Late Summer Color In California

Forming a new vision for my garden:  What is important?  What is "right"?  What is beauty?  What will the neighbors complain about?  I'm tempted away from a luxurious riot of color these days, to minimal austerity. 

Grass in September

The late summer color of California.  No, not from roses.   From the natives:  blonde, rust, chocolate and grey.  The greens darkened with dust--emerald and teal are aliens here.  What is "right"? Is a velvety lawn ringed with delphiniums an evil?   Roses and Clematis--both genera are native to California--but it is not the natives that are grown, it is the ornamental hybrids far removed.

Native grasses and California buckwheat (Genus Erigonum):  Are they beautiful? What about fire safety?
Native vegetation in September

What about an austerity of stone and hedge?   Unthirsty, but still alien.  Ligustrum, Raphiolepis indica and Trachelospermum are all Chinese imports (like so much else, sigh).  

The stone too is alien, it should look like this: 
The local stone

What really survives here:


But the Eucalyptus are no more native than delphiniums.  "California" peppers are from Brazil.

A native Oak appears among the alien Eucs (at far right).  Given time, it will dominate:

A Native Oak amidst alien Eucalypts

The way forward is unclear. 

Native rhus, their spring flowers now dried to Hershey-Bar brown, with native grass in the foreground:  

Real California

Recalling a classic California plein-air painting, but in reality, merely the local park:


A different kind of California blonde, (the all natural kind!) 

Grass in September

A lot to think about: simply re-creating an empty lot doesn't seem any more sensible than a lawn watered daily and heavily. Water conservation must also be balanced with fire danger. Beauty and sanctuary so desperately needed to feed the hungry soul. Garden style fads. The true difficulty of the native plant garden when the land has been scraped flat and framed in asphalt and concrete...natives are very, very localized, and the line between "native" and "weedy" is razor-thin.

If my thoughts seem nebulous--well they are.


  1. What native grass is in those two photos?

  2. Good question! I guessed the first picture as Bromus carinatus, and the blonde as Danthonia californica, hopefully not the Eurasian invader Avena fatua, but I could be wrong. I will have to get some close-up pics next walk. I thought that the natives Nassella pulchra and Delchampsia cespitosa were in the area as well, though not in my pictures. I did not realize there are over 300 grasses native to California!


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