For the Native Plant Novice: Which Sources?

During the garden tour, when we work the native plant booth, or sometimes at other occasions people ask me how they can learn more about gardening with California Natives.

Fortunately, there are several well written books that are rich sources of information. If you're still wondering what to request from Santa, maybe add one or two to your list? Ms. Country Mouse and I have actually written several book reviews, which you can find here. Here, just to summarize, are our favorites:

Designing California Native Gardens: The Plant Community Approach to Artful, Ecological Gardens by Glenn Keator and Alrie Middlebrook.
The book's focus on plant communities makes is easy to see which plants will do well in the same conditions, and the structure of the book with its many inviting photos and plans makes anyone want to rip out what they have and start their own beautiful native plant community. This is usually the first book we recommend; it makes it easy to combine plants that will work well together and is perfect for the novice.

California Native Plants for the Garden by Carol Bornstein, David Fross, and Bart O'Briend,  A rich resource, with detailed information and pictures of each plant. I return to this book again and again.

Native Treasures: Gardening With the Plants of California by Nevin Smith. Thorough discussions of different plant families and the cultivars available in the trade, beautiful pictures, and detailed propagation information. I especially like about this book that it's honest about the conditions a plant requires, for example, it warns you not to plant Mantilleja poppy in a small suburban garden.


Anyone thinking about gardening with natives should have a copy of Bringing Nature Home. How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Douglas W. Tallamy. Based on years of research, Tallamy explains why natives are so important, not just for our garden but for our planet. A must read, now out in paperback.

In addition to these wonderful books, I always consider a number of resources on the Internet when trying to decide which plant to choose (see also the OUR FAVOURITES list in the left bar of the blog).

One of the first sites a Google search for a native plant points you to is usually Las Pilitas. A treasure trove of information, Las Pilitas has articles about garden design, wildlife gardening, a page for the Novice, and the all important alphabetical listing of California Native Plants. Not everyone agrees with the strong stand Las Pilitas takes against drip irrigation, but Southern California plants might be harmed more by drip than plants further north. Regardless, it's an amazing site, and I check them repeatedly when I plan a new section in the garden.

Closer to home Yerba Buena nursery has a very respectable collection of plant descriptions, plant photos, and gardening advice. I also like California Gardens. They're not exclusively native plant focused, but the photos are stunning and the advice is sound.

Just about a year ago, our blog had a post Where are You Planted that discussed how you can find out which plants are truly native to where you live, and how to find out where you might be able to buy those plants using the California Native Plant Link Exchange.

And finally, don't forget to take advantage of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). The main site has links to the different chapters, and you can participate in chapter activities and find out about plant sales for your area.

What fun! I hope to see you there soon.


Miranda Bell said…
With the wintry weather gives way to a bit more time for blog visiting!! Absolutely agree with what you were saying about the planting of natives - no matter what country you're in - the quantities of wildlife that follow is amazing. We were lucky in that the plot we bought in France had been left to a wilderness over the course of about 8 years or so - it was a lot of hard work to begin with but the garden had already set up it's own eco system so I was keen to preserve that by planting native plants in the main and enhancing what was already there - I never have to use any products in the veg garden as the wildlife take care of all the slugs etc - amazing! Have a good week Miranda
Country Mouse said…
What a good idea to post these great gift ideas - and other great information resources! I'll definitely point interested friends and neighbors to this post, to get connected with some good resources.
Susan Krzywicki said…
The Carol Bornstein book is my favorite - very visual with handy lists at the end for issues like: windbreaks, narrow beds, etc.

Sorry! Earlier post had a typo in Carol's name. Sheeesh.
Excellent list of resources TM. I have a number of those books, and reference them often. Another resource I use a lot is the Calflora online "what grows here" feature. Very helpful for identifying natives, often to species level, that are endemic to your specific county or watershed.
I like your roundup. We had Nevin Smith speak at our chapter this year. He's a passionate and knowledgeable plantsman, and I'm embarrassed that I still don't have his book in my library!
Alice Joyce said…
Happy holidays to you, Town Mouse,
one of my favorite cyber-blogging-buddies!
I've been wanting to return to Yerba Buena nursery for ages: it's been far too long since I made the trek.
And thanks for the info on the California Native Plant Link Exchange. I especially love my natives at this time of year, along with the rains. p.s. Saw a big buck on the ridge road yesterday coming back from Mill Valley. Happy to say he didn't decide to cross while there was a stream of traffic. xo