From Lawn to Pollinator Paradise

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Garden Features

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Drought Tolerant

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Edible Garden

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Deer Resistant

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Drip Irrigation

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Pesticide Free

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Sheet Mulching

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Lawn Conversion

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Lawn-Free Landscaping

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Wildlife Habitat

During Summer 2020 this garden harvested a bumper crop of vegetables and their first apples, peaches and plums. Most importantly, their garden has become a haven for birds, bees, butterflies and year-round hummingbirds.

The homeowners took part in a series of workshops on landscape design, plant selection, and irrigation hosted by the City of Santa Rosa. With over 1500 square feet of lawn in the front of their corner lot, the first step was to remove dead trees and ailing ornamentals, keeping only a few existing plants. The soil was then prepared to receive crops.

before and after photo
Sheet Mulching

In October 2019, with lots of help from family, Tom & Diane sheet mulched the entire lawn area by spreading 2” of compost, completely covering the compost with layers of cardboard, and finally adding a 4” thick layer of arbor mulch on top of the cardboard. They allowed the sheet mulch to age for 6 months during the winter.

Planting

In Spring, they planted new fruit bearing trees and over 200 perennials focused on attracting pollinators. Diane built 5 raised redwood planter boxes for vegetables and filled the boxes with quality compost and soil.

Irrigation

Tom converted the existing lawn sprinklers into an extensive drip irrigation system with 12 circuits. Many of the circuits water exclusively low and very low water use plants for which they received a Cash for Grass rebate from the City.

About the Gardener

Favorite Plants

Salvia spp

Sage
Organization

Salvias are a huge group of more than 900 species that include annuals, perennials, and shrubs adapted to a variety of climates and have varying water requirements. Salvias are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, and are generally ignored by deer. Sages that are native to California are generally drought-tolerant, prefer full sun, and little to no fertilizer. Annual pruning in late summer or fall generally helps to keep plants tidy and healthy.

CA native sages:

  • apiana, white sage (3-4’ x 4-6’), silvery-white, aromatic leaves with tall flower spikes of white flowers, popular for honey production and in bundles as a natural incense.
  • ‘Bee’s Bliss’ (1-2’ x 6-8’), superb, light gray groundcover with light purple flowers on long spikes; damp conditions can cause mildew which will clear with warm weather and sunny conditions.
  • clevelandii, Cleveland sage (3-5’ x 3-5’), medium-sized shrub for hot, dry locations known for pleasant fragrance and deep blue whorls of flowers; popular cultivars include S. c. ‘Allen Chickering’, S. c. ‘Pozo Blue’, and S. c. ‘Winnifred Gilman’.
  • leucophylla, purple sage, includes plants with both an upright growth habit, such as S. l. ‘Amethyst Bluff’ (3-5’ x 3-5’) and others with a sprawling form, such as S. l. ‘Point Sal’ (2-3’ x 6’), both of which are from Santa Barbara county.
  • sonomaensis, Sonoma sage (1-2’ x 3-4’), groundcover that prefers light shade and will not tolerate damp conditions; cultivars include S. s. ‘Dara’s Choice’, S. s. ‘Greenberg Gray’, and S. s. ‘Hobbit Toes’.
  • spathacaea, hummingbird sage (1-2’ spreading), herbaceous groundcover that grows well in dry shade and spreads slowly by underground rhizomes; large leaves have a wonderful fruity fragrance; the only red-flowered native sage.

Non-native sages:

  • chamaedryoides, germander sage (2-3’)
  • chiapensis, Chiapas sage (1-2’ x 3-4’)
  • greggii, autumn sage (1-4’ x 1-4’)
  • leucantha, Mexican bush sage (3-4’ x 3-6’)
  • microphylla, cherry sage (3-4’ x 3-6’)
  • officinalis, garden sage (1-3’ x 1-3’)
  • Water: Very LowLowModerate
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Gray Green
  • Flower Color: LavenderPinkPurpleYellowWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFall

Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary
Organization

Classic Mediterranean flowering shrub with aromatic foliage, small blue-lavender flowers in late winter and spring that attract butterflies and bees. Thrives in full sun with well-drained soil and makes a good container plant. Rosemary is an excellent plant to have in the garden for harvesting fresh springs for use in cooking. Cuttings root readily, making it relatively easy to propagate new plants. Many named cultivars provide variation in size, growth form, flavor, and fragrance.

Examples: R. o. ‘Barbeque’ (3-5’ x 2-3’) has tall, upright stems that can be used as skewers for grilling; R. o. ‘Blue Spires’ (4-5’ x 2-3’); R. o. ‘Collingwood Ingram’ (2-3’ x 3-6’) is lower-growing with arching branches; R. o. ‘Huntington Carpet’ (1-2’ x 4-8’) is very low-growing; R. o. ‘Irene’ (1-2’ x 2-3’) has a mounding habit; R. o. ‘Prostratus’ (2’ x 4-8’) has a trailing habit that works well cascading over a retaining wall.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green - Dark
  • Flower Color: Blue
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFallWinter

Verbena spp

Verbena
Organization

Fast-growing perennials that thrive in hot locations and produce clusters of small, showy flowers in summer.

Examples:

  • bonariensis (3-6’ x 2-3’) is an upright perennial from South America with long, airy flower stalks. Reseeds readily and should not be planted near riparian areas where it can be invasive.
  • Garden verbena (V. x hybrida, 6-12” x 2-3’) is a popular and showy groundcover available in many colors.
  • Cedros Island verbena (V. lilacina ‘De La Mina’, 1-2’ x 2-3’) from the Cedros Island off the coast of Baja California is a popular native for its deep purple flower color and uniform growth habit.
  • Water: Very LowLowModerate
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Herbaceous
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: PinkPurpleRedWhite
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFall

Callistemon spp & cvs

Bottlebrush
Organization

Popular Australian evergreen shrub or small tree attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees typically for bright red flowers that resemble a bottle brush. Flowering begins in spring and continues into fall. Bottlebrush will tolerate many garden conditions and exposures and is tolerant of dry conditions once established. Shrub varieties can be pruned to an informal hedge or be left to show their natural shape.

Examples: Lemon bottlebrush (C. citrinus, 6-12’ x 8-12’) is the most commonly grown species in California. Weeping bottlebrush (C. viminalis, 20’ x 15’) has pendulous branches. C. viminalis ‘Little John’ (3-5’ x 4-6’) is a low-growing, mounding form with deep red flowers that is popular as a foundation or accent plant.

  • Water: Low
  • Light: Full SunPartial Shade
  • Soil: Well Drained
  • Foliage: Evergreen
  • Leaf Color: Green
  • Flower Color: Red
  • Blooming Season (s): SpringSummerFallWinter
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Bee Attractors

Rosemary, Salvias and Russian Sage are my favorite varieties for attracting bees.

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Butterfly Favorites

Verbena Bonariensis and Red Yarrow are my favorites for attracting butterflies.

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Hummingbird Food

Bottle Brush is my favorite plant for providing year round food for hummingbirds.

Favorite Garden Suppliers

Grab N' Grow

2759 Llano Road Santa Rosa

organic compost and arbor mulch

Recommended Resources

Gardening Tips

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Thick Mulch Is The Best

Make your mulch thick to get rid of lawn and pernicious weeds. Minimum of 2” compost, 2 layers of clean cardboard, and 4” of arbor mulch (wood chips). Let it sit for 6 months before planting.