Lucie Stern Demonstration Garden

What you do in your garden, from applying fertilizer to planting a lawn, affects the Bay. This garden demonstrates environmentally friendly landscaping using Bay-Friendly practices – a holistic approach that works in harmony with the San Francisco Bay Watershed. 

Bay-Friendly Principles incorporate the fundamentals of water conservation, zero waste, greenhouse gas reduction, energy conservation and storm water runoff pollution prevention. These practices help the community and City achieve goals for sustainability.

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Aesthetically Pleasing and Healthy Space
Demonstrating Sustainable Landscaping Practices
Collaborative Effort


The Lucie Stern Demonstration Garden is located at Lucie Stern Community Center, adjacent to the Girl Scout House at 1120 Hopkins Avenue, Palo Alto.

Aesthetically Pleasing and Healthy Space

This garden is a beautiful, healthy space for the whole community to enjoy. It is a space to sit and relax, view the native wildlife and appreciate the environmentally conscientious nature of its design.

The garden was designed so that there is always something of interest, whether it is the springtime wildflowers, the subtle summer bloom of the buckwheat, the bright orange flowers in the fall of the fuchsia or the pink pendulous flowers of the currant in winter. The plants were also sited to take into account their preferred habitat conditions. If you can select the right plant for the right place, you can minimize the amount of extra water and soil amendments needed to have a successful garden.

California Poppies and Lupine

California Fuchsia

Flowering Currant

The landscape design is shown below. It can be downloaded to help visitors to the garden identify individual plants of interest. It can also be used or adapted for home gardens.

The Plant List provides the botanical and common names for all of the plants in the garden. Included in the plant list is information on what type of exposure each plant likes (sun, part-shade or shade), and notes on their preferred habitat (soil and water conditions). The plants that prefer good drainage are from chaparral regions and are used to sloped and dry conditions. In the demonstration garden, they are the ones that are on the berm, or mound. This berm helps the water run away from the roots so that they don’t rot thereby mimicking their natural habitat. The plants that prefer moister conditions are in lower parts of the garden where water will collect in the winter. These plants are still relatively drought-tolerant but will look a little better with occasional summer water. There are also plants that can tolerate more shade and would be appropriate to place under trees (as is done in the demonstration garden) or under roof overhangs.

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Demonstrating Sustainable Landscaping Practices

This garden demonstrates environmentally friendly landscaping using Bay-Friendly practices. The information below shows examples of how this garden addresses the 7 Principles of Bay-Friendly Landscaping & Gardening. Click here to learn more about the 7 Principles.

Landscape Locally

Plants chosen for this garden are native to the San Francisco Bay Area and are adapted to our soil and climate conditions.

Nurture the Soil

The garden’s soil was amended with compost before planting. The 3” mulch layer protects it from compaction, controls weeds, helps retain moisture and feeds the soil.

Create Wildlife Habitat

Local native plants provide food and shelter to beneficial insects and birds.

Landscape for Less to the Landfill

Plants were selected to fit their space without mowing or excessive pruning. The garden’s bench and sign were built from a redwood tree in Palo Alto that needed to be removed for safety concerns.

Conserve Water

Compost and mulch help retain moisture in the soil. The plants are all adapted to summer dry climates – most survive without added water once established. A weather-based irrigation controller provides supplemental irrigation water as needed. Once the plants mature and are fully established, the garden will need water only once every 2 to 3 weeks in the dry season.

Conserve Energy

The garden plants and materials were sourced locally, reducing the energy intensity required for transportation. Plants were raised at the Acterra nursery in Palo Alto. Garden materials were purchased locally or reused from local materials. Maintenance will require minimal or no use of gas powered tools.

Protect Water & Air Quality

No pesticides or synthetic fertilizers are used in the garden. This keeps rainwater runoff clean as it drains to creeks and the Bay. The garden path is permeable, which decreases runoff and improves groundwater recharge.

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Collaborative Effort

This garden is a project of the City of Palo Alto employee Green Team, created in partnership with the local nonprofit Acterra. It is a collaborative effort between multiple City Departments and Acterra, with sponsorship from Lyngso Garden Materials, the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, EarthCare Landscaping, the Bay-Friendly Landscaping and Gardening Coalition and individual members of the community.

In a regional collaborative effort, this garden will be linked with several others throughout Santa Clara County to demonstrate a variety of sustainable landscaping practices. The gardens will host workshops, share an informative website and have design templates available to anyone who wishes to duplicate the designs.

Garden Sponsors:

City of Palo Alto Utilities
Zero Waste Palo Alto
Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency
Bay-Friendly Landscaping and Gardening Coalition
California Native Plant Society, Santa Clara Valley chapter
EarthCare Landscaping
Lyngso Garden Materials

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Last Updated: Oct 3, 2017