As Californians, we are gifted to live in a spectacularly beautiful and special place with its variety of plants, animals, geography, and climates. In fact, California is home to the greatest diversity of plants in the contiguous United States, 1/3 of which grow nowhere else in the world. The state has been recognized as one of 36 global Biodiversity Hotspots to acknowledge this unique bounty of diversity and also warn that it's a threatened region with over 70% of the original habitat lost due to human activities. A deep desire to protect and restore these lands has inspired the work of Earth & Spirit, an ecological and native plant landscape design company for the Bay Area. With a willingness to listen to and understand nature, as well as, passionate drive and thoughtful effort, Earth & Spirit is committed to working towards a future that supports the well-being of all- plants, animals, and humans- in our region and on our planet. Read below to learn more about the benefits of native plants and why they are the basis of ecological garden design. 



Honoring California's Beauty & Diversity Through Native Plant Landscapes











     The environmental challenges we face today including climate change, mass extinction, and pollution of land & water are requiring us to consider and make changes in our lifestyles, societies, and governments to create a healthier future for all. An action with innumerable benefits that people can take right from home is to plant a beautiful native garden.

     At the base of the food web, native plants have unparalleled ability to support local wildlife with essential habitat. Millions of years of co-evolution have resulted in specialized relationships between flora and fauna that ensure each other's continued existence. On the other hand, the ubiquitous lawn and exotic ornamentals of most residential landscapes can be food deserts by breaking the intricate food web. Our yards can be so much more than just beautiful, they can be life-giving too. The health of all- native bees, butterflies, birds...and ultimately humans- begins with thriving populations of native plants. With development constantly encroaching on wild lands, it is imperative that we learn to bring native plants back into our landscapes.

     Native plant gardens have other sustainable features, including conserving precious resources. Long time adaptations allow them to naturally thrive in their local climates and soils with minimal irrigation and no need for toxic pesticides or fertilizers. In California, more than half of residential water is used for gardening and lawn care. However, it's estimated that with a naturally drought tolerant native landscape, outdoor water use can be reduced by 60% or more.

     Tending the garden, people will further be rewarded with nourishment and healing from the many edible and medicinal plants. The native garden truly is a refuge for all. Find peace, calm, beauty, inspiration, curiosity, and wonder as you witness the magic of nature unfold. Interacting with the garden, you will come to recognize the patterns, seasons, and cycles. You will have the invaluable opportunity of remembering and nurturing your own connection with nature.



     Native plants fulfill the needs of many by providing specialized food sources, shelter and nesting sites to local wildlife. The habitat garden is a place where the cycles of life are embraced and nature has a place to be.


     Flowers grow by the plenty on native ground covers, shrubs, and trees. They serve up sought-after nectar and pollen throughout the day for bees, butterflies, and more and still others by night. A bird bath or water feature calls birds in for their daily bathing rituals and invites in a myriad of other guests to quench their thirst.


     Rocks and boulders are warming stations for lizards and butterflies. Berry bushes and flower heads that've gone to seed, become important food sources for birds late in the year. Leaves left to collect on the earth become overwintering sites for many insects (including butterflies). The leaf mulch also offers protection to the soil from the elements. Minimally pruned shrubs and trees give birds shelter throughout the year and safe places to nest come Spring. The habitat garden is a welcoming home for all.



     From berries and nuts to greens and flowers, it's fun to learn about and grow native edibles. Native plants were a main source of nourishment for the native peoples of California for over 10,000 years and it's through the sharing of their traditional knowledge that today we know about many of these edible offerings.

     Most of the foods that we eat daily have origins from afar. While we are lucky to have such diverse options available to us, tasting the local flavors allows us a special opportunity to more intimately know these lands.     

    We do believe growing any of one's own food is a wonderful way to connect with the Earth and to live more sustainably, so we are happy to include commonly grown vegetable plants and fruit trees in our designs, as well.



     Thanks to the native peoples of California, we also have some insight of the medicinal benefits of local plants. Incorporate native herbs in the garden to make an immunity-building tea for flu & colds, a poultice for sore muscles, a soothing balm for irritated skin, and so much more. Note that it's important to follow recommendations for preparations and uses from a trusted resource, just as with any medicine. With that in mind, it is a beautiful gift to find healing amongst the plants growing in our gardens. The Earth provides medicine for our bodies, minds, and spirits. 



     Conserving resources, particularly water and soil, is paramount in our design philosophy. There are many ways to use water more wisely, starting with transitioning away from water-thirsty plants like turf lawn, to native plants that suit California's dry summer environment. Drip irrigation, grey-water systems, pondless water features, rain gardens, and rain-water harvesting tanks are all excellent tools we can include for creating more water-wise gardens.

     To ensure the protection of topsoil, we design to minimize erosion and encourage mulching, composting, chemical-free gardening, and minimal tilling.




© 2019  EARTH & SPIRIT