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California Native Landscape
A colorful layered slope planted with native fauna. Photo from The California Native Landscape.

We’ve always thought landscaping with native plants would yield a yard that resembled off-trail bits of a Runyon Canyon hike: dusty, scrubby and unkempt.

But splashy, image-filled The California Native Landscape, by San Diego garden designer Greg Rubin and writer Lucy Warren, has inspired us to go au naturel in our home garden design. This 373-page book is a how-to-plant manual--albeit one with coffee-table-book-worthy photos--that explains how native plants slash our water bill (since they require little moisture), enrich the soil and can even deter fires. 

We know what you’re thinking: That’s great for the brush of Topanga, but what about our backyards? Indeed, there’s something for everyone. Mediterranean-style estates? Yup. Formal gardens? Yes again. In fact, the authors walk you through five surprising garden styles bedecked with native plants. Each garden type is accompanied by a lovely watercolor drawing and a key naming plants (so no more hemming and hawing when we’re asking for a specific variety from our garden center guy).

We dog-eared every other page. We’re especially crushing on Toyon, or California Christmas berry, supposed inspiration for the term “Hollywood.” If we plant it now, we’ll have bright red berries in winter.

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