the Canary Islands, Corsica and Australia, plus California
for select natives. In his garden, prickly, pointy, soft, leafy,
crawling, flowing, flowering water misers like aloe, agave, star
jasmine and fan palms join broad sweeps of succulents in blues,
reds, pinks, purples and yellows to supplant more demanding
roses, rhododendron, geraniums and others.
“I think we really need to rethink, what does a garden
look like?” he says.
Keep It Native
Dan Dufficy, a landscape designer and the owner of CNL
Plant Nursery in Mill Valley, would agree, in an infectiously
passionate way — indeed, with every fiber of his being. He’d
agree that all new gardens need to be low-water-use, drought-tolerant, and much more sustainable than current models.
He’d even agree that aesthetics are incredibly important.
But there’s one place that Dufficy won’t budge: wherever and
Public Spaces Inspire
whenever possible, he says, California natives are the way to do
it. “Those are the plants that want to be here,” he says. “They like
our soil, they like our micro-habitats. Our insects need them, our
birds need them. It’s a critical, critical element for Marin County.”
He admits there’s just one problem: the right plants for the
job — that is, mature, visually appealing, landscape-quality
specimens — can still be tough for homeowners and even nurs-
ery owners to track down. “The plants are just starting to be
readily available,” he asserts. “Even right now, it’s difficult to
find good-looking, drought-tolerant California native plants.”
Instead, he says, the market remains dominated by imported
low-water-use Mediterraneans and high-water-use plants lifted
from traditional gardens in wet-summer climates. But for those
who want a visually distinctive garden that requires far less
water and provides habitat for Marin’s resident insects and wild-
life, he argues, the extra scouting is worth it.
Paired with carefully programmed drip irrigation and
thoughtful pruning and sculpting, the likes of salvia, sage,
coyote brush, coffeeberry, sword fern, madrone, buckeye and
manzanita can not only attract hummingbirds, bees, butter-
flies, coyotes, snakes and quails, but also build award-winning
showcase gardens, Dufficy says.
Bay Area homeowners and businesses reconsidering what a
garden looks like can now turn to the Bay-Friendly Landscaping
and Gardening Coalition. The Richmond-based nonprofit partners with public agencies, landscapers and property owners
to reduce waste and pollution, save water and create vibrant
landscapes grounded in environmental principles.
“We’re starting to get away from this aesthetic of everything having to be neat and trim with squared-off edges
toward more of a natural look and a more diverse plant palette,” says Stephen Andrews, a soil scientist who works as a
trainer and technical expert for the coalition.
When it comes to water, he says, the most important
change is the declining appeal of the lawn. By sheet-mulch-ing a lawn and killing the sprinklers, most homeowners will
see overall water use fall immediately by 50 to 90 percent,
a benefit compounded by financial and health savings from
ditching the fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
At 700 Larkspur Landing, 55,000 square feet of
lawn and sheared shrubs were converted to a neat
meadow of native grasses and annuals.
clockwise from top
left: The walkway
features second-and third-century
Roman busts; chairs
surround a gas fire pit;
ancient Turkish and
Italian pots by the spa;
agave attenuate. This
page: The work of Bay-Friendly can be seen at