When Christine Holland and her husband David Cummings purchased their home in the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park, it had a traditional, lawn-based front and back yard. No longer — today both yards are a showcase of California native plants.
“I started taking horticulture classes six or seven years ago at Foothill,” she said. “That sparked my interest in native plants and native plant restoration.”
“When we moved here, I wanted something more sustainable than traditional grass lawns. It’s worked out well. The backyard is now a sanctuary.”
Christine’s yard will be open to visitors as part of the 10th annual Going Native Garden Tour along with one other Menlo Park home (featured last year on InMenlo). The self-guided tour, scheduled for Saturday, April 21, is free but registration is required and space is limited. About 50 gardens are featured on this year’s Tour, with those north of Sunnyvale open to visitors on Saturday and those south open on Sunday, April 22.
Christine designed the front yard herself, but for the back yard she enlisted the help of landscape designer Andrea Hurd of Mariposa Gardening and Design. Her backyard features a large meadow with a variety of different grasses and sedges, accented by a Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Snow Flurry’ in the center. A meandering step stone path encircles the meadow and provides a way to explore the outskirts of the back yard, all the better to inspect some of the yard’s flowering plants. (Pictured top is a Pacific Coast Hybrid Iris; bottom is Nemophila menziesii, commonly known as baby blue eyes.) Christine has planted non-natives in some pots and also has an edible garden.
“The garden provides a bunch of things,” said Christine. “It’s a habitat for local bees, insects, and animals that live around here. Adjacent to the big valley oak that’s in my neighbor’s backyard, we used plants that create layers to provide cover for birds. This garden is also a welcoming place for people, perfect for sharing with friends.”
A couple of times a year, a maintenance crew comes in to “clean up” the garden but it’s mostly lovingly tended by Christine herself. “I probably spend two or three hours a week maintaining it,” she said. “I like to spend as much time out here as possible.”
Photographs by Frances Freyberg