Xeriscaping in the Central Valley, Calif.
March 5, 2012 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Resources and recommendations for xeriscaping my front lawn in California's Central Valley?

I hate pouring countless gallons of water into my front lawn when its sole purpose seems to be something to mow and weed. It doesn't even look nice. I'd like to xeriscape it—I'm thinking river rocks or granite; a couple large-ish boulders; and native, drought-tolerant grasses, plants, shrubs, and trees.

Did you xeriscape your Central Valley yard? What did you do with it? Where can I find lists of flora to use in it? Where did you get ideas for the design? Who did the work? If I went DIY, I'd have to rent pretty much any tool necessary to get this done, but I would like to hear your DIY experience.

Ballpark size is 522 ft.2 with two 10- to 12-foot trees that I want to cut down. I'm not sure what the trees are; someone referred to them as "pepper trees" due to the the peppercorn-like seeds on them. Here's a Google Maps screenshot of the front before we purchased the house a couple years ago.

Thanks, all!
posted by DakotaPaul to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not in the Central Valley, but my mom xeriscaped her yard in San Diego. For plant selection and landscape design she used the California Native Plant Society as a resource - I think the person she had help select the plants and layout was recommended by them. Generally, your local plant nursery will be able to provide some guidance as well, along with selections of plants that require minimal maintenance for your climate region. Native plants will not only solve your water usage problem, but will also provide habitat and food sources for native fauna.

My mom ended up with a yard that looks great, but is more heavily vegetated than what you seem to be going for. She has a drip irrigation system throughout the yard, and the ground between plantings is mulched. She's got a bunch of rockroses, brittle bush, ceanothus, and sage, as well as poppies that come up in the Spring; she used to have a mesquite tree that was gorgeous, but started having stability issues and had to be taken out.
posted by LionIndex at 10:58 AM on March 5, 2012

I've spent hours at the Las Pilitas Nursery site reading descriptions of plant needs and tolerances, how to figure out what plant community evolved where you live and which plants would be happy with low maintenance. They have lists of deer and fire resistant plants, suggestions for erosion-prone land, etc.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:14 AM on March 5, 2012

I'm also not in the Central Valley, but I love xeriscaping for dry climates. I agree with LionIndex that there should be a nursery near you that is knowledgeable about xeriscaping - ask around about this. Being able to talk with experienced xeriscapers in your area is very valuable.

If it's hard to find a nursery in your area, you might talk to (and perhaps mail-order plants from) High Country Gardens. HCG sells preplanned gardens of different sizes if you'd like to purchase someone else's design or just get design ideas. I've purchased plants from them with good results.

Other useful resources are the books Xeriscape Plant Guide, Xeriscape Handbook, Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardening and Dryland Gardening. I would also look into the work of Lauren Springer Ogden (website) for ideas.
posted by medusa at 11:18 AM on March 5, 2012

Give the folks at your county ag extension a call. This is one of the many things that are right up their alley.
posted by buggzzee23 at 11:20 AM on March 5, 2012

The Theodore Payne Foundation is another good resource. But also google around your town to see if there are any landscapers who specialize in xeriscape design, and ask to see photos and/or visit gardens they have installed.

Lastly, I've been pleasantly surprised to see at the big, chain garden centers sections devoted to California natives and xeriscape plants.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:03 PM on March 5, 2012

I just came from a gardening seminar! They highly recommended The New Western Garden book. It's a plant bible.
posted by killy willy at 10:02 PM on March 5, 2012

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