A Native Meadow in My Front Yard?

| June 25, 2013 | 14 Replies

A native meadow in my front yard? Really? Well, I am giving it a try! I have become a fan of Grow Native Nursery in Westwood (an extension of non-profit Santa Ana Botanic Garden) which sells California Native Plants, and I had Ryan who works there, also a horticultural consultant, come to my front yard and offer some advice.

There are areas where there just isn’t enough sun to grow vegetables, but many California native plants do well in sun/part sun, he said. While I’m committed to growing edibles, I also have a mandate to provide habitat for overwintering beneficial insects, and flowering plants to feed them during most of the year. Ryan suggested a number of plants to grow on my Flower Island (14’x6.5′), and the companion space (irregular, about 20 square feet) across the sidewalk. These areas are outside our new fence which encompasses 2/3 of our edible garden.

Even though it’s a relatively small space (and I was thinking about how many plants I would have to buy to fill it up!), Ryan suggested natives that spread – plant spreading plants in your yard when you have a confined space – and they would fill in and compete and at some point in the future, would grow together and be a meadow. This idea excited me, as I’ve had mixed results with my rather hodgepodge effort there so far, and I made a trip to Grow Native the following day!

I returned with a carload of plants and mulch. My Prius was stuffed.

California Native Plants

California Native Plants & Tubs of Mulch

Ryan said the nursery has, from time to time, mulch, free for the taking, so I took every empty container I had. After we selected over 40 plants, I stood on a huge mound and scooped the leaves and bark in by hand, so I was quite a mess when I got home. Luckily, my husband was in full garden mode and gave me a hand for a couple of hours and I finished the job just before sunset.

California Native Plants

California Native Plants to Left of Sidewalk

I debated on watering the plants BEFORE I spread three to four inches deep of mulch, but reasoned I’d be stepping on mud to distribute it, and spread the mulch BEFORE I watered. WRONG! LBL (Late Bloomer Lesson): Water your freshly planted gems BEFORE you MULCH, or you will just be watering your mulch! It took an hour with the hose before the ground got good and wet.

California Native Meadow 2

California Native Plants Thickly Covered in Mulch, to Right of Sidewalk

Already established in this space were two native blueberry plants (front) and two Asclepias speciosa native milkweed, as well as Ribes malvaceum ‘Dancing Tassels’ in the back. I have two Asclepias fascicularis milkweed on the other side, and one California Native Iris pacifica. Here’s are photos and names of the new plants:

'Wendy' Alum Root

Heuchera ‘ Wendy’ Alum Root

Pitcher Sage 'El Tigre'

Lepechinia fragrans ‘El Tigre’ Pitcher Sage (a favorite of hummingbirds)

Fragaria vesca 'Montana de Oro' Woodland Strawberry (this one bears fruit)

Fragaria vesca ‘Montana de Oro’ Woodland Strawberry (this one bears fruit)

Aster chilensis 'Purple Haze' California Aster

Aster chilensis ‘Purple Haze’ California Aster

Epilobium (Zausch.) canum 'Silver Select'

Epilobium (Zausch.) canum ‘Silver Select’ (scarlet flowers)

Sandago californica, California Goldenrod

Sandago californica, California Goldenrod

Satureja douglasii, Yerba buena, California native mint

Satureja douglasii, Yerba buena, California native mint

I bought a flat of Phyla and sprinkled them around. You can walk on it when it’s established.

Phyla nodiflora, Frogfruit

Phyla nodiflora, Frogfruit

This is the tall yarrow. I also already had the short yarrow.

Achillea millefolium 'Calistoga' (white)

Achillea millefolium ‘Calistoga’ (white)

Achillea millefolium 'Pink Island Form' (pink)

Achillea millefolium ‘Pink Island Form’ (pink)

There are several reasons to grow native plants, especially in thirsty California. You save on water bills and plant food. You don’t need to fertilize or worry about amending our clay soils. They do just fine. And if you are growing native plants, you are fostering native insect populations, and you are not contributing to invasive species. In fact, Ryan told me my Mexican feather grass was on the invasive species list. That’s not something I was told when I bought it at a nursery. I took it right out, and replaced it with Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition.’ Bouteloua stays in a clump and does not spread, and it’s dainty and lovely!

Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'

Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’

Do your homework before visiting the garden center. You’ll save yourself time and money! I’ll post photos in a few months to see how things develop! Thanks for stopping by! – Kaye


Category: Beneficials, California Native Plants, Curbside Gardening, Flowers

Comments (14)

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  1. MaryZ says:

    Good for you, Kaye! I have grasses at my cabin. I’ve tried to grow wild flowers on the front lawn, but it is above the septic field, and I haven’t had luck (other than invasive mint).

    • Good for you, Mary! I’m not sure what “above the septic field” means in terms of growing stuff. What about nasturtium? They seem to grow anywhere but are very invasive. I just returned from Grow Native Nursery with 5 asclepias fasicularis, native milkweed. I decided after the long winter of losing caterpillars I would not encourage them to stick around with green-all-year milkweed. Out of 30 caterpillars in November, I think one emerged healthy. Native is the way to go.

    • http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/ho/2007/fs0732.pdf This is a link to a paper specifically addressing plantings on a septic field, I strongly recommend reviewing what would be recommended.

  2. It is not really a surprise when a nursery fails to mention whether a plant is native or introduced. Many of the plants that are now considered invasive (and unwelcome) were originally imported intentionally, usually because of their fast growth rates and ability to adapt to a variety of climates. A clear case of not being careful what was asked for!

    • Right, Andy! Don’t be dazzled by flowers before you check out what it is, is my advice. I did that with Delphinium recently. It lived a week, and someone told me they don’t do well in our area. Sigh! Got my money back though. Keep your receipts!

  3. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Hi Kaye, Such wonderful news that you’ve “gone Native”; but terribly sad that your butterflies didn’t make it):
    LOVE your Heuchera – we call them Coral Bells up here… Funny, I always thought they’d come from English gardens: ) Esclepias are AWESOME! We have two of the (at least) twelve species that grow here: Common (syriaca) and, my personal favourite, Butterfly Weed (tuberosa) http://ontariowildflowers.com/main/species.php?id=83. Our tuberosa’s been split three times in as many years, is STILL four feet across and what an insect magnet! Great choice!!
    Tell me, what are the California Goldenrod and Aster like? Our species (50 Goldenrod and 60 Asters!) are the most important nectar producers here in the Fall.
    Love the Yarrow family – they’re quite happy to grow here as well (four types) – funny how versatile plants can be, isn’t it?.

    • Deb, can’t believe you have so many plants and so much space. I’m positively green with envy! 🙂 I can’t yet say about Goldenrod, they don’t seem to be doing anything yet, but the asters have small purple daisy like flowers with yellow centers. I just love that it will pretty much take care of itself as I need my attention to be on the edibles. You should really enjoy my next episode of “Late Bloomer!” 85 year old gal just got into beekeeping in 2011! Love yarrow! I have native and non native.

    • Deb, if you go to Late Bloomer Show on Facebook, you will see a plume of goldenrod blooms, stunning gold color, not huge, the photo is about life size, or slightly larger. I hope there are many more plumes! Not much blooming in September. – Kaye

    • Deb, just a note to let you know I spotted a few Monarchs in the last few days laying eggs. I counted 20 eggs yesterday. See https://www.facebook.com/LateBloomerShow for photos. It’s very late in the season now, so I hope I’m not in for what I experienced last year. Did you have Monarchs this year up there? – Kaye

  4. Kant Chander says:

    When I was a boy, I tried to do the same thing and nearly snuffed

    • Kant, not sure if I replied to your comment. What happened to you, when you nearly snuffed yourself? I remember trying to eat dirt pies when I was little. We did a lot of risky things, huh? Especially messing around with bugs, snakes and firecrackers!

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