• California natives mix with Mediterranean neighbors

    by  • April 5, 2011 • CA natives, Drought tolerant plants

    Taking advantage our our beautiful ‘natives’

    Adding drought tolerant Mediterranean plants to our existing California natives is a winning strategy or a deer resistant garden.

    Wyethia helenioides - Grey Mule Ears

    Wyethia elata, Hall’s Mule Ears

    This planting area is a mix of CA natives and North American natives and Mediterranean plants suited to wild conditions. All are tough, hardy and blooming plants. We used to cut wood here and I’ve left a row of stacked wood as a rustic element. The area is about 3 by 15 feet edged with more logs and the tree was planted in Fall of 2008.


    Box elder planting area

    Planting area-California Box elder, Autumn sage below and Curlicue sage at bottom

    California Box Elder, Acer negundo californicum
    Box elder is a wonderful looking deciduous tree for the foothills and anywhere in California.   Box elders are known sometimes to be invasive. To me, that means this one will grow fine here with cold winters and hot summers, typically Mediterranean weather. Mine is a ‘Flamingo’, a pink and white variegation and is sometimes called a ‘Ghost Tree’ because it drops its leaves and leaves the dangling seed clusters hanging. These seeds are an easy food source for squirrels, mice and birds like evening and pine grosbeaks. I placed it here in particular to contrast against the dark trees of the forest beyond our boundary. It anchors this planting area and will eventually replace the old dying oak just south of it.

    Autumn sage pops with color

    Autumn sage pops with color

    Autumn sage, Salvia greggii

    Although it’s a native from Texas and Mexico, Autumn sage is really useful in my garden to add color in the summer. Its normal habitat is the higher altitudes with rocky soil, although it grows reliably most anywhere in California, I believe. Since, my garden is at 3000 feet and the soil is clay and decomposed granite, it grows here well with little water and no fuss. I clip it like I would lavender after it blooms. It comes in red, red and white, magenta, pink, lavender blue and purple.

    Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam' Curlicue Sage

    Artemisia versicolor ‘Seafoam’ Curlicue Sage

    Curlicue sage, Artemisia versicolor ‘Seafoam’

    This is sort of a better behaved and more compact form of ‘Powis Castle’ artemisia, hybridized by Plant Select®. Plant Select® is a cooperative program administered by Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University to develop plants suitable to low water, dry high elevation. Each branch has a swirling lacy pattern to it and altogether gives the plant a fine texture. This would make a fine low edging and I hope it propagates as easily as ‘Powis Castle’ does.  It is ‘evergrey.’ 

    Note: I just pull up a low growing branch of Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ and jam it in nursery gallon containers of soil. Water and it grows.  I have also just buried a branch with a few rootlets in garden dirt and it grows. Nice!

    Chamaebatia foliolosa  Bear Clover

    Chamaebatia foliolosa Bear Clover

    Bear clover, Chamaebatia foliolosa

    This is a native here and I encourage it where ever I see it. There is a huge carpet of it on the slope above the house and where our well is.  In fact the man who dug our well, knew there was plenty of water here when he saw the expanse of bear clover.  I water it along with the tree and sages and it has formed a nice curved background for this area.  Bear clover has white flowers in spring that look similar to strawberry flowers, although it is actually part of the rose family. Some have called it ‘Mountain Misery’ because it is supposed to be sticky and grab you as you walk or because it has a strong smell.  I have found neither to be true and would rather imagine a bear tip-toeing through it.

    Grey Mule Ears, Wyethia helenioides

    Hall’s Mule Ears, Wyethia elata

    Hall’s Mule Ears, Wyethia elata

    Mule’s Ears are another native here all through the foothills. They form patches on the hillsides and remind me of wild sunflowers, blooming in July.  About 18” to 2 feet tall, the patches grow thickly.  The roots go too deep to transplant successfully and they will die if watered I have found. The leaves are furry and nice feeling. I love Mule’s ears because they come up like clockwork every year and don’t seem to invade or decrease in number. The dry stems snap off easily to neaten the patch in the Fall.

    Brachyscome multifida, Rock Daisy

    Brachyscome multifida, Rock Daisy

    The Rock Daisy, Brachyscome multifida, a native to Australia which blooms all summer with periwinkle blue flowers, is another plant I rave about that’s suitable to dry, shallow or rocky soils. t’s a great accent spot of color in front. Is any part of Australia considered Mediterranean?  *smile*


    The Box elder, Autumn sage, and curlicue sage were all found at Intermountain Nursery in Prather, CA.


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.