Planting Native Garden - Hiding awkward stage?

slowjane CA/ Sunset 21January 12, 2014

Hi all,

I'm working on landscaping the front of my little cottage in Atwater Village in LA - and using only natives, mostly from Theodore Payne - two kinds of Ceanothus, several kinds of buckwheats, a fuschia, a lupine, and others....

I got some of the free city mulch - and now thinking it will be too rich for these plants - and having a hard time getting a good answer as far as what I can put on the bare dirt to keep it from blowing into my house so I won't feel like I live in the Dust Bowl like my granny - last summer was crazy!!

So it's sort of a mulch question - or maybe a groundcover question - or an erosion question - ? It seems like I should mulch around the plants later in the year as it gets warm - but what to do about the aesthetic/dust bowl problem between the plants as I wait for them to fill in?

Perhaps bark is the right idea? - if so, is it important that it's redwood? what about decomposed granite to keep things tidy and keep the dust down?

Any advice much appreciated!!!!!

los angeles, atwater village 90039

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Natives are a journey & those that plant them are appreciated by the Mother. As long as city mulch you have down is 3 or more inches away from the crown you are probably fine.
I would remove it only if:

If you have access to oak leaves - California natives love oak leaves. Shred them and use this as the mulch. Again keeping it 3 or more inches away from the crown so they can breath.
Rocks. A biggish rock or 3 on the hottest side of the plant, 6 to 8 inches away from the base. This creates a moist shadow in the soil that they will send feeder roots into & draw from in the hottest part of the summer.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 5:15PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

If you go look around a native area there is mulch-like material on the surface, fallen leaves and so forth. Mulch is not a problem.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 2:36PM
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CA Kate

When I first planted my natives garden there were a lot of spaces between what would someday become large plants. Someone gave me many packets of annual seeds. I put all in a bowl, mixed thoroughly, and tossed all over. For the next couple of years the garden was a riot of annual color. The annuals started to disappear just as the natives were starting to get large enough to make a presence.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 8:10PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

The mulch from the city is just fine for those natives, just keep the crowns clear.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 11:11AM
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your selections from Theodore Payne sound LOVELY!!

when we planted our native garden here in LA we used city mulch to start, 3-4" thick, but kept the mulch away from the crown of the plant (where the plant goes into the ground) and it worked out fine. 1-2 years later we got beautiful Sycamore tree mulch from a tree trimming company and used that to supplement and replace the older mulch. And it was FREE-- tree trimmers have to pay to dump their mulched up trimmings, so they're happy to deliver to you and get it of their hands. Just make sure you work w a reputable tree trimmer so you know what you're getting (not a diseased tree or something).

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 11:49AM
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Just reiterating what everyone else basically said: natives will take some times to get established (but you'll be so happy when they do). Some people like to plant fillers, like annuals, as previously said, or other short-lived plants, like Gambelia (aka Galvezia) or Acmispon, to temporarily fill it in. There's a lot more choices out there.

Really glad to see another California native gardener :)

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 12:22AM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

Thanks so much everyone! Glad I didn't sweep the mulch back into the green bin. ;) Thanks for the recommendations. The folks at Theodore Payne mentioned planting wildflowers so perhaps I will clear away some spots and throw some of my Shady Mix down for a little color in the meantime.

Thanks for your help as I navigate the waters of native gardening for the first time!!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 1:54PM
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Wildflowers are good, it's true. There is a saying about the growth of natives: first year, they sleep, 2nd they creep, third year they leap. Be patient!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 11:34PM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

okay - theodore payne's shady mix planted...fingers crossed...;)

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 3:11PM
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