A hyperlocal guide to planting natives

It’s the season to plant natives, not just to increase their toehold in the landscape but to help the numerous birds and other wildlife that use them for food and shelter. Put in the ground in fall, native plants benefit from the winter rains (doing a little rain dance here!) so they can thrive through long, hot summers with little or no water.

Just in time, a friend sent me this excellent hyperlocal guide to native plants from Calscape, a program of the California Native Plant Society. Plug in your address – or even your local area, like I did for Niles – and it gives you a list of plants that are native to that specific place, broken down by preferred growing conditions (full sun, shade, etc.), along with photos, general comments and a guide to birds and other creatures that benefit from having them around. There’s even a link to a list of nurseries that carry the plant. 

Where to get native plants more generally? Here’s a list from the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the native plant society, including nurseries and organizations that hold native plant sales.

Are you interested in attracting more birds to your yard? Audubon has a handy feature where you  type in your zip code and it emails you a list of bird-friendly natives that are suitable for your area, along with a list of birds each plant will attract.

One more thing: As you tidy up your garden for winter, please consider that what looks like a mess to you may be the perfect thing for birds and other critters. That’s why I haven’t cut back the fennel that went to seed in my front yard planter box – and was glad I didn’t when I saw a small flock of gray and white birds feasting on the seeds the other day. 

Fennel going to seed in Glennda’s front yard.

I started thinking about leaving stuff for wildlife last fall, inspired by an Audubon press release, and wrote about it here:

One tip that especially resonates with me is to cut back on the fall yard work and leave your yard a little messy (don’t you love the sound of that?) I have trees planted on two sides of my back yard against the fence, and the leaves are piled up so thick below them – I’m not sure I’ve ever raked them in the 20-plus years I’ve lived here – that they have created a thick layer of mycelium-rich, compost-like soil. Certain birds love to rummage through the leaves, and in fact these are great places for birds and bugs to forage and for critters like salamanders, worms and toads to live, according to Audubon. 

Happy planting and bird watching!

Top image credit: “Lupinus bicolor Miniature Lupine” by David A. Hofmann is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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