Regenerative Garden Updates & What’s Blooming in April

A Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) hops around and sings in the garden.

The birds get an early start, chattering with the rise of the sun. Still asleep, I try to identify who they are, based on their sounds. I make some guesses but am not sure. I nudge myself, a reminder to give myself grace and the time to learn.

A year ago, if you had asked me about birds, I would have shuddered; I had a strange fear of birds, especially flocks of them. I’ve evolved a lot since then, as has my relationship with native plants. In a way, surrendering part of the comfort I once knew has empowered me to broaden my horizons. I’ve been reminded that the world — much bigger than me — is always changing, and so too will I.

A New Appreciation

During this past year, I repeatedly noticed people advocating for native plants at all kinds of gatherings I attended: at soil science lectures, while volunteering local gardens, and at community forums. At first, I didn’t understand why.

As I stepped into the field with a naturalist lens, I began to observe patterns between street trees and native trees, lawns and fields of wildflowers, channelized streams and free-flowing streams. Besides differences in plant types, maintenance, soil health, noise levels, and canopy, the presence of insects and animals — especially birds — also contrasted. How was it that plants in wild areas were able to thrive without irrigation, amendments, and other inputs?

Native plants, as it turns out, evolved with the landscape for thousands of years. Naturally stronger and resilient, they are well-adapted to this region’s climate — and will continue to adapt appropriately with time. As I dug deeper, I was fascinated to learn that many of these plants provide nutrient-rich food and medicine for humans, as they did and still do for many Indigenous peoples.

In becoming more acquainted with native plants, I began to fall in love with their function, beauty, and aromas — all while developing a deeper appreciation for the land around me.

Change of Plan

The original intention of our garden was to transform the front lawn into a mini food forest — for production of typical fruits and vegetables. It’s still part of the plan. But given our newfound respect for plants local to this region, my husband and I now aspire to dedicate at least half of the space for native plants.

Some will give us food and medicine, and all will serve to provide important habitat for the diversity of wildlife that live with us.

Stunning Blooms and Scents

While we’ve grown a few vegetables like radish and kohlrabi, here are snapshots of several native plants we’ve incorporated into the yard.

It’s been a treat to see how fast they’ve grown. Many are currently flowering, bringing visitors like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica), grown from seed, burst with bright orange hues.
Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea) is about to show hot pink flowers. This plant smells like pineapple.
A resident Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) sips nectar from blossoming Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii).
Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) displays orange flowers that are said to look like monkey faces.
The nectar of Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) is harvested by a bee.
Margarita BOP Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus), one of the newest members of the garden, features purple-blue flowers.

While some plants are grown from seed, I’m grateful to be able to source from a variety of Los Angeles-based native plant nurseries, like Theodore Payne Foundation, Hahamongna Nursery, and Hardy Californians.

For those in California, Calscape is a wonderful resource for learning about native California plant species and finding local nurseries.

For those looking for help in identifying plants and animals around them, I highly recommend the free app iNaturalist. You’ll get to join a community of naturalists who can help ID your photos. Plus, everything you post will become data for scientists working to better understand and protect our natural spaces.

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Jen Ho

Jen Ho

Soil & climate action advocate. Former corporate marketer. On Tongva land.