A virtuous trend has been gaining popularity in residential and commercial landscaping in California: using our state's stunning and diverse native plants rather than alien and sometimes climate inappropriate species.
The Monrovia Native Demonstration Garden on Myrtle Avenue, Chestnut Avenue, and Walnut Avenue is a community project that demonstrates a number of ways native planting and sustainable gardening practices can be implemented.
The Monrovia Native Demonstration Garden goals are:
Build community by working together with local volunteers
Demonstrate many native plant species and show how they can be used in parkways
Promote and document biodiversity in an urban space
Practice and encourage efficient water use by capturing water and minimizing supplemental irrigation
Native Plant Species
While we are still growing the garden, here is a small sample of the native plants you will find when you peruse the garden:
Assortment of Sages: California is home to at least 17 different native sage species. Sages are diverse. They often form small shrubs and have colorful flowers. Monrovia’s native sages are White Sage, Black Sage, and Purple Sage, there are many other sages that do very well in our region and provide similar benefits to wildlife. Pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees love sages!
California Fuchsia: Bloom with various shades of pink to red, trumpet-shaped flowers that are loved by hummingbirds
Oak Trees: Many people know our region was once home to thousands upon thousands of citrus trees. Did you know before those were brought here from East Asia, our region was home to large oak forests? Magnificent Engelmann Oaks (aka “Pasadena Oak”) dominated the landscape, alongside Coast Live Oaks, Scrub Oaks, Blue Oaks, and Leather Oaks.
Palmer’s Indian Mallow: More often found in dryer regions, mainly the Sonoran Desert. Palmer’s Indian Mallow form bright orange flowers, similar to hibiscus, and thrive in our climate on little to no irrigation
Yarrow: See a selection of yarrows with various colors of flowers. Yarrow is extremely easy to grow, thrives on neglect, and is sometimes used as a lawn substitute. They can be mowed or allowed to grow and cluster together to form small shrubs or hedges. Yarrow is an herb with many medicinal properties.
For many species of wildlife, native plants are the only plants that can provide the food and shelter they need to survive. Many species of native birds, bees, and butterflies are “specialists” and can only survive when they have access to a specific host plant. For example, our native scrub-jays depend heavily on oak trees for survival. They will eat other foods but live primarily off of acorns.
Native plants provide habitat for thousands of species. Creating a space for them helps retain some of the magnificent biodiversity that has been declining all over California.
Some animals you may see at the demonstration garden:
Lizards: Alligator and tree lizards are common throughout the garden
Butterflies: Monarchs love our milkweed. See if you can spot some zebra-striped caterpillars on the milkweeds. Keep an eye out also for Painted Lady butterflies, Tiger Swallowtails, Skippers (they look like like moths) or any of the hundreds of butterfly species
Native Bees: Native bees might not be what you think of when you think of bees. They come in all different sizes, from microscopic to the large carpenter bee which can be up to 1 inch long! Unlike honeybees, which are European, native bees tend to be solitary and often nest in holes in tree trunks, piles of sticks, small mud structures or holes in the ground. Native bees are even more prolific pollinators than honeybees.
Native plants need help to become established in the garden. That means providing light, supplemental irrigation for the first couple of years after planting. Some plants can also take irrigation to extend their blooming period and minimize summer dormancy. In a home native plant garden, many people choose not to add any irrigation systems since so little is needed. Instead, they periodically supplement using a hose or buckets of water.
In the demonstration garden, we use drip irrigation. This helps us keep a consistent schedule. Slow, drip irrigation is also a great way to make sure the water is allowed to go deep into the ground and encourage the plants to form deep roots. This ensures healthier, fuller plants. Over time we will be able to phase out the use of the irrigation system as the plants will be able to rely on available water.
Mulch provides many benefits to the garden:
Moderate Soil Temperature: when plants bake in the hot sun, it’s usually because their roots became too hot, not their leaves or other above-ground parts. The same applies to cold temperatures when the coldest hours of the night in winter might be too much for the plants. The tree mulch emulates the forest floor conditions these plants would experience in nature. The mulch has an insulating effect on the plant's root systems and goes a long way to protect the plants from extreme temperatures.
Retain water in the soil: mulch protects the moisture in the soil from evaporation by shading out the hot sun and providing cover from wind shear. This reduces the need for irrigation and also reduces stress on plants that might occur when the soil is allowed to dry out too quickly.
Prevent Soil Erosion: Much of the native garden is located on slopes. Eventually the plants will do most of the soil retention work, in the meantime mulch helps to hold the soil in place, especially when it might be washed away by a rain shower or wind.
Collect Debris: In a commercial space like where the garden is located, debris commonly finds its way onto the mulch where it is easily picked up and discarded. This keeps it out of our waterways where it might contaminate our freshwater sources, or harm wildlife.
Hugelkultur and Bioswale
In 2021 we held a pair of hands-on workshops where we built a hugelkultur and bioswale. Hugelkulturs and Bioswales are two structures that can be utilized in any garden to maximize the collection and retention of water.
A Hugelkultur involves layering wood, usually from tree branches and tree trunks, and covering them with soil. The buried wood acts like a sponge to any water that comes along, first collecting it, then slowly releasing it to nearby plants. They even collect some water from the humidity of the air as it passes over them.
As it breaks down over time, the wood helps to create healthy soil that provides nearby plants with nutrients. It typically takes about 20 years for the wood to break down, so for the trouble of burying a little bit of wood, you get 20 years of fertilizer!
Bioswales are made of rocks and often look like dry riverbeds. Our bioswale is positioned to capture water runoff from the parking lot. The rocks and surrounding plants help to filter, slow down, and spread out the flow of water. To add some visual interest, we made ours in the shape of a dolphin.
Volunteer With Us
We meet weekly on Wednesdays to work on the garden, volunteers are always welcome. There is no need to alert us ahead of time, just show up! We meet at the site at 8 am and typically work on-site until 12 pm. If you want more information, contact email@example.com, or follow us on Instagram or Facebook.
Thank you to our Sponsors and Contributors:
Hugel and Bioswale Gardening Workshop May 19, 20 by Monrovia Now!