San Francisco: Native plants to the rescue

Once neglected, this spot has become the focal point of the neighborhood
Lauren Bonar Swezey

Three years ago, a Corona Heights neighborhood group asked landscape architect Richard Wogisch and his partner Bassam Salameh to care for a slice of public land at Levant and States Streets in San Francisco. Weeds and blackberries had been removed, but most of the plants that replaced them were not thriving because irrigation was sparse.

"I saw this as an opportunity to display gardenworthy natives," says Wogisch, a native-plant enthusiast.

Just before the rainy season of 1999, Wogisch and Salameh planted the area. On the upper slope, they used blue-eyed grass, bush anemone, California fescue, Catalina ironwood, checkerbloom, coast live oak, Pacific Coast iris, purple needle grass, and tufted hair grass. To keep these plants thriving, they installed an irrigation system.

The lower slope, which survives on winter rainfall alone, is planted with Arctostaphylos, Cleveland sage, Ceanothus 'Dark Star', flannel bush, California fuchsia, and California poppy. Wogisch and Salameh cut back seed heads in early summer and trim plants in winter.

The once-neglected area is now a beautiful tapestry of colorful native plants ― and is the hit of the neighborhood.