California In My Garden

Saturday, May 2, 2015, 10 AM – 4 PM

A self-guided tour of gardens in Orange County that showcase the beauty and adaptability of California’s water-saving native plants. Garden Tour Flyer

Presented by the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

Thank you to all who participated in this year's garden tour! We appreciate feedback - take a short survey here

Correction to the tour guide book: There is an error in one of the garden addresses: For Garden #8, replace ‘2041 Fairweather' with ‘ 1241 Foothill'. The directions for that garden are correct.

This year’s tour offers fourteen gardens throughout the county. The following pages give descriptions - and if available pictures - of each garden. Click on pictures to bring up a larger version.

Garden Tour Partners & Sponsors


California In My Garden

Saturday, May 2, 2015, 10 AM – 4 PM

A self-guided tour of gardens in Orange County that showcase the beauty and adaptability of California’s water-saving native plants. Garden Tour Flyer

Presented by the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

Thank you to all who participated in this year's garden tour! We appreciate feedback - take a short survey here

Correction to the tour guide book: There is an error in one of the garden addresses: For Garden #8, replace ‘2041 Fairweather' with ‘ 1241 Foothill'. The directions for that garden are correct.

This year’s tour offers fourteen gardens throughout the county. The following pages give descriptions - and if available pictures - of each garden. Click on pictures to bring up a larger version.

Garden Tour Partners & Sponsors


Gardens 1-2

Garden #1—Brea

A front-yard lawn conversion installed April through July of 2013. A special feature is the underground drip irrigation system, now invisible of course, which has contributed to stunning growth in a short time. The parkway was planted April of 2014.

The owner say: “The plants used are those typically found in the Chino Hills and Orange County foothills, although some Channel Island species are included as well as seasonal flowers such as poppies and lupine. The garden is a long-term dream that combines my interest in California native plants and the desire to eliminate the suburban lawn culture. Other than trimming to keep the sidewalks passable, the garden requires little time except occasional weeding and brush clearing as plants overgrow their neighbors.

The garden is a work in progress.  My intent is to observe changes in the plant community with minimal manipulation from me so long as it remains reasonably compact and does not become unruly.  However, I continue to be focused on water usage and the effective use of drip irrigation.”

Garden #2—Fullerton

This side and backyard gardens are charm accentuated by California native plants. Careful planning and artful hardscape make use of every inch of this landscape. Surrounding the backyard pool are planters at different levels, which create a variety of vantage points for relaxing in the shade or viewing sunsets. Throughout the garden, sculptures and hand-crafted windmills add whimsical accents. Don’t be mislead by the front yard—its time is coming.

“After losing our mature pine trees in the back garden to termites in 2011, we decided to start fresh with a draught tolerant garden. We wanted to keep some existing trees (fruit and others) so our landscape designer, Rob Moore from California Native Landscape Design in Brea, incorporated those into the new landscape. 

We desired a garden that attracts hummingbirds, birds, butterflies and bees but at the same time, we wanted  the garden a bit on the “formal” (orderly) side. We are happy to report, that the hummingbirds love the garden. They visit the Monkeyflower, Sages and Penstemons and in autumn they feast on the vibrant red California Fuchsias. The birds love the Toyon berries and the bees are crazy about the Blue Palo Verde (Desert Museum variety) and the Rosemary bush. Manzanitas, various  Ceonothus,  Penstemons (Margarita BOP), Seaside Daisy, various Salvias and low-growing Manzanita (John Dourley) form what we think is an attractive garden with different shades of green and  grey. Whimsical art pieces are also scattered about the garden.  

Our water bill has gone down a lot. In winter we water every 2 weeks for  15 to 20 minutes and in summer once a month for 30 minutes. The fruit trees however are watered more often. Watering is accomplished with a system of timed “Micro Sprinklers”.

The garden is very low maintenance, the few weeds are managed with hand weeding, thus keeping chemicals out of the garden.

We are now looking forward to renovating the front garden with natives later this year.

Gardens 3-5

Garden#3—Huntington Beach

This garden is a front yard lawn conversion by Back to Natives Restoration where plants locally native to Orange County have found a happy home. Meandering through the yard, a dry creek bed provides rainwater harvesting and prevents runoff. The pleasing variety of textures and hues of foliage form interesting patterns through out the space and compliment the lines of the dwelling.

Garden #4—Huntington Beach

The most dramatic change in this extensive front and back yard was the front lawn replacement project in 2012. An old juniper hedge was sheared on one side and provides a dramatic background for woodland plants and shrubs. A dry creek flows through the center of the yard, effectively dividing the shade and sun areas. Annuals add vibrant color to the beds alongside the house. In the back yard, mature native shrubs thrive next to the vegetable patch, which occupies a new raised bed in the center of the garden. Many more treasures are to be found in the passageways on both sides of the house. This is an ambitious gardener!

”If ever there was a project that I can rightfully call a journey, my garden is that. From that aha moment 6 years ago, when I realized that California native plants were the right, indeed, the only plants for my landscaping re-do, to my ongoing discovery of new plants, and the insects, birds and other creatures that interact with those plants, there has been no end to the sense of wonder and excitement in tending to and building my garden  As an added bonus, the journey drew many new friends who helped me along the way and continue to do so.  And as Audrey Hepburn wisely worded it, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” and of course, tomorrow always comes.”

Garden#5—Huntington Beach

“First planted in May/June 2009, this corner-lot native garden still holds most of its original shrubs, plus many other plants added since then. It is attractive to creatures such as birds, butterflies, and pollinators. Foliage softens the street noises and sweetens the air. Neighbors favorably comment on the flowers, hummingbirds, butterflies, and fragrances. There are several seating areas for different views, shade and sunshine, and enjoyment of the fountain's visitors. This native garden is full of life!”

Gardens 6-8

Garden #6—Orange

The native plant garden at El Modena High School has been in existence for more than 30 years and has over 100 species of mature native plants to see in a variety of settings. Recent additions are a butterfly garden, Japanese Garden, chaparral section, and a large succulent area. Never static, new projects are always underway.

The El Modena HS Native Plant Garden has over 100 species of CA native plants. There will be many handouts on plants for people to take plus information on the lawn rebate programs. Other information to help you change your garden will be available. The plants have signs so you can take a picture of the plant with its name. The garden will be open in May, June and July on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays in the morning and Sundays in the afternoon. Garden Tour day is a great opportunity to visit this amazing garden

Garden #7—Tustin

Several years ago, the owner decided to bring his property into closer affinity to the surrounding chaparral-covered hills. With the design advice of Rob Moore of California Native Landscape Design, most of the non-native plantings were removed and a bed of decomposed granite laid down. In the large backyard, a dry streambed cutting across the yard ends in a small pond. A variety of shrubs and perennials line the stream and punctuate the landscape. Far in a back corner sits a tent that might be in the wilderness! Front yard plantings compliment the lines of the house and the hardscape leading to it. The whole is in perfect harmony with the backdrop of hills.

“I started out dabbling with regional natives around 2009. In 2012, made a broader commitment to a native garden and contracted Rob Moore for design, and Tom Szotka for installation. With a flat half-acre in North Tustin, we felt compelled to re-create a natural setting. Nearby Red Hill Ridge became a jumping off point...gravel, boulders, decomposed granite, lots of buckwheats, sages, open, arid style. There really isn’t a focal feature other than a dry creak bed that terminates in a shallow pond. Blue eyed grass, mallows, sages, wild flowers, etc. are self propagating in a haphazard way. Love that!”

Garden #8—Tustin

A mature elderberry enjoys a prominent position in the front yard of this garden that celebrates Native American tradition. Native plants that have culinary, medicinal and traditional uses are found throughout the garden, front and back, The back garden also shares space with a vegetable garden and fruit trees. Found objects add to the interest in this unique garden.

“Our yard, front and back, has no lawn. It was completely replaced with drought tolerant plants native to the Orange County area.  Many of our plants were used by the indigenous people of Orange County, the Acjachemen Nation.

We do have dry bed creeks that the water from the roof drains into. We collect rainwater from the roof of the house in rain barrels and use it to water the vegetable gardens.  We have solar lighting outside in the pathways. Instead of using cement we chose decomposed granite to make the walk ways and the patio.

This property was your All American yard that looked like everyone else’s…green grass, trees and a few bushes. As time went on, the beautiful green grass became full of weeds and was very difficult to keep up. The grass and foliage needed a lot of water. 

Native California plants were always very attractive to me. I heard about the classes at the Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano. There I Learned how to “kill my lawn” and about how I could incorporate native plants  into my yard.  A few months later I met Rob Moore at a workshop at The Tree of Life about redesigning my yard.

It has been a few years since we had the yard re-landscaped to drought tolerant California Native plants. It has been a learning experience but worth every minute.  Watching the lizards and birds and butterflies playing in the yard has been so rewarding.  When the wind blows through the sage and elderberry it is a beautiful sight.  The seasons are subtle but obvious to the learning eye. Watching the dew drip from the leaves of the plants in the early morning it is easy to see Mother Nature is taking care of her own drip by precious drip.

I am still learning about the different plants and their precarious ways. There is still much to learn as we incorporate new plants here and there. It is a work in progress but it is truly satisfying.”

Gardens 9-11

Gardens #9 and #10—Irvine

These gardens not only are next door neighbors, but also share a common area that belongs to the community. The two gardeners were able to convert part of that area to native plantings and permeable walk ways and provide continuity between their own gardens.

Garden #10, on the left side, is the older of the two gardens. Begun seven years ago, it is a colorful front yard of mature ceanothus and other shrubs, with underplantings of a variety of perennial and annual blooms. In the backyard, the owner and his two sons have propagated hundreds of plants in pots, which line both sides of the yard. “I wanted to teach my children (and myself) a modicum of environmental literacy and give us all a little sense of, and show a minimum respectfor, the place where we live.

Garden #9 is much newer, having been installed in the winter of 2013. “Some of my happiest childhood memories are of camping with a biology summer school in the Santa Cruz Hills. Four years after my neighbor installed his native garden, I worked up the courage to recreate some of those memories. I began in front, and had so much fun I kept going in the back yard. Mounds and pebbly swales assure drainage, and evoke the coastal hills. The effect is of a cottage garden, featuring coastal, Baja, and Channel Islands natives. (The side yard still has roses and fruit trees; citrus and a few foundation plants remain.) The garden has become a refuge of beauty and peace for friends and neighbors.” 

Garden #11—Irvine

This garden takes its lessons from the nature that surrounds it. In front, graceful plantings selected by designer Diane Bonano lead the eye to passageway to the backyard, which opens upon a panoramic vista seen over a lemonadeberry hedge. Central to the garden is a grass area that’s as close to a native lawn as possible—ask the gardener! As a special treat, choice native plants throughout the garden provide a setting for the ceramic works of the artist-gardener.

Gardens 12-14

Garden #12—Corona Del Mar

From front to back, this large, established garden masters the details. Beyond the manzanita hedge along the front walk is a grove of manzanitas with decomposed granite pathways winding through. A shaded walkway leads to the backyard where fruit trees and vegetables flourish side by side with ceanothus and other native shrubs. Although most of the lawn has been removed, a small patch is carefully tended for the family dog.

The garden was installed in October 1999 and was featured in the October 2002 issue of Sunset Magazine as well as their Garden Living issue for Spring-Summer 29-003.

“Moving from a previous home with no grass and close to the open space created a desire to get rid of the grass in the new yard and have more of a natural and wild look. At the same time I wanted a few fruit trees and a vegetable garden. I knew it would be a challenge as the native plants would have different water needs. Things have changed over the years and I've lost a few plants, but on the whole I've accomplished my objective. The front yard was always to be a no work yard. It hasn't been totally free of work time, but close. My work and pleasure has been my back yard.”

Garden #13—Lake Forest

For a brand new landscape, this garden is attracting a lot of attention—of the animal sort. Maybe that’s because it was designed specifically to attract critters with two, four, six, and eight legs, the more that come the happier the owner will be. Rama Nayeri of creations landscape designs collaborated in the design of the walkways and placement of the plants in this front yard conversion. Many of the plant selections are relatively fast growing, so the fall-planted garden has filled in remarkably and is already well along in doing its job.

“My vision is for our garden to be a safe place for birds and other wildlife in addition to being a place for us to relax and enjoy wildlife.We replaced the curbside in December 2012, front lawn in October 2014, and the backyard is a work-in-progress. As a result of using Southern California plant species, we have documented 37 bird species (including nesting Black Phoebes), 10 butterfly species (including Orange Sulfur laying eggs on Cassia and Monarchs laying eggs on Narrow-leaf Milkweed), and 3 reptile and amphibian species. We love watching all these animals and plants throughout the seasons!

Our garden reminds me of walking in the Santa Ana Mountains where I helped local researchers with surveys for bats, butterflies and birds. Plants chosen for my garden are familiar friends and provide me with peaceful memories. This is the first house I have ever owned, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a good nature steward by providing locally native plants, no poisons, clean water, and loving respect. I hope that my neighbors will see the beauty and value of local plants and not use water-wasting turf, cement, rocks, or Mediterranean plants that are less useful to wildlife. Our garden attracts wildlife, looks good all year long, has a variety of flower colors, takes full sun, and uses very little water. We love our native garden!”

Garden #14—Reata Park, San Juan Capistrano

12.5-acre Reata Park and Event Center opened in spring of 2014. Its natural landscape, planted with over 250 varieties of low-water California Native Plant, preserves the historic nature of the site. Mike Evans, one of the masterminds behind the extensive 6-acre native plant garden says, "With more than 6,000 trees and plants representing 200 varieties at Reata Park, we have combined a significant botanical resource and a public park in one beautiful location."

The park is unique in Southern California, a model passive-use nature park with no turf, which greatly reduces typical water requirements for a city park. One full-time gardener is able to maintain the entire site. A self-guided tour brochure with plant list is available on the site; check in at the historic house.

On tour day, a special guided tour will be offered at 9 AM. Tickets for the tour will also be available for purchase from 10 AM to noon. There are pictures of the park on the San Juan Capistrano Open Space Foundation website.

Owner: City of San Juan Capistrano; Made Possible By: San Juan Capistrano Open Space Foundation; Site Plan: Mike Sweeney, Land Concern; Planting Design: Mike Evans, Tree of Life Nursery; Landscape Contractor: Chris Soltis, Soltis & Company; Interpretive Programs: Marianne Taylor, Goin Native