Menlo Park garden showcased in Going Native Garden Tour on April 17

by Linda Hubbard on April 12, 2011

At this time of year, it’s hard to walk by the Ringold house in Menlo Park and not be cheered — the front yard is ablaze with poppies. They share real estate with other native plants like manzanita, ceanothus, ninebark, and Douglas iris, as well as non-native roses and citrus.

“I love the idea of native plants,” said Jeannette Ringold, who’s lived in Menlo since 1970. “The problem was that when I started, I had little idea about how to take care of them. They do need water, especially the first few years, and they do need pruning.”

The Ringold garden is just one of 70 throughout the Peninsula and Santa Clara Valley that will be on display during the Going Native Garden Tour on Sunday, April 17 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. While admission is free, registration is required, which can be done online. Docents will be available at all sites; there will be plants for sale and master gardeners to exchange ideas with at some sites.

The Ringold yard was transformed in two steps, the first in 1992 when the lawn was torn out, replaced by mostly native plants, and a drip irrigation system was installed. Then they tweaked the yard in 2001, adding more flowers.

“The exposure is good but it is almost too good,” said Jeannette. “It’s not an easy exposure — it’s hard because there is all this sun. So, it’s been trial and error. It’s always a work in progress. There are forever things you want to change — plants that don’t do well or come to the end of their life.”

The Ringold yard has a particularly large amount of different kinds Manzanita, some dating back to 1992. “I think Manzanitas are terrific plants,” Jeannette said.

Like others who decide to integrate or showcase native plants in their yards, the Ringolds were prompted to do so to conserve water. “If you read Wallace Stegner, you know this is really desert country.”

The conservation-minded aren’t always gardening enthusiasts. “It took me awhile to get into gardening,” said Jeannete. “Now I think it’s fun.”

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