Pleasanton Weekly

News - April 22, 2011

Pleasanton residents enjoy 'going native'

Neighboring gardeners on tour after replanting their front yards

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Going native seems to be contagious.

Ward and Pat Belding replaced their front lawn on Highland Oaks Drive with native plants several years ago. Now their next-door neighbors, Colleen and Brad Clark, have followed suit, saying they were inspired by the Beldings.

Both homes are on the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour, which includes more than 50 private gardens in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, on Sunday, May 1.

The Beldings are on the tour for the third year.

"I first heard about native plant gardening in 2006," Ward Belding recalled.

When he and Pat went on a couple of garden tours, including Bringing Back the Natives, they were impressed to hear of the advantages.

"These include not having to mow your lawn ever again, not having to put lots of chemical fertilizers and insecticides on it, and even more importantly, cutting your water bill substantially," Belding explained.

Alrie Middlebrook, the owner of the firm that installed their landscaping, will be on hand May 1 to answer questions and sell native plants.

The Beldings' side yard contains their compost bins, and the back yard is dominated by a huge oak tree.

"The back yard has lots of non-native plants," Belding said, which they plan to replace.

Their garden will also be open for viewing May 15 on the annual Valley Humane Society fundraising tour.

Next door, Colleen Clark not only will open her garden to visitors May 1 but will give talks at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. titled, "How to design and install a native plant garden: With research and patience, you can do it too!".

"Gardening is very much a passion of mine," Clark said. "I used to garden side by side with my great-grandmother in Woodside."

They moved into their home almost eight years ago, but other projects came first, including redesigning her front walkway and adding a front porch. They also enlarged the back yard and added a play structure for their five children.

Then three years ago, Colleen got to work on the native plants.

"It took one year to research it," she said with a laugh.

"When you keep it native, you keep the scope smaller," she pointed out, so her choices were narrowed. "Also with natives you don't have to amend the soil."

She said all of her plants are native to California and about 35 percent are native to Alameda County plus she often opted for hybrids because she wanted color. She kept a 40-year-old olive tree in the front yard that was planted by the developer because she wanted it for the birds. Her garden also attracts butterflies, bees and bugs.

"Because we don't use much water, we don't get snails or earwigs," she said.

"It's far less maintenance than grass," she noted, plus her children enjoy playing and working among the native plants far more than on the lawn in back. It also has large rocks for climbing and a rock fountain.

The Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour is free but requires advance registration at [http://www.bringingbackthenatives.net/ www.bringingbackthenatives.net] to receive a booklet with the addresses of all the homes. The Belding home, 7703 Highland Oaks Drive, will serve as a same-day registration site for those who decide to go at the last minute.

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