When we bought our fixer-upper in California, we not only set out to upgrade and improve the house but the landscape as well. We have tried to make things as water wise as possible yet visually pleasing to the neighborhood. For the garden, this has meant planting native plants that evolved to live in California conditions; over-seeding the lawn with native grass so we can reduce the use of irrigation and still have a swath of green out front; replacing thirsty specimens planted by the previous owner with those that thrive with less precipitation; and trying to make sure that anything we plant either produces food for ourselves or for the birds, butterflies and bees that live in the area.
Coming from the Midwest, this meant learning a whole new set of plants and a whole new set of tips on how to make things grow well. We read books and subscribed to magazines. We visited local garden centers and botanic gardens to see what grows where, when it blooms, how big it gets and so on. We went hiking or biking in areas specifically to see what grows in conditions similar to those in our area. It was (and continues to be) a fun path to learning.
One of the events we stumbled upon a couple of years ago is the “Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour“. It is an annual, free, self-guided opportunity to visit gardens in the area where other people have landscaped with native plants. For one day, these homeowners volunteer to let people walk through their yards, inspect their gardens, and just look around. Many, like ourselves, who have done all the work on our own, have stories to share and photos to show. Others who had the help of an area landscaper might have that landscaper on site to give a presentation or field questions. Some of the landscapers even sell the plants that they used in the specimen garden so visitors can take home and plant what they saw in somebody else’s yard! It is an amazing one-day opportunity to just stop and smell the California roses (a native species) while also visiting neighborhoods that are outside of your normal stomping grounds. Sign up has just started for this year’s tour if you click the link above.
I am certain that we aren’t unique in our area with this native garden tour. I have done a quick web search for other states and see similar tours or opportunities in other areas. Do a little digging and I am sure you can find your own annual garden tour to participate in this year and start learning how to garden with those plants native to your area. After all, the use of native plants is a sound, water-wise landscaping strategy no matter where you live. You just need to figure out what the native plants are in your area, which ones suit your garden’s needs, which ones you like and then start digging. With a little preparation, you and your garden should be ready to weather whatever Mother Nature throws your way!