Pete di Girolamo’s San Diego Garden

CNPS Garden Ambassador:  Pete di Girolamo

CNPS San Diego Chapter
Garden Location:  Front and back yard
Garden Size:  1200 SF front yd., 1200 SF back yd.
Year Planted:  2002


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I felt the need to transition my garden to native plants to not only help conserve water, but to also provide habitat for native birds, animals, and insects.

Pete di Girolamo has been gardening with California native plants at his home in North Park, San Diego for the past 16 years.  A lifelong Californian with hiking and camping experience throughout the state, Pete developed an interest in native environments.  He felt the need to transition his garden to native plants to not only help conserve water, but to also provide habitat for native birds, animals, and insects.

Pete’s garden has been on multiple garden tours in recent years, and even won the City of San Diego “Low-Water Use” award.  His garden has also provided him an outlet to be creative and apply his interest in the arts.  He enjoys the combination of seasonal changes that occur in his native garden, and its overall peacefulness.  A retired architect, Pete is now an active docent at Torrey Pines Reserve, and serves on a couple of native plant oriented committees.

Pete’s favorite California native plants

About the garden

Garden Location:  Front and back yard.

Garden Size:  The front yard and back yard are each 1200 square feet.

Year Planted:  2002 to present.

Lawn Removal:  Hand dug it out!

Design and Installation:  I did both myself.

Style Inspiration: My garden is a mix of the best of the state’s natural areas.  There are also some artistic aspects that come from interests in arts and crafting.

Go-to Native Plant Nurseries:  Tree of Life Nursery, Moosa Creek Nursery, and RECON.

Irrigation:  Hand watering as needed depending on the season and rainfall variations.

Maintenance:  I do, varying from weekly to monthly.

Wildlife Spotted:  Native birds, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, fox, lizards, butterflies, and bees.

Favorite Element:  Contrasting plants.

Biggest Challenge:  Adjusting plants desired to using those that reflect local climate and soil.

Advice: Get in touch with your yard, be patient and flexible, and keep learning.  Don’t be afraid to prune some if you want to keep the landscape in balance for a smaller home.

California native plants in Pete’s garden

Common Name Scientific Name Location:  F-front yard, B-backyard
Indian mallow Abutilon palmeri B
Yarrow Achillea millefolium F
Compact chamise Adenostoma fasciculatum ‘Black Diamond’ F
Prostrate chamise Adenostoma fasciculatum ‘San Nicholas’ F,B
Century plant Agave americana, variegated F
Shaw’s agave Agave shawii F
Wild onion Allium variety? F
San Diego ragweed Ambrosia pumila F,B
Carmel Sur manzanita Arctostaphylos edmundsii ‘Carmel Sur’ F,B
Emerald Carpet Arcto. ‘Emerald Carpet’ B
Del Mar manzanita Arcto. Glandulosa ssp. Crassifolia F
John Dourley manzanita Arcto. ‘John Dourley’ F,B
Lester Rowntree manzanita Arcto. “Lester Rowntree’ F
Sunset manaznita Arcto. ‘Sunset’ F,B
Franciscana manzanita Arcto. hookeri franciscana F
Wayside manzanita Arcto. hookeri ‘Wayside’ F
Dr. Hurd manzanita Arcto. manzanita ‘Dr. Hurd’ F
Pacific Mist manzanita Arcto. ‘Pacific Mist’ F
Canyon Gray sagebrush  Artemisia colifornica ‘Canyon Gray’ B
Montara sagebrush  Artemisia colifornica ‘Montara’ B
David’s Choice sagebrush Artemisia pycnocephala ‘David’s Choice’ F,B
Dwarf coyote bush Baccharis pilularis ‘Pigeon Point’ F
Blue grama grass Bouteloua gracilis B
Beach evening primrose Camissonia cheiranthifolia F,B
California meadow sedge Carex Pansa B
Dark Star ceanothus Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’ F
Sunset rock rose Cistus x pulverulentus F, not native
Western redbud Cercis occidentalis F
Western mountain mahogany Cercocarpus betuloides B
Britton’s chalk dudleya Dudleya brittonii B
Lance leaved dudleya Dudleya lanceolata B
California fuscia Epilobium canlifornicum F
Santa Cruz Island buckwheat Eriogonum arborescens F,B
Dana Point buckwheat Eriogonum fasciculatum ‘Dana Point’ F,B
Red buckwheat Eriogonum grande var. rubescens F,B
Toyon Heteromeles arbutifolia F,B
Douglas iris Iris douglasiana F
Texas ranger Leucophyllum frutescens F, native to Big Bend TX
Fern-leaved Catalina Ironwood Lyonothamnus foribundus ssp. Asplinofolius B
Chaparral mallow Malacothamnus fasciculatus F
Deergrass Muhlenbergia rigens F,B
Purple needlegrass Nassella pulchra F
Feltleaf everlasting Pseudognaphalium microcephalum B
Coast live oak Quercus agrifolia F
Island live oak Quercus tomentella B
San Bruno coffeeberry Rhamnus californica ‘Mound San Bruno’ F,B
White sage Salvia apiana F
Autumn sage Salvia greggii F
Purple sage Salvia leucophylla F, not native
Jade Carpet black sage Salvia melifera ‘Jade Carpet’ F,B
Creeping sage Salvia sonomensis F,B
Bee’s Bliss sage Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’ F,B
Hummingbird sage Salvia spathacea B
Blue-eyed grass Sysrinchium bellum F

CNPS Horticulture Team


  1. Hey, I know that yard! Tallest Franciscan manzanitas I’ve ever seen. Great and inspiring work, Pete!

  2. Beautiful Garden. It takes lots of love, and trial and error to get great results. Thanks for sharing.

  3. The di Girolamo’s garden is a true work of art. The textures, colors and shapes are exquisite. If you every have a chance to view it on a garden tour – Go! It is an true inspiration.

  4. Pete, your garden is beautiful. We’ve lived in the same house for 30 years and love gardening. Got rid of lawn back then. Still have some non-native trees. Have planted lots of natives and Mediterranians, but without your thoughtful design skills. Never hired a gardener. Rather be outside than inside.
    I’m a native too–of North Park (1938).

  5. Beautiful! I think there’s a mistake in the plant list though–greggii is the one that’s not native, not leucophylla.

    Definitely going to use this as inspiration for my own garden!

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