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Climate-Friendly Landscaping

Climate-Friendly Landscaping

One of our favorite ongoing projects is transitioning the landscape in our yard to native California plants. When we bought our house in 1984, there were already some native plants on the periphery of the property, including sage, buckwheat, sumac, manzanita, and ceanothus. Up closer to the house, the previous owners had done quite a bit of landscaping with nonnative plants. We’ve been gradually removing the nonnatives to make way for the native plants. We’ve also cleared a small area for fruit trees, leaving only a few large, well-established trees.

Now, native species are well established along the meandering gravel pathways around our house and on the slope that falls away from our front patio. We chose to concentrate on poppies, penstemons, and phacelia grandiflora, all of which are in bloom as we write this (see our photos below).

Using native plants has many advantages.

• Native plants have evolved over thousands of years to adapt to local conditions. For that reason, they’re well suited to our climate and soil conditions.

• Native plants need less water. Once established, they’re also better able to withstand drought than exotic plants are.

• There’s no need for fertilizer. In fact, fertilizing native plants or amending the soil is detrimental to them.

• Once native plants are established, there’s little or no need for toxic weedkillers and pesticides. Native plants are more resistant to attack by invasive insects and diseases. They can also help keep aggressive weeds from overtaking your property.

• Native plants are extremely beneficial to birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. They contribute to biodiversity.

• A native landscape, properly done and lightly watered, has been shown to help protect homes from wildfires.

• Native plants, especially chaparral, are vital for carbon sequestration.

• Native plants are beautiful! There’s an amazing variety of native plants that surpass traditionally landscaped and overly manicured gardens and lawns in beauty and charm.

• Remember, too, that you’re creating not just a landscape but a habitat!

• For us, an unexpected perk of committing to a native plant garden has been the enjoyment we’ve found in belonging to a community of like-minded people. There are native plant groups that hold gardens tours, give advice and support, and offer educational workshops and seminars.

Converting your home landscape to native plants has many benefits, from saving water, supporting wildlife, and sequestering carbon to enhancing your property with natural beauty and even helping to protect your home from wildfire. We’ve found it’s a win-win choice for property owners and the environment.


Native Shrubs and Why They’re Essential for Carbon Sequestration

Bird-Friendly Communities Why Native Plants Matter

California Native Plant Society (CNPS)

"In this new era of climate change and megafires, how can we work with our environment to protect homes, lives, and livelihoods? We can start at home, with native plants." Read more here: Fire-Resilient Landscaping with Native Plants

Here is a video presentation done by Greg Rubin (California’s Own Native Landscape Design) for the California Native Plant Society: Using Native Plants for Fire Resistant Landscapes

The Drought-Defying California Garden: 230 Native Plants for a Lush, Low-Water Landscape by Greg Rubin and Lucy Warren

The California Native Landscape: The Homeowner's Design Guide to Restoring Its Beauty and Balance by Greg Rubin and Lucy Warren

California poppies and giant flowered phacelia line our front walkway.

The giant flowered phacelia (phacelia grandiflora) is an annual herb that is native to California and found only slightly beyond California borders.

Now that we’ve converted to native plants, we have more bird visitors, such as this mourning dove. The thriving plant on the right is white sage.

We’ve found that native wildflowers are especially beautiful against a backdrop of our granite boulders. This is a penstemon.

Multiple native species, all in bloom, give us a field of color outside the house: California poppy, desert marigold, and giant flowered phacelia.

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