Sub-shrubs, Shrubs, and Vines
California's native sub-shrubs, shrubs, and vines are an important element in every native plant garden. Used to define the boundaries of the garden, for shade, for privacy, for wind-protection, for habitat, for flowers and fruit, they are a hardy, usually drought-tolerant group that well rewards the gardener. Most garden plantings should begin with establishing the subshrubs, shrubs, and vines.The urban gardener in particular can avoid future headaches by choosing large shrubs rather than forest giants that may interfere with powerlines and home safety, for privacy hedges and windbreaks.
Often with a graceful mounding, wind-filtering growth habit, the sub-shrubs and shrubs of California will give your garden a distinctively Californian feeling. Some hide from the sun as the understory layer in forests, others can handle full sun and lean soil in hillside chaparral, and some do both. Sub-shrubs are a uniquely Californian category - they are taller and woodier than perennials but shorter and more succulent than woody shrubs like wild lilac (Ceanothus). This category has many interesting garden candidates, growing from 2' to 5' tall, like the pitcher sages (Lepechinia calycina), tree mallow, (Lavatera assurgentiflora), and sticky monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus). Some would be classified as perennial wildflowers if not for the persistent woody base - like golden yarrow (Eriophyllum concinnum) and buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum).
Design Tip: Hedges can be made more interesting and ecologically diverse by choosing 3 or 4 species that are similar enough to be harmonious and repeating this grouping throughout the privacy hedge or windbreak. Against this basic pattern, add some deciduous shrubs with showy flowers, such as pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum glutinosum), some sub-shrubs, such as tree mallow (Lavatera assurgentiflora), and some flowering vines.
We recommend growing these large plants by first sowing seed in flats, then transplanting to pots, and from there to the garden.