This is a blog about Gardening with California native plants — in particular,  about my own personal efforts in that direction. My name is Cynthia DuBose, and I live in Yorba Linda, California, in Orange County. Yorba Linda is near Anaheim and Fullerton, and is pretty much at the juncture of Sunset zones 22 and 23.

How did I get started gardening? Good question. The fact is, I am pretty much a total neophyte in gardening. The manicured gardens and lawns in most suburban yards have never held any fascination for me, though I tried mightily to have a nice lawn with neat shrubbery. Alas, it devolved eventually into bermuda grass and crab grass, made presentable only by regular mowing.

I think my love affair with free, natural-looking landscapes probably began when I lived in San Pedro, at the southern tip of Los Angeles County,  in the mid-eighties. San Pedro is very near the Palos Verdes peninsula, a hilly area with many fine homes, but also a certain amount of undeveloped wilderness. But though it was a wealthy area, it did not have the same manicured sameness you find in most areas of Orange County. Instead, it seems the powers that be had purposely decided to let the sidewalks, trails, and medians become somewhat overgrown in the most fascinating way. I loved driving through Palos Verdes for that reason. Though the vegetation had a wild look, it was not overgrown with weeds or simply untended. Instead, the plants had been carefully selected and planted (most likely they were natives, but I didn’t know enough to be sure),  but then allowed to grow without much manicuring or shaping, giving them the look of belonging in the environment.

It’s when I started visiting the Big Sur area with some regularity that I truly became enamored of the beauty of native California flora as used in landscape designs. I was swept away by the ability of the talented designers that abound in that area to create courtyards, paths, cafe sitting areas, and the like, that looked as if they were extensions of the gorgeous natural beauty surrounding them. Paths were natural gravel or stone; the plants alongside were allowed to grow as they wished without obvious pruning or shaping, but at the same time were part of a well-designed composition.

I think I have finally shown myself to be my mother’s daughter, as my mother was a great gardener, president of her local garden club for several years. Though I loved nature and woodsy surroundings, I was unable to find any enthusiasm for my mother’s flower beds with their regularly spaced roses and other plants. With native gardening, I have found the perfect way to blend my love of nature with my love of art and design.


17 Responses to “About”

  1. Jacky Says:

    Love your blog Cynthia…Jacky, Ashley’s Mum in Australia

  2. Terry Davitt Powell Says:

    Enjoyed reading your blog! I’m in Costa Mesa, four years in to CA natives. I especially enjoyed the monarch saga. I also had caterpillars running out of milkweed leaves; did not find the pumpkin solution! (though, you also mention pineapple?) Are you on Instagram? I am…terrydavitt.

  3. cynthiasnativegarden Says:

    Hi Terry, thanks for checking in! No, I don’t think I mentioned pineapple, just pumpkin. And no, alas, I’m not on Instagram.

  4. Joan Says:

    I just found your blog, and it’s an inspiration. I’ve just recently started down the path of xeric gardening, and my front yard is at the “mulched and just planted” stage. It’s so good to know that it will look better!

    Things that I learned from your blog:

    It’s a continuing process. There’s no such thing as designing a “perfect” garden and just letting it go on. Plants die, or grow in unexpected ways. I had that experience in my small backyard plot- of three sun drops, two died and one grew amazingly well. One Salvia Clevelandii died, the other is thriving. Some plants are thriving (germander sage) but I don’t like the way they look. So I have a lot of “experimental” plants out back – some of which turn out differently than I expected and some of which die. I have two areas: the parts under the avocadoes which are necessarily non-xeric, and the xeric area. The ones I like:

    (non-xeric) mahonia repens, prunus illicifolia, ribes viburnifolium, Spanish lavender (looks like small sagebrush), blue-eyed grass, and salvia greggii.

    (xeric) Cleveland sage, lilac verbena, Dara’s choice salvia, Dusty Miller, pigs ears and other succulents. I’m putting a ceanothus arboreus in, too.

    The yard would not look anywhere as good without trees, “open space”, pathways, rocks, grasses, and the large shrubs on the west side that screen the boat (what ARE they, anyway?) They give your garden a wonderful naturalistic look! I’ll be adding grasses to my collection!

    Between the trees, shrubs, and groundcover, you have fantastic differences of scale.

    You have a larger variety of plants that I would have ever put together, and they look awesome together. I will be braver in my considered choice of plants!

    thank you so much for your blog!

  5. cynthiasnativegarden Says:

    Joan: Thank you for your very interesting feedback! I agree very much with what you’ve said, and thank you for your observations on my garden. It’s encouraging to know someone is finding my garden an inspiration for her own efforts to nurture a drought-tolerant garden. My hope is that more and more people will follow this path, and especially now that we in California are under orders (much overdue) to restrict our water usage.

    The “large shrubs” you’re asking about on the west side are Pacific Wax Myrtles. I thought I had mentioned that in the blog somewhere, but maybe not! They are actually trees that are supposed to grow to heights of about 20′. I’ll be happy if they get that high and completely block out the boat!

    Thanks again for your interest! I know I haven’t kept the blog up to date, and I hope to add some more posts soon.

  6. regina Says:

    Cynthia. I would love more updates. I just started a cal native garden in fontana, ca

  7. cynthiasnativegarden Says:

    I will be posting an update soon! I was waiting until I had made some enhancements to my house, but it looks like that will take too long.

  8. Joan Says:

    Thanks for the update. I continue to be inspired by your garden. I still have a lot to fill in, so I’m still selecting plants, and its great to be able to look at your garden.

    In fact, your garden is so good, you really should be on Theodore Payne’s annual garden tour. http://theodorepayne.org/calendar/annual-garden-tour/

    Since you have all of the requirements, have you thought to certify yourself as a habitat? Not that certification adds to the wildlife value, but it’s nice to be able to put up that sign.


    Thank you again for the update.

  9. cynthiasnativegarden Says:

    Hi Joan, thanks so much for your kind words about my garden! That is very encouraging. And best of luck with your own garden.

    My garden actually has been certified as a wildlife habitat by National Wildlife Federation. There’s a picture of the sign somewhere on the blog!

    I don’t know about the Theodore Payne garden tour, but next year I do plan to enter it in the California Native Plant Society garden tour. I will post about that before it happens!

    Happy gardening!

  10. Joan Says:

    Hello Cynthia,

    How is your garden faring after the infestation of ants and scale? Are things looking up?

  11. cynthiasnativegarden Says:

    Hi Joan —

    I have been setting out traps for the ants, and the population is down considerably, but there are still ants, and it looks like this is going to be an ongoing problem. But I have replaced the plants that were lost, and the garden in general is looking wonderful after all the rain. I will post shortly!

  12. Joan Says:

    Great! I’m looking forward to that!

  13. Dave Mack Says:

    ….I just blundered into your blog while trying to figure out why my newly planted Winifred Gilman is wilting. Lots of inspiration, and hope was found here. I am over by CSUF, and I just planted my front yard with natives and built a dry creek bed. Thanks your thoughts!

    • cynthiasnativegarden Says:

      Thanks for stopping by Dave. As for Winifred Gilman, they do have a tendency to die after two or three years — not sure if that’s what you’re experiencing. It seems to be a trait of that variety. One of the ones I have now is dying branch by branch, and I am going to have it taken out in the fall. Good luck with your garden!

  14. Joan Says:

    It’s been a long time since you updated; we’ve had one horrible rain year and one great one. How fares your garden?

    At this end, I’ve since planted shiny-leaved mahonia (berberis), three Catalina island cherries on my property line (I did think about wax myrtle), more mahonia repens, a californica carpenteria, a bunch of eriogonum var grande rubescens and eriogonum cinereum, purple three-awn, a quercus tomentalla (which is growing crooked), both kinds of erigeron, and a bunch of non-native rock purslane (calendrinia spectabilis) and corethrogyne filaginifolia along the curb as a groundcover. Some are growing well, others not so much. In the meantime, I let the cosmos and California poppies run riot to fill in until the perennials grow up (assuming that they do).

    • cynthiasnativegarden Says:

      It has been a long time! I’ve been involved in a lot of other things, but my garden is fine. In fact, in about two weeks it will be on the Orange County California Native Plant Society garden tour. I will definitely post pictures of that event.

      Sounds like your garden is coming along great. For some reason, I don’t have a lot of wildflowers this year, in spite of the rain — no idea why!

  15. joan Says:

    I’m so pleased that you’ll be in a garden tour, and am eagerly looking forward to pictures! I hope someday to be in a tour myself, but that’ll be many years from now. Because of all the rain my front yard is bursting with poppies and cosmos, they’re such garden thugs but so pretty.

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