Irvine Ranch Water District offers interactive online galleries where you can learn about the plants, flowers, grasses and techniques used to create sustainable landscaping like this. Visit rightscaperesources.com.

Native plants offer beauty and savings

Here are some tips and plants to start your water-wise garden

by LORI BASHEDA

The only thing better than having a garden at your house is getting a rebate to have a garden at your house.

The Irvine Ranch Water District administers a turf-removal program on behalf of the state that pays you $2 for every square foot of thirsty lawn you replace with water-wise plants — up to 5,000 square feet.

Water-wise does not mean boring, by the way. I’m a gardener (three times on the Mary Lou Heard Garden Tour) and some of my favorite and most deliciously-scented flowers are California natives. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from. Nurseries also are stocking more and more water-wise plants from countries with similarly dry climates.

Spanish lavender, for instance, is found in Spain, Italy and Greece – and it thrives here.

Many drought-tolerant plants are big bloomers. California lilac comes in shades of blue. Salvias bloom bright pink, purple, red and white. Even roses are considered drought-tolerant.

If you like a country garden vibe, weave in some native grasses. They add texture and movement – even drama – to a garden. They also come in a variety of colors, often changing with the season, and some have showy plumes.

Juan Garcia, who writes the Ask Juan column that you see in the newsletter with your water bill, holds workshops to help newbies navigate their foray into the world of gardening. Making your property prettier isn’t the only benefit, he says.

“You’re creating a little habitat on your property. You’re encouraging natural fauna to come in – birds, bees and butterflies,” Garcia says.

A garden also brings in beneficial insects that eat pests, and it naturally cleans your air.

“It’s healthy,” he says.

For more information on IRWD “RightScape” garden advice, workshops, rebates and more, visit rightscaperesources.com.