• Inviting wildlife into your California garden

    by  • December 18, 2011 • Fall, Garden, Sierra Foothills, Wildlife • 5 Comments

    How we garden
    Normally, gardeners have only had themselves to please when creating a plant world around them. And that’s one of the best things about gardening, it can be so personal. You don’t have to follow any plan or design, you can use your favorite colors and plant as many flowers or vegetables as you want. Beauty and functionality have been most important.

    California mule deer were here first.

    California mule deer

    There are cottage gardens, woodland style gardens with shade, and the ever popular herb gardens.  But what about a wildlife garden? A wildlife garden is one meant to attract the native wildlife that would be living near your home if the original native plants were still there upon which they naturally thrive.

    Ceanothus 'Dark Star' in April

    Need reasons to plant California natives?
    So far, reasons to plant California natives are ones like wanting to plant varieties that naturally belong in California, planting to replace invasive species, and even choosing native plants to preserve them from extinction. Some have reasoned that lawns are water wasteful and could be replaced with an easy care native plant landscape.

    Gum plant, grindelia camporum bracteosum

    Gum plant, grindelia camporum bracteosum

    Natives are also easy to grow when planted in their natural ‘homes’ so many native plant nursery owners feature this. Recently, I had a conversation with Bonnie Bladen, owner of Intermountain Nursery in Prather, about the different varieties of birds in our Mountain Area. She says the book, ‘Bringing Nature Home, How Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens’, by Douglas W. Tallamy, gives another reason to plant natives.

    Butterfly or 'Skipper' in the genus Erynnis

    Butterfly or 'Skipper' in the genus Erynnis

    He says the most important reason “is the use of native species to create simplified vestiges of ecosystems that once made this land a rich source of life..”

    Disappearing wildlife species
    Bonnie says, “In the book, he talks about how much land mass we have converted to cities, suburbs, highways and farms (which are mostly mono culture). He said that this amounts to more than 90% of our land and that it has repercussions for the 50% of insect species who are specialists, those who evolved with certain plants as hosts for their life cycle. With the loss of these plants, there is a loss of species.”

    2008-Planting under oaks

    2008-Planting under oaks, Cleveland Sage, White sage, Lamb's ears

    “Tallamy says that if everyone plants just a few native plants in their gardens, that the habitat will be available for the native insects and in turn, the native birds and other species and that they will live right along side of us, in cities and suburbs.  His book is very compelling.”

    Bee on Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta

    Bee on Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta

    What each gardener can do
    Bonnie says, “Plant California native plants for their beauty and suitability for our climate and soils. The gardener who does so will end up attracting beneficial native insects and in turn native birds and butterflies to their yard instead of starlings and other European species.”

    New all native planting area

    New all native planting area

    This fall, in my garden, I planted new two areas with native plants only and will be enjoying seeing them grow up in the next few years and hopefully blend in with the existing plants here. Thanks to all Bonnie and also my new blogging friends who have encouraged me to grow mostly natives.

    What I planted:

    • Calycanthus occidentalis Spice Bush fall 2010
    • Juncus ‘Carmen’s Grey’
    • Arctostaphylos ‘Pacific Mist’ Oct 2011
    • Salvia sonomensis ‘Dara’s Choice’
    • Mimulus cardinalis Cardinal Monkeyflower
    • Cleveland sage
    • Ceanothus ‘Julia Phelps’
    • Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’
    • Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’

    In our Sierra Foothill area, we are fortunate to have a California native plant source in Intermountain Nursery.   Map


    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.

    5 Responses to Inviting wildlife into your California garden

    1. December 18, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      Great post! Every native plant gardener I’ve talked to is impressed by how quickly the critters appear. Suddenly you have lizards, many varieties of birds, and interesting bugs. I do think it’s more than just not using pesticides – and besides, they’re pretty!

      • December 19, 2011 at 10:23 am

        Thanks, I think you’re right, Mouse,…it is more than no pesticides. I think it’s a shame that so many native trees, especially, and shrubs were removed to build up all the subdivisions of the 50s and 60s. Now I think developers are wiser or the community demands conserving the native surroundings in ‘green’ areas. On a related topic, I could never figure out why in California , many housing tracts and custom homes were built in the ‘Tuscan’ style. What’s wrong with California style other than many cannot figure out what it is? ha!

    2. December 19, 2011 at 10:33 am

      I sure have enjoyed peeking at your garden and all the wildlife that it attracts. The toyon I planted several years ago finally have lots of berries this year. I’ve seen so many different birds in them and right up close, too. I’ll definitely be planting lots more natives. I didn’t know there was a natives nursery so close. Thanks for the info!

      • December 19, 2011 at 10:36 am

        Katie, you’d have to go right past my house to get there,…I’d love to go with you sometime,…maybe in the Spring! We just have to meet sometime.

    3. December 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm

      Nice post! I can attest to that. Although we had many natives (albeit overgrown) on the property when we arrived, I’ve added many more this year, increasing the diversity of native plants in the garden. Even though they’re only in their first season, and some of them not yet very big, I’ve already seen species of insects, and birds this year, that I hadn’t seen here in previous years. I’m so excited to see who else will show up as we gradually keep adding plants, and the ones we’ve planted fill in!

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