This is a comfortable place…

where we can share about designing native plant gardens, attracting wildlife, native plant communities, sustainability, the rhythms of the seasons, and all sorts of topics of the heart – native heart that is! 

Debbie Ballentine

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Yarrow attracts painted ladies and scares off garden thugs

Yarrow in my home garden. Photo by Debbie Ballentine.

Yarrow in my home garden. Photo by Debbie Ballentine.

Whimsical and charming, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) attracts a wide range of butterflies, birds and beneficial insects while also repelling many of our uninvited insect pests. This makes yarrow an outstanding plant for both habitat and veggie gardens. Predatory insects, like hoverflies and our beloved ladybugs, are attracted to yarrow and take over the battle against pests while you sit back and enjoy the beauty. Yarrow’s delicate fern-like foliage contradicts the resilient, flexible and highly variable nature of this…  read more…


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Bay Area Stormwater Agencies Urge Residents to Garden with Native Plants


Native plants from your region require less water and attract beneficial bugs

Honeybee on Prickly Poppy

Honeybee on Prickly Poppy

Plant the right plants in the right place! That’s the key to a successful and attractive garden and using native plants can get you there. The Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association (BASMAA) is encouraging the region’s residents to consider native plants in lieu of lawns and other plants. The impact can be dramatic: natives require less watering, and many attract beneficial bugs, reducing the need for pesticides and chemical treatments.

“It makes sense at an intuitive level,” said Geoff Brosseau, executive director of BASMAA. “Plants that are native to the region were meant to be here, and thrived here. They require less maintenance, water, and other resources than non-natives we may choose to plant based on aesthetics alone.”

Native plants are especially important right now because of California’s drought. Although a green lawn is no longer an option, natives are a great alternative. “Most natives use much less water than non-natives once they are established,” explained Brosseau. “That alone is an excellent reason for anyone to make changes to their garden.”

There are more benefits, too: Native plants can provide year-round color in a garden and can also attract butterflies, birds, bees and other beneficial insects, allowing for less-toxic gardening. That’s something BASMAA always encourages because of stormwater pollution from yard and garden chemicals.  When used on lawns, in gardens, or even just around the perimeter of a home, pesticides can cause water pollution. Once pesticides and fertilizers wash off lawns from rain and watering, they flow into storm drains, polluting local creeks and the Bay and harming fish and wildlife.

Some Bay Area native plants include California buckeye, yarrow, white alder, Western azalea, and briar rose. A full list can be found on the California Native Plant Society website. Residents should look for plant recommendations for the part of the Bay Area they live in because the region’s microclimates vary and, consequently, so do the plants that thrive in different parts of the region.

Resources for getting started with or learning more about native plants and less-toxic gardening:

•  Bringing Back the Natives:

•  CalFlora:


•  Our Water, Our World

Native Hearts Garden Blog

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Blue elderberry the birds!

Blue elderberry is a favorite of birds and other wildlife in its native California

Blue elderberry. Photo courtesy of Flickr users Forest and Kim Starr.

Blue elderberry. Photo courtesy of Flickr users Forest and Kim Starr.

Blue elderberry’s delicate lacy flower umbels veil its informal and tough nature. Displayed in a graceful weeping habit, the creamy white flowers have a delightful fragrance — like spiced honey — that floats on the warm summer breeze. Bursting forth in spring and continuing through summer, the flowers are following by berries. The berries start small and green, then they take on their full purple-black ripeness in the fall. A whitish powder coating gives the dark berries a bluish cast that inspired its name, blue elderberry.  Read more…

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Naked buckwheat, a Summer Oasis for Pollinators

Naked buckwheat is a bee and butterfly magnet with an easy nature, a tough constitution and profuse pom-pom flowers in summer

Acmon blue butterflies on buckwheat   Photo courtesy of Flickr user Treebeard

Acmon blue butterflies on buckwheat.  Photo courtesy of Flickr user Treebeard.

Naked buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum) is a tough plant that is easy to grow and provides important food for pollinators year-round, especially during California’s hottest and driest season. Native bees, honeybees, butterflies and other odd pollinators sip the refreshing nectar during the summer heat. Bees also feed the protein-packed pollen to their young. From fall to spring, birds eat the bountiful and delicious seeds. And if that isn’t enough, naked buckwheat is also an important host plant for caterpillars of the acmon blue butterfly.  read more…


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Gardens Designed for Learning

Master Gardeners Palo Alto Demonstration Garden shows off California native plants and other Mediterranean plants in a charming garden setting and an educational environment

Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden, Palo Alto, California

Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden, Palo Alto, California

Several years ago I visited a lovely demo garden nestled in the Palo Alto trees. It was a memorable experience. In July 2014, I decided to visit the garden again and share my experiences with you.

Our local Master Gardeners are the stewards of this charming Palo Alto Demonstration Garden. The garden demonstrates quite a variety of Mediterranean plants including one entire mound dedicated to California native plants. As with many of the MG demo gardens, there are free to the public classes offered at the garden.

The selection of water-wise plants at the garden is superb and the garden design is lovely and has wonderful touches of drama here and there. As you walk the paths… read more…

Categories: California native plants, Water conservation, Water-wise plants | Tags: , | Leave a comment

10 Top Native Plants for Southern California Gardens

Enjoy a fuss-free, water-wise garden by growing plants naturally in tune with the climate and wildlife of Southern California

Coast sunflower (Encelia californica) Photo by Debbie Ballentine

California sunflower (Encelia californica)  Photo by Debbie Ballentine


From the stunning blue of California lilacs in spring to the joyful, daisy-like blooms of California sunflowers from spring to fall, and the spritely charms of pink chaparral currants in winter, the plants below have been selected for their wildlife value, minimal maintenance, gardening ease and availability in nurseries. Depending on the species, they are appropriate in moderate inland areas of Southern California desert or coastal regions. Each has its own wildlife niche, whether it’s birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, native bees or the plethora of pollinators. This selection of California native plants will add beauty and seasonal interest to   read more…

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Upcoming Events

Debbie Ballentine will be giving talks on April 19th, April 23rd and May 19th. See her New EVENTS Page for full details.

Scrub Jay and Acorn Woodpecker. Photo courtesy of Las Pilitas Nursery.

Scrub Jay and Acorn Woodpecker. Photo courtesy of Las Pilitas Nursery.

Gardening is for the birds!

Brief 30-40 minute version
Sat April 19th, 1:30 pm

Gardening is for the birds!
Full 70-90 minute version with photo presentation
Thu April 23rd, 6:30 pm

How I Did It: Creating a bee-friendly garden
Tue May 19th, 7:00 pm

Hope to see you there!

Native Hearts Garden Blog

Categories: California native plants, Designing a garden, Wildlife conservation, Wildlife in your garden | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebration of California Native Plant Week

California native plant week is April 11-19th, but events are happening all over the state for the entire month. Learn more about native plants and celebrate our botanical heritage.

Following are the events planned by the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). Go to the CNPS site to for events all over the state.

Wayne Roderick daisy & Foothill Penstemon

Wayne Roderick daisy & Foothill Penstemon

Coastal Wildflower Day April 11, 2015

Saturday April 11 – 10am – 4pm
Half Moon Bay State Beach
95 Kelly Avenue, Half Moon Bay

Celebrate the start of California Native Plant Week at the Coastal Wildflower Day in Half Moon Bay (HMB).  Enjoy fun activities, wildflower hikes, games and crafts for families and native plants for sale.  Visit the native plant nursery and see the dune restoration on site at HMB State Beach.

Bike or walk in for free, or parking on site is $10.  Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day.  For more info. or to volunteer, contact Toni Corelli at or (650) 726-0689; or visit

See the flyer.

Going Native Garden Tour April 18, 19 2015

13th ANNUAL GOING NATIVE GARDEN TOUR A free, self-guided tour of home gardens featuring California Native Plants that are waterwise, attractive, low maintenance, low on chemical use, and bird and butterfly friendly. A variety of home gardens landscaped with California native plants will be open to the public Saturday, April 18 and Sunday, April 19, 2015, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Locations throughout Santa Clara Valley and Peninsula. Talks and native plant sales at select gardens. Free admission; registration required at; registration ends at 3pm on April 19. Volunteers receive a T shirt and invitations to visit native gardens throughout the year. For more information, or email

Press release

Native Plant Sale Saturday, April 25, 2015

Scores of species of California native plants well-suited for our gardens and wildlife will be on sale at Hidden Villa Ranch on Saturday, April 25, 10am – 3pm. Speak to experts about lawn alternatives such as native perennials, wildflowers, and grasses. Native plant books, posters, and note cards will also be on sale.

This sale is organized by the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). Hidden Villa Ranch is located at 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills, 2 miles west of I-280. Come early for the best selection. Cash, check, or credit cards are accepted. Bring boxes to carry purchases home. Free parking. No pets.

There will be a Wildflower Show at the plant sale. See the flyer (PDF).

Bee’s bliss sage is a ground cover that blooms in the spring, attracting bees.

Press release

Native Hearts Garden Blog

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Welcoming Insects Into Our Gardens

Lady beetle larva

Ladybug larva eat more aphids than Ladybug adults

Beneficial insects provide a number of ecosystem and human services, including pollinating insects, responsible for about 30% of the pollination of agricultural plants; predatory insects that eat other insects; parasitic insects that lay their eggs inside other insects; insects that break down decaying matter thereby building good soil; and insects that dig in the soil allowing air, water and nutrients to penetrate to the plant roots. It’s said that there are far more beneficial insects than pests.

What’s more, insects are eaten by all kinds of wildlife. So creating a garden for insects is creating a wildlife habitat.

Learn more about creating habitat...


Categories: California native plants, Wildlife conservation, Wildlife in your garden | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Create Your Own Butterfly Garden

Encourage these fanciful winged beauties to visit your garden while helping restore their fragmented habitat

Butterflies are among the most beloved insects. Someone once called them flying flowers. They float, they flutter and they dazzle us with their colors. We relish their dance of spring. Then there’s the bad news: Because of pesticides and habitat loss, the populations of our cherished butterflies is in decline.

A few simple tips will have you on your way to creating your own butterfly habitat. Any home garden, even a container garden, can attract butterflies. My vision is a patchwork of schools, businesses, home gardens and parks around the country that provide insect habitat, restoring communities of beneficial insects. The steps are simple — like most of earth’s creatures, butterflies just need food, water, sun and read more…

Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon). Photo courtesy of Treebeard.

Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon). Photo courtesy of Treebeard.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Treebeard.

Categories: California native plants, Wildlife in your garden | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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