Water Conscious Drought Tolerant Landscaping – Low Maintenance Native Plants

How many people love to weed their yards? How about irrigating, fertilize and prune? What if you could install a gorgeous, aromatic garden that weeded itself, didn’t need regular irrigation, and fertilizing and pruning are actually forbidden? What if plants in this garden were so flexible that you could have a country cottage look, Japanese garden, woodlands, meadow or riparian look as well as attract butterflies, hummingbirds and snakes? Well, maybe not snakes.

Enter the native Southern California garden. Plants native to Southern California are drought tolerant in the summer, and grow their root systems during the wetter winter. Don’t bother irrigating. Generally, they do not like to be watered artificially and drip irrigation could cause root rot. No fertilizer! They are accustomed to our soil conditions, some actually preferring poor, sandy or rocky soils. Some plants flower not only in the spring but also in the fall—a double bonus. Some plants are edible or may be used as seasonings or as herbal topical treatments as Native Americans have for centuries. And, except for an occasional nibble by a hungry bunny, native Southern California plants generally don’t like to be pruned, although some can be trained into a hedge or other form.

You are not stuck with a few boring cacti and colored rocks spread across the front yard. Southern California has such a rich variety of plant communities including oak woodland, riparian (stream), chaparral, desert, and coastal sage to name a few. Each plant community offers trees, shrubs, vines, flowering perennials, self-seeding annuals, and ground cover to suit your landscape design needs.

Interested? While surfing the web can get you started in learning about California native landscape, probably a better place to start your research is by visiting the Santa Ana Botanical Gardens in Claremont, or visit any of the many native plant nurseries in California in autumn, during planting season. Take part in workshops, lectures and plant sales. Why not? It’s relaxing, healing and healthy like Yoga except with plants.

A couple final words: don’t bother to rake the leaves. Using leaf litter as mulch, each individual plant works in support of the other plants within the community, giving rise to a rich network of beneficial underground microbes and fungi which can kill invasive weeds as the weed seeds germinate. And, if you have a water feature such as a fountain or small pond, you could have your garden certified earning distinction as a Certified Natural Wildlife Habitat. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a certification plaque mounted subtly in your front yard just to let your visitors, friends, and neighbors know that this is a special garden… a responsible, sustainable, native Southern California Natural Wildlife Habitat?