How native plants can set you free

I have to admit to a bit of trepidation when a client says “I’d like to include natives in the garden”. Don’t get me wrong, I love native plants (I love all plants, truthfully).  But I worry, will they be happy in a tended garden?  These days of economic environmental, and world stability challenges give me enough consternation, so I don’t like to worry about my plant’s survival. As you may know, many CA natives, well-adapted to our dry summer Mediterranean climate, really don’t do well with summer watering or rich amended soils.  They become vulnerable to fungi and bacteria and die off when fussed over with well-intentions.
After a couple years, I revisited some plantings on an open hillside property.  As expected,  those that got too much irrigation, yellowed and died off, while a Fremontodendron californica ‘San Gabriel’ and Ceanothus ‘Kurt Zadnick’, out of range of the spray rotors and on on a slope with good drainage, burst forth with wonderful vitality and vibrant spring blossoms and foliage. Truly a beautiful sight to see!  And it dawned on me, these plants filled my spirit with the strength of their independence beyond human tending.  I had crossed a threshold as a designer, and contributed to a larger environment- vs. the artificial one of constant human hovering. Just give them what they like and leave them alone. They adapted wholly to the natural fluctuations of the environment and thrived. Now I like to plant natives, as I feel, maybe I too, could be set free.

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