Coastal sage scrub permaculture🌻🐝

Problem statement

I live 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 is one of 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 4 2 & 5 1 Suspect more sun needed, but one in the front yard in shade is fuller.
Allium triquetrum Three-cornered leek Herb 5 1 1 Self-propagating. Curious to try a native Allium like Allium unifolium
Agapanthus praecox orientalis Lilly of the Nile Shrub 5 1 1 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.
Armeria maritima Sea thrift Ground 🤞 4 2 Planted Spring 18
Artemisia douglasiana California Mugwort Herb 4 2 1 Died back completely in summer, but resprouted and grew vigorously after Spring rain
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 Low tree 4 2 1 Flowering and leaves look good. Suspect more sun needed
Callistemon rigidus Bottlebrush tree Low tree 5 3 1 Flowers profusely year-round
Citrus tangerina Tangerine tree Low tree 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 Low tree 5 2 1 Two camellias on the property outside dripline. One in good health, but one suddenly whithered. Suspecting gophers although they left the other alone.
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!
Satureja douglasii Yerba buena Ground 4 2-3 1 Leaves look good, but growth is slow. Spring rain didn’t improve.
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 Flowers and seeds readily.
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.
Fragaria californica Wild strawberry Ground 3 3 1 Spreading and leaves look good, but not flowering.
Hedera helix English ivy Vine 5 4 1 Well-established when I moved in.
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 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 Low tree 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 var ? Shrub 5 3 1 A lower, spreading mimulus. Leaves and growth look good. Flowering. Doubled in size after Spring rain.
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 Low tree 5 3 1 Predates me. Healthy. Looks like a volunteer.
Pittosporum tobira Mock orange Low tree 5 5 1 Flowering and leaves look good
Prunus cerasifera Purple leaf ornamental plum Low tree 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 2 2 1 Slug favorite.
Romneya coulteri Matilija poppy Shrub 4 5 1 Transplanted(!) Fall 17
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).
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.
Wyethia angustifolia Mule ears Shrub 🤞 3 1 Spring 18

* Numeric ranges:


Thoughts? Suggestions? Hit me up @erikeldridge


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