Since Charles Darwin introduced it some 150 years ago, much has been made of the idea of natural selection—that mechanism through which evolution occurs. Far less attention has been paid, however, to the fact that gardeners exercise the power of selection all the time, and that their choices also have powerful consequences in the natural world.
Plant selection is one of the most important aspects of ReScape California gardening. Today, in addition to choosing plants for their beauty and fragrance, we also take into account a plant’s fitness for the environment in which it will grow.
Appropriately chosen and placed plants will:
- Have greater pest resistance
- Require less care
- Use fewer resources
- Generate less waste
- Know your climate. Few places in the world share with California its wet winters and sunny, dry summers. These are the characteristics of a Mediterranean climate, and they bring with them special growing conditions – most notably the need to choose plants that are well adapted to an annual six-month drought.
- Know your climate zone. According to the climate zones identified by the Sunset Western Garden Book, Alameda County includes zones 14-17. Knowing your particular zone provides useful shorthand for many of the factors that influence which plants are likely to succeed in your garden.
- Know your microclimates. In addition to the broader conditions that influence your garden, every site also creates its own conditions, or microclimates – those shady spots or dry patches, or the place where the soil’s rocky.
- Know your soil. Since soil is the matrix in which all plants grow, knowing your soil and choosing plants that grow well in it will go a long way toward ensuring success.
- Grow Mediterranean plants. A plant that is native to an area with a Mediterranean climate often requires less water, fewer pesticides and fertilizers, and possibly less pruning than a species that originated in, say, a humid rainforest.
- Grow California native plants. California native plants are ones that occur naturally somewhere in the state. Most are drought-tolerant; many are a good bet for your yard.
- Grow local native plants. In the same way that there can be microclimates within a garden, conditions can vary in small but significant ways on the landscape scale as well. You can’t find plants that are better adapted to life in the San Francisco Bay Area or are better fitted to support local wildlife – than the ones that evolved here.
Diverse Plant List
Selecting a palette of Mediterranean and California native plants – those adapted to our climate of seasonal rainfall – offers diversity in form, color and texture. Keep in mind a plant’s cultural requirements when selecting a variety for your garden space.
Take a look at a diverse plant list here for a sampling of plants suited to our Mediterranean climate. For more information about these plants, and a plethora of other, order a copy of the award winning EBMUD, Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates. Also available at local nurseries.