Registration for the Fifteenth Annual Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour, which will take place on Sunday, May 5, 2019 from 10:00 to 5:00, is now open. This award-winning tour features thirty seven Alameda and Contra Costa county gardens that are pesticide-free, water conserving, provide habitat for wildlife, and contain 60% or more native plants.

This year four Tour gardens are located in Livermore.

Carol Bruton attended the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour a few times, and liked the look of the native plant gardens she saw. Carol thought planting natives was the right thing to do, found designer Kat Weiss of Kat Weiss Landscape Design through the Tour, and the stage was set. The large front garden on this corner lot was designed by Kat and installed in 2012; Carol liked it so much she had the back done three years later.

A previously hot area in the back garden has been transformed into a shady, cool woodland area with the addition of native trees and shrubs. An inviting seating area in the front garden is enhanced by the burbling drilled rock fountain.

Carol loves the view from inside the house, which she reports is “as attractive as the view from outside”.

In order to keep her cats safe, and also to protect the birds, Carol built a catio—a cat enclosure—in the back yard.

When John Kundert and Stephanie Jones stopped watering their large water-guzzling front lawn during the drought it looked “terrible,” and it was clear that the lawn had to go.

In its place they wanted an attractive and sustainable garden that had a manicured look, and would be able to tolerate future droughts. Kat Weiss designed just that, and these hardworking homeowners sheet mulched, graded, laid the flagstone, built the sinuous dry stacked Utah Sunrise retaining walls, installed the drip irrigation, and planted.

The result—an elegant, spare, and modern garden that is sure to resonate with those seeking an alternative to the cottage garden style. A semi-circular fire pit was incorporated into the front garden to make it easier to share homemade wine at impromptu gatherings with neighbors. A variety of fruit trees—Violette de Bordeaux fig, Granny Smith apple, persimmon, and a pear—were also incorporated into the design.

A $750 rebate provided by Cal Water helped pay for the project. Stephanie reports that water use has dropped 60 to 70% since the garden was transformed.

What Livermore homeowner Teri Henson had was lawn, bottlebrush and rosemary; what she had wanted—for decades—was a garden that would attract birds, bees, and butterflies. The transformed water-conserving garden, designed by Cindy Angers of Ecofolia Design, contains a cheerful array of plants that can tolerate Livermore’s hot summers. These include purple sages and irises and red coral bells, which are accented by Nioyo cobble and a flagstone path. California lilacs ‘Pt. Sierra’ and ‘Valley Violet’, and manzanitas ‘Howard McMinn’ and ‘Carmel Sur’ provide structure and greenery throughout the year.

Teri’s garden was designed to create habitat for local birds. Hummingbirds sip nectar from the manzanitas, evergreen currant, and fuchsia. Bumble, carpenter, and other native bees are drawn to the sages, bush anemone, and California lilac.

Right across the street from Teri Henson’s home is Karen and Ted Crosley’s garden. Karen and Ted “wanted something more interesting than turf”; in 2014 they sheet mulched (covered their small lawn with cardboard and wood chips), then, with guidance from Cindy Angers, transformed their front yard into a colorful, water-conserving garden that contains plants that attract bees, butterflies, and birds.

On Sunday, May 5, the day of the Tour, artwork will be available for sale at a dozen gardens. Music will be performed at seven gardens, and children's activities will be offered at two. Native plants will be available for sale at various locations, and forty talks will be offered on the week-end of the event. Pre-registration for the Tour is required. $10 to purchase the garden guide; donations requested. Volunteers are needed.

Register at, (510) 236-9558

Events at Teri Henson’s and Karen Crosley’s gardens:

Garden Talks: 11:00 “How to create year round color and interest (for people, as well as wildlife—especially birds!) in your garden” by Cindy Angers

2:00 “Landscaping with native plants—how to bring nature back into the city” by Louann Tung

Art in the garden: Barb Johnson of Chrysalis Pottery will have her richly colored clay sunflowers and other garden art available for purchase. Cash or checks only.