This coastal native habitat garden in West Marin features a native hedgerow with lots of manzanitas and other native shrubs and perennial bordens packed with native plants to provide habitat for beneficial insects, birds and butterflies.
Our property used to be bordered by an overgrown hedge of non-native red-tipped Photinia
which was sheared into a rectangle along most of the fenceline. I found it monolithic and
oppressive, but it provided us with great privacy from the neighbors, and that made it very
difficult to decide to remove it. I fervently wished to replace the artificial-seeming Photinia with
beautiful native shrubs which would allow us to feel connected to wilder places, but I was an
inexperienced gardener; the idea that I could take responsibility for changing the landscape
on such a large scale was new and intimidating. I planted Myrica californica (California Wax
Myrtle) and manzanitas in front of the Photinia, but I could see the old hedge was out-competing
the new one for space, water, and sunlight. Impulsively, I began whittling away at the Photinia
with a hand saw when the mood struck, cutting larger and larger branches away. After a couple
of years, my husband and I finally removed the Photinia completely. We gave up the privacy
it provided so our new mixed native hedge would have a good start. Now that this is filling in,
we can see that it was well worth the trade.
I developed a passion for manzanitas and planted many of them in the new hedgerow. Mixed in
are other native species such as Ceanothus, Garrya, Ribes, Physocarpus, Philadelphus, and
Holodiscus. The hedge is doubled with two staggered rows of mixed natives.
In the foreground are perennial borders packed with plants that provide habitat for beneficial
insects, birds, and butterflies. Many species of Eriogonum (buckwheat), Phacelia, and Salvia
provide swathes of color and nectar for bees and hummingbirds. The border has a relaxed,
naturalistic look, and I keep everything outside it chipped and tidy. This way, I can let
the rambunctious flora intertwine, reseed, and move around from year to year and still have it
look cared for. I act as referee when the plants clamber over one another or go out of bounds.
The best compliment I have received about the garden was from my neighbor who said it
reminded him of a place where he used to go camping.