Ward and Pat Belding, who live on Highland Oaks Drive, got the bug to go native in their garden after attending the tour in 2007. They hired Middlebrook Gardens to design and install a low-water, low-maintenance garden in place of their water- and energy-demanding lawn. The Beldings display their "before" and "after" water bills to show how effectively their new garden reduces the need for water, even in the hot Pleasanton summers.
Plus there are other advantages, Ward Belding explained.
"These include not having to mow your lawn ever again, and not having to put lots of chemical fertilizers and insecticides on it," he said.
The Beldings' yard is also designed to attract wildlife, with a burbling fountain near the front door and two more in the back yard where a massive oak spreads its branches. The native fuchsia attracts hummingbirds, while bees buzz along the buckwheats, sages and California lilacs.
The Belding yard, in turn, inspired Colleen Clark, who lives in the corner house next door to them, and she installed her garden in 2010 after several years of planning.
She thought -- correctly -- that her five young children would like to spend time in a native plant garden and designed it with them in mind as well as to be drought-tolerant, low maintenance and attractive to birds, bees and butterflies.
"It's far less maintenance than grass," she said, plus her children enjoy playing and working among the native plants. It also has large rocks for climbing and a rock fountain.
Colleen will share her gardening adventures in talks at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the topic, "How to design and install a native plant garden: With research and patience, you can do it too!"
The free Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour is from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It covers more than 45 homes with gardens that contain 60% or more native plants. Talks will be offered throughout the day on selecting and caring for native plants, designing a low-maintenance garden, attracting butterflies, birds and bees, and gardening without pesticides.
Visitors must register at www.bringingbackthenatives.net to receive guides to the participating gardens, and the event is expected to fill up with more than 7,000 people. A dozen locations will host Native Plant Sale Extravaganzas on both Saturday and Sunday.
Work the tour
Volunteers are needed to greet participants and answer questions during this year's Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour on May 6. Benefits include Garden Soirees of tour gardens, a pre-tour meeting with the owner and a Garden Tour T-shirt. Check out www.bringingbackthenatives.net to choose your preferred garden and to volunteer.