LANDSCAPING WITH NATIVE PLANTS
One of the chief sources of water consumption around the home is in landscaping. You can conserve water and enhance the environment by landscaping with drought-tolerant native plants. Gardening with native plants is not only a great way to conserve water, but also provides a natural habitat and food for birds, bees, and butterflies. Using native plants also helps us reduce our dependency on fertilizers and pesticides. An excellent starting point for learning about the use and beauty of native plants is the California Native Plant Society web site, which also has links to numerous other useful resources.
Locally, the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society has a photo gallery of plants that are native to Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Its Gardening with Native special interest group meets once a month and hosts talks and outings. Non-members are welcome at these meetings. The Gardening with Native web page provides a list of resources for working with native plants as well as information on where to view and acquire them. Another way to get a feel for a wide range of landscape applications using native plants is The Going Native Garden Tour hosted in April.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District has a water-wise plant list. If you have native trees in your garden, especially oaks, it is important to be aware that oaks resent water in the area within their dripline during the dry season. Watering under an oak can make it more susceptible to fungus infections and to an earlier demise. The Tree Protection page of this web site and the book "The Trees of Los Altos" provide guidelines for working around oaks.
While native plants enhance our environment, it is also important to keep in mind the danger of invasive non-natives. Many of these plants are threats to California’s wild lands. While they may seem harmless contained in a small garden, they may easily escape into our greenbelts or our creeks. Please see the Cal-IPC website for more information and how you can help. Click here to find an inventory of invasive plants.
If you live on or near one of the creeks of Los Altos, please be aware of the Santa Clara Valley Water Districts regulations about planting in or near riparian corridors. The SCVWD web site lists recommended plants for use near creeks as well as species to avoid.