Xeriscaping Landscaping—planting a drought tolerant garden at church
In December, 2006, we created a native plant garden in our courtyard where grass had been torn up for a paving project. The congregation was just beginning to think about becoming a “Green Sanctuary” and many supported landscape that would require less water, no fertilizer, and less upkeep than grass. Conserving water would be an example to our children that we are committed to preserving the earth. The garden was planned as a temporary landscape, as a building committee was working with architects for possible new structures.
Learn more about the specific plants in our garden.
Installation and Care
Our gardener rototilled, and moved some dirt into three mounds so that the water would drain away from the plants. We left the center under a mature Casuarina tree free of plants as a possible gathering place, also because the shade and roots would make it difficult to plant. Manmade flagstones crisscrossed the garden to allow access from one side of the courtyard to the other. Existing benches were completely taken apart, refinished, and placed along the paths.
About 90 plants were purchased and planted. The area was covered with mini bark mulch. A temporary irrigation system was set up which attached to the hose to keep the plants watered for the first summer. The second summer, the plants were watered about once a month. Now that the plants are established, a few shade loving plants get water once a month; others may get the dust washed off.
A few plants have died and needed to be replaced. Others got crowded out. But most of the garden has thrived. Poppies spread over larger and larger areas each year.
In Winter, 2009, after only three years of growth, volunteers did some major pruning to keep the plants in check. We even moved one path because plants on one side had grown faster than those on the other. Friends of the garden check it occasionally, to remove weeds, but with little summer water and with 2 to 4 inches of bark, the weeds are not overwhelming.
Children love hopping from stone to stone. Adults relax on the benches to chat or just take in the sights and aromas. Butterflies and hummingbirds hover around darting from plant to plant. Many in the congregation, including our minister, have been inspired to create drought tolerant gardens at their homes.
Types of Flowers
The garden contains many varieties of sage and mint, which give it a wonderful aroma year around. Blue Ceonothus and orange poppies are profuse in the spring. Wild grasses wave gracefully over the Yarrow, and Santa Barbara Daisies. Hummingbirds love the purple sage, Galviosa, and Huechera. Monarch butterflies come after the Milk Weed, and we watch as their caterpillers get fatter and fatter. Delicate Buckwheat and Coastal Sagebrush add a variety of textures. And the Toyon, and Western Mountain Mahogany are fast becoming trees. A single Manzanita is well established, but in danger of being overrun by faster growers. Wild currant has not yet made fruit, but will soon provide food for birds. Learn more about the California Native plants growing in the garden.
Here are resources for WaterWise Gardening:
Tree of Life Nursery — San Juan Capistrano, CA
Catalog is now available on the web in PDF format under “planning tools.” Visit nursery which has native plant garden, helpful staff.
Las Pilitas – Escondido, CA
Has great index of plants with pictures. I used the Tree of Life Catalog to look for plants that sounded good (size, color, water needs), then looked them up on Las Pilitas. -Grace
Long Beach Water Department
California’s main water sources have been severely impacted by record dry conditions. 50 to 70% of the water we use is used for landscaping. Learn about free water efficient landscape classes offered by the Long Beach Water Department. I've taken a class and it was very informative. -Maureen
Metropolitan Water District Web Site — Los Angeles
bewaterwise.com — Great garden tour pictures, lets you click on each plant to see what it is.
Not all natives, but they tell you which are native and which are not.
Theodore Payne — Sun Valley, CA
Nice garden and hiking trail. Plants for sale. Knowledgeable people to help.
El Dorado Nature Center
7550 E. Spring St., Long Beach, CA
Native plant sale Oct (every year): 9:00-12:00
Long Beach City College
Pacific Coast Campus
1305 East Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, CA
Every Friday 9 am - noon
PCC Horticulture Gardens