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Achillea millifolium

Achillea millifolium

Salvia officinalis

Culinary Sage
Salvia officinalis

Epilobium 'Select Mattole'

California Fuchsia
Epilobium 'Select Mattole'


About the Concept Design Series

These designs are simple concepts to provide inspiration and ideas. Check with local nurseries, landscapers or other sustainable garden designers to help choose the best plants for your yard.

Plant List

Sustainable Gardening Resource List

For general installation, understanding of sustainable gardens, and other details, read the factsheets in the Green Gardens Healthy Creeks series. Each of those factsheets provides in depth information to guide homeowners through the process of installing sustainable gardens.


Why We Liked This Garden

Showcase Features:

This small front yard focuses on reducing storm water runoff into local creeks, capturing pollutants before they flow into the San Francisco Bay. Instead, the water is allowed to percolate naturally into the soil, recharging groundwater and deep watering the plants in the garden. The three downspouts have been tied into the dry creek bed, keeping water away from the foundation of the house while still keeping it onsite. Beneath the dry creek is a percolation pit filled with drain rock to accommodate larger amounts of water. This is especially important in clay soils where water takes longer to soak into the ground. Soil berms in the yard direct surface water into the creek while also providing aesthetic interest in the garden and improved drainage for plants. Brick pavers on the walkway, set in sand, also allow water to percolate into the soil below instead of draining off the property. This garden meets the requirements of the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Landscape Rebate Program.


Large swaths of California native plants frame the dry creek. Low growing Dwarf Coyote Bush (BP) provides year round greenery while a mixture of White and Terra Cotta Yarrow (illustrated together as AM), inter-seeded with native wildflowers adds a splash of color. The mature size of the plants are given in the plant list. Be sure to keep enough room between plants to allow them to grow without pruning.


Needs full sun, as in south facing garden.

Watering Needs:

All of the plants in this garden have low to very low watering needs. Use tree tubes and bubblers to deep water trees.

Construction Notes for Sustainable Landscaping

  • Use recycled materials when possible, such as reclaimed brick for the pathways, in this design.
  • Set bricks or other pavers over sand and/or baserock instead of mortar to allow water to percolate into the soil.
  • Excavate the base of the creek bed and add 3"- 5" of baserock for improved drainage.
  • Use a variety of pebble sizes and cobble in the creek bed for a more natural look.
  • Downspouts can be connected to solid pipes and redirected into the dry creek or connected to perforated pipes buried underground to allow water to seep slowly into the ground.
  • The point of discharge into the dry creek or perforated pipes should be at least 5’ from the foundation of the home (further if you have a basement).
  • Soil can be mounded in such a way to keep surface runoff onsite.
  • Use soil excavated from the dry creek bed to build mounds, reducing waste.
  • Grade soil so water drains away from the foundation of the house.
  • In and along the dry, use plants that can withstand high amounts of water in the rainy season and drought in the summer to avoid having to apply large amounts of supplemental water in the dry season.