gardening

Hummingbird Plants of the Southwest by Marcy Scott

Click picture to preview book

Click picture to preview book

Book review by Cindy Burrascano, Chair Book Sales

Last year I received a beautiful book Hummingbird Plants of the Southwest by Marcy Scott from the publisher for review. The book contains 5 chapters: “Hummingbirds and Their Flowers - A Short Primer,” “Hummingbirds of the Southwest, Creating a Hummingbird Habitat,” “Gardening with Native Plants - Southwestern Style,” and “Hummingbird Plants of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico.” The book is informative and photographs are gorgeous for both the hummingbirds and plant species but my glancing through the plant species made me hesitant to carry the book for CNPSSD. The author is trying to describe plant species over a large territory from California to Texas and Northern Mexico to lower Utah and Colorado. My concern is that people look at the lovely photographs and will choose a species that does not occur in San Diego or Imperial County based on the pretty picture of the plant. The book displays 21 species of penstemon but doesn’t include Penstemon heterophylla (foothill penstemon) or Penstemon spectabilis (showy penstemon), the common species for most of our membership and people likely to buy the book from our CNPS chapter. Salvias in the book include 9 species but the most common ones for our area are lumped together in the text with no photographs. I understand that is due to the extent of the area the author is trying to cover but it makes one work a little harder to make sure they choose local species that support hummingbirds. I don’t like to encourage use of non-local species in gardening.

Back to species - I don’t know about your experience with Salvia clevelandii (Cleveland Sage) but when I had a yard in Chula Vista, the Salvia clevelandii  in my backyard and the Epilobium canum (California Fuchsia) in my front yard were regular draws for hummingbirds. Both bloomed for extensive times given a little supplemental water. Cleveland Sage is a beautiful plant but of highly limited distribution over the range of Southwestern hummingbirds and while it is mentioned, it doesn’t have its own photograph in the book. I put the California Fuchsia in my front parking strip, and once it started blooming I was suddenly seeing hummingbirds regularly in the front yard when I used to only see them in the back by the Salvias. I mostly put the California Fuschia there as they are hardy, require little water, and have lovely blooms for extended time if given a little water. I don’t believe I thought about hummingbirds when I planted but I was pleased to see the species is included in the book with a photograph. I enjoyed creating a water spray that the hummingbirds would dive through when I was watering the yard and they were visiting. The “Creating a Hummingbird Habitat” section of the book discusses water features that are attractive to hummingbirds for your garden.

Marcy Scott recently contacted the chapter about her book. She explained to me that she had originally not planned on including California. She lives in New Mexico along the Rio Grande and operates a nursery specializing in Southwestern native plants, plants for wildlife habitat and other resource efficient landscape plants. The migratory nature of the different hummingbird species made it critical to include the information extending to California. The author is trying to encourage gardeners to help overcome some of the loss of food sources for the birds that occurred with extensive development, especially in the coastal part of the state, through inclusion of nectar plants in their gardens. I had picked up two copies of the book prior to her contact and they sold the same night I put them out for sale at the chapter meeting.

Other pertinent information shared by the author when I mentioned my concerns about carrying a book with such broadly based information was that out of 135 plant species mentioned in the book, 41 (or about 30%) are native to one or both counties included in the chapter, including 14 out of 15 California/Baja California endemics. Ipomopsis tenuifolia is only found in San Diego and Imperial counties. The several penstemons, especially P. centranthifolius and P. labrosus; the Keckiellas; the Diplacus species; Salvia spathacea; the two Ribes; and Monardella macrantha -- all are of tremendous importance to resident and migrating hummingbirds, and the plants depend substantially upon them for pollination.

She didn't start out thinking that she needed to include California plants in the book, but as she delved more deeply into the migratory patterns of our western hummingbird species and the corresponding evolution of flowering plants adapting to those movements, it became apparent what a critical role those plants play in the big picture. Hummingbirds depend heavily upon the plants and they in turn rely significantly on the birds - - and with so many threats that both face these days, she wanted to share the information as widely as possible.

Chapter 2 includes six species of hummingbirds listed as regular in California (Black-chinned, Anna’s, Costa’s, Calliope, Rufous, and Allen’s), two species being occasionally reported (Broad-billed (sporadic over large areas) and Broad-tailed (nesting in the eastern part of the state in single leaf pinyon (Pinus monophyla), California Juniper (Juniperus californica), and Salix species), and very rare reports of Violet-crowned, Magnificent, and Blue-throated being seen. The migratory behavior of species is discussed for these species and the others not occurring in California but in the Southwest and Northern Mexico.

In the plant section, the author includes a photograph and information about the size of plants, the bloom period, water use, cold hardiness and USDA zone as well as a page of discussion about the species. I was thrilled to see her advice for planting Indian warrior (Pedicularis densiflora) in her description of the species. It was also interesting to see that the birds will use plants that are not red colored although the bulk of the species included are red blooming. I knew this from seeing them visit purple blooming penstemons in nature. I was never able to keep a Penstemon spectabilis alive in my garden but we planted one at Black Mountain Open Space Park last year and it bloomed and bloomed, and I saw it visited by hummingbirds. The book has at least eight different plant genera with species that are not red blooming so you don’t have to forgo hummingbirds in your yard if you don’t like red flowers.

After reading more of the book instead of just looking at the pretty pictures of species that don’t naturally occur in San Diego and Imperial County, I decided the chapter should carry the book for sale. My concerns remain about people bringing in species not native to this area because of their beauty, and the hybridization with related species that can occur with plants. Since we carry other gardening books that showcase species notnative to the area it didn’t seem right to leave this one out.Please don’t bring the “beautiful but not native to here” species into your garden when you see the beautiful photographs of the different species. Ms. Scott was correct to impress upon me the migratory nature of most of the hummingbird species and their need to travel through California and feed along the way. Ihadn’t thought about the co-evolution occurring between the species and will need to read the book more thoroughly to see what information it contains about that topic or in the extensive bibliography section. I had to wince when I read her statement about eucalyptus and tree tobacco supporting hummingbird species in Southern California due to their prevalence and the loss of their native nectar sources to development. Perhaps if we can get enough nectar species in our gardens, the hummingbirds won’t need the weedy invasives.

Creating Coastal Sage Scrub in a City Garden on the Mesa: A Q&A with Craig Denson

Craig Denson is a chapter volunteer with our annual Native Plant Sale and pursues California native botany through courses, his own field explorations, and his garden. His garden, 'Coastal Sage Scrub Revivified' will be on this year's Garden Tour as an FYI (Front Yard Inspiration). When you visit the garden you can see an evolving effort there, with an attempt to emulate 3 zones of local coastal sage scrub: (1) a drier, more open area with dudleyas, bulbs, and annuals occurring in openings in coastal sage scrub; (2) a grassy meadow-like area in front of that with annuals and some perennials; and (3) some denser perennials and shrubs.

We asked Craig some questions about how he got started with native gardening and what he has discovered in the process.

Restoring Nature in Your Garden: A Q&A with Dennis Mudd

Dennis Mudd is a self-taught native plant enthusiast who founded Calscape in 2010 with the goal of enabling small scale nature restoration efforts in California. The site is primarily focused on showing homeowners which plants are likely native to any location in the state, and helping them figure out ones they want, where to buy them and how to grow them. Mudd donated Calscape to the California Native Plant Society in 2014, and is currently leading development of the site in partnership with CNPS and the Jepson eFlora group at UC Berkeley. The site is now approaching one million unique users per year.

His native garden in Poway won San Diego Home and Garden’s Garden of the Year Award in 2012. It will be featured on the CNPS-San Diego Garden Tour this year.

Calscape can be accessed at www.calscape.org

What pointed you in the direction of gardening with California native plants?

For me, it started with mountain biking through the natural areas of San Diego. The more time I spent in nature, the more I wanted to recreate it in my own garden.

What, in turn, led you to create Calscape?

I enjoyed my own nature-restored garden so much that I decided to create Calscape to help more people do the same thing. I hoped that Calscape would help many more people create little patches of nature throughout the developed part of the state. If enough people restore nature in their gardens, we can mitigate and even reverse localized extinctions being driven by development.

PC: Dennis Mudd

What kind of animal life does your garden attract?

I was astounded by the amount of bird life that my garden attracted; I've counted over 50 species in the last few years. The number of butterflies is also amazing. If you like birds and butterflies, you should plant a native garden. 

What was your initial vision when you created your native garden and what direction, perhaps unexpected, did it take?

My vision hasn't changed that much over time, but I learned a lot along the way and gradually learned the importance of planting natives that are endemic to where I live. I found that cultivars and even plants that were native to the coast or farther north in California often died in the hot Poway summers, and they didn't really feel like the nearby nature I saw anyway. My nature restoration efforts really only started to work successfully after I switched to all endemics. 

PC: Torrey Neel

Is there an overall system that you think is superior for selecting plants to group together whether it be by plant community, watering needs, exposure, etc?

First, grow plants that are endemic to where you live. Then make sure you are planting them in a site with the sun exposure, soil drainage, and moisture conditions in which they occur in nature. People can get the information they need to figure out which plants belong at their geographic location and in their specific site conditions at Calscape.

How we talk to others about the value of California native plants is important if we want to send an impactful message. What would you say to someone who has just seen or heard about native plants and has them in their consideration? 

Restore nature one garden at a time! I don't think there is any garden as beautiful as nature.  

Questions written by Joseph Sochor

Bringing San Diego Habitats Home to the Garden

A Question and Answer Interview with Clayton Tschudy, CEO of CJT Ecologics and Former Director of Water Conservation Garden

Clayton speaks on January 26 at the CNPS-San Diego Winter Workshop in Balboa Park.

Clayton, after your decades of experience as a landscaper designer and horticultural director why did you decide to become involved in promoting habitat gardens?

My career in horticulture has always been based in science and ecology first. Early in my botanical studies I kept asking, "Why aren't these plants being grown in gardens? They are beautiful, should be easy since they are adapted to local conditions, and attract wildlife." Habitat was always the underlying reason I was involved in natives-focused horticulture. But plants and animals are not usually considered together in horticultural design, not in a rigorous way. Having a strong grounding in local plant ecology within my horticultural work was always leading me back to the creatures. Habitat is ecology. 

Tell us about the project you are developing to build an online network of people gardening in their homes and in public spaces to build more habitat for wildlife.

San Diego is a very large urban region, and also a biodiversity hotspot with tremendous biodiversity under threat. From mile-to-mile our local habitats change dramatically. This means that every home garden has the potential to conserve a special aspect of our local ecosystems. But for this to happen homeowners need the knowledge and resources, and community support, to make the right gardening choices. I am launching a blog and online community where people can learn how to create effective, localized, habitat gardens, share experiences with friends, learn how to become citizen scientists, and eventually support others starting that journey. I will introduce the blog in my presentation

Papilio rutulus on Eriodictyon crassifolium. Photo: Bob Parks

Can you name some of the ways in which gardening with native plants creates habitat for wildlife?

To support local fauna, you must use the plant species to which they are best adapted. Some plants native to other regions will have habitat value, but generally speaking, local animals are best adapted to local plants. This is particularly true of the invertebrates, who themselves are the base of the food web supporting larger animals. For this reason, locally native plants are always the backbone of effective habitat gardens. 

Three California native plants that are great to put in your yard to attract and nurture wildlife?

Different San Diego plants support different creatures, and few plants have tolerance of every garden condition. That said, using an early, mid-season, and late bloomer would be a good starter set for pollinator support throughout the year. Let's say Ramona Lilac (Ceanothus tomentosus), California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), and Palmer's Goldenbush (Ericameria palmeri). There are many such combinations, and plant choices should be tailored to your garden conditions and local habitat opportunities. 

Ericameria palmeri. Photo: John Rusk, flickr.com/photos/john_d_rusk/37817907816

In designing sustainable habitat gardens, what would you say is the first sustainability feature that you consider?

Your very local (within a few miles) plant and biotic communities should be your first consideration. Starting there brings many unexpected, and creative gardening opportunities. It does not limit your options. 

You’ve mentioned to me a book that you are working on. What is the focus of it and how will it differ from what else is out there?

Rather than focusing on just a few animals, such as a handful of butterflies, or generalizing about habitat components that are basic and universal, my book will focus on the San Diego region, its unique resources, challenges, and opportunities. Our micro-climates, soil diversity, topographical variety, and high biodiversity make effective habitat gardening both exciting and complex. My book will break down the critical aspects of all that complexity into a protocol that can be followed by home gardeners, as well as professionals, to generate vibrant habitats with significant conservation value, that still offer home gardeners beauty and personal expression in their landscapes

Clayton Tschudy is a botanist and has practiced sustainable landscape design for over 20 years throughout California. Through his company CJT Ecologics, he specializes in water conservation, restoration, and habitat garden designs. He consults with numerous organizations including the City of San Diego, Friends of Balboa Park, City of Chula Vista, the Port of San Diego, San Diego Canyonlands, Tree San Diego, the Irvine Company, GafCon, and others. Mr. Tschudy was the Director of Horticulture for the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College from 2013 through 2017. Currently he is the Chair of the Wildlife Advisory Group, consulting on natural resource management for the Chula Vista Bayfront for the Port of San Diego and the City of Chula Vista. 

Questions written by Joseph Sochor

How to Keep Your California Native Garden Long-lasting: A Brief Q & A with Lucy Warren and Greg Rubin

Lucy and Greg have co-authored two books on California native gardening: "The California Native Landscape: The Homeowner’s Guide to Restoring its Balance and Beauty" and "The California Drought-Defying Garden". They graciously accepted our invite to speak on the care and maintenance of  a California native garden at our Native Gardening Workshop this past September 8. We asked them a few questions at the time in advance of their presentation.

In your own California native garden what has been the most fascinating or surprising thing that has happened over the years? 
 
LUCY: I have loved watching the plants grow and develop to their maturity. One of the most surprising things was watching the supposedly tame Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince' run rampant and become aggressive. The original 'Canyon Prince' has been compromised and while it is still a beautiful plant, it limits where I will plant it.
 
GREG: I have been doing much of my Argentine ant treatment research and development in my own ½-acre yard, always striving for more directed and organic approaches. It has proven quite epiphanous and incredibly satisfying to bring plants like Ceanothus, Fremontodendron, Dendromecon, Arctostaphylos, and Lavatera back from the brink of death, and to realize how adaptable and resilient these plants can be in the absence of ant infestation. Many of the plants slapped with the moniker of being "short-lived" and difficult are precisely the plants ants seem to target most! 

On average, how often would one need to prune their native garden for optimal growth?
 
LUCY: It depends on what plants you have in your garden. Colorful perennials along the edges of the garden will need to be dead-headed regularly for appearance and to extend their bloom cycle or will need to be trimmed back at the end of their bloom cycle. Grasses need a haircut every year or two. Most of your landscape should be evergreen perennial plants which will need little pruning if they are planted to their mature size.
 
GREG: Hopefully you've chosen plants optimally sized for your spaces, otherwise there may be frequent pruning in order to keep them in-bounds. Short of that, the main reasons for pruning are for shape, to remove dead growth, and dead heading. On a plant by plant basis, this is rarely over once or twice a year. Perennials that bloom continuously (like seaside daisies) may require dead heading every month or two, which in turn stimulates more flowering.
 
When you go out to look at your gardens, what is the thing you check most frequently?
 
GREG: I look for struggling plants. If they have certain weeds growing right around the base (and nowhere else) that is a strong indicator of possible ant infestation. Then I check around and look for ants, as well as soil looseness, which is often associated with ant nests. Finally, if I've ruled out ants, I use my soil moisture indicator to see if the plant is too wet or dry. It is about 12" long so I can check moisture at the roots.
 
LUCY: I check for weeds always.
 
What sorts of pests prevail in California native gardens?
 
GREG: Ants and the sucking insects they support may be the single greatest cause of native plant mortality in landscapes. Unfortunately, by the time you see aphids and scale in the branches, they have long infested the roots, far from the reaches of horticultural soap or alcohol. The big question is whether it is this simple desiccation/sugar appropriation that is the cause of collapse, or whether it is the pathogens that researchers have found to be spread by this activity. Either way, there is absolutely nothing good about Argentine ants!
 
LUCY: I agree with Greg, definitely the Argentine ant is the most destructive, aggressive and prevalent pest in California native gardens because it farms the sucking insects on the roots of the plants.
 
If you could have done or corrected one thing early on in your native garden, what would that be?
 
LUCY: Learn about natives earlier in my life and plant them then.
 
GREG: Use less plants! Many of my older gardens are a little over-planted, partly because I'm such a plant nut, and partly because much of the size data 15-20 years ago was on the small side.
 
What is a memorable response you have had from a reader of your books?
 
LUCY: One of my fellow Master Gardeners came up to me and apologized for the fact that their book was so full of notes and highlights--I loved it!
 
GREG: "Tashkent is NOT in the Ukraine, it is in Uzbekistan!" as I incorrectly described the derivation of Chitalpa tashkentensis as being developed in the Ukraine (especially embarrassing since much of my family on my father's side emigrated from the Ukraine!).
 
Aside from a geography lesson Frank Landis corrected my description of mustard being facultatively mycorrhizal. It is actually non-mycorrhizal, instead secreting cyanide compounds into the soil that destroy the symbiotic fungi that help support the native plant community. We were able to get that correction into the second printing.

Lucy A. Warren, a Virginia native, transplanted to California in early adulthood. With a Masters in Marketing, her first career in marketing research aided decision making with and for major corporations. Long fascinated with plants and horticulture, she is a former editor of California Garden magazine, wrote feature articles and a gardening column on edible plants for the San Diego Union Tribune, and many articles for other gardening publications. She collaborated on the University of California public information pamphlet on killer bees. 
 
Ms. Warren has been assistant coordinator for the flower and garden show at the San Diego County Fair and the Spring Home/Garden Show. A 20+-year UCCE Master Gardener, she has served on many boards, including San Diego Horticultural Society and Pacific Horticulture Society. She joined the board of Friends of Balboa Park as Horticulture Chair and was integral in the preparation of the 2015 Panama-California Exposition Centennial with the Adopt A Plot program. She has appeared on numerous local television news segments and frequently makes presentations to garden clubs and other organizations. She is co-author of two books on California native plants with Greg Rubin: "The California Native Landscape: The Homeowner’s Guide to Restoring its Balance and Beauty" and "The California Drought-Defying Garden".


Greg Rubin was recently named the 2018 Horticulturist of the Year by the San Diego Horticultural Society. He is the president and founder of California’s Own Native Landscape Design, Inc., and is a licensed landscape contractor (C-27 No. 717147) who has been working with California native plants since 1985.  By 1993, Greg fully transitioned out of his career as an aerospace engineer to devote himself to his successful and unusual landscaping business. His company has designed over 700 residential, commercial, and institutional native landscapes in Southern California. Specialties include year-round appeal, low maintenance, water efficiency, rich habitat, and fire-resistance. Greg has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, San Diego Union Tribune and Los Angeles Times, and magazines such as Sunset, San Diego Home and Garden, California Gardener and Kiplinger's. Media coverage includes appearances on all of San Diego's local news outlets, CNN & MSNBC. Greg regularly gives presentations and workshops on native plants to conferences, garden clubs and other organizations throughout Southern California. 

Greg is co-author, with Lucy Warren, of "The California Native Landscape: The Homeowners’ Design Guide to Restoring its Beauty and Balance," published by Timber Press, 2013. This popular native horticultural literary work covers all aspects of native landscape design. He and Lucy now have a second book, "The Drought Defying California Garden", also published by Timber Press in 2016. His website is:  
www.calown.com.

Best tips from experienced CA native plant gardener Joan Bockman

Joan, what are your 3 best tips for planting native plants?

  • I always start by telling people to take a hike. Literally. You need to find that place you love. For me it was Torrey Pines Reserve because my native San Diegan husband had no idea what was native. So we started hiking and learned about Coastal Sage Scrub. I've been planting that habitat ever since in coastal Oceanside. A great view is from the Coaster south of Sorrento Valley. You come into Rose Canyon and it is exactly the way San Diego mesas and the creek valley should be.
  • Dig a hole exactly the size of the pot. Fill it with water and let it drain before planting. While working with a group at the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center, we had a debate about how much water to put in the planting hole. The best way to describe it was to have chocolate icing in the bottom of the hole but not chocolate pudding.
  • Plant stuff and see how it does. You are starting on a journey, not finishing a job. You will learn more and wonder why you did some things early on. I have never used fertilizer in old yards or forgotten places. Some of my coyote bush ground cover is pruned by cars running over it on a corner.

Watering Strategies from South Bay Botanic Garden

By Susan Krzywicki from grownatives.cnps.org

After so much debate about how to water native plant gardens, you’d think it had all been said. Let me add some tips and techniques from Eddie Munguia, who is the Horticultural Lab Technician at the South Bay Botanic Garden, located on the campus of Southwestern College in Chula Vista. Eddie installed a native garden over four years ago and one of the key objectives of the botanic garden is to do just this sort of closely observed research and analysis.

Creating a native wildflower meadow

By Greg Rubin, CNPS-San Diego Garden Native Committee member

Article reposted from California Native Plant Society Blog

Few things evoke magical memories like spring wildflowers. Whether it is a desire to recapture a serendipitous discovery of a color-laden flower field from our past, or simply re-living that scene from the “Wizard of Oz”, nothing stirs our passion for nature like a beautiful field of flowers. California was once celebrated for its annual floral shows; unfortunately, these delightful events are becoming a thing of the past.  The great Kate Sessions lamented that wildflowers were disappearing from San Diego’s foothills by the early 1900s. Even her attempts to include wildflower displays at Balboa Park repeatedly failed. Why?

The answer is that European settlement in California altered our delicate ecology so profoundly that it was lost at all levels. Nothing is quite so fragile as a wildflower meadow. These annuals serve as pioneers that help re-establish ecology should a disturbance wipe out climax shrubs and trees. Being so low in lignin, they disappear after dying, returning all of their nutrients back to the ecology. Additionally, they fill holes not occupied by shrubby plants, and persist in places inhospitable to anything with deep roots, such as in the shallow soils of true native grasslands. What the Europeans brought were non-native weeds: competitive plants unhindered by native bio-controls while putting all of their life energy into reproducing themselves.  These non-native seed banks now reach 10-100,000 dormant seeds per cubic foot! The wildflowers never stood a chance.

Seed was spread to create overlapping drifts of color, which is essential to maintain drama in such a large planting of wildflowers. Photo by Greg Rubin.

Fortunately, knowledge is the best tool, and we have ways to turn back the clock. Eliminating weeds is foremost. It is usually not sufficient to clear a space and drop seed, as Ms. Sessions learned. Instead, the seed bank must be addressed, either through repeated watering and killing of emerged weeds, or the use of chemicals called pre-emergents that kill seed in the soil when watered in. This must be done months in advance of planting. Solarization with clear plastic can also be used, but the effect is usually temporary. After treatment, seeds can be spread and either gently raked in or covered lightly in decomposed granite (this avoids disturbance and deters birds). Wildflower seeds can be purchased at most garden centers and online; however, be sure that the word “NATIVE” is somewhere in the title, and that the species are native to your locale, or you will end up with a mix of weedy introduced flowers, the worst being Alyssum. (ED note: You can check the local appropriateness of your chosen seed mix ingredients by entering your address in CNPS’s Calscape app, available at calscape.org or on CNPS’s homepage.) Common native mixes include California Poppies, Lupines, Goldfields, Desert Bluebells, Gilia, Baby Blue Eyes, Tidy Tips, and Farewell-to-Spring. You can add Owls Clover, Five Spot, and Thistle Sage if available. Keep the plot lightly moist until germination, continue watering twice a week if rainfall is lacking, and CONTROL WEEDS! The outcome will be thrilling!

CNPS Member Greg Rubin is the founder and owner of California’s Own Landscape Design, Inc. (www.calown.com) and a popular speaker. A specialist in the use of native plants in the landscape, he is responsible for over 700 native landscapes in San Diego County and co-authored (with Lucy Warren) two books on native landscaping: The California Native Landscape: the Homeowner’s Design Guide to Restoring its Beauty and Balance and The Drought Defying California Garden: 230 Native Plants for a Lush, Low-water Landscape, both on Timber Press.

Sondra Boddy and Bob Smith’s California native garden – chapter one

By Sondra Boddy, CNPS-San Diego Garden Native Committee member

“Holy cow,” I thought, “there’s a bobcat in my backyard!” I watched as she emerged stealthily from the dense foliage, deftly clamped her jaws around an unwitting Mourning Dove, then trotted off into the wildlands with her limp prize. The thrill of seeing this elusive animal stalking prey on our property in broad daylight made the months of hard work all seem worth it.

Promoting biodiversity, re-creating wildlife habitat and re-connecting with nature were primary motivations for planting California natives on our 1+ acre property up in the hills west of Lake Hodges. To our delight, it was working. Admittedly, conserving water was a key driver for us as well. Faced with a $430 water bill in June 2013 after our first month in the house, we knew that the expansive lawn and overgrown non-native vegetation had to go.