Above image: Landscape architecture by Scott Menzel. http://scottmenzel.com/


For water-conscious Californians, lawns and gardens are both an important site of conservation and an inspiring design challenge. Reckless watering came to prominence last year when the state passed its first-ever fine for wasting. Deviating from the green expanse of the old-fashioned lawn is for many people an exciting idea, and here in southern California there is a world of native, drought-tolerant flora to discover and appreciate. After all, California is a famously beautiful state, from the rolling hills of chaparral to harsh beauty of the inland deserts.

In this post, we take a look at water-wise landscaping using plants native to the Santa Barbara region. Santa Barbara is currently in a Stage Two drought, and may soon officially recognize our intensifying shortage.  The natural drought-tolerance of native plants is just one of the reasons to use them in your landscaping plan. There are other benefits, too:

  • Native plants thrive with lower amounts of fertlizer and pruning than non-native plants.
  • They also require little to no pesticide use, since they have evolved natural defenses to the “pests” in this area. Pesticides indiscriminately kill insects, including beneficial insects such as pollinators and other non-harmful bugs.
  • According to the California Native Plant Society, “Reducing or eliminating pesticide use lets natural pest control take over and keeps garden toxins out of our creeks and watersheds.”Native plants attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. This has several benefits: improving fruit set in your garden, repelling mosquitos, and keeping plant-eating bugs at bay.1


Landscape architecture by Scott Menzel. scottmenzel.com
Landscape architecture by Scott Menzel. scottmenzel.com


Santa Barbara’s not called the “American Riviera” for nothing, and the suitability of Mediterranean climate plants such as lavendar and lamb’s ears and succulents such as Aeonium and Senecio mandraliscae can inspire a whole landscape layout. Blue-green, gray-green foliage such as that shown bordering a walkway in the above photo catch the brilliance of late afternoon on the coast.2

Click here to learn more about drought-tolerant plants for the Santa Barbara area. A few of our favorites:

Anemopsis californica, Yerba Mansa, flowering  in the Santa Margarita garden.
Los Angeles-native Anemopsis californica, Yerba Mansa. Source: laspilitas.com
Calochortus clavatus. Source: laspilitas.com
Salvia columbariae, Chia. Source: laspilitas.com

Inspired? We thought so!

Check out the website of our collaborating landscape architect, Scott Menzel, and make your dream outdoor space a reality.

Sources: 1. “Gardening with California Native Plants” brochure from the California Native Plant Society. 2.  “Low-Water Landscape Design” by Rachel Weill in the Easy Waterwise Garden booklet from the editors of Sunset Magazine.

This post is part of a DCA series on the


For more water-conscious thinking:

Architecture in a Time of Drought

Conscientious Construction: Water-Wise Building Practices & the Ventura Decision

This Just In: Santa Barbara May Declare a Stage Three Drought Emergency

View dramatic photos of California’s historic drought

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