Biodiversity Starts Here


I am just so very grateful for your continued reading of our emails and the new followers!  Mailchimp says we added 10 new folks to this list since 2 weeks ago.  That’s wonderful – welcome.  

Although I call California my home and adore this state, I getaway to Hawaii as much as I can.  Slower pace, beautiful culture and the water… This week I got to travel to the big island of Hawaii.  I did a lot of thinking about biodiversity there.  The beautiful ecosystem of the Hawaiian islands was decimated by European contact but slowly degraded since the first humans landed 700 years ago. 

“Although comprising less than 0.2 percent of the land area of the United States, the Hawaiian Islands hold more than 30 percent of the nation’s federally listed species, including 317 taxa of plants and animals listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as endangered or threatened, 12 taxa proposed as endangered and 105 taxa as candidates for listing. Unique and varied habitats are also found across the islands. As a result, Hawaii presents both an opportunity and a challenge for conservation.” (

Although I tried to relax and not work, I thought a lot  about urban conservation in Hawaii just like we are creating here.  The fact is, we have developed housing and cities and destroyed ecosystems.  I truly believe that conservation is achieved by protecting our untouched lands AND redeveloping with natives in the urban environment.  That’s why we created the Habitat Corridor Project –  to preserve biodiversity.  We are so grateful for conservation organizations whose mission focuses on wildlands, but we all can make a huge difference in our own yards by planting natives.  I didn’t let myself dive into native plant growers in Hawaii, However; we have followers from all over the country.  I’m excited to support you in finding your native plants where you are.  Send me an email and let me help you find nurseries and resources.  

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Happy Friday! 


I have to admit – I am not really a bird person.  It sounds terrible to say since our .org is so passionate about creating biodiverse gardens and supporting LIFE in the urban landscape. But no, I don’t really know many of the birds that visit our habitat gardens or flitter by on the many hikes I’ve been on.  I was a plant junky and didn’t notice much else but the beautiful California native plants. In the past couple of years, Nancy our co-founder opened my eyes to butterflies and native bees in the garden. Still birds – not so much.

Yesterday, as a part of the naturalist training I’m participating in, I got to go on my first bird walk.  I’d always judged these groups of binocular wearing enthusiasts – how boring I thought as they quietly watch those tiny little birds.  It was fascinating!  Mostly because of our enthusiastic leader Gordon Beebe (go on one of his bird walks, you’ll understand- see below).  I learned a ton about birds and their calls – walking up at the front next to him as I have with botanists in the past.  Gordon would name off birds as we walked along chatting only from the subtlest hints in little songs and calls! Fun one:  if you hear what sounds like a kitten bird sound while hiking in the Oak Woodland it is most likely a Red-chested Sapsucker. These amazing little woodpeckers are responsible for those little horizontal lines of holes in tree trunks (See the photo above).  The woodpeckers then go back and eat what they’ve farmed as the sap runs catching a random bug stuck in the sap for a little extra protein. They also love to work apple trees in urban landscapes.

So, using my new birding skills, this morning walking the dog I stopped and listened. The birds were super active.  It sounded like a hundred different calls – I couldn’t see a bird! I may only know one or two birds today but I intend to add more. This morning I saw a robin, bluebird, and a hawk.  I can’t wait to learn all of the birds that are taking advantage of our demonstration gardens. 

Back to work, I am pretty proud of the projects we have brewing and the partnerships we have created.  One of our newest is the Sonoma Ecology Center (  We are working closely with them and the UC Master Gardeners to create a set of workshops that dive deep into the idea of a California landscape garden and what is a truly resilient landscape. Hop on over to their website and check them out.  This collaboration has also led me to think about the broader and systemic way we need to look at our gardens.  Ellie Insley, one of the Sonoma Ecology Center board members, has written an insightful article about the need to be mindful in the landscape from March 1 and August 31st due to bird nesting habits.  Please read the text below.

If you are local to Sonoma County please come to our first Sebastopol Corridor Project walking tour, Monday at 2 pm. As we watch these gardens through the seasons we will all learn about who lives there and what they attract.  We will try a little birding as well. I’d love to see you in person.


Executive Director, the Habitat Corridor Project
503(c) Nonprofit Organization EIN: 84-4353404

[email protected]

Article by Ellie Insley of the Sonoma Ecology Center
Now is the time to prepare for this year’s fire season by doing defensible space vegetation management. Yes, now, in the middle of winter, before March 1 is the best time! Beginning in early March birds will be nesting and breeding and it’s best not to disturb them.

There are other good reasons to prune in the winter season: many plants are dormant, the best time for pruning; and it’s cool out, so the work is more pleasant than in summer.

But most important – birds such as quail, goldfinch, junco, and others nest on the ground or in the shrubs and tall grasses. If you look closely, you’ll find towhee nests in low forks (3-12’ high) in shrubs or small trees – live oak, Ceanothus, coffeeberry, even poison oak, and many ornamentals. So please don’t remove vegetation when nesting is in full swing March through August! 

Home hardening is the most effective thing you can do to protect your house from fire, along with vegetation management. Many government entities require that homeowners maintain defensible space in the area within 100’ of the home. The goal is to interrupt a fire as it approaches the home by removing combustible materials, dead vegetation, and ladder fuels. So pruning dead branches from trees and shrubs, increasing vertical spacing between shrubs and lower limbs of trees, and creating islands of shrubs with space between to interrupt the movement of fire is key. 

Remember- Most birds nest from March 1-August 31. Vegetation removal can be very disruptive during bird breeding season, so get it done early. Many birds are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and it’s illegal to damage or remove bird nests.

Here’s an excerpt from Cornell Labs, a preeminent source of bird research about California quail nesting: “Female California Quail typically hide their nets on the ground amid grasses or at the bases of shrubs or trees. The nest is usually a shallow depression lined with stems and grasses, and often placed near vegetation or rocks for protection. Nests range from 5-7 inches across and 1-2 inches deep.” Let’s provide a welcome home for the quail, our state bird, by respectfully timing our fire-wise vegetation management.

Guidance on tree care and bird nesting:

Want to know more right now? Head to these sites.

CalFlora database 
Audobon Society
Our Website:
Gordon Beebe (
Bird Rescue Center:


(We always start with a site tour. Ask a million questions – we love that)

  • Workdays at the Sonoma County Living Learning Landscapes: Every Friday in January and February from 10-12 (Except Holidays and Rain Storms). Get your hands in the dirt and learn about these exciting new demonstration gardens. Contact [email protected] and let us know you will come just in case we cancel. Meet at 425 Elliott Street, Santa Rosa.


  • Last Monday at the Sebastopol Habitat Corridor Project Tour  – 2 pm – January 27th join us for our inaugural tour. Finish up your month with us as we visit these delightful gardens and watch them wake up as the season’s change. Meet at 2 pm in front of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts 282 S High St, Sebastopol, CA 95472 for a fun walking/strolling (or any way you get around) tour of our Sebastopol Corridor Project. 


Summertime around here at Habitat Corridor Projects are busy! We have installed quite a few wonderful demonstration gardens and are trying to find ways to get more folks switching their water thirsty boring traditional gardens over to vibrant and biodiverse California native ones. We are so excited to share 8 sets of plans including irrigation and fun ways to save water at our project. Check out that website too.

Right now we are tending the demonstration gardens which means weeding, weeding, weeding. It’s so great we had such a wet winter and our plants are so happy but so are the weeds. We could use some help if you are interested in a fun way to learn, get your workout on, and meet some really fun people. Our gardening group has SUCH a wealth of information between them – I look forward to the workdays. Right now they are every Friday at different spots. email me april@habitatcorridorproject to find out more!

Why native plants?

It is all about biodiversity- a big word that drives all of our work here at the Habitat Corridor Project.  Yes,there are plants from other places in the world that are great for saving water and providing nectar for non-native pollinators; however, co-evolution of California’s flora with its fauna is one of the most compelling reasons for growing California native plants in your garden and supporting their continued presence in our urban environment.

Though many commonly used garden plants can supply nectar to bees, butterflies, and other insects- native plants do it just right - the right timing, the right nutritional content, the right floral structure.  They have done this for a long, long time and it is important to protect their place in our urban landscapes.

We have a California native for every one of your favorites:

Lavender - use Salvia clevelandii (California Sage)

Privet or other edging shrubs - use our beautiful Rhamnus californica (Coffeeberry)

Camellia - use Ribes sanguineum (Flowering Currant)

Fountain Grass - use Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass) or California Wild Rye (Leymus condensatus)

Please email us with your plant and we will find a California native substitute:)  [email protected]

SRJC Design Templates and Demonstration Gardens – Breaking Ground!

Enjoy our newest set of plans appropriate to many regions in California but designed specifically for Sonoma County.
1. Gardening under the Oaks is easy and drought tolerant with the right plant choices and care not to water in the summer
2. Perennial Meadow – Perennial bunch grasses and flowering shrubs create a gorgeous garden full of habitat
3. Fire Safe Landscape – protect your home with defensible space and fire resistant plants
4. Extremes of Drought Tolerance: Desert and Coastal Plant Communities – Gardening by plant community is important because these plants have evolved together.  West of Hwy 101 many can use the coastal plant community East desert plants are well adapted to heat and no water for long periods of time.

Designing for California

The plants of California can fit in any design style from English Cottage Garden to Modern.  We at the Habitat Corridor Project don’t stick to one style but a few elements are consistently in our gardens.

  1.  Boulders – big ones, flat ones to hold water for pollinators, small ones for swales and pathways.  Mossy, smooth, granite, sandstone – we love them all.
  2. Swales – keep water on site any way you can.  California only gets seasonal rainfall so we try to make it an experience in the garden as well as sink it in to recharge the aquifer.  Infiltration basins are an easy way to create a rain garden.  Start with 2-4′ hole, add drain rock to about 4″ below existing soil level, then add some big boulders and rocks to make it pretty on top.  We like to tie in down spouts off the roof or put these at the end of a swale.  Add water loving native plants like Juncus and Equisetum.
  3. Plant masses – even in a small garden when you plant 3 or more of the same species of plant together it creates more habitat and soothes the eye creating an elegant garden even in a small space.  Some favorites:  Mass Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass) with Salvia clevelandii (Cleveland’s Sage) , the tan tone of the grass with the gorgeous dark purple blooms on the sage is a year round pleasure; Mass Festuca californica (California Fescue) with Mimulus aurantiacus (Monkey Flower), the grass provides support and a bit of shelter for the orange flowering perennial.
  4. Less is more – use less species and more of each one to create a professionally composed garden.  Unless you just love plants and have a collector’s garden which we understand too!

    Swales are easy to create by bringing in soil and boulders. This one was just planted. See our Design tab for after.

Fire Safer plans and SRJC plans are all ready for your download and use.

Please use these drought tolerant and California native plant plans to rebuild your landscape hopefully better than before.  A year in the making they are wonderfully biodiverse and suitable to Sonoma County in most areas …. actually in ALL areas!  **


Planting Under Oaks

Extremes of Drought

Whole set of plans with Irrigation

Perennial Meadow

Fire Safer

Fire Safer Landscape based on Mark West and Fountaingrove Sites

** Please see our disclaimer page and call or email us for help with conversion to your specific site.  WE give FREE consultations on site to help with the rebuild.




The Habitat Corridor Project Crew!

Fire Safe Landscapes with California Native Plants

Our community has been hit hard by the Sonoma County Fires and we at the Habitat Corridor Project are devastated to see such loss in our community.  We are working hard to produce some open source plans and information to help create safe landscapes.  California native plants are vital in this rebuilding effort.  Stay tuned for typical residential, large scale residential, and industrial landscapes that are fire resistant and biodiversity rich.

There is hope, we will rebuild – but let’s do it right.


With Love,


April Owens

Executive Director

The Perennial Meadow at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts


It is finally in!  After a long wait for our sheet mulching to work we’ve finally added phase one and phase two plantings.  Just need to give these little plants some time and let them grow over a hopefully wet winter.  There will be additional plantings as we go along and plants become available.


Plants along strip in front of building:

Arctostaphylos ‘Sunset’ (Manzanita)

Baccharis pilularis ‘Twin Peaks’ (Dwarf Coyote Bush)

Calamagrostis foliosa (Feather Reed Grass)

Ceanothus ‘Joyce Coulter’ (California Lilac)

Zauschneria ‘Wayne’s Silver’ (California Fuchsia)

Plants in the Meadow:

Atriplex lentiformis (Salt Bush)

Festuca california (California Fescue)

Juncus patens (Blue Rush)

Monardella villosa ‘Russian River’ (Coyote Mint)

Salvia ‘Winnifred Gillman’

Salvia darcyii (Red Sage)

Sporabolus airoides (Alkali Sacation)

Zauschneria sp. Many Varieties (California Fuchsia)


Hedgerow Shrubs:

Ceanothus ‘Julia Phelps’ (California Lilac)

Myrica californica (Cal. Wax Myrtle)

Rhamnus ‘Mound San Bruno’ (Coffeeberry)