Stephen Rosenthal’s San Jose Garden

CNPS Garden Ambassador:  Stephen Rosenthal

Stephen Rosenthal, Garden Ambassador

CNPS Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Garden Location:  Front and back yard
Garden Size:  12,500 sq. ft.
Year Planted:  2010


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Jays planted the large valley oak and coast live oak that shelter the side about 15 years ago.

Ten years ago, Stephen Rosenthal was looking for low water use plants when he happened on a native garden in his town.  He began converting his tired juniper/lawn combo front yard to a garden featuring an impressive collection of native wildflowers and shrubs.  He has since fallen in love with native plants and the pollinators they attract!

Front Yard

Jays planted the large valley oak (Quercus lobata) and coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) that shelter the side about 15 years ago.  These trees are an essential source of food and shelter for the variety of wildlife that visit Stephen’s garden.  Creating a focal point near the walkway to the front door is a ‘Louis Edmunds’ manzanita. Other shrubs include groundcover flannel bush (Fremontodendron decumbens), western elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea), island mallow (Malva assurgentiflora), California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), island mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae), western redbud (Cercis occidentalis), various manzanitas (Arctostaphylos), buckwheats (Eriogonum), and woolly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum).

In spring, the sunny areas blaze with wildflowers – all grown from seed. There are several different kinds of lupine (Lupinus), gilia (Gilia), blue flax (Linum lewisii), clarkia (Clarkia), phacelia (Phacelia), monkey flower (Mimulus), and others.  Bee’s Bliss sage (Salvia x ‘Bee’s Bliss’), Silver Carpet aster (Corethrogyne ‘Silver Carpet’), desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), and California aster (Symphyotrichum chilense) are blooming ground covers.  In the center of the “meadow” is a display of six different Dudleya (Dudleya).  In the shade you can see western columbine (Aquilegia formosa), Sierra columbine (Aquilegia pubescens), and hillside gooseberry (Ribes californicum) with native ferns.

Back Yard

The back yard features four different gooseberry, a couple of different sages, and several buckwheat species. There are also many containers that house butterfly mariposa (Calochortus venustus), Ithuriel’s spear (Triteleia laxa), and golden brodiaea (Triteleia ixoides), which were grown from seed procured from the plant sale a few years ago.

Stephen uses his back yard primarily for propagation of native plants for Alum Rock Park, as well as his garden.  He has propagated many new plants in his garden from cuttings and seeds, including two California buckeye (Aesculus californica), a bunch of buckwheat, six Ribes, coyote mint (Monardella villosa), and desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua). Other plants he has grown from seed include native forms of gumweed, narrow leaf mule ears (Wyethia angustifolia), hillside gooseberry (Ribes californicum), and toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia).

The conversion to native plants in Stephen’s garden is still ongoing!  There are three new Manzanita, including Arctostaphylos ‘John Dourley’, Arctostaphylos edmundsii ‘Carmel Sur’, and several Carmel creeper ceanothus. His garden is also home to many rare plants, including dwarf flannel bush (Fremontodendron decumbens), bright green dudleya (Dudleya virens ssp. virens), Catalina currant (Ribes viburnifolium), Heckner’s stonecrop (Sedum laxum ssp. Heckneri), roseflower stonecrop (Sedum laxum ssp. flavidum), long petaled lewisia (Lewisia longipetala), and canyon creek stonecrop (Sedum obtusatum ssp. paradisum).

Stephen’s favorite California native plants

About the garden

Garden Location:  Front and back yard

Garden Size:  12,500 square feet

Year Planted:  2010

Design and Installation:  I did both myself.

Go-to Native Plant Nurseries:  CNPS Santa Clara Valley Nursery and Capitol Wholesale

Irrigation:  Drip system and hand-water, once a week.

Maintenance:  I do, weekly.

Wildlife Spotted:  Many types of pollinators and birds, including Anna’s hummingbirds, scrub jays, mockingbirds, titmice, red tail hawks, and an occasional red shouldered hawk.  Even deer and wild turkey have been spotted in the garden!

Favorite Element:  I have an area that is mainly wildflowers, and quite a few annuals, so it’s different each year.

Biggest Challenge:  An attractive design for the back yard which is not quite right yet.

Advice: Take it slow.  If you have the time and interest, get as many locally native plants as you can!

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

Visit Stephen’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 Stephen’s garden

Common Name Botanical Name Family
Yarrow Achillea millefolium Asteraceae
Island pink yarrow Achillea millefolium rosea Asteraceae
Oneleaf onion Allium unifolium Alliaceae
Western columbine Aquilegia formosa Ranunculaceae
Sierra columbine Aquilegia pubescens Ranunculaceae
Louis Edmunds manzanita Arctostaphylos bakeri Ericaceae
John Dourley manzanita Arctostaphylos ‘John Dourley’ Ericaceae
Point Reyes manzanita bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Ericaceae
Seathrift Armeria maritima  californica Plumbaginaceae
Wild ginger Asarum caudatum Aristolochiaceae
California aster Symphyotrichum chilense
Pigeon Point coyote brush Baccharis pilularis pilularis Asteraceae
Hearts desire mountain lilac Ceanothus gloriosus Rhamnaceae
Yankee Point  ceanothus Ceanothus griseus horizontalis Rhamnaceae
Small leaf mountain lilac Ceanothus Julia Phelps Rhamnaceae
Island mountain mahogany Cercocarpus alnifolius, Cercocarpus betuloides var. blancheae Rosaceae
Farewell to spring Clarkia amoena Onagraceae
Elegant clarkia Clarkia unguiculata Onagraceae
Miner’s lettuce Claytonia parviflora Montiaceae
Yerba buena Clinopodium douglasii Lamiaceae
California aster Corethrogyne filaginifolia Asteraceae
Jimsonweed Datura Wrightii Solanaceae
Island bush poppy Dendromecon harfordii Papaveraceae
Blue dicks Dichelostemma capitatum Themidaceae
Giant chalk dudleya, Dudleya brittonii Crassulaceae
Coast dudleya Dudleya caespitosa Crassulaceae
Bluff lettuce Dudleya farinosa Crassulaceae
Liveforever Dudleya lanceolata Crassulaceae
Chalk liveforever Dudleya pulverulenta Crassulaceae
Seaside daisy Erigeron glaucus Asteraceae
Naked buckwheat Erioganum nudum ella nelson Polygonaceae
California buckwheat Eriogonum fasciculatum Polygonaceae
St. Catherine’s lace Eriogonum giganteum Polygonaceae
Red buckwheat Eriogonum grande rubescens Polygonaceae
Coast buckwheat Eriogonum latifolium Polygonaceae
Golden yarrow Eriophyllum confertiflorum Asteraceae
California poppy Eschscholzia californica Papaveraceae
Idaho fescue Festuca idahoensis Poaceae
Dwarf flannel bush Fremontodendron decumbens (rare) Malvaceae
Bird’s eye gilia Gilia tricolor Polemoniaceae
Toyon Heteromeles arbutifolia Rosaceae
Douglas iris Iris douglasiana Iridaceae
Tidy tips Layia platyglossa Asteraceae
Siskiyou lewisia Lewisia cotyledon Montiaceae
Long petaled lewisia Lewisia longipetala Montiaceae
Blue flax Linum lewisii Linaceae
Pink honeysuckle Lonicera hispidula Caprifoliaceae
Silver bush lupine Lupinus albifrons Fabaceae
Chick lupine Lupinus densiflorus Fabaceae
Island mallow Malva assurgentiflora Malvaceae
Sticky monkey-flower Mimulus aurantiacus Phrymaceae
Curious red monkey-flower Mimulus aurantiacus Phrymaceae
Coyote mint Monardella villosa Lamiaceae
Deer grass Muhlenbergia rigens Poaceae
Baby blue eyes Nemophila menziesii Boraginaceae
Eaton’s firecracker Penstemon eatonii Plantaginaceae
Foothill penstemon Penstemon heterophyllus Plantaginaceae
Bladderpod Peritoma arborea Cleomaceae
California phacelia Phacelia californica Boraginaceae
Desert bluebell Phacelia campanularia Boraginaceae
Holly-leafed cherry Prunus ilicifolia Rosaceae
Coast live oak Quercus agrifolia Fagaceae
Valley oak Quercus lobata Fagaceae
Golden current Ribes aureum Grossulariaceae
Hillside gooseberry Ribes californicum Grossulariaceae
Fuchsia-flowering gooseberry Ribes speciosum Grossulariaceae
Evergreen currant Ribes viberafolium (rare) Grossulariaceae
Bee’s bliss sage Salvia Bee’s Bliss Lamiaceae
Cleveland sage Salvia clevelandii Lamiaceae
Blue elderberry Sambucus nigra ssp. caerule Adoxaceae
Bee plant Scrophularia californica Scrophulariaceae
Roseflower stonecrop Sedum laxum ssp. flavidum (rare) Crassulaceae
Heckner’s stonecrop Sedum laxum ssp. heckneri (rare) Crassulaceae
Canyon Creek Stonecrop Sedum obtusatum ssp. Paradisum (rare) Crassulaceae
Threadleaf Ragwort Senecio flaccidus Asteraceae
Blue-eyed grass Sisyrinchium bellum Iridaceae
Blue witch Solanum umbelliferum Solanaceae
Desert mallow Sphaeralcea ambigua Malvaceae
California hedge nettle Stachys bullata Lamiaceae
Purple needle grass Stipa pulchra Poaceae
Woolly blue curls Trichostema lanatum Lamiaceae
Golden brodiaea Triteleia ixioides Themidaceae
Ithuriel’s spear Triteleia laxa Themidaceae
Cedros Island verbena Verbena lilacina ‘De la Mina’ Verbenaceae
Common California fuchsia Zauschneria californica mexicana Onagraceae
Humboldt County fuchsia Zauschneria septentrionalis Onagraceae


CNPS Horticulture Team


  1. Do you know where I can get Yerba Santa seeds? I understand that it is good for asthma breathing problems.

  2. Hi,
    Amazingly beautiful garden. I was wondering if I could get a species identification on one of the plants in the photo. There is a pink flowering plant to the left of some California poppies in one of the photos. I was wondering what species it was.


    1. Maybe a Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata)? I wasn’t sure which photo you were referring to, but there are several different pink Clarkias throughout the photos.

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