenge is to have garden that blooms year round and that still has a CA native feeling. But that's for another post...