Jeff Silva’s San Mateo Garden

CNPS Garden Ambassador:  Jeff Silva

Photo: Jeff Silva


Garden Location: Front and back yard
Garden Size: 1,500 sqft.
Year Planted: 2011-2012


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I enjoy being in the garden at all times of the day, but especially in the early morning when there tends to be more wildlife about. – Jeff Silva

When Jeff and his wife purchased their California bungalow house in 2010, Jeff had absolutely no gardening experience.  Yet he knew he wanted to try something different, something creative that would attract wildlife to the garden.  He wanted to bring home the sights and smells from the California trails he hiked, and also conserve water.

After sheet mulching the lawns in the front and back, Jeff began experimenting with California native plants. He researched native plants in books and online, and visited local native gardens to get ideas. He gained inspiration from hikes all over the state, including the Channel Islands.  Jeff also took trips to various native botanical gardens, and found the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Berkeley particularly inspirational.

Through the years the garden has evolved, plants have been lost, and many lessons learned.  Jeff has found it to be an incredibly rewarding experience.  He has enjoyed opening his garden for the Going Native Garden Tour, Santa Clara Valley Chapter, the last four years, and takes the most pleasure in seeing happy garden visitors, both human and animal.

Jeff’s favorite California native plants

About the garden

Garden Size:  1500 sqft.

Location:  Front and back yards

Year Planted:  2011 – 2012

Lawn Removal:  Sheet mulching.

Design and Installation:  I had some help initially from a landscape designer, but the current configuration is primarily my vision.  A contractor helped with the hardscaping, and I enjoyed the planting.

Style Inspiration: The front yard has a rock garden feel that was heavily influenced by vegetation I saw off trails in Half Moon Bay, Montara, and the San Bruno Mountains.  It includes many coastal bluff and sage scrub plants, along with a small Channel Islands section.  The backyard has a California bungalow feel with a shady section of woodland plants, and a sunnier area comprised mainly of chaparral plants.  Fruit trees are intermixed with natives such as Manzanitas, Ceanothus, flowering currants, grasses, and more!

Go-to Native Plant Nursery: CalFlora, Watershed Nursery, Oaktown Nursery, and Yerba Buena Nursery.

Irrigation:  I use a combination of a drip system and hand-watering as needed during the dry months.

Maintenance:  I maintain my landscape on a weekly basis.

Wildlife Spotted:  Birds, bees, squirrels, and various insects!

Favorite Element: All the plants embedded in the front yard rock wall, especially the Dudleya and Lewisia.  I also enjoys the shady retreat in the back yard.

Biggest Challenge: The tendency to overplant and try to include the showiest of plants, regardless of mature size.

Advice: When conceptualizing a garden, really take into consideration the mature size of plants to avoid needlessly having to remove plants in the future.

More information about Jeff’s garden can be found at Going Native Garden Tour (#Manzanita_GNGT)

Visit Jeff’s garden on the 2019 Going Native Garden Tour in Santa Clara Valley.  The tour is free and will be held May 4th and 5th.  Click here to learn more and register for the tour.  #GoingNativeGardenTour, #GNGT2019

California native plants in Jeff’s garden

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
Western columbine, Aquilegia formosa
Manzanita, Arctostaphylos (10+ varieties)
Bearberry, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi ‘Point Reyes’
California pipevine, Aristolochia californica
California sagebrush, Artemisia californica ‘Montara’
Sandhill sage, Artemisia pycnocephala ‘David’s Choice’
Wild ginger, Asarum caudatum
Dwarf coyote brush, Baccharis pillularis ‘Twin Peaks 2’
Leafy reed grass, Calamagrostis foliosa
Dune sedge, Carex pansa
California lilac, Ceanothus (5 varieties)
Western redbud, Cercis occidentalis
Yerba buena, Clinopodium douglasii
Channel Island bush poppy, Dendromecon harfordii
Western bleeding heart, Dicentra formosa
Live-forever, Dudleya (6 varieties)
California fuchsia, Epilobium (4 varieties)
Seaside daisy, Erigeron glaucus
Buckwheat, Eriogonum (5 varieties)
Dwarf woolly sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum ‘Siskiyou’
California poppy, Eschscholzia californica (3 varieties)
California fescue, Festuca californica
Idaho fescue, Festuca idahoensis
Woodland strawberry, Fragaria vesca
Coffeeberry, Frangula californica (3 varieties)
Island bush snapdragon, Gambelia speciosa
Coast silk tassel, Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’
Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia ‘Davis Gold’
Golden aster, Heterotheca sessiliflora ‘San Bruno Mountain’
Alum root, Heuchera (5 varieties)
Iris, Iris ‘Canyon Snow’
California gray rush, Juncus patens ‘Elk Blue’
Siskiyou lewisia, Lewisia cotyledon ‘Sunset Strain’
Monkeyflower, Mimulus aurantiacus
Coyote mint, Monardella villosa
Baby blue eyes, Nemophila menziesii
Redwood sorrel, Oxalis oregana
Foothill penstemon, Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita BOP’
Palmer’s penstemon, Penstemon palmeri
California polypody, Polypodium californicum
Western sword fern, Polystichum munitum
California buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
Chaparral currant, Ribes malvaceum ‘Dancing Tassels’
Pink-Flowering currant, Ribes sanguine glutinosum ‘Claremont’
Catalina perfume, Ribes viburnifolium
Nootka rose, Rosa nutkana
Pozo blue sage, Salvia ‘Pozo Blue’
Sage, Salvia sonomensis ‘Dara’s Choice’
Hummingbird sage, Salvia spathacea
Checkerbloom, Sidalcea malviflora
Blue witch, Solanum umbelliferum
Purple needlegrass, Stipa pulchra
Wind poppy, Stylomecon heterophylla
Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus laevigatus ‘Tilden Park’
Wooly blue curls, Trichostema lanatum
California huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum
Cedros Island verbena, Verbena lilacina ‘De La Mina’
Giant chain fern, Woodwardia fimbriata

CNPS Horticulture Team

One Comment

  1. Could I have permission to use your “bench” photo in a slide with 3 or 4 other garden photos on one slide of five in a one-minute PowerPoint video? I am VP of our Wild Ones chapter and Sec. of the Iowa Native Plant Society.

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