Low-water Yard Attracts People and Wildlife

Low-water Yard Attracts People and Wildlife

One thing Redlands resident Brenda Wolfe definitely didn’t expect after she converted her former landscape, primarily composed of a not-so-healthy lawn and an oleander hedge, to a low-water one. “I’ve learned I need to close the blinds in the bathroom. I’m not used to having people standing out front.  I wasn’t expecting all the people who will stop in front with their little kids and point at the flowers or the insects,” Wolfe said.

Her landscaping also attracted the attention of area municipal water officials who were looking for examples of water efficient designs.  After submitting an application last year, Wolfe was named the local winner of the 2012 Western Waterwise Landscape Contest, chosen to represent the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.

Making the Change

Two things prompted Wolfe to change her yard during the summer of 2011.

  • First, she was having drainage issues. After significant rains, water was pooling in parts of her yard.
  • Second, was her long-time attraction to succulents. “I already liked succulents and I decided I deserved to make the investment.”

Yard Design

Her yard, designed Riverside master gardener and landscape designer Nan Simonsen, features a dry riverbed that fixed the drainage problem. During heavy rains, water now flows out into the riverbed. The oleanders and grass were replaced with a variety of native and non-native drought tolerant plants, especially Wolfe’s beloved succulents and barrel cactus, with ocotillo, salvias (sages) and bottlebrush adding height in a pleasing design.

Attracting wildlife

Another thing Wolfe didn’t expect was the birds and other wildlife flocking to her new yard. “I didn’t know it would attract so many birds. I’ve had so much fun watching the hummingbirds and the finches” she said, adding that she watched one family fledge in a new shrub in front of her house.

The birds were attracted to a multitude of bugs that found a home in the new plants. The ladybug provided a lesson in their lifecycle. “I must have had aphids because they attracted so many ladybugs. I was like a kid watching the ladybugs change from their larval stage. It was fascinating.”

Consider landscape contests

Many areas are now sponsoring landscape contests for water-saving landscapes so check with your city or county. For local residents here in Inland Southern California, see the landscape contest webpage of the Western Municipal Water District.  Applications will be available online and due in early June. We won the prior year – here’s my blog about our experience.

It’s still a good time to plant drought-tolerant plants – or make plans for next year.

About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.


  1. Renee Euchner says:

    I love this yard! We are big native plant folks as well! Native plans make so much more sense, especially in Southern California. (Although I have to confess that I sneak in some Mediterranean, like lavender, when I can.)

    I’ll be checking in again,

    • Thanks for the comment Renee… we have low water plants from a variety of other Mediterranean environments too – and that lavender is so great for blooming nearly nonstop.

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