Tour-goers exploring a California native plant garden in south San Jose.
Every year I’ve been on the Going Native Garden Tour, I’ve explored the California native plant gardens of a different part of the South Bay. One year it was Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. Another year, the San Jose downtown core. This year I headed for Los Gatos and San Jose’s Camden and Cambrian areas.
In the Los Gatos hills (actually in Monte Sereno) I saw a grand, 1.7 acre garden, established for 12 years, where a hillside of poppies and blue-eyed grass frame a view across a small valley. Near downtown Los Gatos was a showpiece home garden by designer Alrie Middlebrook, as well as a community volunteer-planted garden at the Art Museum of Los Gatos, also designed by Middlebrook.
Both the Los Gatos garden and one I saw in central southern San Jose were planted on more modest lots. These gardens are on a scale that any homeowner could replicate, saving water and still presenting a beautiful front yard to the neighborhood.
Finally, along Capitancillos Drive in a south San Jose neighborhood, volunteers have planted over a half mile of parkstrip bordering the Capitancillos Meadow with a variety of California native plants, including ceanothus (California lilac), bush lupines, buckwheats, and more. This garden is completely unirrigated, but still makes an attractive and impressive border for the road edging this upscale neighborhood.
My discovery of the day was flannel bush (aka Fremontodendron), a striking tall shrub, with dramatic yellow flowers and dark green foliage. I saw this both at the Monte Sereno hillside garden and on Capitancillos Drive. I only wish I had enough room in my own garden to fit in one of these dramatic plants.
Flannel bush at the Capitancillos Drive parkstrip garden.