I am interested in replacing much of the lawn in our front and back yards with some kind of native plant landscape. Native plants have many benefits. For the most part, you don't have to water them or fertilize them. They attract native insects and animals. They are easy to grow since they have adapted to the climate over thousands of years.
Until yesterday, it has been a struggle for me to figure out which plants in the local nurseries are really native. Plants from other Mediterranean areas like Australia and Africa are often grouped together with the California natives. The great thing about shopping at the Theodore Payne nursery is that every single plant and tree they sell is native to Southern California and they have an amazing selection and knowledgeable staff.
While I was there, I bought the excellent book California Native Plants for the Garden. I highly recommend taking this book with you if you visit the Theodore Payne nursery. The plants on display are young and it is difficult to know what they will look like when they mature and flower. However, each plant is marked with its Latin name which can be used to quickly find a complete description and often a picture of the mature plant in the book.
I ended up buying the following plants to start my native plant garden in the very back of my backyard:
Small Leaf Mountain Lilac (Ceanothus Julia Phelps)
California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum foliolosum)
White Sage (Salvia apiana)
'Firecracker' Island Snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa)
On the way home, I stopped at the Sepulveda Garden Center where the LA chapter of the California Native Plant Society was having another native plant sale. There I picked up another Firecracker Island Snapdragon, a Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla), and a packet of California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) seeds.
When I got home, I planted all the new plants and seeds. I can't wait to see how they turn out.