Happy Earth Month: Tip #3 Plant a Native Garden

Happy Earth Week!

We celebrated Earth Day yesterday, and everywhere you look spring is in full bloom, which can only mean one thing: it’s Mother Nature’s time to shine!

To honor her and our planet, our founder Andy Lipkis is sharing some of his best simple sustainable solutions — from his home to yours — right here on our blog throughout April. Andy’s first tip was how and why to maintain your yard and garden with rain barrels; his second was filled with easy ways to make your sprinklers more efficient and, in the process, save time, energy, and money.

Now that Earth Week is officially here, it’s time for Andy’s third, and prettiest, tip: Plant a Native Garden.

California natives are ideal for our Mediterranean climate. (Yep, it’s true; we live in a Mediterranean climate, not a desert.) These plants thrive in our cool winters and are mostly dormant in our dry summers, requiring little water. All of which means they help conserve our vital water resources and help you save money on your water bill.

Plus, in general, they’re very low maintenance, which is always music to a gardener’s ears! Native plants demand very little to zero pruning and often don’t need any fertilizers. Even lovelier, they help balance the eco-system as many native plants are pollinated by not just native bees but birds, butterflies and moths, too.

Planting California natives also means your yard will have less (or maybe even no) grass, which is the best news of all. Traditional lawns not only use vast amounts of water, but the dry-weather run-off from your sprinklers flows down our streets and storm drains, carrying pollutants into our ocean. The hard truth is that Angelinos use about 50-70% of our potable water to keep our lawns green. That’s a frightening amount of water for something you can’t eat!

So, this spring, join Andy and plant your own native garden. To get you started, here are five of Andy’s favorite California natives:

1. Monkeyflower (Mimulus species) These shrubs bloom from spring through summer with a color range from orange to yellow, to pink to red, thanks to the many cultivars and hybrids.

2. Catalina Fern Leaf Ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus asplenifolius) This evergreen can grow 25’ to 50’ tall and as much as 25’ wide with glossy, scalloped 4” to 6” long leaves. The peeling, red bark and white flowers in late spring to early summer make a nice color contrast.

3. Summer Holly (Comarostaphylis diversifolia) This slow growing, evergreen shrub, can reach 18’ tall and 15’ wide and be trained into a tree. Summer Holly makes a wonderful, wildlife-supporting hedge. Bell-shaped, white flowers from March to May yield red berries from June to September that birds love.

4. California Fuchsia (Epilobium sp. Zauschneria) When the flowers of summer have faded, the orange trumpet-shaped flowers of California Fuchsia make this a welcome sight to hummingbirds, especially those on their way south for the winter.

5. Western Red Bud (Cercis occidentalis) This California native can be a multi or single-trunk tree. In late winter to early spring, the branches are covered with magenta-pink flowers, followed by rounded, heart-shaped leaves.

Check out these native plant experts for more information about creating a sustainable and water-wise garden:

Theodore Payne Foundation

California Native Plant Society

Rancho Santa Ana Botantic Garden

By Andy Lipkis

Andy Lipkis is a practical visionary who has dedicated his life to healing the environment while improving the lives of individuals and communities. He founded TreePeople in Los Angeles in 1973 at age 18 and continues to serve as its President. Andy has spearheaded an approach using trees and forest-inspired technologies to make cities sustainable while mitigating floods, drought, pollution, and climate change. Called “Functioning Community Forests,” it is being demonstrated in L.A. as a model for cities everywhere.