Native Plant Garden Tour 2023

"Guiding visitors to local gardens containing California Native Plants since 2002"

APRIL 1, 10 AM – 4 PM

CNPS Orange County Chapter

Tour Themes:

Native Plants Support Local Nature

Build nature beneficial gardens in every neighborhood

We hope you find interesting plants to use in your own garden and discover inspiring landscape ideas

How To Register For The Tour and Receive The Addresses

  1. RSVP by clicking this link. The registration includes a liability waiver. Be sure to include your email contact.
  2. Two days before the tour, a list of addresses will be emailed to you using the email address you provided in your registration.
  3. You can preview and prioritize the gardens you wish to see by checking the map and reading the garden desciptions below.  

Polite Protocol for Visiting Gardens

  1. Appreciate the wonderful gardeners who have opened their yards for this brief day of visits.
  2. Stay on walkways and paths. Like being in nature, Leave No Trace.
  3. Visit these gardens during the tour day and time. Respect the privacy of garden owners at other times. Be aware that entering property outside of tour hours can be considered trespassing.
  4. Being courteous to neighbors will leave positive impressions of our nature-supporting community.   


To copy, save, and/or print this map, use your device's operating system apps. For example on PCs, right click on the image.


The Gardens


Location: 1, Huber, Yorba Linda

I was most inspired to install a native garden by two things: my volunteer work in natural resources at Chino Hills State Park, and by attending an OCCNPS Garden Tour like this one in 2018.

Our native garden was started in 2018, but I was dissatisfied with the results, and wanted to do more with the hardscape. In late 2019, Michelle Mareks was hired to do a complete redesign, starting first with the backyard, and doing the front in 2021. Installation was done by Earth Steward Ecology. It is in the more natural style including a rather unique dry creek bed with flagstone bridge, lots of boulders and a sandstone shelf embankment. We tried to represent three distinct plant communities: Riparian in a more shaded fountain area, Woodland in a raised bank along the side block wall, Sage Scrub in the front yard, and more Desert-like along the rear metal fence in a raised planter.

There were three mature liquid amber trees along a side property line when we bought the house in 1998 that while non-native, we decided to keep for their shade and beauty. Rather than limit ourselves to California natives only, we have taken a broader regional view by including some specimens from to greater Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Baja California. I am particularly fascinated with plants from our Channel Islands so have included a number of those. Species population is about 80 California, and 12 Southwestern natives.

Less common plant features include a White-flowering Currant that is espaliered on a wall, and Coyote Bushes that are pruned into a hedge to hide a large utility box along the sidewalk. Also several Dudleya species, flowering pink Woodland Strawberries, Fuchsia-flowered Gooseberries, Red-flowering Currant, and Goldenrods. Like all California native gardens, it is a work in progress. Enjoy!


Location: 2, Ito, Huntington Beach

My front yard native garden was started in 2011 with the help of many friends and volunteers from the GWC Native Garden. It has evolved since then to its present state after the loss and addition of many different native plants.

The key feature and focus is the gravel swale which is meant to capture rainwater from the roof via the rain gutter and rain chain leading to the upper end of the swale. Its practical purpose is to capture the water (if only for an ephemerally beautiful short time!) so that it can percolate into the soil below and not run off into the gutters.

It also serves to (hopefully aesthetically) complement a variety of water and shade loving plants such as Canyon sunflower, Meadow rue, Mock orange, Hummingbird sage, Four o'clock, groundcover Manzanita, Ceanothus 'Concha', and a Redbud tree.

It would be nice to see the riverbed glisten with rainwater again soon but, hopefully not on tour day!


Location: 3, Binnix, Garden Grove

This photo of the front just gets you to the right yard. The nature allure is in the back.

Back in 2015, I started to try my hand at planting native plants. I had always admired the large oaks I saw in our local forests and wondered if they would grow in a suburban yard.

I got the idea they might fare better if they were started in place from an acorn to avoid any transplant shock coming out of a pot. I started with the valley oak, the largest California native oak and it did great. With that success I figured I would try another, Oregon oak. It was also successful and grows a little slower but is coming along fine. This process continued. I now have every large tree oak in the state of California in my yard, along with a few native scrub oaks.

I also have many other native plants of all sorts. I have a ¾ acre lot and it is my eventual goal to have it be 100% native, not there yet, but getting closer every day.


Location: 4, Hewitt, Santa Ana

Our natives project started with looking for a change in our front yard. We wanted a low-water, nature-friendly social area to replace a nearly 100 year old lawn.

We were very lucky to find Michelle Mareks, landscape designer extraordinaire, who was able to visualize a space perfect for us and our home.

We tackled the backyard a few years later, again with Michelle’s excellent grasp of overall harmony and knowledge of plants needs and blending of color and texture.

We have enjoyed playing with natives and figuring out what works for our little micro climate. 


Location: 5, Timothy, Orange

This early California style property celebrates place and honors its history with elements from its agricultural days, Mexican influence, and more and more its indigenous beginnings.

Homeowners Brian and Marisa had a vision and, while raising two children and with limited funds, have been chipping away at it through the years. Now, what started 25 years ago as a neglected fixer-upper is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat with a peaceful vibe.

Efforts to restore nature, including gradually increasing the number of native plants and installing water sources, have been proven successful by the critters that visit and reside here, such as native bees, dragonflies, and a fascinating array of migrating warblers.

From the wildflowers that greet you at the curb to the oak woodland that awaits you in the back, we hope you feel nurtured by your visit.


Location: 6, Olmstead, Irvine

This garden was started in 2015. I designed it around being a coastal sage scrub habitat of both mainland and island species. I was inspired by my hikes, especially those in Laguna and Crystal Cove areas. Although I do enjoy hiking up in Chaparral areas as well, I felt a coastal scrub habitat would provide a more valuable habitat where I live.

I really enjoy the seasonality of the coastal scrub, so because of this, this garden is naturalized. I only water it when we don’t have rains for too long in the winter.

To give the garden texture, we mounded the dirt and made a lower lying area. Below the sidewalk grade in the middle, the low-lying area is where I put my annuals and milkweed. Higher areas are where I put my perennials. While the annuals are dormant in the fall, I can access my perennials to prune them before they re-emerge with the rains.

I am constantly adding more diversity to this garden with each year. It brings me great joy to watch it grow and evolve.


Location: 7, Litton, Costa Mesa

The transformation to a native yard began in late 1996, with work done exclusively by my husband & I as time and finances permitted.

The yard has a number of mature plants and areas, but new plants are added seasonally. Trees include elderberry and Catalina Cherry; groundcovers include grasses, sedge, and hedge nettle. Ceanothus, manzanita and salvias provide cover and color.

My favorite area is the northeast corner of the backyard, where a young encelia and other plants have joined a mature western redbud, fuchsia-flowering gooseberry, and spiny rush. It is very much a habitat garden.


Location: 8, Whalen, Costa Mesa

You won’t find hybrids or cultivars in this garden, just plants as they are found in Nature. This diverse garden with over 70 native species was planted in fall of 2018.

It was designed with attention to the owner’s passion for wilderness skills. Decomposed granite paths in the backyard lead past a tracking box, fire pit, and flint knapping area. Most of the plants featured were used by Orange County’s indigenous people as food and/or medicine. A dry creek bed in the front yard meanders past prickly pear and native grasses.

Within an inviting courtyard, planters filled with equisetum and clusters of potted dudleyas invite visitors to rest a while. And we hope you will!


Location: 9, Johnson, Irvine

The homeowner's dream of having a native garden was fulfilled in spring 2021 with a design and installation by Tree of Life Nursery.

A central concrete walkway was replaced by a curving path of decomposed granite. Due to differences in sun exposure, one side has some arroyo type plantings and the other, which includes a swale, is more riparian.

A hedge of desert lavender provides privacy for a small seating area.


Location: 10, Hurd, Lake Forest

My vision is for this established garden to be a safe place for birds and other wildlife, a place for us to enjoy, and to show neighbors the value of local native plants. We replaced the curbside in 2012 and front lawn in 2014 (using solarization).

Plant species are from Southern California, Channel Islands, and Baja. Features include beautiful flagstone path with destination bench, dry streambed, and several Calochortus bulbs (flowering since 2015).

Our garden has attracted 51 bird species plus 17 butterfly, 3 dragonfly, and 2 reptile species. Note: Educational information will be available. 


Location: 11, Shemaka, Lake Forest

Designed and planted by Tree of Life Nursery in the fall of 2021, this native plant garden evokes the canyons and foothills just a few miles away in Santiago.

Situated on about 2000 square feet, this smaller garden features rain chains that feed large swales which aid in deep waterings throughout the winter.

Lilacs, manzanitas and sages are surrounded by a new helping of annuals this spring.

Being on the front of the property, this garden has been a great way to inspire and engage with neighbors about California native plants.


Location: 12, Doll, San Juan Capistrano

Six years ago, this beautiful and richly detailed Mission Revival home gained an authentic landscape to match its period-inspired architecture. Site planning, hardscape and planting were designed by Jodie Cook Design.

On almost 2/3 of an acre, this predominantly native plant garden features over 50 native plant species such as Engelmann and Coast Live Oaks, California Lilacs, Mallows, Sages, Buckwheats, Catalina Cherry, grasses, and silver-foliaged Catalina Silverlace. Legacy fruit trees such as citrus and pear were retained. Amphibians, pollinators, insects, and birds flourish.

Each element of the hardscape, tile, water features, and artwork were chosen to reflect the luminous colors of the native flora and to recall the era of its inspiration. Antiques, artwork, and bespoke items such as the winged lion bench are thoughtfully placed throughout this abundant and unique landscape. The garden is carefully maintained by Tree of Life Nursery.


Location: 13, Daly, San Juan Capistrano

Our son began studying wildlife biology and he educated us about native plants and the wildlife that they bring to the garden and how important it is to the environment. Slowly he began planting in our back yard and we too fell in love with native plants. 

Late last year, in November 2022, we planted our front yard. We decided to make the switch to conserve on water and create a drought free environment. Additionally, we wanted to create a natural environment for wildlife.

The design elements were a collaboration with our son (who was knowledgeable about the plants), his girlfriend (who helped with the design layout), my husband and I (added the decorative elements such as the water features, bridges, and Zen decor). It was a real bonding experience!

We are flying our son, Tristan, in from Cal Poly Humboldt, where he attends school. He will be available to answer any questions and educate the participants on all the plants, the importance of a California native garden and design features. Thank you again for your interest in our native garden!


Location: 14, Dolegowski, San Clemente

My California native plant garden incorporates a decorative drainage channel that runs the full length of the narrow pie-shaped front yard, through four separate infiltration ponds, starting adjacent to the house, running under two decorative bridges, and if rainfall is sufficient as it has been over the past two months, overflowing a standpipe that drains into the gutter. Rainfall runoff from half the roof is directed through buried pipes into the channel thus concentrating rainfall into the garden. Soil excavated from the channel was used to create mounded planting beds. A wide pathway and a secondary decomposed granite path provide easy access to the plants.

The plant communities were primarily chosen from California chaparral, coastal plants, and Channel Island plant communities, including Salvias, Penstemon, Erigonium, Abutilon Palmeri, Trichostema Lanatum, Xylococcus Bicolor, Arctostaphylos varieties, Desert Mallow, Euphorbia misera, native grasses and rushes, Dudley species, and reseeding California poppies. Groundcovers are provided by Mirabilis laevis, Monardella linoides, Epilobium and low-growing Ceanothus varieties.

This garden was designed and installed in February 2022 by the Tree of Life Nursery (Randi Gunder, designer) in consultation with the homeowner’s preferences, so it is one year old. Onsite adjustments to the layout and plant substitutions were made by Mike Evans during installation. They did a great job! A few plants were lost during the heat wave in August 2022 and some plants did not tolerate the environment; replacements have been replanted over the past few months. 


Location: 15, McClelland, Dana Point

The homeowners bought the .28-acre property in 2015, disconnected the automatic watering system and began a total renovation of the much neglected landscape. It is now 75%-80% CA natives; the rest is primarily Mediterranean/drought-tolerant. This year, the urge to “tidy up” is being resisted, and volunteer seedlings from favored natives are being left in place.

The property is a designated Monarch butterfly waystation ( sign). Native milkweed fills the small slope at the left of the driveway and continues behind the wooden fence. Flowers from the swallowtail butterfly host-plant fennel will be removed before going to seed to prevent birds from spreading it. Throughout the property are butterfly nectar sources. The front landscape is framed on the right by two toyons.

Behind the fence is where most of the native landscape magic and beauty happens. The property is sunny/hot most of the day. Sages, buckwheat, grasses, etc. fill the full-sun areas; California lilac, Douglas iris, California fern, etc. dominate areas shaded by the house or shrubs/trees. Plants are also used as visual impact, such as Western Redbud, desert rose sage, giant chalk Dudleyas and California Copperleaf. Most flower heads/seeds are left for the birds.

The big back slope is a landscaping challenge. Not only is it south-facing, but it is steep and has poor/loose soil. It is planted with the hardiest natives, such as quailbush, flannelbush, bladderpod, buckwheat, toyon, lemonade berry, sage, CA fuchsia, etc. To help build the soil and prevent runoff, most pruning debris and leaf litter is left in place, as well as moved up from the flat part of the property.

Water from the slope’s natural spring is collected/stored/used there and throughout the property behind the fence. As these plants require little or no water once established, the slope’s sprinkler system (fed by the spring water) is used only when needed. At the front of the house, the rain chain water flows through the dry rock stream and shallow trench system before finally going to the street.

The garden won a Tree of Life Native Plant Nursery photo contest a few years ago and was featured in the Dana Point Times “Drought-Tolerant Landscaping Saves Water and Money” last year.


Location: 16, Hurd, Dana Point

We started converting a typical Southern California suburban lawn to a native “habitat” in 1996.

We were not popular, particularly with real estate agents selling in the neighborhood. In fact, we came to expect threats from the city regarding our “noxious weeds” every time the house next door was up for sale. in 1999 we had to consult a lawyer since the city of Dana Point had threatened to take us to court to enforce their “lawn laws.”

With the help of Tree of Life Nursery gurus Jeff and Mike, we recreated a natural environment from the sterile (even toxic) American Lawn. We selected only locally typical plants, with just one or two rarities for fun.

On the practical side, we have not watered, used fertilizers, or pesticides for nearly 25 years. Even better we have many species of birds and reptiles as well as butterflies and other beneficial insects that successfully breed in this tiny yard.

Thank you to ...

  • All of the thoughtful California Native Plant gardeners who are sharing their personal yards with us on this special day.
  • To the Garden Tour Team who put together this event: Robin Huber (team lead), Sarah Jayne (team lead 2002 - 2021), Dori Ito, Mabel Alazard, Jennifer Beatty, Lesley Bindloss, Jennifer Mabley, Brad Jenkins.