The goal of the Santa Clara County Master Gardener Water Wise Garden is to find beautiful native and non-native ornamental plants that will thrive in our summer-dry climate and clay soil without a lot extra work. Many of our non-native plants come from climates similar to ours, such as Australia, South Africa, the Mediterranean region, and Chile. We are also trialing a number of U.C. Davis Arboretum All-Stars plants. You can visit at the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, view directions (PDF).
In the Water Wise Garden we take a tough love approach to plants. We water once every three weeks in late spring, summer and early fall using a drip irrigation system. We use no fertilizer except for a two-inch mulch of shredded leaves and stems that we spread on top of our soil in the fall. All our plants are planted in unamended soil. Most of our California native plants are planted directly in our native soil, which is a fertile, moderately well draining clay soil. Our non-native plants have been planted on one-foot mounds composed of a gravelly, well draining soil with little or no organic matter. If our plants look good under these harsh conditions, they are likely to thrive in your Santa Clara County garden.
Below are pictures of some of our favorite plants in the Water Wise Garden. To learn more about caring for and using these plants, simply click on a picture. You can also view this list by name.