Gardeners and plant lovers alike are excited about the return of the Growing Natives Garden Tour, which has been held virtually for the past two years due to the pandemic.
About 40 local private and public gardens planted with California plants will participate on Saturday 2 and will receive tour maps with addresses). The Saturday tours include properties in Redwood City, Mountain View, Los Altos, Palo Alto, San Mateo and Sunnyvale. Sunday tours will move south to Santa Clara, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, San Jose, Morgan Hill and Gilroy. There are also four purely virtual gardens this year.
“The garden owners are very enthusiastic and the volunteers are very happy to be back in person,” says volunteer Cynthia Gingrich. “I think there’s a renewed interest in what native plants are doing for California’s biodiversity.”
From native wildflowers like lupins and poppies to plants like manzanita and buckwheat, the gardens featured on the tour have a majority of California natives that are waterproof, low maintenance, and use minimal or no chemicals. These serve as a habitat for birds, butterflies and bees. Gardens that are considered certified wildlife habitats must have food, shelter, water and cover for the young, Gingrich says.
“In the Bay Area and the Santa Cruz Mountains, we have an incredible number of open space reservations and county parks, and that’s still not enough,” she says. “We need to bring natives back into our gardens because we have too many non-natives and invasives in our gardens and streets and even in parks… Ivy and mustard and oxalis, sure they’re beautiful, but they’re crowding out the native species and.” do not provide the nutrients and food that native wildlife needs.”
This year’s gardens range from just over 1,000 square feet to a few acres and vary in maturity, with one garden being only a few years old. Visitors are allowed to tour a garden and can often speak to the homeowner or a volunteer (most of whom are UC master gardeners) to learn more about the process of establishing a native garden. Some of the gardens are public, including the gardens of San Carlos City Hall, Highlands Elementary School in San Mateo, and Bol Park in Palo Alto.
Whether you’re a homeowner or renter with plenty of outdoor space or a small patio, the tour shows that there are small steps people can take to help local wildlife.
“If you have a postage-sized yard in Sunnyvale, you can’t necessarily plant an entire field of lupins, but you can grow wildflowers in pots if you have an apartment balcony,” says Gingrich. “You can make a small contribution that makes a difference.”
To register or to find photos and videos of the gardens visit the Growing Natives website.
Apiary, San Mateo, April 2nd: This sunny San Mateo front yard is adorned with colorful flowers year-round, including woolly blue curls, California fuschia, and monkey flower. A small lawn at the back is surrounded by fruit trees and natives including manzanita, brush sage and buckwheat, and a raised bed offers vegetables in summer. The year-round bloom attracts many species of birds and native bees.
San Carlos Native Plant Garden, April 2nd: Visit the City of San Carlos Native Plant Garden at City Hall on Saturday to ask docents about its plants and characteristics. Designed by UC master gardeners, the garden has several focal points: one is for hummingbird-attracting plants, for example, while the area next to the benches features drought-tolerant plants like monkeyflower and white sage.
Shady Glen, Redwood City, April 2nd: Creeping Oregon Grape and Hummingbird Sage can be spotted in front of this garden designed and installed by the homeowner. At the back, artificial grass is surrounded by perennials such as blueberry and sage. Bird baths, flowers and berries attract birds.
Matadero Garden, Palo Alto, April 2nd: This 2-acre garden in Palo Alto was created eight years ago when a new home was built on-site that would include solar panels on the roof and a hardscape to catch rainwater. The garden includes drought tolerant shrubs such as manzanita and horse chestnut along with mature oaks and other established plants.
Middlefield Native and Edible Gardens, Palo Alto, April 2nd: This home garden in the front yard was designed and created by the homeowner, a master gardener, who propagates plants in her small greenhouse in the backyard. Native wildflowers line the path, and there is a mound of perennial and annual vegetables in the center of the courtyard. The homeowner also allows tours of her edible backyard garden with fruit trees, beehives, a large vegetable garden and chickens.
Foxborough Garden, Mountain View, April 2nd: This Mountain View garden features a redwood habitat, fruit trees, and natives like manzanita and coffeeberry. Benches and solar-powered fountains encourage bird and butterfly watching.
Miguel Garden, Los Altos, April 2nd: In the front yard, which features a stone bench and a dry creek bed to catch rainwater, you may spot ceanothus, California gooseberry, and woolly blue curl among other natives. At the back you will find a small bamboo grove with a Japanese lantern, succulents and cacti, as well as other natives such as a bunch grass meadow near the house. Birds enjoy the flowering plants and lizards like to stay in the desert area and in rock crevices.
Hummingbird Haven, Los Altos, April 2nd: A seasonally dry stream in the front yard channels rainwater and is adorned with gum trees, coyote mint, wildflowers, and lilac verbena, among others. Both lawns were replaced with meadows accented by a variety of plants including California poppies, coyote mint and lilac verbena. The back yard also has a variety of fruit trees and a raised vegetable garden.
Cottage garden at low water, Campbell, April 3rd: In this 4,700 square foot garden you will find manzanita, brimstone buckwheat and baccharis “Twin Peaks” among a winding path of interlocking cobblestones. A permeable concrete driveway helps keep rainwater on site. Berries, flowers and seeds provide food for native wildlife.
Round’s Hill, Monte Sereno, April 3rd: Hike uphill to see nearly 5 acres of meadow gardens with annual wildflowers so abundant they can be seen overhead in spring. Numerous native grasses, flowers, and shrubs thrive here, and wildlife such as deer, rabbits, and coyotes are frequent visitors. The homeowner designed and landscaped the garden and has maintained it for 24 years.
Julia Brown writes for TheSixFifty.com, a sister publication of Palo Alto Online, covering what to eat, see and do in Silicon Valley.