By using a combination of drought-tolerant native and non-native plants in the garden, you can conserve water and still enjoy an array of color, texture, shapes and scents unique to the region.
Summer is the time to plan, not plant. Fall is the best time to plant native plants; the air is cool and the soil is still warm. During the first year, more frequent watering is needed, but once established, these plants are summer teetotalers and thrive year in and year out.
A starter list of some popular drought-tolerant, flowering native shrubs well-suited to the San Fernando Valley's semi-arid terrain:
* Manzanita: Attractive for its smooth, shiny elliptic green leaves and red-brown stems. Grows to 6 feet or more on hilly landscapes. Mid-winter/early spring yield spectacular small, waxy white flowers.
* California lilac: Large, spreading shrub with stiff, shiny branchlets and small green leaves covered in early spring with clusters of white to pale-blue blossoms.
* Buckwheat: Native to chaparral. Grows up to 8 feet in height, depending on species. Clouds of pale yellow, pink, white or red flowers bloom into summer.
* Nevin's barberry: Saved from extinction in the wilds of the Valley by the Theodore Payne Foundation. Native dense shrub valuable for distinct bluish foliage and yellow flowers followed by reddish berries in late summer. Arching branches that reach to the ground are useful as a hedge and bird sanctuary.
* Currant: Small, pinkish spring flowers. Tolerates drought, but loves oak tree shade. Currants are edible in syrups and pies if sweetened.