General Question

Jeruba's avatar

Planting recommendations for a yard in Northern California?

Asked by Jeruba (51639points) June 18th, 2009

We’re having our tired front and back yards completely redone. We’re having a landscape contractor do the work, but we are choosing the plantings. Old shrubs and flowers are going, all but a very few things we have agreed to keep in place. I am eager to see your recommendations for three locations.

Planting areas

— Built-up (2-brick height) flower-box strip in front of the house, left and right (plenty of afternoon sun)
— Area along the fence between our yard and the neighbor’s driveway (some afternoon sun)
— Border strip along the back of the house (sun in the morning, but shady most of the time)


— I’m interested in using native flora where possible.
— Low plantings in front of the living room window. Others can be taller.
— Low maintenance. Things that thrive on benign neglect (lilacs, for instance) do well with us.
— No pink. No red. No fuchsia. Yellow is great, orange is great, blue and purple are great.

We’re not really gardeners, and I don’t expect to become one suddenly. We want something that will look nice without a lot of fuss. We can’t do one of those lovely rock gardens because we have two large sycamores out front that will shed a lot of leaves and we’ll be constantly having to pick them out. Year-round color would be wonderful, but not if it takes a lot of care.

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5 Answers

RedPowerLady's avatar

Rhododendrons come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Great in the area.
Our Fig tree is doing fantastic.
Milkweed is Native and will attract butterflies.
Poppys come in different varieties and different colors. They grow fantastically in California.
Surprisingly Valerian grows extremely well in the area as well. But it is mostly pink although I am mentioning because there is a white variety. It is great because it is an herbal sleep and stress relief remedy. It’ll grow anywhere even in cracks of cement.

All of the plants mentioned above we do really nothing to maintain other than trim back the fig every couple years so it’ll produce more fruit. Also I am nearly certain that none of the above plants are invasive.

Aethelwine's avatar

You could use blue hydrangeas. Blue is my favorite color for flowers. They are very low maintenance once established. They need afternoon shade and grow 4–6 ft. tall and wide. We have a few of our own here in Illinois and the are just now blooming. Very beautiful plants!

YARNLADY's avatar

Daffodils, Primrose, vegetables of all kinds, impatiens, Cyclamen, azaleas. Visit your local nursery and ask for the native plant section. You will find some great shrubs and such that way. Talk to their Master Gardener.

bonus's avatar

One of my favorite memories (missed) of growing up in the Santa Cruz mountains was picking wild blackberries, eating fruit off the trees.

Pampas grass, rosemary and other herbs, xeriscape – drought resistant plants – do very well in NorCal.

Of course, there are many climates in the area. If you are in a redwood forest, an oak forest, golden hills or chaparral, different species will be appropriate. Talk to locals: botanists (folks at the nursery), rangers, that awesome old guy at Orchard Supply Hardware…

marinelife's avatar

If you have some shade, see if you can get a trillium. I love hellebores, which should do very well in your climate and come in different colors.

Another favorite of mine is Solomon’s Seal

For summer, in the yellows and oranges, I love oriental lilies.

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