Coastal sage scrub permaculture🌻🐝

Problem statement

I live in the Burlingame "Terrace", which is in the coastal sage scrub plant community. I'd like the plants growing around my home to reflect this community and/or produce food.

The permaculture discipline provides handy phrases like guild (recreations of plant communities found in nature) and companion plants (symbiotic or mutually supportive), and concepts like a seven-layer garden and soil building.

I've found Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway a concise introduction. Paul Stamets, a hero, is a fan of permaculture and proposes a Stametsian Model with an eighth layer for fungi.

Las Pilitas Nursary is a rich source of native plant and permaculture information. CNPS also enables us to search shade plants by zipcode. Oaktown nursery and Bay Natives are my favorite sources of native plants.

So, the challenge is: build a California coastal sage scrub guild.


Here are the plants I've tried:

Latin name Common name Layer Health* Sun* Water* Notes
Achillea millefolium californica California yarrow Herb 5 3 & 5 1 Loves the sun. No water required. Spreading and flowering, but more slowly in part-shade.
Allium triquetrum Three-cornered leek Herb 5 1 1 Pre-existing. Non-native. Self-propagating. Curious to try a native Allium like Allium unifolium
Agapanthus praecox orientalis Lilly of the Nile Shrub 5 1 1 Pre-existing. Non-native. Prolific in the front yard in shade
Aquilegia eximia Serpentine columbine Shrub 4 3 2 The columbine's health steadily declined after planting, dropping leaves and never flowering. Transplanted to pot with potting soil and more sun and care and it rebounded. Recently transplanted back.
Arctostaphylos densiflora "Sentinel" Manzanita Sub-canopy 🤞 4 1 Yerba Buena nursery has a good description of A. densiflora "Sentinel". Planted summer 2018.
Armeria maritima Sea thrift Ground 🤞 4 2 Planted Spring 18. Visibly wilts without regular water.
Artemisia douglasiana California Mugwort Herb 4 2 1 Died back completely last summer, but resprouted and grew vigorously after spring rain, and is remaining green this summer
Asarum caudatum Western wild ginger Root 3 1 2 Leaves look good, but growth is slow and it hasn't flowered. I suspect it needs more water
Brugmansia arborea Trumpet flower Sub-canopy 4 2 1 Flowering and leaves look good. Suspect more sun needed
Callistemon rigidus Bottlebrush tree Sub-canopy 5 3 1 Pre-existing. Non-native. Flowers profusely year-round. Great for bees and wildlife.
Citrus tangerina Tangerine tree Sub-canopy 2 3 1 The tree produces inedible fruit and its leaves are chlorotic and sparse :( I suspect it used to get insufficient sun. An arborist mentioned citrus trees are "hungry", so this one may just need fertilizer. There's a lemon tree in the front yard that looks great, for comparison
Camellia japonica Camelia Sub-canopy 5 2 1 Pre-existing. Non-native. Two camellias on the property outside dripline. One in good health, but one suddenly whithered. Suspecting gophers although they left the other alone.
Ceanothus x pallidus "Marie Simon" Pink Ceanothus Shrub 🤞 4 1 Planted summer 2018
Ceanothus "Ray Hartman" Tree Ceanothus Shrub 🤞 4 1 Planted summer 2018
Chlorogalum pomeridianum Soap plant Herb 🤞 3 1 Spring 18. Inspired by native uses.
Claytonia sibirica Candy flower Herb 5 1 2 Leaves and growth look great. Flowering. Neighboring ginger
Collinsia heterophylla Chinese houses Shrub 🤞 2 1 Planted Spring 18. Flowering!
Dicentra formosa Bleeding heart Shrub 5 2-3 2 Planted three. Died back completely after summer, but resprouted and spread vigorously after Spring rain
Dietes iridioides African iris Shrub 5 1 1 Pre-existing. Non-native. Flowers and seeds readily.
Epilobium canum "Catalina" California fuscia Ground cover 🤞 5 1 Planted summer 2018
Eriogonum fasciculatum California buckwheat Shrub 🤞 5 1 Planted summer 2018
Eriogonum giganteum St. Catherine's Lace Shrub 🤞 4 1 Planted summer 2018
Eriogonum latifollum Seaside buckwheat Ground cover 🤞 5 1 Planted summer 2018
Eschscholzia californica California poppy Shrub 4 5 1 Gopher favorite, but some survived to bloom this year!
Festuca californica California fescue Ground 🤞 5 1 Flattened by tree-fall.
Ficus carica "Violeta de Bordeaux" Fig tree Sub-canopy 🤞 4 1 Planted summer 2018
Fragaria californica Wild strawberry Ground 3 3 1 Spreading and leaves look good, but not flowering.
Frangula californica (Presidio SF) Coffeeberry Shrub 🤞 5 1 Planted summer 2018
Hedera helix English ivy Vine 5 4 1 Pre-existing. Non-native.
Helianthus californicus California sunflower Shrub 🤞 4 1 Planted Spring 18. Munched by someone, but hanging on
Heracleum maximum Cow parsnip Shrub 4 1 2 Planted two. Both died back, but returned with Spring rain. Leaves good so far
Holodiscus discolor Cream bush Shrub 4 2 1 Leaves look good, but slow growing
Horkelia californica California horkelia Ground 4 3 1 Hasn't flowered or spread, but doubled in size after Spring rain
Hydrangea macrophylla Hydrangea Shrub 1 2 1 Pre-existing. Non-native. A tall shrub growing in shade when I moved in. Declining health perhaps due to low water or sun
Iris douglasiana Douglas Iris Shrub 4 2 1 Planted two. One died. The other's leaves look good, but it hasn't flowered. There's another iris nearby that's flowering, for comparison.
Ligustrum japonicum Japanese Privet Sub-canopy 5 1 1 Predates me. Healthy/invasive.
Lonicera hispidula California honeysuckle Vine 🤞 4 1 Planted Spring 18. Munched a bit, but seems to be growing
Lupinus arboreus Yellow bush lupine Shrub 4 4 1 Planted in pot in sun. Flowering!
Lupinus variicolor Varied lupine Shrub   1 1 Planted in shade by compost pile. Demolished by slugs
Mimulus aurantiacus Bush monkeyflower Shrub 3 1 1 Planted in shade. Leaves and growth look good, but waiting for flowers
Mimulus aurantiacus Bush monkeyflower Shrub 4-5 2-5 1 One planted in shade, one in sun. The first looks healthy, but produces far fewer flowers. The second flowers profusely.
Monardella odoratissima Mountain coyote mint Herb 4 3 1 Planted spring 18. Foliage smells wonderful. Flowering, but slow growing/compact. Bumblebees like it and gophers appear not to.
Nandina domestica Heavenly bamboo Shrub 5 2-5 1 Pre-existing. Invasive
Oxalis pes-caprae Sourgrass Herb 5 2-4 1 Invasive, but in the spirit of permaculture I'm trying to learn from it. Makes me want to try a native oxalis like Oxalis oregana
Papaver heterophyllum Wind poppy Shrub 🤞 5 1 Planted Spring 18
Pittosporum eugenioides Tarata Sub-canopy 5 3 1 Predates me. Healthy. Looks like a volunteer.
Pittosporum tobira Mock orange Sub-canopy 5 5 1 Flowering and leaves look good
Prunus cerasifera Purple leaf ornamental plum Sub-canopy 3 5 1 The tree leaves and flowers regularly, but has dying branches. Arborist advised removal due to ill health.
Plantago subnuda Tall coastal plantain Herb 1 4 1 Eaten by slugs when watered, deciduous/dead when unwatered :(
Penstemon heterophyllus ("Margarita Bop")) Bunchleaf Penstemon Herb 🤞 4 1 Planted summer 2018
Romneya coulteri Matilija poppy Shrub 5 5 1 Transplanted(!) Fall 17. Plant another in summer 2018
Rudbeckia californica California coneflower Shrub 5 4 1 Planted in a pot. Slug favorite
Salvia spathacea Hummingbird sage Shrub 5 5 1 Flowering and spreading!
Sanicula crassicaulis Snakeroot Shrub 🤞 2 1 Planted Spring 18. Inspired by Sawyer Camp trail (north end).
Satureja douglasii Yerba buena Ground 4 3-4 1 Doesn't mind dry clay soil, but grows best in bright/direct sun
Silene laciniata ssp. californica Northern California Indian pink Shrub 🤞 4 1 Planted Spring 18. Hoping hummingbirds like it.
Sisyrinchium bellum Blue-eyed grass Ground 5 4 1 Planted 3 Spring 17. Flowering! What a charmer! Planted 3 more Spring 18.
Solanum xanti Purple nightshade Shrub 🤞 2 1 Planted Spring 18
Stachys bullata Wood mint Herb 2 3 1 Slow growing. Inspired by Sawyer Camp trail (north end).
Symphyotrichum chilense California aster Shrub 3 2 1 Leaves look good, but slow growing. Suspect more sun needed.
Taraxacum officinale Dandelion Herb 5 3 1 Self-propagating. Leaves look good. Flowered.
Trichostema lanatum Woolly bluecurls Herb 🤞 4 1 Planted summer 2018
Wyethia angustifolia Mule ears Shrub 🤞 3 1 Spring 18

* Numeric ranges:


Thoughts? Suggestions? Hit me up @erikeldridge


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