one year of native plant gardening in the Sacramento Valley

queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))September 29, 2009

I started gardening in 2008. Technically I started in the spring, but really I just stuck two plants in the ground in April 2008 and proceeded to spend May, June, and July spraying the rest of the back yard with herbicide. It was in August 2008 that I started really trying to grow a significant number of plant species. The vast majority of the plants I've tried to grow have been natives.

A little over a year later, I've discovered the main obstacles I face. In the winter, (1) standing water that drains painfully slowly and (2) annual bluegrass that persistently overruns any small seedlings. In the summer, (3) my own limited willingness to water and (4) a horrendous infestation of bermuda grass that seems immune to all herbicides. Year round, (5) two dogs that occasionally dig up plants that haven't rooted well.

I've also discovered that there are some species I can successfully grow. Specifically, here are the plants that have now survived both a wet season and a dry season under my care:

Woody Plants:

Cercis occidentalis (Western redbud)

Mimulus aurantiacus (sticky monkeyflower)

Ribes aureum (golden currant)

Ribes sanguineum (pink currant)

Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)

Vitis californica (California grape)

Grasses & Forbs:

Asclepias fascicularis (narrowleaf milkweed)

Carex barbarae (valley sedge)

Carex praegracilis (clustered field sedge)

Eschscholzia californica (California golden poppy)

Fragaria vesca 'Golden Alexandria' (wood strawberry)

Heuchera maxima (island alum root)

Linum lewisii (blue flax)

Muhlenbergia rigens (deer grass)

Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs' (foothill beardtongue)

Sisyrinchium bellum (blue-eyed grass)

There are plenty of other plants I'm growing that I have high hopes for, but the ones listed above are the ones that have already proven themselves for at least close to a year.

However, there are some plants I've had trouble with that I'm not sure why I've had trouble with. California fuchsias (Epilobium canum), for example. I've tried the 'Calistoga' cultivar twice and the straight species twice. Three of them died, possibly from drought (though they never seemed very happy in rainy weather either), and the remaining one isn't looking too great and has refused to bloom. I've been watering it more and more since it's started declining, but that hasn't seemed to help. No one else seems to find this plant so difficult to grow; why do I?

Then there's silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons). The ones I grew from seed died of winter flooding. Then I started buying them in gallon pots. One died of transplant stress, and two more died of drought over the summer. Those last two did at least survive long enough to bloom and produce seeds, which I was thrilled about, but it would be nice if I could get one to survive an entire year. I know they're supposed to be a bit short-lived, but they're not supposed to be annuals!

And also thyme. I've tried Thymus serpyllum three times, Thymus citriodorus once, and Thymus herba-barona once. They all died, most of them seemingly from drought, although one or two seemed to suffer a bit from winter flooding as well.

Should I give up on these species? Is there some trick to them that I don't know about? Are there other species you could suggest that would be likely to do well for me?

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Nope your not the only one with trouble of CA fuchsias.
I had 2 over 2 years ago and never even made it out of the pots. My fault...lack of water.
So I got one more and put in ground in partly shade.
Been in over 2 years now and bloomed and really looked nice this spring and now it looks dead. I cut almost everything back to save its energy but no sign of new growth. It doesn't get any summer water now.
So I give up on it. I'll leave it in thru the winter...maybe it's still alive.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 7:44PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Epilobium/Zauschneria is not that difficult to grow if you plant it in the fall when it is cooling down, and you give it good drainage. This is not a plant that likes wet feet in winter. You have started your garden in a way that is going to create so many problems for yourself down the road that it is painful to read your post.

You would have been best off to really eradicate the bermuda grass before you planted anything, and if you have followed the recommendations for how to use Roundup on bermuda grass, with repeat applications as required, and all the rest of the directions for how to use this herbicide most effectively, you might have actually gotten rid of it. As to annual blue grass, this is pretty effectively controlled if you invest in a good mulch at least 3 inches thick over all bare earth, and then keep on top of pulling any that does manage to sprout. Never let it go to seed, or you will have defeated the purpose of the mulch, and if you disturb the mulch, you will need to be vigilant to make sure it doesn't get established again. Any time you move mulch to plant something new, it is important to freshen up the mulch to keep your weed seedbank from getting re-established.

Most California natives, except for things that are actually native to riparian edges or vernal ponds are not going to appreciate sopping wet ground for weeks at a time in winter. The few native plants that actually do like these conditions would be many of the Juncus or Carex species. You probably would have been better off creating mounds utilizing your existing soil and moving it around, or bringing in new soil to create mounds so that the more drought tolerant plants that prefer good drainage would have a chance. Mounding just 12 inches in height above the level of your perennially wet ground would have made all the difference.

About the dogs digging things up, either invest more time in actually training them not to do this, or fence off new plantings until they are more established so that the dogs can't damage them to the extent they already have.

As to your limited urge to water new/small/seedling plants, if you are not working with the seasonal rainfall schedule and also controlling the weeds first, and aren't even willing to give water to plants the first year or two as they need it, what do you really expect to happen? Sorry to rain on your parade as a new gardener, but if you want good results, expect to put some effort into it both physically and mentally, there is plenty of information out there on how to do things as a new gardener and not be your own worst enemy...

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 9:32PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Gee, Bahia, some of us just want to chat about our gardens for entertainment and camaraderie- because it's fun to share your gardening mistakes and troubles as well as your successes.

Queerbychoice, I have trouble keeping thyme alive more than a year. I also lost my California fuschia. I have never tried the lupines, but they grow on slopes here, so they probably got too much water in your yard last winter.

It sounds like you have enough different plants established to landscape with. Can you repeat the plants you are having success with in large groups? I think the carex looks especially beautiful in large numbers. Have you considered planting more trees? More trees will keep it cooler in the summer.

Have you put a path through the garden? I can't remember the photos of your yard- a wide curving path always looks good to me.

Post some new photos if you get a chance, I'd like to see how it's going for you this fall.


    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 10:51PM
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I live among the chaparral here in Temecula on 5 acres. (Some neighbors think I am crazy for living among all of those "weeds".) I have oaks, buckwheat, sages, sugar bush manzanitas, etc. When I have tried to duplicate some of the natives in my garden they refuse to survive. It seems the vegetation in our communities have picked their "special" spot to naturalize, and when we plant them in a patch of dirt of our choice ...they don't survive. It is a lot of trial and error with natives, but you have made great progress. If they have to be babied to survive - I say try again with another species.

By way, where did you purchase your plants?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 11:20PM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

I really did try to do things the right way, and I really have put in a great deal of effort, both physically and mentally. Before I ever bought a single plant, I spent months researching plants, making spreadsheets of the ones that might work for me and all their growing requirements and characteristics, memorizing all the planting and weeding guidance on the Las Pilitas website, reading all the native plant books I could find, and so on. But I had zero previous gardening experience, so the things I read were harder to make sense of then than they became after I started actually gardening. Maybe your first year of gardening experience happened when you were a little kid with a parent to guide you? I didn't have any of that experience.

I followed the LasPilitas advice by trying to eliminate the bermuda grass before planting; that was the point of spraying herbicide for three months in May, June, and July 2008. No, I probably didn't use adequate concentrations or continue spraying for long enough, but I believed that I had. The stuff appeared to be staying dead, and I didn't realize yet what a formidable foe it was. I spent all of last winter under the illusion that I had successfully killed it off last summer, and I had no idea I was mistaken until it came back worse than ever this past spring.

I didn't recognize what a lot of my other weeds were from the photographs online; I only gradually started learning to identify them by posting them in the "Name that Plant" forum here on GardenWeb.

I had no idea that the yard was going to be underwater all winter until it actually happened, because I didn't live here the previous winter. When I saw that the yard had practically no drainage, I spent weeks digging a 100-foot-long drainage ditch from the back yard to the front yard, until the back yard finally drained. I also started mounding the soil for my non-riparian natives; that's why the plant species I listed above have survived the year. I put in considerable physical effort, and I really did dramatically improve the drainage. Please notice that the plants I mentioned having continuing problems with have been ones that seemed to be dying more often from lack of water than from lack of drainage. Please also notice that I have kept careful records of every plant death and my best guess about the causes of it, so that I am able to report the problems the way I did above. That is another part of my continued mental effort. I'm trying, I really am.

I also did try to work with the seasonal rainfall schedule by planting most of my plants in the fall; I didn't completely refrain from planting things later in the year, but I tried to give extra water to the ones I planted later - I just didn't realize that the extra water I gave would turn out not to be enough. How could I possibly know, with no previous gardening experience, that the extra water I gave would turn out not to be enough, and the plants would abruptly die? Everything I read just told me I would need to give them more water. There was no way for me to know, with zero firsthand experience, how much more water I would need to give them.

Bear in mind, too, that this is a tiny yard of a rented duplex, maybe 30 feet across by about 20 feet deep, bounded on one side by the bermuda grass-infested weed patch of the apartment complex next door, on the other side by the bermuda grass-infested weed patch of the other half of the duplex, and on the third side by the weedy, primarily bermuda grass lawn of a probably rented single-family home. (Other than the bermuda grass lawn, these are true, 100% unmaintained weed patches on par with vacant lots. There's no evidence of any landscaping attempts ever. And across the street is a huge long levee that is also pure weeds, except for some native annual lupines in the spring and an occasional poppy or two.) So even if I had succeeded in eliminating the bermuda grass last summer, it might only take a week or so of neglect for my yard to be overrun by it all over again.

I know I could try installing root barriers around the entire perimeter, but that would be kind of a big project for a renter like me. All my gardening efforts will ultimately be largely wasted anyway when we buy a house and move away from here, so I don't think I can realistically aim for a professional-quality garden here. Instead, I'm aiming to learn what I can here and make the best of what I'm stuck with at this point, given the problems I've already run into, and given the fact that it doesn't make much sense to re-spray the whole yard with herbicides at this point in the process when I'll probably just end up moving somewhere else in another year or two.

Mulching away the annual bluegrass is good advice. But do you really think I would have a good chance of preventing the annual bluegrass from sprouting when it would still be going to seed in all the surrounding yards and all over the levee? Mulching to prevent the bluegrass from sprouting would kill the California golden poppies that are already sprouting from the seeds dropped by last spring's crop, and I know from last year's experience that the poppies will survive with annual bluegrass coming up between them. If I could get rid of the bluegrass permanently by sacrificing the poppies for one year, that would be worthwhile. But would I be able to go back to growing poppies from seed next winter (assuming I still live here then), or would I have to continue mulching every winter and give up ever growing poppies from seed?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 11:38PM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

Renee, thank you for the suggestions! I would absolutely love to plant more trees, but the yard is so tiny that I don't think it would be a good idea to plant anything taller than a redbud. My golden currant and my redbud are about equal heights right now - around four and a half feet tall - and I also planted a chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) last week that could become somewhat treelike eventually. That's probably about all there's room for. I do have a volunteer cottonwood, but I'm going to have to get rid of it for lack of space.

I really like the clustered field sedge (Carex praegracilis), but I think I may have to hold off on growing more of it, just because I've found that I absolutely can't kill the bermuda grass that infiltrates it without killing the sedge too. With every single other plant in the yard, I've managed to back the bermuda grass away from the desired plant roots so that they're not all tangled together, but with that one it was hopeless.

I don't have a path yet. It seems like such a shame to sacrifice any garden space for a path when I have so little to work with! Also, the drainage ditch I dug is kind of in the way; I have to step over it, and often I sort of walk inside the drainage ditch as if it were a path. But you're right, I should be thinking about putting in a path.

Here is a picture of the drier half of the yard this past May. All the bermuda grass visible in this picture is probably finally dead now. The little stripe of bermuda grass that goes from in front of the silver bush lupine and out the right side of the picture shows the shallow beginning end of the drainage ditch. The other plants shown are deergrass and catmint in the foreground (the catmint died either from drought or as a casualty of my war with the bermuda grass), blue flax by our dog's tail, redbud mostly hidden behind our dog's head (it's grown a lot since then!), poppies, and foothill beardtongue. That lupine died in August, so I'm pretty sure the summer drought was what killed it, not the winter flooding.

Below is the wetter half of the yard at the beginning of August. About half of the bermuda grass shown here is probably dead; most of the rest is probably just temporarily driven back underground, and a bit near the fence is still visibly thriving. The plants on the left are a volunteer cottonwood in front and a serviceberry behind it. (The serviceberry had lost a lot of leaves due to transplant stress; it looks a lot better now.) There's a barely visible Aster chilensis in front of the garden hose, a volunteer willowherb twining around the fencepost, and the golden currant and milkweed behind the deergrasses toward the left. Oh, and you can sort of see one twig of mock orange and a few elderberry leaves back there too, if you use your imagination. In the foreground from left to right, after the volunteer cottonwood, are a California fuchsia, a blue flax, a rosemary, a coffeeberry, and a native strawberry. Behind the strawberry is the pink currant, and behind that, at the fence, is Carex barbarae.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 12:24AM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

Tressa, I bought my plants from all over the place. I got a lot of them by mail from Annie's Annuals. Some are from Floral Native Nursery in Chico, a few are from California Native Plant Society sales, and a few are from various other nurseries that sell mostly non-native plants.

I mostly agree that there's no sense babying plants that haven't been willing to grow for me. There are a few that are so pretty in other people's gardens, though, that it's hard to give up hoping!

Renee and gobluedjm, I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who's had trouble with thyme and California fuchsias. I think I may really give up on those two now, unless my remaining California fuchsia unexpectedly starts looking healthy again.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 12:34AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

You know what, I think a path should be put in alongside your ditch. That's where you are walking anyway. You can even get a few short 2x6's and make a tiny bridge where you usually hop over the ditch. If you can find some free rocks in the area, you can make it look like a dry (or wet) streambed. I had trouble moving in rocks that were big enough to really make a statement, so my dry stream/drainage ditch is a bit artificial looking, but I like it better than just the ditch. I put my path right alongside it, so that I have access to everything in the garden. The path can be just a few stepping-stones.

I don't say this to make you jealous, but when we got Sam the dog a year and a half ago, she automatically stayed on the paths. I know- she's an angel. She never sets foot in the beds. But your dog makes up for in looks what it lacks in gardening manners!

It sounds like you are all set in the tree department. Kill that cottonwood now! EEEK!
Until you kill off that bermuda, though, I agree that you may want to hold off on more groundcover-type plants. Once you get most of it under control you will have more options.

If I were you, I would buy tons of cheap annual seeds and throw them out there. If they grow, great. If bermuda gets in them, no problem, you are pulling them out when they are done blooming anyway, and you can spray and dig the bermuda then.

My favorites for early spring are: Calif. poppies, blue larkspur, red flax, elegant clarkia. I think all are native except for the red flax. I surface-sow in late October.


    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 2:26PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Sorry if I came off as so negative with my advice, certainly you have gained a wealth of personal experience that has now elevated you from a "newbie" gardenener to one more experienced with the trials and tribulations of invasive weeds, and poor winter drainage.

A bit more about using Roundup in case you didn't know:
1. Works best when bermuda grass has not been cut back, but is full and lots of surface foliage
2. Apply when bermuda grass is in active growth(usually once it has hit 75F temps for a couple of weeks
3. Roundup works best when you have consistent warm weather so that it actively gets translocated to the roots
4. When bermuda grass is invading from the neighbors gardens, you need to do regular weed patrol to keep on top of runners that spring up from under the fence, probably at least every couple of weeks

About the annual bluegrass:
1. If you are planting out small seedlings that can't effectively compete with weeds, try cutting an 18 square of weed fabric and pinning down at the edges around any new seedlings, this is what is typically done with revegeatation seedlings/trees planted out in grasslands, they need help creating a clear zone so that they can get large enough to compete with the weeds/grasses
2. Mulching deeply to keep bare soil from being exposed greatly helps with inhibiting weed seeds that need light to germinate, such as the annual blue grass
3. If you are trying to reseed poppies and other wildflowers, you can keep smaller areas weedfree and scatter saved seed, but will need to be vigilant about weeding seedlings of weeds as they come up

Watering new plantings;
1. Standing with the hose and giving things a splash of water just isn't enough with valley heat and small seedlings with their limited roots
2. Better to give things a really good soak twice a day if starting seedlings when the weather is still hot, and use mulch to minimize soil evaporation
3. You might consider creating temporary shade structures using bamboo stakes and shade cloth if you can't resist starting seedlings outside the ideal fall planting window
4. Ideal time to plant out small sized native species is in the fall, once it starts to cool off enough in your area that you won't be getting any more 75F and above days, this makes a huge difference in heat and water stress for small plants

Drainage issues
1. You are absolutely right that if you didn't know how poorly drained your intended garden was going to be, you wouldn't have known that it would be a problem.
2. You now know that it may be worth investigating first before you start planting; ie, look to see if there are rain gutters or downspouts off the roof, where they drain, if there is enough slope to the ground that water can drain away, etc. It may also be helpful to ask the neighbors, landlord, former tenants, when you have a chance to do so, if there are any drainage problems with the site

1. You now have the experience to be a better judge of whether your intended garden area is surrounded by weeds, and if so, you now also know that it is always a good idea to try and get rid of the stored seed bank before you start planting
2. Getting rid of entrenched weeds may mean using Roundup at the right time of year to effectively kill them(and use the full strength applications and repeat usage after clearing away killed weeds, watering for at least a couple of weeks to initiate new growth, wait until weed regrowth is at least a couple of inches and spray again. You may need to do this 3 or 4 times over 3 to 4 months to get rid of all the weeds.
3. It may be useful to cultivate/disturb the soil several times to expose weed seeds to light, hoe them off or spray with herbicide, and repeat several times if you suspect you have a real weed problem. This could even mean that you don't plant your garden until 3 to 4 months of weed treatment.

Dogs and new plants
1. it may be preaching to the choir, but small plants and dogs who aren't trained to be careful around small plants, or don't get enough walks/excercise to keep from being bored when left alone all day, are not a good mix with new plantings, especially at small vulnerable sizes. It only makes sense to give the plants some protection from dogs if you can't mitigate their behavior, dogs will do what dogs want to do without work on your part. Maybe I have just been lucky with the dogs I have owned, but I started training them very young to be careful around the garden, and not destroy young or old plants. I also had the time to take them on long walks every day, and burn off all that excess energy, which is important when you have a labrador retriever. Now if I could just train the raccoons not to damage plants in my garden..

You have gotten some valuable experience in gardening by the "trial by fire" method, but it can also be useful to ask questions when you aren't clear on the methods, take classes, and keep reading up. Obviously there isn't just one way to garden, and I certainly don't claim to know all the answers, but over 40 years of gardening, over 30 years of them professionally, mean that I do have a very good handle on how to handle weeds, drainage, soil amendmending, etc to fit within the budgets and efforts of my clients, and can tailor solutions that will work within different circumstances. It is always about tradeoffs, and I am not against using weedcloth as a first line of defense to be set underneath deep mulch when I can't eliminate the weeds in the first place, it has been my only workable method to minimize bermuda grass and Oxalis pes-capri infestations when I didn't have the time or budgets necessary to really control them before new landscape plantings.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2009 at 12:18PM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

Thanks, Bahia! It's useful to know that Oxalis pes-caprae can be so difficult to control, because I know I have a little of that around too.

Combining your suggestions with Renee's, I think I'll make paths and borders from thick mulch but leave bare spots between for starting seeds of annuals. I have lots of seeds of two annuals - Collinsia heterophylla and Clarkia unguiculata - in addition to the California poppies. I'll try to hold off (as much as I can stand to) on planting more perennials until I can find out next spring how badly the bermuda grass is going to come back.

Renee, there isn't much space for a path next to the ditch right now, because the ditch passes diagonally through a narrow space between the house (which has a cement trough extending from it below the downspout) and the fence. But I probably ought to just relocate the ditch slightly, extending it farther along the fence before drawing it diagonally into the middle of the yard.

I've thought about lining the ditch with rocks, but last winter I found I had to keep re-digging the ditch as it filled with mud and debris from "upstream." I'm afraid that the rocks would soon be buried under mud and would just make my re-digging work more difficult. Renee, have you had any problems along those lines?

The dogs haven't seemed to dig up healthy plants; they seem to go for plants that are on the brink of death and probably would have died anyway. They also trample to death anything planted in one little spot directly outside the back door, but it's just that one spot that's the real problem, so maybe I'll just protect that one spot. For now, I'm no longer trying to grow anything in that spot.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2009 at 10:43PM
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I feel your pain. But keep at it! I think it looks very promising--and you're very brave.

For what it's worth, I have in the past used a few strategies to kind of break up the job into manageable chunks.

One, divide the space into small areas, a few feet square, and do them one at a time. Spray or pull weeds, water, spray or pull again, prepare soil, plant, and keep assiduously pulling weeds for a while. Truthfully, you have to accept that the soil's full of weed seeds and the wind will bring more. The only defense against weeds is plantings that are thick enough to shade them out.

So two, when you plant, plant thickly. Don't leave too much space for the weeds, because they'll colonize it in no time. Someday, when the plantings get too thick, you may have to thin them out, but that would be a wonderful problem to have, wouldn't it?

Three, lavish your new plantings with love for the first year. Amend the soil copiously. Water generously during that first hot, dry summer. Keep the weeds away from them. Once they take hold, you'll be surprised how viciously they'll hang on. Redbuds always impress me that way. They don't look like it, but they're tough as nails.

Four, cover the unplanted space with something else. People can have lots of arguments about the various merits of landscape fabric, bark mulch, rubber mulch, or rock, but on some level it doesn't matter as long as you put something there to deter weed germination.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2009 at 1:44PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Hi queerbychoice,
My ditch does not fill with mud because I dug it all the way across the yard and planted very thickly around it. It has worked beautifully- my living room has not flooded since I dug it out. You could put the rocks up on the "banks" of your ditch to prevent them from being covered over. Here's a link to a photo taken from the front gate, so you can see how small the yard is.

However, I have another ditch about 28 inches deep across the back of my yard to contain running bamboo and it fills up every year with mud slumps and ground-squirrel dirt. And I'm getting to old to dig out a sixty-foot trench every year!


Here is a link that might be useful: Ditch with rocks that are too small

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 12:58AM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

Renee, your zoysia grass path is absolutely gorgeous.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 3:39PM
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Growing natives can be tough, I find myself mentally working backwards after the sudden death of a sage or echium or the 20+ lupines I've seen die in our 6 years since converting a bermuda grass field to xeric plants. Moisture control is almost always the key. I have to think if you get an exceptionally wet spring, you will lose some of those woody natives, so controlling runoff seems like the key to you eventually creating the yard you want. Sounds like you've made a good start.

I still struggle with the bermuda stolons and alternate between roundup (the only non-organic use in my yard), pulling weeds and trying to ignore those evil green patches that never completely go away.

This never seems like a yard (5 month old pic) that should be too wet for natives, but I've seen plenty of drought lovers drown in low spots, as the clay hardpan is only about 24-30" down below. I just want to keep adding organic matter and pushing the beds higher, but am limited by the crown of some plants and the gradient of the yard, unless I pull most of it out and re-engineer it all.

You might consider some bulbs too: iris, crocosmia, gladiolus or freesia.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 5:53PM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

Dicot, what are the natives shown in your picture? I particularly like the shrub to the left of the window and the half-visible shrub at the far right. Are those natives?

Good luck with your bermuda grass. It sure looks like you've made excellent progress with it!

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 12:18PM
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That's the thing, the bermuda is still EVERYWHERE in that pic, but it isn't unsightly to my neighbors (just me!). The big bush is Lavatera bicolor, which I love, but it does need some water to look good. I have lemon marigold (Tagetes lemmonii), echium, a few CA sages that are struggling, and you can't tell by this pic, but the front beds have Mexican primrose and gazania ground cover. There are a number of native bush mallows that would be good in your yard, like Lavatera assurgentiflora and Lavatera arborea and Lavatera olbia (hard to find). Of the sages, the salvia microphylla is the most forgiving of neglect and is long blooming and the S. elegans blooms all winter and draws the hummingbirds like crazy.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 10:04PM
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Hi Gayle...since i live very near to you, i thought i'd put in my 2 cents. Lupinus albifrons and various varieties of Calif fuschia grow extremely well on my property. I give the fuschias just a bit of water during the summer after i transplant them; otherwise, they go totally dry and bloom like crazy from late summer until December. I live in Marysville on pretty much pure sand, so i believe that your problem must be drainage. Most of the L. albifrons i see around here (i.e. along the hwy in Oroville) is growing on gravelly slopes or hillsides. Cheers

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 4:46PM
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Min3 South S.F. Bay CA

hi again qbc- i see that this chain of posts is a few years old so i hope you are still around and will give us an update on your efforts in that very challenging yard.
or even better, maybe you have been able to move to a house of your own with a yard that is much easier to garden in?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 5:58PM
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