Who grows native plants in your neighborhood?

The answer can be surprising - it's not just fringe environmentalists and aged hippies. Just across the street from where I work is Los Angeles Air Force Base. The public perception of large institutions like the AF is that they are inflexible juggernauts and are the least likely to change their ways. That perception isn't consistent with their forward thinking planting scheme; so far as I can tell they now lead the area in use of California natives for landscaping.

I'm nervous about taking pictures due to perceived security breaches, so I'll just describe what I saw today. I had kept close tabs on the installation of natives earlier in the year at the end of spring / beginning of summer and I have to say that I didn't predict a high survival rate. However, they've managed to nurse many of the plants through the summer and most are really looking healthy now.

Along Douglas St outside the AFB they have planted a prostrate form of Atemesia (California sagebrush, probably 'Canyon Gray') in the front of some fairly wide beds. Behind it is Mimulus (Monkeyflower), with a shrub that I don't recognize with 100% certainty behind the Mimulus, but which looks native. A native iris cultivar is used at the Douglas street entrance. Inside the AFB I saw Manzanita, Island snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa), Coffeeberry (Rhamnus of some sort), Woolly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum), two salvias (one low and one that looked like clevelandii), and some others that I don't recall now or couldn't instantly identify.

There's still plenty of exotic plants on the AFB, but they've taken a huge step away from the typical manicured lawns that you see used by default at the other corporate offices around here*. If the Air Force can lead the way, perhaps others will follow.

*Actually, two companies have a large unmown grass berm around their campus perimeter which looks good year round. It's probably a commercial red fescue. However, inside the grounds of these companies it's business as usual with large tracts of impermeable hardscape, few trees, mostly exotics, and lots of lawn.


  1. Wouldn't it be great if they put in raised beds in place of lawns? We can tend our veggie beds on lunch break!

  2. That would be spectacular. My less ambitious vision is of native grasses waving in the breeze all around the perimeters of our buildings.

    In fact, pretty much everywhere I see lawn I think how much better it would be if it were native bunch grasses.