"Since childhood, I have loved hiking in our beautiful Coastal Sage Scrub. As an adult, I’d always look up what I’d seen in my 1st (and 2nd and 3rd!) edition of James Lightner’s San Diego County Native Plants. Now when I hike, I observe with a different eye, seeing which local native species might thrive in my coastal garden. When I began native gardening, I consulted California Native Plants for the Garden, a wonderful book by Carol Bornstein, David Fross, and Bart O’Brien, to see photos and descriptions of varieties of native species that do well in garden situations. I also went on the garden tours hosted by CNPS-SD to get design ideas. My initial plantings featured many Channel Island natives, as my garden has a similar climate. Since then, I now research more locally native plants on Calflora & Calscape (also https://www.laspilitas.com and http://theodorepayne.org/nativeplantdatabase) for information on soil type, water requirements, and climate zone. I have found that a native garden is an ever-evolving organism, where some things thrive and some things don’t—and not to be afraid to pull up those that don’t! I originally planted mostly to attract butterflies and birds but have been delighted to find that I now have many resident lizards and visiting insects. A real life-changer has been the iNaturalist app, which I use daily to help me identify all the native bees, wasps, hover flies, and bee flies that have found their way to my native garden. Every day is filled with the joy of discovery!"
-Bonnie Nickel, Member CNPS-San Diego Garden Committee
"Successfully selecting the best native plants for your garden is dependent upon many factors. One should first ask themselves, what style of garden do you want. Carefully selected plants with an emphasis on aesthetics, or less interest in aesthetics and more interest in habitat, restoration, wilderness. Then ask, how would you like the plants to function.. Are you seeking shade, privacy, wind break, birds, pollinators, fragrance, medicinal/edibles, lots and lots of color etc.? Once you have an overarching view of how you want your garden to feel & function you can get a better idea of the layout. Do you want hardscape such as boulders, do you want a sitting area, bird feeding/bathing station, stream bed, bridge, etc? All of those take up space, so calculate how big you want those areas to be and then think of what space is left over for planting. When selecting plants at this phase think sizes, shapes, colors. Then observe the sun/shade, moisture level, soil make up/drainage, steepness of slope/flat ground etc. for each area of the garden. Then finally, you can determine which native plants would be best suitable for each space. Remember, you can have the most beautiful plant in the world, but if it doesn’t survive it isn’t going to be so beautiful. Sometimes certain plants just don’t grow well in certain conditions, even if they’re native. Plants that are most likely to survive are usually those more wild and local to your area. Maintenance of the garden is important to consider. Many wild natives seed readily, grow very quickly, and are woody. All of these increase maintenance. Hybrids, selections, and cultivated native plants are useful in providing a neater and cleaner garden, but often come with more water requirements & less stability. A mix of both is useful. Ultimately, research the full size of a plant and plan ahead. Put that larger plant in as a foundation, then surround it with smaller perennials you’re not afraid to remove. And do not be afraid to remove them. Every plant provides a need at a given time, and there is nothing wrong with removing a native to help a native. An oak tree shading out other natives is not a bad oak. So use fast growing plants to fill in space quickly until a more prized/established plant can dominate the space. Avoid over planting however, as this causes frustration and soreness of back/wallet. Lastly, don’t be afraid to redo your work. Like anything else, gardening is a practice that takes time to learn. Also, humans are prone to make bountiful mistakes. Set aside fear of being wrong or messing up and remember that you’re doing a good thing, even if you have to remove something to replace it with something else."
-Vincent Bellino, Co-Chair CNPS-San Diego Garden Committee