Chris’s Sunnyside Habitat Garden

Christine Okon got help from two landscape artists as she designed her steep yard into a wildlife friendly and beautiful place

When Started: Started in November 2014 under the guidance of Art-Ecology (Amber Hasselbring) and San Francisco Landscapes (Brett Stephens).

Neighborhood: Sunnyside, SF

Notable Features: The garden covers 900 sq. ft. on an upward slope dominated by two big Coastal Redwoods that provide shade to the upper area, with a sunnier patch at lower ground. Soil is primarily clay although redwood duff creates a natural mulch that has enriched the soil under the trees. Plants that have been thriving in the shade are Ribes, Osoberry, Redwood Sorrel, Bee Plant, Heuchera, Woodland Strawberry, Western Sword Fern. In the sunny area, Silver Lupine, Douglas Iris, Twinberry, Toyon, and California Fuchsia seem happy.

Favorite Plants: Ribes (Pink Flowering and Chaparral), Silver Lupine, CA Fuchsia, Osoberry, Twinberry, Columbine. I’m hoping for berries to attract more birds like Cedar Waxwings.

Wildlife: My night vision Trailcam has captured all sorts of mammals (skunks, possums, raccoons, coyote, and of course squirrels) and birds like Chestnut Backed Chickadee, Junco, House Finch, Sparrow (Golden Crowned, White Crowned, Fox, House, Song); Townsend’s Warbler, Pygmy Nuthatch, American Crow, Northern Flicker, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, CA Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Cooper’s Hawk, CA Scrub Jay, Anna’s Hummingbird and more. All are welcome!

Favorite Thing: I love that it has become habitat and haven for so many creatures, especially bees and butterflies but also worms!

Biggest Challenge: The steep and uneven slope makes walking and maintenance difficult, especially at the far back of the garden. And, although I love squirrels, they have a way of taking over the space from birds like chickadees when they try to nest.

Any Advice? Pick a spot and get a native or two (or more) that will most likely thrive there. Start with one plant and observe it through the seasons, and add more to taste 🙂