If you want a carefree garden, that you do not have to water,
you need to plant the stress-tolerants (long-lived drought tolerants)
of your plant community and make them happy. If you do not mind pruning
the flower heads and dead foliage each year, use the Circumventors
and drought avoiders) of your plant community. If you want a lot of
flowers and are willing to turn your garden over every 3-6 months, use
the ruderals of the world. In other words, if you have a highly
disturbed, fertile site with a mild climate and adequate moisture a
ruderal (weed) is what you should use. If your site is very cold, hot,
dry, windy or infertile or you have limited time, find a
stress-tolerant plant (drought tolerant).
The western plants that are native in the mountains where they
get summer thunder showers can be brought east as long as you do not
fertilize and do not overwater. Most western natives grow poorly under
a garden regime where the ruderals are quite happy.
Most eastern natives would not do well under a garden regime
where the western drought tolerants were thriving.
The eastern plants can be brought west with regular summer
water. Both western and eastern U.S. natives should be planted in a
community similar to the one from which they came (forest to forest,
grassland to grassland).
For years, we treated the ruderals of our vegetable garden as
we did our California natives. After getting almost no vegetables for
many years we started watering more (a great deal more), fertilizing
more (bags more) and incorporating organic matter into the soil (truck
loads more). Our vegetable garden suddenly became productive! We found
that the fruit trees were Circumventors. Fruits trees like to be next
to ruderals, but not with them. Ruderals are in the creek,
Circumventors are up on the bank
When our customers treated drought tolerant plants like they
treated vegetables or garden flowers, the plants grew very quickly into
large, lush specimens and promptly died. Intermixing plants from
different plant communities sometimes has the same or even a more
dramatic effect. Sometimes the plant's growth is actively suppressed by
the plant community on your site. Ruderals do not 'like'
stress-tolerants and stress-tolerants 'hate' ruderals, if you mix them,
neither will grow well. Circumventors are the bridge and can be mixed
with the ruderals and the stress-tolerants.
Ruderals [R] Creek or
Circumventors [C] North
facing slope Plants, plants on
drip irrigation, creek slope plants, forest floor plants, the spring
Stress-Tolerants [S] South
facing slope plants, plants
of shallow or poor soils, plants with marked year to year and seasonal
It is easier to design and maintain plants when plants that
live together are planted together. We try to tell you plants that we
have seen together in the plant list. Celeste also made a valiant
effort to list the communities as described in Munz, A Calif. Flora. If
it says Chap that means it grows in the Chaparral areas of California.
The list is not perfect, we are continually adding and deleting more
(species and communities). If you are interested in planting a Redwood
garden go through the lists and read about each plant that says RED (Redwood Forest).
If you're interested in a desert planting look under PINY (Pinyon
Juniper Woodland), CREO (Creosote Bush
Scrub), SAGE ( Sagebrush
Scrub) or JOSH (Joshua Tree
Woodland). The plant communities should come together as they do in
the wild. The foothill woodland is next to the chaparral, the yellow
pine forest on one side and the valley grass land on the other. (Some
areas are different, get in the car and take a drive around your area.)
Native park-like landscapes use the best looking and desirable plants
that are native on the site or from the surrounding hills, that is,
from your own plant community. Do not go dig them up from the wild.
They will not transplant anyway as you're getting only 1/50, or less,
of their root system. If you live in a pine forest plant plants from
the different pine forests, the adjoining chaparral, fir, redwood or