San Diego Garden Tour with Calscape Creator Dennis Mudd

The hills and canyons around San Diego are tough,  dry terrain, but hundreds of amazing native plant species thrive nonetheless. Although rugged, these hills are home to delicate flowers like Weed’s mariposa lilymission manzanita, and great horned owls. Dennis Mudd, founder of MusicMatch and Slacker Radio, wanted to recreate this same natural beauty on his six-acre property — a desire that ultimately ignited his passion to help Californians restore nature one garden at a time.

A California native plant oasis

Located in Poway, Mudd’s garden is an inspiring example of a California native garden at its best. With more than 120 types of plants, simulated creeks, rain water catchbasins, the Mudd property is not only a beautiful oasis for humans, it’s also home to many types of pollinators and more than 40 species of birds, including a resident family of Great Horned Owls.

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But it wasn’t easy at first. Like many drought-conscious Californians, Mudd launched his landscape project 12 years ago using commonly sold low-water imports like rock rose, butterfly bush, and kangaroo pods. Yet those didn’t get him any closer to the native landscapes he saw while mountain biking on the trails near his home. He then invested in a wide range of California natives, but within five years, many were dead.

Think Locally

Although Mudd was on the right track , most of the California natives he initially used weren’t native to his location. And that was Mudd’s light bulb moment.

In a state as biologically and geologically diverse as California, locality matters. What grows in the loamy soil of the Sacramento River Delta is bound to be vastly different than the arid hillsides of Southern California. And yet, many gardening enthusiasts make the same mistake — planting California natives that may be totally inappropriate to a specific region.

It was this understanding that inspired Mudd to create Calscape, a powerful garden-planning tool for laypeople and professionals alike that lets users discover which plants are truly native to where they live.  Using Calscape, people can search multiple criteria to build plant lists for their gardens, see which nurseries carry those plants and get tips for growing and cultivation. The site features a database of nearly 7,000 California native plant species with maps based on more than 2 million GPS field observations from the Consortium of California Herbaria.

Making it Easy to Grow Native

With a fresh round of recent updates, Calscape is more powerful and easy-to-use than ever:

  • Advanced Search — This new feature allows you to search by multiple criteria at once, layering in queries for location, plant type, water needs, size, fragrance, flower color and more! You can even select specific nurseries to quickly see where your plants are available.
  • “Quick Shop” — Now, you can add plants to your list without opening a new page. Build a plant list in less than two minutes!
  • Mobile Friendly — Calscape is now as easy to use by phone and tablet as on your desktop. Use it to look up plants at the nursery or reference your plant list while you shop.
  • Climate Modeling on Range Maps — Bringing more data to the tool, plant ranges are based on the actual observations for each plant, as well as the annual rainfall range, summer rainfall, coldest month temperature and hottest month temperature ranges for each plant in each Jepson bioregion.
  • Sign and Label Printing — Print with QR codes for any Calscape plant list with easy spreadsheet export functionality. Let’s you easily makes sign for each plant in the plant list, as well as comprehensive plant list.



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Have you used Calscape for your garden? We’d love to hear your story! Contact us at

The Sierra Foothills chapter is offering a nice fall tour of a member garden

sierra foothills oak

Photo courtesy CNPS Sierra Foothills chapter website.

On September 28, between 1:00 and 3:00, the Sierra Foothills chapter has a garden tour in Sonora. It will be held just before their October Plant Sale.

This is a local garden that has incorporated natives with non-natives. Deana Corso is graciously opening up her beautiful Phoenix Lake garden for a guided tour. Her garden has been on the Master Gardener’s Annual Tour twice over the past ten years. This is a great opportunity to get ideas for planting natives in your own garden. During the tour, members will talk about the natives growing throughout her expansive garden. Don’t miss this opportunity to see, in person, natives growing amongst oaks in a garden setting. If you have any questions email Stephanie at

Directions : 15575 Buena Vista Avenida, Sonora
From Sonora: Hwy 108, take Hess Ave, LEFT on Hess; RIGHT onto Phoenix Lake Road
Turn LEFT on De Los Portales, at the main, Phoenix Lake entrance
RIGHT onto Paseo De Los Robles; RIGHT onto Buena Vista Avenida
Park in turn about beyond driveway

I love these one-garden tours – they can be a very in-depth appreciation of all of the challenges that go into the making of a garden. Talking to owners about how and why and when they made decisions about their garden are extremely helpful.


The Garden Host Perspective

Al Kyte at the East Bay Wilds Nursery talking about his long-standing love of native plant gardening

Al Kyte at the East Bay Wilds Nursery talking about his long-standing love of native plant gardening

Al and Barbara Kyte are long-term native plant gardeners. CNPS Horticulture Director Susan Krzywicki met Al recently at Pete Veilleux’s East Bay Wilds Nursery and was delighted to hear that he was so involved in this garden tour as well. She shared photos from Al’s garden on an earlier blog post, so you can see his own accomplishments.

‘Garden Host’ Perspective to 2014 ‘Bringing Back The NativesTour
Al Kyte

In my nine years as “garden host”on the Bringing Back The Natives tour, I consider this year’s tour as most closely approaching the “ideal”tour experience I have seen yet. Continue reading