'California Native Landscape': A new guide for the progressive gardener

Not a rock goes unturned in Greg Rubin and Lucy Warren’s new book, “The California Native Landscape: The Homeowner’s Design Guide to Restoring Its Beauty and Balance” ($34.95, Timber Press). The authors give us context for the renewed interest in native gardening, describing what our land looked like before Native Americans settled here. They take us through the changes that came with European farming practices and bring us to our present state of concrete, lawns and imported ornamentals. Rubin and Warren discuss our climate, environment and soils. They impress upon us the importance of conserving water. They clearly explain — and spread — their passion for native landscapes.

And once you're ready to rip out that last bit of lawn, they explain — in detail  — how to create your own native landscape. With the right planning and plant selection, they insist, native gardens don’t need to look sparse and scraggly. To prove it, "The California Native Landscape" includes six detailed garden plans. Each is illustrated to show how different styles — formal, modern, Mediterranean, desert and Asian — can be achieved using only native plants.

The authors touch on so many topics, including irrigation (yes, most native plants in Southern California can benefit from a little added water), pests and maintenance.

The chapter on plants is nicely arranged, making selection easy. There are lists of large deciduous trees and small evergreens, of large screening shrubs and groundcovers. And the photographs — of columbines, Fremontodendron and seaside daisies, to name just a few — show us how colorful a native California landscape can be.

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