Native Garden Diversity

Gardening with natives promotes diversity. But this post isn't about diversity in the garden, it's about diverse garden. As part of my volunteering for Going Native Garden Tour, I'm participating in the garden selection process, and today's post gives some glances of some of the gardens I saw. 

Garden selection for the tour is easy: Garden owners submit their gardens and we go as a group to look at the gardens. If a garden is more than 50% native, we usually accept it. If there are too many prominent exotics, we talk to the owner and explain what needs to happen before we can add the garden to the tour. We also talk to the owner about any other problems, for example, we don't allow gardens with plants that are on the Don't Plant a Pest list.

But mostly it's just great fun! Above, a clever combination of natives with some lettuce and cabbage tucked in. Below, a whimsical pink lattice with gourds creates a screen so the owners can sit on a small patio in their front garden and enjoy the smell of the salvias and the bees coming to their ceanothus and fruit trees.

The lattice design is echoed at the front door, creating visual interest. Several of the plants in the garden, as well of the patio stones, pick up on the color, resulting in a harmonious whole.

All the gardens I saw last week were professionally designed (a list of designers that have gardens on the tour are on the GNGT web site here).  But the tour encourages home owners who did their own design or collaborated with a designer. Many of the garden visitors think they cannot afford a designer (I usually urge at least a consult by a designer, which can save money and heartache, but...)

I was really excited because the gardens were so diverse. We saw single-family gardens, a church garden, and a townhouse garden, shown below. The townhouse garden was both beautiful and orderly. It included a squirrel-planted oak -- what fun -- and an attractive collection of shrubs and grasses. The designer had included some Australian fuchsia (Correa) for visual interest at this time of year. The parking strip was planted with grasses and I believe it doesn't need watering.

The church garden was inviting and attractive. I loved the benches set near fragrant sage, in the shade of the church building.

Meandering paths invited the visitor to linger and enjoy the critters that surely come to visit the garden in the warmer days.

Each garden offered something new, each had a story to tell, and each helped me learn more. It was exciting and fun to help with the garden selection, and I left happy to think how much tour participants must enjoy this diversity in the spring.

Below, an established habitat garden that combined natives and mediterranean plants (lavender, rosemary). 

The one sad fact about having a garden on tour: I have to stay home on tour day, and I usually work a double shift. All the more wonderful to enjoy this morning of garden exploration.


Nice! I love the parking strip especially!
Thanks for the early sneak peek at some gardens on the tour. There seems to be a certain "look" that some native gardens go in for. But you've highlighted some interesting alternatives that show you the gardens can be as diverse as the plants that make them up. Very nice!
Brent said…
Those are nice photos. Chuck B over on My Back 40 (feet) sometimes talks about gardener-designed gardens and designer-designed gardens.

Do you feel there's a way to easily describe the feel of one versus the other? Is it cottage versus sculptural?
Anonymous said…
Thanks for this preview! I am interested to find out more about the native lists and whether there might be one for my area too. Or maybe a list of Don't plants. I know some of them, they came with my garden and we have battled to eradicate them, an ongoing struggle since I am the only one doing it!
Carol said…
What fun that must have been and educational for each gardener. I love the various textures and colors of green.
Anonymous said…
How fun, what beautiful examples of what gardens in California can look like. Thanks also for the great web-site link to invasive plants.
Christine said…
Oooh, I love behind the scenes tours! And I'm appreciating the slow realization that natives aren't "different plants" design-wise, they're just like any other and don't have to conform to their natural wild style.
Gail said…
What fun~~As I was reading I thought, "Gee, I couldn't be on this tour, 'cause I can't get rid of the invasive~~ vincas, euonymous, honeysuckles and wisteria planted by the previous gardener." I plant what is native to Middle Tennessee...(we are lucky that the city has a nice publication and we have several native plant nurseries in the area).

I love the church garden, too...I wanted to sit down on that bench and smell the sage.

Country Mouse said…
I'll bet gardener-designed gardens tend to be the "chocolate box" variety - that's what I hear most from people: we can't resist getting one of this and one of that - designers have an overview vision that is inaccessible to me! My main gardener is mother nature where I live so it's less of an issue. I also love the church garden. I feel for the people in Gail's position. Surely it would be educational to include such a garden to make a point and educate people, and also to appreciate the work of the native gardener against the odds!