Our property used to be bordered by an overgrown hedge of non-native red-tipped Photinia which was sheared into a rectangle along most of the fenceline. I found it monolithic and oppressive, but it provided us with great privacy from the neighbors, and that made it very difficult to decide to remove it. I fervently wished to replace the artificial-seeming Photinia with beautiful native shrubs which would allow us to feel connected to wilder places, but I was an inexperienced gardener; the idea that I could take responsibility for changing the landscape on such a large scale was new and intimidating. I planted Myrica californica (California Wax Myrtle) and manzanitas in front of the Photinia, but I could see the old hedge was out-competing the new one for space, water, and sunlight. Impulsively, I began whittling away at the Photinia with a hand saw when the mood struck, cutting larger and larger branches away. After a couple of years, my husband and I finally removed the Photinia completely. We gave up the privacy it provided so our new mixed native hedge would have a good start. Now that this is filling in, we can see that it was well worth the trade.
I developed a passion for manzanitas and planted many of them in the new hedgerow. Mixed in are other native species such as Ceanothus, Garrya, Ribes, Physocarpus, Philadelphus, and Holodiscus. The hedge is doubled with two staggered rows of mixed natives.
In the foreground are perennial borders packed with plants that provide habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies. Many species of Eriogonum (buckwheat), Phacelia, and Salvia provide swathes of color and nectar for bees and hummingbirds. The border has a relaxed, naturalistic look, and I keep everything outside it chipped and tidy. This way, I can let the rambunctious flora intertwine, reseed, and move around from year to year and still have it look cared for. I act as referee when the plants clamber over one another or go out of bounds.