Going Native: 5 Things to See on the Theodore Payne Foundation’s 11th Annual Native Plant Garden Tour


Once upon a time, roses, bluegrass, and other exotic, water-hungry plants defined SoCal’s most coveted yards. Yet these gardens were actually enchanted—with imported water. This Saturday and Sunday, the Theodore Payne Foundation’s 11th Annual Native Plant Garden Tourwill redefine the L.A. yard, showcasing 42 citywide gardens that boast drought-tolerant native flowers and water-conscious design.

For $20, attendees can guide themselves to any number of these home gardens, which range in budget, size, aesthetic, and location across the city. “This is all about creating a more sustainable Los Angeles, one garden at a time,” Margaret Oakley Otto, the tour’s coordinator, told us via email. “It creates a real sense of community.” Here’s the dirt on what awaits:

Wild Wildflowers

These gardens think outside the poppy. Look for countless other luminous Cali blooms such as bright pink Clarkia, Globe Gilia, baby blue eyes, cheerful California goldfields, beach sun cups, and lots more. “California is home to more than 6,000 species of plants,” says Oakley Otto, “many of which are gorgeous enough to rival the rose.”

Fragrant Herbs

Clear those sinuses: native sages, currants, bays and sagebrushes make for an olfactory adventure. Follow the nose to California sagebrush, also referred to as cowboy cologne; it’s the iconic scent of an L.A. hiking trail. Consider sniffing out tour homeowners and docents for sage recipe ideas.

Wing Stops

Many of California’s butterflies exclusively seek food and habitat on certain native plants including buckwheat, oak, lupine, and coffeeberry. Look for these butterfly-magnets, as well as narrowleaf milkweed, the plant crucial to supporting Monarch populations. Expect to spot more than a few hummingbirds floating alongside these winged friends.

Inspired Artwork

If plants just don’t excite, have no fear: 11 gardens will double as art galleries. Inspired: LA Artists Respond to California Native Plant Gardens is the Theodore Payne Foundation’s first in-garden art show, with installations that use wood, metal, sculpture, prints, poetry, performance, textiles, and more. Work will be for sale, with some proceeds benefitting the Foundation. At Garden 13 in Del Rey, Christine Nguyen will be making cyanotype sunprints (above).

Drought-Conscious Design

On average, California native plants need a third of the water used by lawns and other common ornamentals. But several tour stops take water conservation a step further with innovative design. Garden #10 in Santa Monica and #16 in Manhattan Beach use subsurface irrigation, where small pipes just below the ground keep soil wet longer. Look elsewhere for gorgeous, permeable pathways and neat rain barrels, which also help retain water onsite. “You don’t have to sacrifice beauty to save water in your landscape,” says Oakley Otto. Ready to be inspired? Find tickets here.

The Theodore Payne Foundation’s Native Plant Garden Tour will run Saturday and Sunday, April 5–6, 2014, from 10am–5pm. More information.