You may be thinking – well, I want to native landscape, but where do I start? This is natural. As Ralph Cornell writes, “It is but a short step from an interest in the wide open spaces, and conservation of plants that grow thereon, to an interest in transplanting these native things into the garden. Those who have renewed old acquaintances or formed new enthusiasms among the conspicuous plants of our chaparral may, quite naturally, wish to know how such plants will behave under the artificial conditions of garden environment. It is a big topic…”
A quick note:
Our grower is El Nativo, so check here to see if the plant or plants you are looking for are available.
To start, read the Ralph Cornell Society's garden manifesto, “Wanted: A Genuine Southern California Park.” [pdf]
In his book, Conspicuous California Plants, he recommends the following native plants as offering the “highest landscape values in our average city yards of restricted areas, heavy souls, poor drainage, and promiscuous waterings:”
Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), the plant for which Hollywood is named.
Catalina cherry (Prunus ilicifolia)
Mountain cherry (Prunus lyonii)
Sugarbush (Rhus ovata)
Sumac (Rhus laurina)
Lemonade berry (Rhus integrifolia)
Redberry (Rhamnus crocea)
Coffee Berry (Rhamnus californica)
Bigberry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca)
But let's not forget the other wonders of Southern California flora, including the “saucy and attractive monkey flowers,” at least “before the richness of living has drugged them into decadence,” the various tree lupines, that “range in color from white through all shades of blue and purple and occur also in a clear yellow,” or the woolly-blue curls that can be used to provide the garden with “brilliant spikes of attractive blue flowers.” You may also enjoy planting Ceanothus, the California lilacs, which occur in “shades from snowy white, through blue, into deepest indigo” and “bloom profusely so that the shrubs appear to be a solid mass of fluffy flowers, rich in their fragrance and attractive to bees.” Ceanothus “Dark Star” is particularly striking.
The currants (Ribes) are also a good choice, though they tend to drop their leaves during summer months, as is buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), an unmatched food plant for butterflies and other insects. Yucca whipplei, or “Our Lord's Candle,” offers a jolt of wildness, though it is best used in more out-of-the-way areas far from cross country trails, while our native dudleya, the Chalk Live-Forever (Dudleya pulverulenta) can provide the garden setting with a sense of meditation and quiet beauty. Finally, let us not forget Emory Baccharis (Baccharis emoryi), whose fluffy white blossoms can improve any fall day.
For your browsing pleasure, here are several guides to plant choice in Southern Californian native landscaping:
And some organizations that may be useful:
You can find more resources here [pdf] as well.