Beautiful Native Plants

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Deer Running through the Pepperdine Lawn

Deer Running Through Wildlife Corridor in Topanga State Park,
Photo by

It is so dry that deer have appeared on the Pepperdine lawn.  Anyone who has spent any time in Malibu or has just driven up the Pacific Coast Highway has seen that huge expanse of green-covered hillside that is the front lawn of Pepperdine University.  I try not to think about how much water it takes to keep it green throughout the summer!  Now, it seems that the Santa Monica Mountains are so dry that deer are bringing their families down to the Pepperdine lawn to drink the freshly watered lawn, even in January!

California's Drought Emergency

Back in 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency in California. 2014 had been the state’s driest year on record, with reservoir levels dropping and no rain in sight. It was the third dry winter in a row, and the Dept. of Agriculture declared a natural disaster for 27 California Counties, largely because of the impact on agriculture throughout the State.

Now, fast forward to 2016. We have had 5 years of drought, and this year for the first time ever the Governor had to implement statewide water rationing. He urged us to take a moment to think about how we are all connected to each other in a time of water crisis, as well as being connected to the plants and animals that live here.

It is time to be a sustainable gardener in California. What better time to ditch that lawn? 

More than 50 percent of water use goes to landscaping, in particular lawns. Besides being water hogs, lawns are unhealthy (to us, to our pets, and to butterflies) because of the high amount of pesticides used to keep them up.

Why not let your lawn go brown?  There are plenty of websites and videos that can show you how to lose your lawn incl.what grass removal method  would work best for you, such as the easy and popular lasagna style.

What will replace my lawn?

1. You can remove entire lawns and replace them with Zen gardens of big boulders and tiny rocks that are raked into designs.

2. Or, you can plant meadow seed mixes. Theodore Payne’s Nursery is an excellent source for California native wildflower seeds and grasses.

3. Make your lawn smaller and your borders deeper. Plant drought-tolerant native plants in your borders. I love Salvias for their drought-tolerance and variety.

4. Make a center island design for a native plant or pollinator garden in the center of your lawn.  

Other water saving measures without losing the lawn include:

5. Reduce your water use in the garden by keeping your topsoil from drying out using mulch in flower beds and small stones in garden paths.

6. Capturing gray water from laundry and showers to reuse in watering the garden. This made a huge difference in my Topanga Canyon garden!

California Gardens Don't Rest in Winter:

In most of the country, where snow falls and covers the lawns for months, the ground gets to rest, and the gardener gets to rest, too.  Out West, we try to keep things green all year long even in dry summers.  Now it seems we can’t rely on all that imported water from places like the Colorado River to keep our manicured lawns looking their best year round.  Instead, we need to make the best use of our precious resources: We need to be more sustainable gardeners.

Being a Sustainable Gardener:

What does that mean? To be a sustainable gardener means to use as little of nature’s resources as possible, and to create gardens that will take care of themselves for years to come. There is no better proven way to do this than to landscape with native plants.  Native plants are naturally adapted to the conditions in which they live. While some are more drought-tolerant than others, most native plants only require extra water when they are first planted and are getting acclimated.

If we Southern Californians are serious about living lightly on the land, we have to remember that the water piped in here is imported, every drop taking away from the water tables of other places.

Luckily, our mild autumn weather gives native gardeners an opportunity to still get out there and make some big changes right now.

Not sure where to start?

Look for native plants that do not need a lot of rainfall (drought tolerant).  There are nurseries that specialize in natives in your area that would be happy to help you with ideas. Note: Plantts called Xeriscape plants are drought tolerant, but are not necessarily native plants.  So if you want to bring a balance to the ecosystem of your garden, you want to opt for adding drought-tolerant California natives instead of plants from elsewhere.

Contact the California Native Plant Society for suggestions on choosing native plants in your region, where to find them, and where to see them.  

Some of my all-time favorite native plants that are drought tolerant and also beneficial to pollinators include all of the Sages (Salvia): White Sage, Purple Sage, Black Sage. These are all bee, hummingbird and butterfly magnets, plus they stay green all year long, creating a nice backdrop for many other natives.

Have you ditched or reduced your lawn? Do you have any water conserving tips? If so, we’d love to hear from you~

© 2014, Kathy Vilim. All rights reserved.