If you have been following along, you are no doubt aware that, in Sonoma at the Rancho, we have a strict Native California habitat policy. Except for the grapes, olive trees and lavender, everything we plant, everything we nurture, everything we allow to keep root is a California native plant. We had a pretty much pure California native habitat. That is until the wildfires which burned through nearly 90% of our land. But here’s the amazing thing: neither fire, nor drought, nor lack of irrigation seems to be able to keep our Natives down. They grew slowly during the drought, but they grew, even though we never irrigated them. They burned up during the wildfires. But within weeks of the fires and with only a little bit of rainfall, they are staging a big comeback.
Ah the amazing resilience of California natives. Well, except for one thing. And that destructive force has been on full display in our San Jose house. Again, if you’ve been following along, you know I replaced my lawns with drought tolerant native plant gardens. And yes, they did great during the drought. And really blossomed during last winter’s El Niño event. But what California natives simply can’t withstand is too much water out of season. Since I had no intention of doing extensive irrigation, we built the garden on top of the existing irrigation system from the previous owner. Unfortunately, that system was on the verge of complete failure and, about a year ago, it apparently started leaking out massive amounts of water. It wasn’t noticeable during our wet winter, but I did start to wonder in the summer, when I would still see puddles of water in the mornings. At first I thought it was a heavy fog during the night. Then I noticed that the plants seemed to be growing much too fast and much too leggy. By the time I realized what was going on, a large number of my natives had rotted from the roots.
This shot was actually taken after much of the pruning and removal. I didn’t have the heart to photograph the before. An overwatered California native is not a pretty thing.
A secondary goal, besides aesthetics, is to discourage the rodents, squirrels and other critters who seemed to love digging around in the ground cover. And incidentally, driving the terriers crazy.
Tomorrow, new plants come in. And we repair that aging irrigation system. Perhaps capping it off, so it can’t necessitate yet another overhaul.
Such is the destructive power of water in a California native environment.