Region-specific plants are some of the best for adapting to a
garden setting because they support local wildlife while conserving
precious water resources and contributing to the health of the
Region-specific plants are some of the best for adapting to a garden setting because they support local wildlife while conserving precious water resources and contributing to the health of the local environment. Native grasses, which make up a scant six percent of what can be seen on California’s hills, are the newest “it” item in landscape design, but if they’re too austere for your back yard, there are plenty of lush, flowering bushes available in the area, some of which grow to the height of trees. Here are a few examples of plants that may work on your property as suggested by California Landscaping Magazine, a trade magazine for landscapers:
Flannel Bush (fremontodendron)
Spring finds the fremontodendron covered head to toe in a range of flowers that flow from bright yellow to rusty orange. The tree is covered with a fuzzy coating that can be an irritant to human skin, so it may not be the most suitable for gardens where small children are present. However, the bush can add a significant and distinctive height element. It’s California Glory variety can reach 15 to 20 feet in height, while the smaller “Ken Taylor” fremontadendron can be six to eight feet wide, but only reaches four feet high.
Berkele Sedge (carex tumulicola) or Carex Barbare
Native grasses are the latest “hot” item in the landscape industry. Able to create motion with their long, slender blades, which often grow in artful clumps, carex grasses are also economical alternatives to pricey landscaping in large areas. Low-water plants, they stay green for more than half the year with nearly nothing in terms of watering. Carex tumulicola grows to a height of about 18 inches compared to its cousin carex barbare, which can grow to three feet. The larger plant may need extra water while growing, but requires next to none once it is established.
A drought-tolerant bush that flowers in colors from white to indigo blue throughout the spring, Ceanothus is one of the most popular native plants among landscapers. More than two thirds of the plant’s known species’ are native to California, but they must be handled with care. Over watering or heavy soil will kill the plant, so Sowash recommended re-soiling with sand in the area where the plant will be placed to allow for better drainage.
Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia)
Growing from Northern California to the Baja peninsula, heteromeles arbutifolia, commonly known as Toyon, is a member of the plant group known as chaparral. It’s lush red berries provide a bit of color and attract birds and other small animals to garden areas. Even better, the shrub is an evergreen that enjoys full sun and creates thick foliage, which can be used as a screen against busy streets or unsightly views.
Deer grass (muehlenbergia rigens)
A striking accent piece, deer grass grows in a thick clump and creates a strikingly round halo with its long, sticky shoots. A winning combination of aesthetic beauty and practical adaptability, deer grass can also be used to stabilize hillsides up to 7,000 feet in elevation.
Western Sword fern (Polystichum minutum)
Able to withstand nearly any condition, the Western Sword Fern grows from north from California to Alaska and east to Montana under some of the harshest conditions possible. Able to withstand long periods of drought, they can also deal with regular or even abundant watering. The plants do like two things: a spot of afternoon shade and plenty of organic material in the soil.
Other plant species that enjoy the area include southern California’s Matilija poppy, whose white, crepe-like flowers can grow to as much as nine inches across and the fragrant lavender plant, whose purple blooms are also drought-resistant. Sage has a rich history in the area as does the wax myrtle and the ubiquitous oak tree. Another interesting local plant: The California redbud, a red-leafed shrub whose pliable roots were used by native Americans to weave baskets and create small tools.