Since 2003, the Bay Area’s pioneering native garden tour has showcased gardens featuring California native plants. This community-based tour is free of charge to the public upon successful registration. Click here for more information.

Each year the tour features about 45 gardens, most of them private home gardens, which are open for viewing by the public in a self-guided tour format. Again it’s free but you have to register in order to be giving the garden addresses.

The goals of the tour are to demonstrate reduced water use, reduced chemical and pesticide use, improved habitat, and the unique aesthetic appeal of gardens designed with California native plants.

In spring 2010, a Julie Orr Design Express Garden was on the tour Sunday, April 18th.  It is called the College Park Garden and is located in San Jose.

The reason I am so proud to share this garden with the public is because it is the perfect example of how sustainable landscaping can be accomplished affordably with Do-It-Yourself clients, when you work as a team with professional landscape designer.

My clients were receptive to many sustainable suggestions including: turf rebate programs, lawn removal, water-wise irrigation, flagstone installation, planting natives and storm water management. As part of my Express Garden service, I designed the garden plans and supplied them with materials information and tips for doing their own installation. They hosted a planting party where I gave a demo about how to plant a Cal native and then treated their friends and neighbors to a nice BBQ lunch once all the plants were in the ground.

Here are the before images with the lawn and non-native Agapanthus.

The Craftsman home said goodbye to its water-thirsty lawn and concrete hardscape, and now features a dry creek bed that drains rainwater away from the house, marked by a rock fountain surrounded by California gray rush. The old concrete path was resurrected as decorative urbanite walls for native bunch grasses, Pacific iris, evergreen huckleberry and woodland strawberry.   Shrubs include coffeeberry and manzanita.  Island alum root fills a large window box. A natural rock fountain and metal “cat-tails” birdfeeders encourage birds to visit the garden often.

Here’s what it looked like after we sheet mulched the lawn.

For pennies on the dollar, these smart and handy home-owners turned a dull monoculture front yard into a diverse garden full of life.