Beyond the lawn: The New Front YardLoading
  • KRTC CA-BUTTERFLYGARDEN 2 MN
    Narrowleaf milkweed
    Asclepias fascicularus
    Size: Under 3 feet tall.
    Bloom season: Summer.
    Pruning needs: Little or none; cut back in winter to renew.
    Exposure: Full sun.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply twice a month.
    Snapshot: This may be the ultimate butterfly magnet – especially for the beloved Monarch. Milkweeds are a primary food source for Monarch caterpillars. And this Baja California native can make a pretty addition to the low-water garden, too. The summer flowers, which appear in clusters, are pinkish white and attract butterflies from June through September. The attractive foliage is a pale green with fine, narrow leaves. Milkweed tolerates heat and drought, but can’t stand shade; it needs full sun. Happy in sandy or clay soil, this easy-care perennial also adapts well to slopes. See specimens in the UC Davis Arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California Native Plants on the UC Davis campus.
    Vern Fisher | MCT
  • BUTTERFLY162
    California buckwheat
    Eriogonum fasciculatum
    Size: Under 3 feet.
    Bloom season: Late spring, summer.
    Pruning needs: Little or none; cut back and remove spent flowers in winter to renew.
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply twice a month.
    Snapshot: Want butterflies in your garden? This drought-tolerant native attracts loads of winged visitors – especially butterflies, native bees, predatory wasps and small birds. This pretty buckwheat starts out with white flowers in late spring that gradually turn pink in summer, then rust red in fall. Buckwheat tolerates both clay and sandy soils and needs little care (or water) to look showy. See specimens in the arboretum’s California Foothill Collection on the UC Davis campus.
    Luis Sinco | Los Angeles Times file
  • GIE2ILH42.3x
    Dwarf coyote bush
    Baccharis pilularis
    Size: Under 2 feet
    Bloom season: Summer, fall
    Pruning needs: Little or none
    Exposure: Full sun
    Water needs: Once established, water twice a month or as needed.
    Snapshot: Want a sea of green with little water? This durable ground cover is a favorite for stabilizing slopes and low-water landscaping. A California native, coyote bush is also known as coastal sage scrub, coyote brush or chapparel broom and grows from San Diego to Oregon. It’s an important nectar source for such beneficial insects as predatory wasps, native bees and native butterflies. It tolerates alkaline, sand and clay soils. Coastal varieties such as Pigeon Point hug the ground and stay low. Other varieties grow into soft rounded mounds. The one thing it doesn’t like is dusty leaves; spray them off occasionally to keep the plant looking fresh and growing strong. A big plus for foothill gardeners: Deer won’t eat it.
    Credit: Monterey Bay Nursery | Monterey Bay Nursery
  • GHT2GG26K.3x
    California pipevine
    Aristolochia californica
    Size: Trailing woody vine, up to 20 feet.
    Bloom season: Late winter and spring.
    Pruning needs: Little or none; train stems up trellis to support.
    Exposure: Full to partial shade.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: Along the American River bike trail in Sacramento County or Putah Creek in Davis, you may have spotted this vine with unusual striped flowers that look very much like – you guessed it – pipes. It’s the California pipevine, a native plant to the Sacramento Valley that can climb up trees (or trellises) or form a dense groundcover in dry shade. Besides being a garden curiosity, the pipevine attracts butterflies. Its bright green foliage provides food for swallowtail butterfly larvae, in particular the black and blue Pipevine swallowtail. Although butterfly larvae feed on pipevine, the plant is toxic to people and pets. Aristolochia, the plant’s Latin name, means “best childbirth,” inspired by the fetal-like shape of the flowers. You can see specimens in the arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.
    Pat Rubin
  • GHT2GFQRJ.3x
    California fuchsia
    Epilobium canum
    Size: 1 to 3 feet
    Bloom season: Summer and fall
    Pruning needs: Cut to the ground after flowering in late fall
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Water needs: Water deeply once or twice a month
    Snapshot: In constant demand at UC Davis nursery sales, this perennial ranks among the most popular plants propagated by arboretum volunteers. In the hottest heat, this California native keeps putting out brilliant, lipstick-shaped flowers throughout summer and into fall. It’s those fuchsia-like flowers that earn this perennial its nickname. Its other nickname is “hummingbird trumpet” and for good reason; hummers flock to these flowers. Tough and reliable, California fuchsia is easy to grow and tolerates high temperatures and drought. Different varieties have interesting leaves, too, ranging from silver to bright green and narrow to broad. Modern hybrids have created variations on the flowers, too; “Solidarity Pink” is a soft baby pink with a hint of peach. Among the favorites at the arboretum is the dwarf variety, “Everett’s Choice.” It’s more compact and does not form invasive runners. You can see specimens in the UC Davis Arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on campus.
    Ellen Zagory
  • G7M2F8SAB.4x
    Monch aster
    Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’
    Size: Under 2 feet tall
    Bloom season: Summer, early fall
    Pruning needs: Little or none; cut stems back to ground in winter
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once a week
    Snapshot: OK, this isn’t a California native, but this popular aster has made itself right at home in the Central Valley. This easy-care hybrid aster, developed in the early 1920s by Karl Frikart in Switzerland, is a dependable garden star in Sacramento. Throughout the summer, this compact perennial is covered with 2-inch, lavender-blue daisylike flowers. It makes beautiful bouquets. Butterflies love it, too. It grows in almost any kind of soil —as long as it has good drainage. You can see specimens near the gazebo in the arboretum’s teaching nursery on the UC Davis campus.
    Ellen M. Zagory
  • GGR2D2LIV.3x
    Cascade Creek California goldenrod
    Solidago californica “Cascade Creek”
    Size: 2 to 3 feet
    Bloom season: Spring, summer and fall
    Pruning needs: Cut to ground after it flowers in late fall.
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: Here’s a California native goldenrod improved for the home garden. From spring through fall, “Cascade Creek” bears massive displays of bright yellow flowers, beloved by bees and butterflies. Because it’s such a favorite with beneficial insects, this goldenrod can make a nice addition to native-grass meadows, providing color while many natives turn brown. You can see specimens in bloom now in the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on UC Davis campus.
    Ellen Zagory
  • GGR2D0DQA.3x
    Saint Catherine’s lace
    Eriogonum giganteum
    Size: 4 to 6 feet
    Bloom season: Summer
    Pruning needs: Remove old flower stalks. Prune to maintain a compact form.
    Exposure: Full to partial sun
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: A California native, this shrub produces large, showy clusters of lacy white flowers throughout the summer – a big draw for butterflies and beneficial insects. Fast-growing, this plant quickly develops into a large, rounded shrub with woolly, light gray foliage – and needs little water. You can see specimens mixed in with the conifer collection at the UC Davis Arboretum on campus.
    Ellen Zagory | UC Davis
  • GF52BBA04.3x
    Deergrass
    Muhlenbergia rigens
    Size: 3 to 5 feet tall
    Bloom season: Summer
    Pruning needs: Cut to ground every three years to renew.
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply every two weeks.
    Snapshot: Want the look of turf with less work? This grass needs mowing every three years. Tall and elegant, this California native moves with the breeze, swaying gently on a warm summer evening. Clumps can form a low, informal screen while adding interesting texture to a drought-tolerant garden. Flower stalks reach 5 feet tall. With almost no care and very little water, it looks great in combinations with other natives or on its own. “This easily is California’s most spectacular native grass,” said former arboretum superintendent Warren Roberts. “It looks like fireworks the way it arcs out and up.” You can see specimens in the Arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants and the Arboretum Terrace Garden on the UC Davis campus.
    Owen Brewer | Sacramento Bee file
  • G1S2BDFOV.3
    California white sage (Salvia apiana) has fragrant white blooms in spring. Those flowers are a bee magnet.
    Nikhil Joshi
  • GGP28R4TC.3
    Sticky monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus) is a popular California native and a favorite for hummingbirds.
    Robert Potts | California Academy of Sciences
  • G3P27LALA.3x
    Blue grama grass
    Bouteloua gracilis
    Size:1 to 3 feet.
    Bloom season: Summer and fall.
    Pruning needs: Mow once in late fall or winter.
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply every two weeks.
    Snapshot: Tired of the same old lawn? Blue grama grass is a California native gaining in popularity for its easy care and drought tolerance. The flower stalks start green and age to tan while staying tidy and upright – even when dormant. And this grass only needs mowing once a year. And instead of twice-a-week watering, it thrives with deep irrigation every other week. Particularly popular is the hybrid variety named “Blonde Ambition.” You can see specimens in the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.
    Owen Brewer | Sacramento Bee file
  • G7A25SDMO.3x
    Mountaingrape
    Mahonia aquifolium var. repens
    Size: Under 2 feet. Bloom season: Spring.
    Pruning needs: Little or none; prune to shape.
    Exposure: Full sun to full shade; prefers partial shade or filtered sun (particularly in afternoon). Water needs: Once established, water twice a month.
    Snapshot: A favorite in California native gardens, this ground-cover form of Oregon grape looks good year round with handsome, glossy foliage. Native to the Sierra and other mountain areas, it thrives in dry shade such as under oaks. In spring, it bears bright yellow flowers that attract beneficial insects. Also called creeping Oregon grape, creeping mahonia or prostrate barberry, this drought-tolerant native isn’t a grape, but its purple-blue berries form in grapelike clusters. They’re a favorite of birds – and people like them, too. The fruit can be made into preserves or jam. See examples in the T. Elliot Weier Redwood Grove of the UC Davis Arboretum on the UC Davis campus.
    Pat Rubin | Pat Rubin
  • GEA24Q7VH.3x
    Concha ceanothus
    Ceanothus “Concha”
    Size: 4 to 6 feet tall
    Bloom season: Spring
    Pruning needs: Prune to shape after spring flowering, then little or none.
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: One of the best California native lilacs for the drought-tolerant garden, Concha looks good year-round with dark green leaves. In spring, this shrub is covered with deep-blue flowers with reddish bracts, making it a favorite for beneficial insects. Ceanothus, nicknamed California native lilacs, aren’t related to “true lilacs” ( Syringa), which are native to southeastern Europe and eastern Asia. Fragrant like their lilac namesake, these California natives thrive with a lot less water. Concha also is an Arboretum All-Star. You can see specimens in the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California Native Plants and Ruth Risdon Storer Valley-Wise Garden on the UC Davis campus.
    UC Davis Arboretum
  • 805-149
    Western spice bush
    Calycanthus occidentalis
    Size: 6 to 12 feet tall
    Bloom season: Spring
    Pruning needs: Little or none; prune to shape.
    Exposure: Partial sun to full shade.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: At home under taller trees or on a northern exposure, this shade-loving California native offers maroon-red flowers in spring and attractive gold foliage in fall, adding seasonal color to the dry garden. The flowers attract beneficial insects, including pollinating beetles. The leaves give this shrub its nickname; they have a sharp, clean fragrance. You can see specimens in the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.
    Saxon Holt
  • GSE21E8A9.3x
    Santa Margarita foothill penstemon
    Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita BOP’
    Size: Under 1 foot
    Bloom season: Spring and summer
    Pruning needs: Little or none; remove old flower stalks
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply every two weeks
    Snapshot: This California native puts on an ever-changing show of rainbow hues. The flowers start as golden yellow buds, then open into bright blue blooms before fading to purple pink. Unlike many penstemons, this one thrives in home garden conditions. It attracts plenty of beneficial insects, too. You can see specimens in the arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.
    UC Davis Arboretum
  • GNA208ABH.3x
    Cleveland sage
    Salvia clevelandii
    Size: Under 4 feet tall
    Bloom season: Spring and summer
    Pruning needs: Remove old flower stalks in summer after bloom. Prune to maintain a compact form.
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: This California native is a woody evergreen shrub that grows up to 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide. The Winnifred Gilman variety produces maroon-stemmed, brilliant blue-violet flowers from mid-spring to early summer. The gray-green leaves have a deliciously strong fragrance. Hummingbirds and butterflies love this sage; so do bees. This variety of Cleveland sage particularly likes Sacramento’s weather. It is heat- and drought-tolerant – but not for gardens where water pools in winter. It can’t stand soggy roots. You can see specimens in the UC Davis Arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on campus.
    Ellen Zagory/Courtesy of UC Davis
  • GPJ1UTE29.2x
    Western redbud
    Cercis occidentalis
    Size: Up to 10 feet.
    Bloom season: Early spring.
    Pruning needs: Little or none.
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
    Water needs: Water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: Ubiquitous along area highways, this small California native tree boasts bright-purple blooms in spring, followed by attractive red seed pods in summer. New stems in winter (bearing the distinctive redbuds) were used by American Indians for making baskets. Besides being a low-maintenance plant, this tree offers an added plus – it attracts beneficial insects. Bees love it. See specimens in bloom now in the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants as well as other gardens on the UC Davis campus.
    Lezlie Sterling | Sacramento Bee
  • GI81TVA9U.2x
    Ray Hartman California lilac
    Ceanothus “Ray Hartman”
    Size: Up to 15 feet tall
    Bloom season: Spring
    Pruning needs: Little or none; prune after bloom to shape.
    Exposure: Full sun.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: With its vibrant blue flowers, this California lilac ranks among the best for Sacramento-area gardens. The Ray Hartman hybrid of this native shrub is well-adapted to home landscapes because it can tolerate some summer irrigation. With handsome, dark-green foliage, it makes a good screen hedge or small specimen tree. Bees love it, too. You can see specimens in the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus. The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery (at 1000 Broadway) also has several Ray Hartman lilacs in its California native plant demonstration garden.
    Ellen Zagory
  • G8I1RK5T5.3x
    Hollyleaf cherry
    Prunus ilicifolia
    Size: 8 to 30 feet tall
    Bloom season: Early spring
    Pruning needs: Little or none; shape as desired
    Exposure: Full sun
    Water needs: Once it’s established, water it deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: This attractive California native grows into an evergreen large shrub or small tree that’s useful as a living screen or tall hedge in low-water gardens. White flowers in spring provide pollen and nectar for insects and are followed by edible (although maybe not very palatable) fruit for birds. Native Americans fermented these “cherries” to drink. This tough shrub is tolerant of clay soils. A subspecies from the Channel Islands of Southern California, Catalina cherry ( Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii) has slightly longer and larger leaves and grows to tree-like proportions. See specimens in the arboretum’s Desert Collection on the UC Davis campus.
    Ellen Zagory
  • GFI1QIO16.1x
    California wild grape
    Vitis californica
    Size: Vine, up to 30 feet
    Bloom season: Late spring (not showy).
    Pruning needs: None; light pruning annually if desired to contain growth.
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: You’ve likely seen this native hanging out along the banks of the Sacramento River. California grape is a large, vigorous, deciduous vine, native to California and southern Oregon. For the New Front Yard, arboretum experts chose “Roger’s Red,” a variety of wild grape “tamed” by horticulturist Roger Raiche and known for its brilliant red fall color. This hardy vine is useful for wildlife gardens because of its sour grape fruit (which birds love) and summer shade on trellises where little irrigation is available. A twisting vine, it needs annual pruning to keep it within bounds. You can see specimens in the arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants as well as several other sites on the UC Davis campus.
    Ellen Zagory
  • GJL1OBF93.3s
    Toyon or Christmas berry
    Heteromeles arbutifolia
    Size: 10 to 15 feet tall
    Bloom season: Spring
    Pruning needs: Little or none.
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply every two weeks.
    Snapshot: Native to most of California, this handsome shrub with leathery, dark-green leaves blooms in spring, but its winter berries make it a standout. Throughout the colder months, large clusters of berries decorate the plant, giving it the nicknames “Christmas Berry” or “California Holly.” In fact, toyon’s holly monicker gave Hollywood its name; Hollywood’s hills were filled with toyon. Native toyon has red berries, but the university’s arboretum has developed a toyon with golden fruit. Appropriately called “Davis Gold,” this hybrid is a UC Davis exclusive. Toyon berries are a favorite food of the cedar waxwing, a bird that migrates through the Central Valley. You can see both yellow- and red-berried toyon specimens in the arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.
    Florence Low | Sacramento Bee
  • GA81M8OVQ.3x
    Evergreen currant
    Ribes viburnifolium
    Size: Groundcover (under 18 inches tall).
    Bloom season: Late winter, spring.
    Pruning needs: Little or none.
    Exposure: Partial to full shade.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: Also called Catalina currant or island gooseberry, this popular California native thrives where other groundcovers struggle – in the dry shade under oaks. As its nickname implies, it’s native to Santa Catalina Island off Long Beach, but it has spread to several coastal areas in Southern California and northern Baja California. Its shiny, dark-green, fragrant foliage (which exudes a citrusy scent) looks attractive year-round. Besides its landscape assets, this currant supports wildlife. In late winter and early spring, the star-shaped red flowers attract hummingbirds and beneficial insects. In late spring, the plant bears small red berries. You can see specimens in the arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.
    Ellen Zagory
  • GOG1JK0HM.3s
    Coast silktassel Garrya elliptica
    Size: 6 to 9 feet tall.
    Bloom season: Winter.
    Pruning needs: None; prune to shape when young.
    Exposure: Prefers some afternoon shade in Central Valley.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once a month; needs some extra water to look its best.
    Snapshot: This large, evergreen California native shrub – which grows as wide as it is tall – lives up to its nickname. Each winter, it produces 10-inch-long and delicate silvery tassels of flowers that make a fabulous show. This bush grows with little irrigation once established but also will tolerate moisture if the soil has adequate drainage. Silktassel thrives on the edge of an irrigated area where it transitions to lower-water landscaping. Common cultivars “Evie” and “James Roof” produce longer and showier flower tassels than the native species. Silktassel is useful as a background or screen plant in the low-water garden and sure to delight in the foggy days of winter. In Sacramento, silktassel does well under tall trees where it is shaded in summer from the hot afternoon sun. You can see specimens in the arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.
    Ellen Zagory
  • GI61I002H.3x
    Coffeeberry
    Rhamnus californica
    Size: 6 to 9 feet tall.
    Bloom season: Spring.
    Pruning needs: Little or none; prune to shape while young.
    Exposure: Partial shade.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: This California native is a tough, evergreen shrub, useful as a background or screen plant. Small greenish flowers in spring are not showy, but provide an important source of nectar and pollen for beneficial insects that will help control pests in your garden. Its distinctive berries start out red, then turn black (like coffee); they provide food for many birds including robins, thrushes and tanagers. Coffeeberry is a good choice for sun or partial shade and under tall trees. It also makes a good low-water hedge. The subspecies tomentella has silvery, silky leaves that are soft to the touch. You can see specimens in the arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.
    Ellen Zagory
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    Island mountain mahogany
    Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae
    Size: 15 to 20 feet tall
    Bloom season: Winter
    Pruning needs: Little or none; light pruning to shape
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: Who says the New Front Yard has to be flat? A California native, this small tree thrives in full sun and dry soil, although it tolerates a little shade, too. In early winter, tiny white flowers attract beneficial insects. More noticeable are the unusual seed pods; they curl upward and are covered with bright, silky fuzz. These seed pods also give this tree its botanical name, Cercocarpus, which means “fruit with tail.” You can see specimens in the Ruth Risdon Storer Valley-Wise Garden and the Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the University of California, Davis, campus.
    This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum “New Front Yard” series, 41 drought-tolerant and beautiful plants well adapted to our region.
    Ellen Zagory
  • Manzanita
    Arctostaphylos species
    Size: Wide range, from under 1 foot to 20 feet.
    Bloom season: Winter
    Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    Pruning needs: Little or none
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month
    Snapshot: More than 40 species of manzanita – which means “little apple” – are native to California, with dozens of cultivars and hybrids available commercially for home gardens. Manzanita is well-known for its smooth, almost wine-red bark. In late winter, it also sports dense clusters of light-pink blooms, a favorite for hummingbirds and beneficial insects. Vine Hill manzanita ( Arctostaphylos densiflora “Howard McMinn”) is one of the few manzanitas that can tolerate Sacramento’s clay-loam soil. It also stays relatively compact, forming a shrub 4 to 6 feet tall. With its attractive foliage, it looks good year-round with very little water or care. You can see specimens in the arboretum Terrace Garden on the UC Davis campus.
    This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum “New Front Yard” series, 41 drought-tolerant and beautiful plants well adapted to our region.
    Ellen Zagory, UC Davis Arboretum
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    Chaparral currant
    Ribes malvaceum
    Size: 4 to 6 feet tall
    Bloom season: Fall and winter
    Pruning needs: Little or none.
    Exposure: Partial shade.
    Water needs: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month.
    Snapshot: This California native shrub – also part of the Arboretum All-Star series – offers a winter bouquet of pale-pink flowers, a favorite for hummingbirds. The leaves have an attractive scent, too. This shrub’s easy-care profile (little water, less work) make it a favorite for spaces with partial shade, such as under heritage oaks or other large trees. You can see specimens in the arboretum’s Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.
    This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum “New Front Yard” series, 41 drought-tolerant and beautiful plants well adapted to our region.
    Ellen Zagory
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