A Christmas Wreath Made With All California Native Plants

It is Christmas time!  All the decorations are full on: the lights, the flowers, the tree, and yes, the wreath.  Surely you have seen many different kinds of wreaths, some made with real plants, some plastic.  Today, we are going to show you a very special one – a wreath that was made completely with California native plants.  Here it is:

Christmas wreath made with California native plants

Native Plants In California

California is a wonderful place for plants.  It has the most species and varieties of plants among all the states in the US.  According to California Department of Fish and Wild Life, “California hosts approximately 6,500 species, subspecies, and varieties of plants that occur naturally in the state, and many of these are found nowhere else in the world.”

California native plants

Native plants are well adapted to California’s dry weather and use substantially less water than non-native species.  Also, many California insects, bees, birds and butterflies can only consume leaves and pollen from native plants, as they have been co-existing in the environment for tens of thousands of years.  As we strive to preserve the biodiversity, we need to start with having more native plants around us.

A lot of native plants are also beautiful.  They can add much beauty to our garden; at times like Christmas, they can also be used to make Christmas wreaths!

Wreath Making with Native Plants

California Native Plants Society   Santa Clary Valley Chapter hosted an event 2 weeks before Christmas, “Make a Holiday Wreath with Native Plants”.  There, Sherri Osaka talked about what types of plants to use, how to secure them to a frame, and how to tie a bow and hand the wreath up.  “Sherri Osaka is a licensed Landscape Architect and Bay-Friendly Qualified Designer who started her company, Sustainable Landscape Designs, over 20 years ago. She is our Chapter’s GWN chair and received the 2018 Water Champion distinction from the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Award Coalition.”

During the talk, Sherri made three wreaths, the one shown above was one of them.  The wreath was made mainly with 3 types of plants:  Coast redwood, Toyon berries, and California bay.

Coast redwood

Coast redwood “is an evergreen, long-lived, monoecious tree living 1,200–1,800 years or more.[5] This species includes the tallest living trees on Earth, reaching up to 379 feet (115.5 m) in height (without the roots) and up to 29.2 feet (8.9 m) in diameter at breast height (dbh). These trees are also among the oldest living things on Earth. Before commercial logging and clearing began by the 1850s, this massive tree occurred naturally in an estimated 2,100,000 acres (8,500 km2)[citation needed] along much of coastal California (excluding southern California where rainfall is not sufficient) and the southwestern corner of coastal Oregon within the United States.” (Wikipedia).

Before the West was developed, the California coast was full of the Coast redwood.  Today, you can still easily spot them in mountain ranges close to the coast in northern California.

The tree can be very tall (over 115m or 335 ft) and as wide as 9m (30 ft).  They have distinctive tall, red trunks.  The leaves are scale like, of dark green color, which make them a great base material for wreaths.

Coast redwood

Coast redwood


Toyon is “a beautiful perennial shrub native throughout the western part of California and the Sierra foothills. It is a prominent component of the coastal sage scrub plant community, and is a part of drought-adapted chaparral and mixed oak woodland habitats. It is also known by the common names Christmas berry and California Holly from the bright red berries it produces. ”  The city of Hollywood was even named after it: before Hollywood became what we know it now, it was a place full of Toyons, or the California Holly, thus the name “Holly-wood”.

Toyon often grows to be about 8 feet tall or even taller.  The leaves are evergreen.  But the most striking part is its bright red berries.  In open spaces, often the first plant one would notice is the Toyon, with its clusters of red berries against dark green foliage.  It is also called Christmas berry, for this wonderful red and green color combo.

In gardens, Toyon is rather easy to grow.  They are drought tolerant, can manage most soil types and and can make for a good hedge.  For wreaths, there are no other more fitting materials: bright red and green.  They are even called “Christmas Holly”!



Toyon on the wreath
Toyon on the wreath

In summary, California native plants are rich in species and varieties, support  biodiversity, and can add much beauty to our gardens with just a fraction of the water required for lawns or non-native plants. They are great for our gardens.   In addition to landscaping, they can be good materials for others, such as Christmas wreaths.  Plant some native plants, at Christmas time, make a wreath or two: let’s grow and appreciate nature’s wonderful gifts in all seasons.



Bees love them, they are planted heavily around the Apple campus

Last year, 5 years after Apple’s legendary co-founder Steve Jobs unveiled the “spaceship” design for the new Apple campus, the project finally finished and the new campus started its use.  While the huge spaceship is undoubtedly the most striking element of the campus, there is another equally important yet less known feature.

It is this massive amount of plants planted on the campus, which fills out the 3 acre space – 9000 trees, and countless California native and other drought tolerant plants.

It is not something that just happened that way – it is by design.  When Steve Jobs was planning the campus, from the very beginning he was very adamant that it should just be like what Silicon Valley was  before the digital transformation.  As Steven Levy of Backchannel said,  Jobs “wanted to create a microcosm of Silicon Valley, a landscape reenactment of the days when the cradle of digital disruption had more fruit trees than engineers. In one sense, the building would be an ecological preservation project; in another sense, it’d be a roman a clef written in soil, bark, and blossom.”  Today the campus fulfills that vision.  Inside and outside, the space is fully filled with trees and shrubs, many of them California natives.

A plant that grow in abundance on the campus is California Lilac.  On an early morning in March, a stroll along the campus could find that some of the lilacs grew to be big bushes already in less than one year’s time.   They are blooming, with massive bright blue blossom.

Native plants around Apple campus

Native plants around Apple campus 2

Close up, you will see some small creatures busy at work.

A bee on a lilac

A bee on a lilac 2

Bees at work

The bees were busy collecting pollens, which is their food.  Look at the two small yellow balls – they sure have collected quite a bit of pollen!

When the bees flying from flowers to flowers collecting their pollens, they rub pollens from a flower onto another, pollinating the flowers, which enables fertilization and turns the flowers into fruits. As most flowers need pollination to grow into fruits, without these small creatures, we can’t enjoy a lot of the fruits we are so accustomed to having every day.

Look around us – from the apple we ate in the morning, to the jeans we wear (cotton), and blueberries we snacked on in the afternoon, they all have bees to thank for.  Bees pollinate 75% of world’s main crops.  According to USDA, bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion or more of American crops per year. It is hard to imagine a world without the bees pollinating all those crops!

A bee on a lilac 3

Bees on a decline

Unfortunately, in the last several decades, bees have been on a decline. According to a study by Center for Biological Diversity (author Kelsey Kopec, a pollinator researcher):

  • “Among native bee species with sufficient data to assess (1,437), more than half (749) are declining.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 (347 native bee species) is imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction.”

For one of the wild bees, the rusty patched bumble bee, its population has declined by so much (almost 90%) since 1990s that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed it as an endangered species in early 2017.  The bee became first wild bee in the continental United States to be listed as endangered species.

Why such decline?  In the same study, the author indicated that “A primary driver of these declines is agricultural intensification, which includes habitat destruction and pesticide use. Other major threats are climate change and urbanization.”

Loss of habitat is one of the top reasons for loss of bees, which makes total sense.  The bees have been feeding on the plants in their native land for hundreds of thousands of years; when the habitats are lost to farming or industrialization, the plants are gone, so are the bees.

Native plants for bees

Bees need flowers’ nectar and pollen for their food; they especially like those from native plants, which is something that they have been feeding on for hundreds of thousands of years.  The California Lilac seen here at the Apple campus, is a big California native, and a favorite for bees with its dense blue blossom.  Lilac can bloom from late spring to summer, providing a good 4-5 months of food to the bees.

Another big native plant, the state flower, California Golden Poppy, also attract bees when they bloom.

Golden poppy on a field

Golden Poppy

Seaside Daisy, and Yarrow, heavily planted around the Apple campus, are two other natives that bees love.

Seaside Daisy

Apple Park 3

Plant more natives, restore the habitat

As bees play such a critical role for the ecosystem we live in, and for our food and agriculture business, we should do everything we can to provide them a good environment, putting them back onto a path for healthy growth. One critical step to achieve this is plant more native and other pollinator friendly plants.

Apple has done this by planting massive amounts of native plants on its campus; Many city parks and nature reserves also use their vast spaces for the purpose.  Here you can see California Lilac in a city park and a nature reserve in the San Francisco Bay area.  These are all great examples, but we can do more.

Lilac in a park
California Lilac in a city park
California Lilac in a nature reserve. See the bees on the blue blossom

In the last several decades, lawns have become the dominate landscapes for most single family residences in the country. People now realize, lawns not only consume a lot of water – over half of the water is used for outdoor watering in California, but also contribute to the loss of habitats for bees and other pollinators.  The stretch after stretch of green provides hardly any food or shelter for the bees.

By replacing lawns with native and other bee friendly plants, we can gradually put back the habitats that were lost, piece by piece.  We can help restore the habitats, starting from our own house.

The owner of this place wanted to replace their back yard with something much more attractive.  They decided to put in drought tolerant landscapes, and applied for Santa Clara Water District’s Landscape Conversion Rebate Program.  During the project, when they saw a lilac, they wanted it for their garden right away.  The project was finished quickly and they received the rebate promptly.  Now, they can enjoy the lovely garden, and the striking beauty the lilac provides.  Bees surely will love the new lilac too!

This garden is filled with California natives.  It was installed in fall, by next spring the bloom was already full on, with bees busy feasting on the Golden Poppy, Buckwheat and Matilijia Poppy. On a day in summer, while the poppy was already near its end of the bloom, a bee could still be seen working on it.

A garden with native plants

By putting in a garden with lots of California natives and other drought tolerant plants, not only can you save a lot of water, but provide a habitat for the bees and other pollinators, which in turn can help build a more sustainable environment.   Spring is a great time for planting.  Start today, and see native plants’ bloom and bees tomorrow!

Rethink stormwater – waste or asset?

When it rains and all the raindrops fall on our roofs, have you thought about where the stormwater go to?  Well, most of it just goes down the sewer, into the creeks and rivers, and eventually out to the ocean.


Stormwater – a waste?

Stormwater has been treated as something akin to waste in cities, something that is collected and sent out as soon as possible.  A complete infrastructure is in place to get this done: gutters and downspouts to collect rains that fall on the rooftops, drains and catchbasins to gather runoffs from downspouts, streets and parking lots, underground storm sewers will then convey all the runoffs and discharge them to a natural water system such as a creek, river and ocean.

There are a couple issues with this.  First, a big chunk of rainwater is lost to runoff.  Rainwater is freshwater that is basically clean in most circumstances, which can be used directly for outdoor purposes, as well as indoor with proper filtering and cleaning.  It falls right on our roof so no transportation is required to receive that water.  However, in the current infrastructure, that much freshwater is sent right away, requiring another huge set of infrastructure to deliver the water we need.

stormwater runoff

Another issue is pollution.  As it flows through the surface of the city, stormwater runoff collects all kinds of pollutants such as motor oil, gas, chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.  As the stormwater is discharged into nature untreated, it pollutes the water system discharged into. Toxic substances from cars and pesticides can harm birds, fishes and other aquatic life.  Nutrients from the fertilizers can cause the overgrowth of algae, depleting oxygen in waterways and aquatic habitats.

The third issue is insufficient water infiltration for the soil under the impervious cover and in general.  As we can see in the illustration below, in a natural environment (left), 25% of water is infiltrated in shallow surface, and another 25% will percolate deep into the soil.  In a city environment (right), those figures drop down to 10% and 5% respectively, so the water that goes into soil reduces from 50% of total to a mere 15%, a 70% reduction.  The lack of deep infiltration is a big problem.  Without proper recharge, the groundwater is seriously depleted in many places.  As we rely on ground water as part of our water supply, this has a big impact for our water safety.

stormwater comparison

Lastly, waterway erosion and threat of flood.  As a huge amount of water is gathered and discharged into waterway, the volume and speed it packs can erode the banks of the stream or river; when the volume is too heavy, it can flood surrounding areas.


Benefits of capturing and reusing rainwater

People’s thinking about rainwater has completely changed.  Now, rain water is no longer thought as waste; instead, it is viewed as an asset, something we need to capture and reuse.

  • A source of water supply

From 2013-2017, California experienced a historic drought.   At its worst point, the water content in the snowpack was only 5% of normal.  The drought was so severe, it was one of the worst in the state’s history.

California drought

After the drought, everyone realized we could no longer take the water supply as we knew it for granted. With climate change, drought might become more frequent and serious; on another hand, with economic expansion and population growth, our demand for water will just grow.  How can we build the reliable water supply that can meet our needs?

“Stormwater could be a significant addition to California’s water supply. While the potential is still unknown in the Bay Area, Los Angeles estimates that rainfall could provide nearly half a million acre-feet (620 million cubic meters) per year, said Steven Moore, a member of the State Water Resources Control Board. This may sound trivial compared to the 33 million acre-feet people use statewide each year, but it’s not. “Stormwater could make a difference,” Moore said. “It could see us through seven years of drought instead of five.”

From a cost perspective, local stormwater capture is one of the cheapest methods for water supply.  It is only more costly than urban water conservation, but much cheaper than others like recycling and ocean water desalination.

  • Reducing pollution and recharging groundwater

As the importance of rainwater is more thoroughly understood, people have been taking all kinds of steps to keep rainwater instead of letting it flow away.  In the cities, permeable surfaces are replacing the impervious ones, and more and more rain gardens have been built, in the streets, around offices and in our gardens.

When it rains, the rainwater can infiltrate the soil from the permeable surfaces and rain gardens.  In the process, harmful pollutants in the water can be filtered out; the cleaned water can percolate deep in the soil, replenishing groundwater.

Here is a storm drain at a street corner.  The catch basin around it was built into a rain garden, allowing the rain water to sink into the soil.

a rain garden at a street corner
a storm drain at a street corner
  • Reducing the threat of erosion and flood

Since water is directed away from the runoff, the total runoff volume will reduce, and the speed and energy that it packs up will lessen.  As a result, the force to erode will be smaller, and threat of flood lower.

Building a rain garden

So if you want to build a rain garden now, where can you start? Check out this post “Turn Rain Into Beauty In Your Garden” for some information.


On Oct 6 2017, SB231 was signed into law in California, making it much easier to fund and build rainwater capture projects. The key is the clarification about whether stormwater projects are subject to the exemption of prop 218:

Excerpts from SB231:

The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(a) The ongoing, historic drought has made clear that California must invest in a 21st century water management system capable of effectively meeting the economic, social, and environmental needs of the state.

(b) Sufficient and reliable funding to pay for local water projects is necessary to improve the state’s water infrastructure.

(c) Proposition 218 was approved by the voters at the November 5, 1996, statewide general election. Some court interpretations of the law have constrained important tools that local governments need to manage storm water and drainage runoff.

(d) Storm waters are carried off in storm sewers, and careful management is necessary to ensure adequate state water supplies, especially during drought, and to reduce pollution. But a court decision has found storm water subject to the voter-approval provisions of Proposition 218 that apply to property-related fees, preventing many important projects from being built.


(h) Proposition 218 exempts sewer and water services from the voter-approval requirement. Sewer and water services are commonly considered to have a broad reach, encompassing the provision of clean water and then addressing the conveyance and treatment of dirty water, whether that water is rendered unclean by coming into contact with sewage or by flowing over the built-out human environment and becoming urban runoff.

(l) The Legislature reaffirms and reiterates that the definition found in Section 230.5 of the Public Utilities Code is the definition of “sewer” or “sewer service” that should be used in the Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act.

With SB231, it is clear that rainwater capture projects do qualify for the Prop 218 exempts, making them much easier to fund and build.

To summarize, facing the ever increasing demand for water and a future with possibly longer and more frequent drought, we now look at stormwater with a completely new perspective.  Gone are the days when we think of it as a waste; instead we know it is a great asset, and will try to capture and reuse it in a way that will benefit us, and the environment the best.

A Tale of Two California Flowers

Everywhere you go, flowers are blossoming!  In the mountains, on the plains,  around the corners of our neighborhood, they offer so much beauty and charm of the nature.  Among them, these two flowers probably catch your eyes quite a lot: the tall Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri), and the splendid, golden California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica).  Together, they are a tale of two flowers.

Matilija Poppy

California Poppy

Voting for the State Flower of California

In 1893, the California State Floral Society met to vote on the state flower of California.  There were 3 contenders: the Matilija Poppy, the California Poppy, and Mariposa Lily.  All native to California.

Mariposa Lily
Mariposa Lily

The result: California Poppy received all the votes except for 3, which went to Mariposa Lily.  The California Poppy was determined to be California’s state flower.  A decade later, in 1903, legislature made the title official. Here is a California Scenic Highway sign with the California Poppy.

CA State Flower

Two Flowers, Great Plants for a California Friendly Garden

Both Motilija Poppy and California Poppy are beautiful California native plants that are drought tolerant, making them great choices for a water efficient garden.

Matilija Poppy  is native to dry, sunny environments in Southern California and Baja California.  The flower, like a fried egg (“Fried Egg Flower”, another name of Matilija Poppy) is one of the biggest of any species native to California.  The flowers usually begin from early spring and can last until late summer.

Matilija Poppy is tough and very drought tolerant, can survive in most of the soil conditions.  It can grow to be 7 feet tall and 28 feet wide.  If there are some spaces needed to be filled in the garden, the Matilija Poppy can be a good contender.

In this garden, the Matilija Poppies are planted near the window.   When fully grown, they can become a shield for privacy and hot sunlight.

The California Poppy is 4 to 12 inches tall.  They bloom in spring, adding their bright golden or yellow color to any garden. It is drought tolerant and easy to grow. Here, the green foliage and yellow flowers decorate the dry creek bed of this water efficient garden very nicely.

Vote on Your Favorite California Flower

Now you have a chance to vote on your favorite California flower.  These 4 flowers are all California natives. In addition to the Matilija Poppy and California Poppy introduced above, the other two are California Lilac (Cean0thus) and Lupine (Lupinus).  They are all drought tolerant plants great for a California friendly garden.

Which one is your favorite?

  1. Matilija Poppy
  2. California Poppy
  3. California Lilac
  4. Lupine

California Flowers

Echium: Color and Drama for a Water Efficient Garden


Want color and drama in a water efficient garden?  Consider Echium. At 6-8 feet tall when fully grown, their big spikes are like flower towers in a garden.  With them in the picture, there is no chance a garden is plain and dull.

Water Efficient Plant

Echium originates from North Africa and nearby islands in Atlantic Ocean. They are well adapted to the climate there, and are drought tolerant.

The type of Echium that we see most often, as in the picture above and below, is called “Purple Tower Echium”.


Another type we can see is “Tower of Jewels”, which sports pink flowers, instead of the purple blue ones of “Purple Tower Echium”.

Both types are drought tolerant, and qualify for Santa Clara Water District’s Landscape Rebate Program.  Once established, they need only a little water.


This is another type of Echium, “Pride of Madeira”.  It originates from the island Madeira, off the northwest coast of Africa (Madeira is part of Portugal).

“Pride of Madeira”, in Barcelona, Spain


Bees’ Favorite Plant

Echium’s flowers attract bees, making it also a great choice for a bee garden.  If you want to build a garden that attract bees, birds and butterflies, this is one of those plants!




Echium can grow to be very tall and wide, so plan for a rather big pocket of space.  Plant them in a group, match with other medium and low height plant groups.  The grouping will also make it better for bees if a bee garden is desirable.  The bloom time is from spring to summer.

Full sun is required.  Water until establish, then only very little watering is needed.

So, if you are planning for a water efficient garden, and have quite some space, if you enjoy those bold colors and tall towers, you can choose some “Purple Tower Echium” or “Tower of Jewels”!



10 Drought Tolerant Plants for a Beautiful Garden


When I came across this small park in a quiet residential area in Menlo Park, I was amazed by its smart design and selection of plants.  All the plants are not only beautiful, but also native, drought tolerant that qualify for Santa Clara’s District’s Landscape Rebate Program.  This  is a nice garden and park in one,  a place where people can relax and enjoy a quite moment.  It is also a place that we might learn one thing or two when we are thinking about designing our own garden.

The park is designed by Mara Young (landscape architect), and constructed by Janet Bell & Associates.


The park can be thought as comprising of two parts: the main area that is centered around an artificial turf, and the side area.

For the main area, it can further be divided into front, left, center, back and right areas.


The Front of the Main Area

The main area has two rather wide entrances, one on each side.  The plants between the two entrances serve as a nice low wall for the space.


At the right end of the wall is a nice display of plants, accentuated with a rock.


On the left are three Kangaroo’s Paws, with an orange blossom one in the middle and two green ones on each side.  Behind them are some catmints in purple blossom, and rosemary in a tall green bush.  Together they form this background that the blossom of Kangaroo’s Paws contrast nicely against.  The combo of all the colors  make for a pretty and warm welcome.  In addition, since Kangaroo’s Paw and all other plants are native, drought tolerant ones, by having them as the welcome plants, they make it clear this is a water efficient garden with natural beauty.


On the other end of the wall, it is the same combination – Kangaroo’s Paw against rosemary.  The consistency is a nice touch.


This is the outside view of the wall.   The main body is comprised of rosemary and catmint.  High and low, green and purple: simple yet elegant.


From the inside of the wall, some Lamb’s Ears grow in the middle spot.  The thick leaves add texture; the purple flowers, when it blossoms, are consistent with the color of those for catmint.


Overall, the front of the main area is made up mainly of rosemary and catmint, with Kangaroo’s Paw and Lamb’s Ear as decoration plants.  The major color theme is green, purple and some orange.

The Center and Left of the Main Area

The center area is an open space around an artificial turf.  In this space,  people can take a walk, talk to other people, or walk their dogs.


On the left, there is a small sitting area.  The rocks add a casual feel and mental boundary, while also serving as seats when needed.


Behind the sitting area, the tall bushes of rosemary, Matilija Poppy, Lindheimer Muhly form a wall that blocks out views from the street and neighboring houses and gives the space privacy.   Lamb’s Ear and catmints on the ground add variety.  Here the major color theme is white, light beige and some purple, against the green background.


The Back and Right of the Main Area

This area is a long thin area which is filled out by a couple of big bushes: Large Cape Rush, Lindheimer Muhly, Russian Sage, and Jerusalem Sage.  Each bush sports a different color that makes the space  pretty and fun:  (from left to right) the brown of the Large Cape Rush, the light brown of Lindheimer Muhly , the purple of Russian Sage, Jerusalem Sage (off bloom season), and the orange of the Lion’s Tail.



The Jerusalem Sage is off season now and trimmed down;  couple months ago, when it was in full blossom, it boasted of very pretty and unique yellow flowers, filling  up the space with a lovely view.  Not only is it pretty, the sage is also very drought tolerant and needs very little water.


At that time, the Kangaroo’s Paw and Russion Sage next to it, did not blossom yet;  now they do, what a splendid view!   With these three plants together, there is good blossom to enjoy here at this corner throughout most of the year.

The tall bushes of Lion’s Tail, Russian Sage, Mitilija Popply, Lindheimer Muhly and Feather Grass form a colorful block, rounding out the back of of main area.  The bright organe color of Lion’s Tail rhymes with that of the Kangaroo’s Paw in the front.

The major colors for the back area are brown, purple, yellow, and orange.


The right of the main area is a strip of plants along the right border of the park, decorated with two rocks.  Green bushes provide the backbone of the block, with a splash of color from a Lion’s Tail (orange), Large Cape Rush (brown), lantana (purple) and verbena(purple).  The big white flowers of Mitilija Poppy far back also add to the colors.  Here the color theme are consistent with the other areas: brown, orange, and purple.


The Side Area

This is a long piece of space on the left of the main area.  No park like space here, just a garden.  It is filled with the same native, drought tolerant plants as in the main area: Mitilija Poppy, Feather Grass, Russian Sage and Lion’s Tail.  The pretty blossom of each plant turn a pice of bare land into a beautiful view.




This is a lovely park and garden in one, a perfect place for the community to take a break and relax.

When I was walking around the park, these things stood out in my mind in terms of design:

The plants: all of them are native, drought tolerant plants, conserving water while providing a beautiful space.

The colors:  the main colors of orange, puple, brown, light beige and white  run across all the different areas of the park with some variations, giving it a consistent yet lively feel.

The shape: No a straight line or corner in the park (except the 2 side borders of the turf);  all lines are framed naturally by the plants, which goes in harmony with the native plants and the “natural” vibe of the park.

Here are the major plants in the garden and their names:

Native, Drought Tolerant Plants

Native, Drought Tolerant Plants

  1. Matilija Poppy
  2. Jerusalem Sage
  3. Kangaroo’s Paw
  4. Lion’s Tail
  5. Verbena
  6. Lindheimer Muhly
  7. Catmint
  8. Russian Sage
  9. Large Cape Rush
  10. Lamb’s Ear


Kangaroo’s Paw: Add Color and Fun to Your Garden

Even if you did not know what a Kangaroo’s Paw (Anigozanthus) looks like, when you see one, you will know instantly that must be it.  Those paws are hard to miss!

Kangaroo's Paw

Kangaroo’s Paw not only has a fun name, but also fun colors – red, golden, green, yellow.  Tall (up to 20 feet), unusual flower structure, nice form with branches, and yes, those bright, pretty colors – all these make it a favorite for gardeners everywhere in the world.

A Drought Tolerant Plant

Even better, Kangaroo’s Paw can thrive with very little water.  Native to South-Western Australia, it is well adapted to the dry desert climate. Once established, it needs very little watering, making it a great plant for any water efficient garden.  It qualifies for Santa Clara Water District Landscape Rebate Program.

There are many ways a Kangaroo’s Paw can be planted in a garden.  It can stand on its own as a center piece, or in a group with other colors of Kangaroo’s Paw.  It can also be planted with other plants, such as green or yellow grasses, to make a good contrast and a nice looking corner or stripe.

A Focal Point of a Garden

A tall, bright colored Kangaroo’s Paw can make a strong statement and become one of the focal points of a garden.  The red paw easily captures one’s attention when one looks at the gardens below.


Kangaroo's Paw Alone

A Group of Kangaroo’s Paws In Different Colors

With all the different colors that they boast of, Kangaroo’s Paws can make a big impression when they are planted together.  Here, the red and green ones complement each other and make a welcoming entry to the open area behind.

Kangaroo's Paw Group

Kangaroo’s Paw With Other Plants

Since they are usually tall with bright-colored flowers, Kangaroo’s Paw can go well with plants of full foliage and blossom of another color. Above, you can see they look nice with green foliage and purple blossom. Below is another one with sedge grass.

Kangaroo's Paw with Grass


Net, Kangaroo’s Paw is a drought tolerant plant with unique, bright colored flowers.  It can be a great choice for a beautiful water efficient garden.

Wild Flowers on Pacific Coast

Wild flowers are in full bloom on Pacific Coast!  Look at the fields full of wild flowers – what a beautiful view!


Native plants grow and thrive in hard coastal environments that are very cold, windy and dry.  When spring and summer come, they will all go into full blossom, turning the field into a huge colorful blanket.

Here is the good news – you can plant a lot of these native plants in your garden, so you can enjoy the same blossom from the comfort of your home.  In fact, you are encouraged to plant them, as many of them are drought tolerant, and qualify for Santa Clara Water District’s Rebate Program.  The beautiful yellow and purple flowers in the photo are two such plants.

Golden Yarrow

Native to California, this perennial plant (Eriophyllum confertiflorum)  is well adapted to dry and windy coastal climate.  Very hardy and drought tolerant, you don’t need to water much after they establish.  The golden color is lovely!   Qualifies for the Santa Clara Water District’s Landscape Rebate Program.

Golden Yarrow on Pacific Coast

Golden yarrow on Pacific Coast

Golden yarrow in a garden

Golden yarrow in a garden

Common Yarrow

In addition to Golden Yarrow, the white-flowered yarrow also grow and blossom in abundance in the same place.  This kind of yarrow is called Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium & hybrids).  Just like their sister Golden Yarrow, they are also native, very tough and drought tolerant. Another great choice for a garden.

Common Yarrow on Pacific Coast
Common Yarrow on Pacific Coast
Common Yarrow in a garden
Common Yarrow in a garden
Seaside Daisy

As its name indicates, this perennial plant ((Erigeron glaucus) is native to the seaside areas on West Coast.  Tough, drought tolerant, it blooms for a long time (spring to late summer).  It can grow to be 1 feet tall and 2 feet wide.  A great plant for a water efficient garden.  Qualifies for the Santa Clara Water District’s Landscape Rebate Program.

Seaside Daisy on Pacific Coast
Seaside Daisy on Pacific Coast
spring blossom
Seaside Daisy in a garden

A garden with the seaside daisy.

Garden with Seaside Daisy

In summary, if you want to conserve water, and enjoy coastal wild flower beauty in your home, a great way is to plant some of these native plants in your garden!  Find out more info at waterefficientgarden.com


Jupiter’s Beard – Drought Tolerant Splendor

Jupiter’s Beard (Red Valerian)

At this time of the season, everywhere you go in North Cal – Monterey, South Bay, East Bay, chances are you will see the bright blossom of Jupiter’s Beard, or Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber).  On the streets, in the gardens, at the beach, by the mountain, the pink, crimson and purple colors paint out the picture of spring so vividly.

The Beard of Jupiter

The name must be one of the most unusual for a plant.  Why such a name?  Well, take a look at this statue of Jupiter:


By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16480594

Look at the shape of his beard!  Here is the introduction of Jupiter on Wikipedia:

“Jupiter, also Jove (LatinIuppiter [ˈjʊppɪtɛr]genIovis [ˈjɔwɪs]), is the god of sky and thunder and king of the gods in Ancient Roman religion and mythology…His identifying implement is the thunderbolt and his primary sacred animal is the eagle”

In addition to the shape, as the king of gods (Roman time), Jupiter’s beard must also be enormous and magnificent, a perfect match for the wonder and splendor of the flower.


While you are taking a break to appreciate the flower, if your kids are also around, it can become some good storytelling time too, about Jupiter and any stories in the Roman mythology.

Water Efficient Plant

Jupiter’s Beard is an excellent plant for a water efficient garden.  Once established, it needs very little to no water.  It qualifies for Santa Clara Water District’s Landscape Rebate Program.

Jupiter’s Beard can grow to be 3 feet tall, and 7 square feet wide.   It can be planted as a focal point of a garden, or part of a border for an area or yard.

Jupiter’s Beard grows well in full sun.  It can grow in most soil types.  Very little care is needed after it establishes.


Most flowers of Jupiter’s Beard are in the colors of crimson, pink and purple.  There are also white ones, but those are rare.

The flowers attract butterfly and bees.

In a nutshell, if you want a plant that can grow quite tall, that has splendid and bright blossom in spring and summer, that is very easy to care and doesn’t need any watering once established, Jupiter’s Beard will be an excellent choice.

Jupiter's Beard (Red Valerian)
Jupiter’s Beard (Red Valerian)

Rockrose – a beautiful drought tolerant perennial from Mediterranean

Beautiful blossom

I planted a rockrose in our garden, in the San Francisco Bay area, about 2 years ago.  Since then, it just remained a quiet small shrub.  All leaves.  No blossom.  Never thought anything about it until a morning in March, after a full day of heavy rain and a pretty heavy rainy season brought by El Nino.

Voila!  flowers!  So it does blossom, after all! Look at those dark pink dots on the pink patals – making the flowers look like small smiling faces!

The rockrose stood proudly with its smiling faces for about a week, then I packed my stuff and left for a trip in Europe.  Before I left the house, I waived it a silent goodbye:  so long, my rockrose!

Same smiling face in Barcelona

The first week in Europe was like a wind whirl, then I landed at Barcelona.  There were so much to see, so much to do.  The day before I left, I went to this big park with other people.   As everyone was just rushing to the entrance, I saw this on the slope along the road:


Rockroses!  So glad I can see you here half the globe away!  The blossom, the leaves….you are truly sisters!  The only difference is this variety does not have the dark pink dots on their petals, nevertheless they smile the same bright smiles in the spring sun. 

A perennial from Mediterrarean

This is what I found on Wikipedia when I searched for the word “rockrose”:

“The Cistaceae are a small family of plants (rock-rose or rock rose family) known for their beautiful shrubs, which are profusely covered by flowers at the time of blossom. This family consists of about 170-200 species in eight genera, distributed primarily in the temperate areas of Europe and the Mediterranean basin, but also found in North America; a limited number of species are found in South America. Most Cistaceae /are subshrubs and low shrubs, and some are herbaceous. They prefer dry and sunny habitats. Cistaceae grow well on poor soils, and many of them are cultivated in gardens.”

No wonder I see rockrose in Barcelona…they come form here!

Plant a rockrose in your garden

Rockrose is a great perennial to have in a water efficient garden.  Beautiful blossom, multiple species and blossom colors to choose from – purple, yellow, white, pink, etc., and needs very little or no water once established.  Rockrose qualifies for landscape rebate programs, such as Santa Clara Water District Landscape Rebate Program.

Rockroses needs full sun, and can grow in almost any soil type.  Water regularly until it establishes, then just leave it there.  It will serve up pretty blossom when the time arrives, just like the ones at my garden.

Visit www.waterefficientgarden.com for more info about the water efficient plants and gardens.