CA Friendly® Gardening Solutions | Creating a California Friendly® Garden

/, Earth Day, Landscaping/CA Friendly® Gardening Solutions | Creating a California Friendly® Garden

CA Friendly® Gardening Solutions | Creating a California Friendly® Garden

I’m convinced – gardeners love the outdoors, love nature and love the earth more than most people. That’s why we garden, to be closer to nature. So when it’s time to make decisions about the plants to place into their gardens these folks are increasingly weighing things like water needs and climate suitability. Gardeners are asking good questions and they’re reading the fine print on fertilizer labels, soil amendments and pest controls. Indeed, gardeners are in touch with nature and they want their gardens to contribute to the health of the planet, purifying our air and water, supporting pollinators, birds and wildlife and cooling the environment.

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When it comes to being a good citizen, gardeners really do want to ‘do the right thing’. But, often gardening can become complicated and confusing. So many plants and so many details. Gardeners sometimes just don’t know what the “right thing” is.

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The story of the transformation of my own typical suburban garden into a California Friendly version is one that I hope will inspire you in your own garden and perhaps give you some ideas toward what ‘the right thing’ might be. In most ways, my story may be very similar to your own. Three years ago I moved to a new house with a landscape already in place. The house was thirty years old and the landscape was typical – one that you’ll see in almost any suburban neighborhood; one that you may even have yourself. It was a collection of lawns, shrubs, trees and a few flowers and potted plants. The standard irrigation system was run by a timer and, of course, a gardener visited once each week for a rather predictable routine.

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Having just bought the house, I was out of money. Since I work 60 hours a week and am seldom home, even on my non-work days. I was also out of time. No money and no time. Sound familiar?

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My story involves how I went about installing a low water, low maintenance and low resource garden. I dealt with the lawn, the irrigation, the soil, the green waste, the runoff, the boring plants and lots more. Many successes, a few failures. I created a garden of diversity, filled with interesting plants, succulents, native plants, tropical’s, potted plants, lots of birds and butterflies and even vegetables and fruits. It’s now a California Friendly garden, of modest water use, resource efficient, light maintenance and relatively inexpensive to create.

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If you’re not sure what a California Friendly garden is, it is a garden that “fits” Southern California. It is a garden that does not rely on excessive artificial support, like copious amounts of water, nutrition or even a gardener’s time and energy. In turn, a California Friendly garden is one that works with the environment around it; not polluting, contributing excessive waste or spreading invasive plants.

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If you already have a California Friendly garden you should enter it in The California Friendly Gardening Contest, now in its eighth year. The contest recognizes and rewards those Orange County gardens that are not only beautiful, but are sustainable, resource efficient and appropriate for our climate. Entry is simple and free and winners receive significant cash prizes. The contest is organized and supported by a coalition of public agencies, environmental groups and green industry businesses in an effort to encourage beautiful, but low resource and sustainable gardens. To enter or learn more, visit

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Ron Vanderhoff is the General Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar

About the Author:

Ron Vanderhoff is a lifelong Southern California gardener and the General Manager and Vice President of Roger’s Gardens. He is a local director of the California Native Plant Society and serves on a number of state and local advisory committees involving horticultural education and natural resource protection. He was a principal contributor to The Butterflies of Orange County and The Wildflowers of Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains, as well as a special contributor to The Sunset Western Garden Book.


  1. breanascott April 30, 2015 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    Do you know any natural ways to get rid of tiny black flying bugs in potting soil? my garden is plagued.

    • Roger's Gardens May 6, 2015 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      I cannot be sure what the insects are that you are describing. It sounds like it might be either midge fly or fungus gnats. If it is midge flies you will need to locate their breeding source. Midge flies breed in standing water, similar to mosquitos. They need very little water to breed, just a small puddle will do. Midge flies do not bite and do not feed on plant parts, but they can be a nuisance.

      If the problem is fungus gnats, the solution is similar, but different. Fungus gnats breed in damp or wet soil, that never completely dries. They are frequently seen around potted plants that are over-watered or in gardens with permanently damp areas. The solution is to eliminate these environments. This may be by watering less frequently or by increasing soil percolation in the damp areas.

      Both of these pests are readily attracted to “bug zappers”, but it is far more effective to eliminate the source of the problem.

  2. riparian planting November 23, 2015 at 1:57 am - Reply

    The plants you used are stunning. Are they native plants? I wonder were did got those type of plants. Can you tell it to me?

    • Roger's Gardens November 23, 2015 at 10:47 am - Reply

      Hi Oliver,

      All of the photos are from our own Roger’s Gardens designs and installations ere in Orange County, plus one from my own garden. All of the plants are from Roger’s Gardens. Most of these are not California native plants, except for the first photo, which is Red Buckwheat or Eriogonum grande var. rubescens.

      I hope this helps.


  3. James August 10, 2016 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    Very great post! I know many people who have been in the situation you described. And I completely agree with you how most gardeners and landscapers care more about the environment and nature. I always try and find ways to improve my own lawn and yard by making it more environmentally friendly and with living in California I push more towards a drought friendly yard and I have come to love it! Thanks for sharing and giving us some inspiration!

    • Roger's Gardens August 11, 2016 at 9:08 am - Reply

      So glad to read your words of encouragement and agreement James. I do seem to find that really great gardeners, who are connected with the soil, the plants and the bugs are the greatest people on the planet. When one understands a garden they soon understand the planet. It’s really not that complicated.


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