GreenTown Los Altos

Bike Tour Teaches About “Going Native”


Jun 2013


A Bike Route Paved With Leisure, Learning and Tips

GreenTown Los Altos hosted a Native Garden Bike Tour Sunday, May 19, through Los Altos and a corner of Mountain View.  Led by Gary Hedden and Margie Suozzo, the leisurely 8-mile ride had 6 stops to see, and learn about, native and drought tolerant yards.

Taking off from the Lazy Foot Chicken Ranch next door to Egan Jr. High, first stop was, a bake sale and fundraiser held by “A Living Classroom” allowing riders to “carb” up on cookies while checking out the historic one-acre property’s wonderful garden and chickens.

First stop at Jim Evans’ home in Mountain View gave a glimpse of a 12-year old yard with a lot of sun exposure.  Although the California poppies are finished, the yard is still loaded with color.  The Cleveland sage at the front is especially dramatic.  Jim says fall pruning is the biggest job, otherwise it is easy, “One can go weeks with little to do [in a native yard].”

Second stop was Rob Weltman’s.  His garden is only 2 years old and with its shady location features plants like currant, monkey flower, columbine, grasses and various ground covers.  There are also several varieties of the versatile manzanita.

“One can go weeks with little to do in a native yard” according to Jim EvansGTLA Native bike 5.13

Charley Pow, member of the California Native Plant Society, explained a little bit about the drought-tolerant “xeriscape” at the new Packard Foundation.  Last year he blogged about it, with photos, definitely worth reading.

Next stop, Ruth Troetschler’s home.  A long time advocate of native plants, Ruth has an extensive garden with so much variety – and why not, she has lived at her home for over 50 years!  Her yard and garden are an ever changing and delightful work in progress.  Key plants are ceanothus, woolly blue curls, Cleveland sage, desert mallow, columbine and several varieties of buckwheat, such a variety there’s color every month of the year (with a little help from non-natives).

Last stop was back at Egan to see the Living Classroom’s native educational garden.  Living Classroom is a K-8 program at Los Altos and Mountain View public schools that teaches children about the joys of gardening and a whole lot more with connections to biology, math, and even history.  Vicki Moore, Living Classroom founder, discussed the goal of the garden at Egan, which was to represent several different plant communities, including a wide range of native plants ranging from shade loving vine maple, creek dogwood and coral bell to sun loving (or at least sun tolerating) ceanothus, sage and manzanita.  This is a demonstration garden with many of the plants labeled, so well worth a visit if you’re considering going native.

One final GreenTown thought – with all the demands on the California water supply it really does make sense to – go native, so read the tips below to get started.

Tips For Planting A Native Garden

A good looking native landscape does take some planning, but help is out there. Here are a few resources:

  • The California Native Plant Society (CNPS): The local chapter provides loads of information plus photographs of all of the gardens that have been on its tours with a detailed description of each here.
  • Water-Wise Gardening in the Bay Area: This is a very visual resource by the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency of gardens and plants that can be used for native and drought tolerant landscaping in our area. Click here for more info.
  • Local Nurseries with Native and Drought Tolerant Plants (mentioned on the tour): Yerba Buena Nursery; Summerwinds Nursery; Common Ground Palo Alto; Suncrest (in Aptos – wholesale only); CNPS/Hidden Villa Native Plant Sale (held in the Spring).

Rebate for Replacing Grass with Natives and Drought Tolerant Plants

Replace your lawn with natives and drought tolerant plants and get “cash for grass”  from the Santa Clara Valley Water District ($0.75 a square foot up to $2000).

Other Resources:

Sunset article on water management.

Packard Foundation plant list with photos.

Los Altos Environmental Commission website click on “Landscaping with Natives.”


One Response to “Bike Tour Teaches About “Going Native””

  1. Jean Struthers

    The next sale of the California Native Plant society nursery at Hidden Villa will be October 19, 10-3.
    Fall is the best time to plant natives just as the days get cooler and the rains begin. The manzanitas will be blooming soon and feed the Hummingbirds their winter food.

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