California poppies, Eschscholzia californica

We’ve had a few days of balmy weather—not that winter is ever too harsh here compared to my East Coast childhood—and I’m eager to get out in the garden. I know that I can’t plant yet because the soil is too soggy for digging. I learned that from my friend Kevin. Working wet soil can cause it to compact too much, driving out all the air. How to tell if the soil is too wet? Squeeze a ball of it and see if it crumbles. If instead, it’s gooey, it’s too wet.

That being said, I’m not ready to plant anyway. I’m still in the thinking stage. But there are some native plants I definitely want to add to my garden when the time is right. Not only are natives low-maintenance, but they’re appreciated by birds, bees, and other insects that need food and shelter.

Milkweed is on my must-grow list. I’ve tried this one before, starting it from seed, but it didn’t thrive. With monarch butterflies in crisis, I’m determined to try again.


I also want more varieties of sage. I currently have a few, one native but there are so many more to try.


Hummingbird sage, Salvia spathacea

Yarrow is another one on my list. How do I not have any of these growing? They’re a perfect cottage garden plant and native to boot. A friend did an entire lawn of yarrow, which she mows to keep low. It looks fabulous and is much more eco-friendly than turf grass.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

And of course, I’ll come home with all sorts of plants that I didn’t intent to buy—just because. Some of my favorite spots to shop for natives:

  • Bay Natives in San Francisco. Run by a former landscaper, with a knowledgeable staff and lots of variety.
  • Mostly Natives Nursery I bought my native grapevines there when they were in the little town of Tomales. They’ve since moved to the equally charming Pt. Reyes Station. I need to check out the new digs.
  • Larner Seeds Tucked away in Bolinas, this delightful nursery and seed shop is owned by Judith Larner Lowry, author of Gardening with a Wild Heart.