Adding western beauties to the Western Addition

Bob Hall’s Western Addition Garden, adding to western biodiversity since 2008


When started: 2008

Neighborhood: Western Addition

Notable features: The birdbath. One of the neighbors was slicing down a palm tree so we grabbed a few of the slices, stacked them up and put a saucer on top. I filled the bath with yellow-eyed grass, native plantain and self-heal but left enough room for the robins and white-crowned sparrows to take a dip. The winds make it a challenge to keep wet.

Favorite plants in your garden: The coffeeberry is such a stalwart. I’ve had favorites like paintbrush and beach sagewort but they’ve passed on to the great garden in the sky so I’m going to go with old, reliable coffeeberry, friend to bee, moth and human alike.

Wildlife seen: I look forward to the orange-crowned warbler making appearances in the garden every spring and fall. We also get California towhee, Northern Mockingbird, Wilson’s warbler, Anna’s hummingbird and the ever-present scrub jay. Raccoons, bumble bees, slender salamanders and fiery skippers can be spotted in you’re paying attention.

Favorite thing about the garden: Pre-pandemic? The best thing was sharing a bottle of wine in the garden with friends. Now, I just enjoy all the scented salvias, SF wallflower, yarrow, Yerba Buena and pink-flowering currants.

Biggest challenge: The ever-diminishing rainfall is a challenge. But the biggest pain is the winter wave of oxalis and the spring annual grasses. I spend hour upon hour yanking those weeds. And from my window I can see them untended and taunting me in my neighbors’ yards.

Advice for beginners? In a perfect world you’d make a plan and install everything all at once and not have to go through the trial and error of trying plants here and there then watching them die. We’re renters so we never wanted to commit the kind of cash required to have a proper garden. Years and years later we’re still spending and still learning. My advice would be to start with some basic foundational plants like coffeeberry, manzanita, Ceanothus and a few smaller perennials like buckwheat, iris and seaside daisy. Then plant some CA native annuals to fill the gaps until you learn more. Or you can just get a plant like hummingbird sage that runs wild and does all the work for you.