Going Native

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LA is number one again! The entire city of Los Angeles has just been designated a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation and LA is the largest city in the US to receive that status. Why? We are located in a biodiversity hotspot meaning we support a wide variety of life while facing environmental threats. That designation only helps to promote biodiversity programs in the LA area. And boy, oh boy, is that fantastic news for nature lovers.

On May 17, 2021, The LA Times posted an article stating: “California has more types of native plants than any other state in the U.S., a third of which are found nowhere else on Earth.” The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says, “California hosts approximately 6,500 species, subspecies, and varieties of native plants and many animal species depend on these native plants for food and shelter.” This is just the tip of the iceberg as to the importance and urgency of “Going Native” in Los Angeles.

The LA Times also enlightened their readers about the intrinsic value of native plants. “They are the foundation of our ecosystem, they support our native animal species like the monarch butterfly, and they are part of California’s rich Indigenous peoples history.” This article also highlights the seven most important native plants residing here and why they are so vital to our ecosystem.  In a nutshell, that’s the reason I post a native plant for my cover photo in my LA Life Three Tomatoes Newsletter.  “…native plants are naturally drought tolerant, help support local ecosystems and provide habitats for birds, bees and butterflies.”, or  so says Be Water Wise.Com. Not only are native plants drought tolerant once established  and provide habitats for our wildlife but they are much easier to maintain, keep our environment healthy, provide us with renewable material, and they have developed their own defenses against pests and diseases which keeps your garden toxic free, and last but not least… beneficial insects have a strong attraction to native plants. What? Why would any insect, besides bees, be vital to a native plant? Well, the good bugs or native bugs and birds help keep the “bad bugs” and those pesky persistent mosquitos away.  Hallelujah!

Over the last few years, the hubby and my son have become keenly aware of the loveliness and the incredible importance of native plants (perhaps…a little obsessed), which is why we invested time, energy, and money into transitioning our garden from a drought tolerant garden to 80% native. As in life, gardens go through many journeys, and I am very proud that we made that transition during the pandemic. With the daily tragedies mounting every day, working in the garden, and giving a home to nurturing native plants was a comfort and reminded us just how lucky we were to be healthy and have a garden. 

So many life lessons are learned there, and so often revelations occur in a garden, no matter what the size. Mine has always been a peaceful zone along with providing lots of relaxation and joy. Now our garden is a source for good beyond our yard.

Even just one native plant in the garden helps to create a bridge to nearby wildlands and can make a difference for the world and future generations. Native plants can also work in pots on an apartment balcony. If you don’t have a balcony, you could mention to your building’s management the benefits of native plants and how including them in their landscaping will save time and money on their maintenance and water bills.  If there is a park nearby, you can make the same request to LA County Parks and Recreation .

If you want to learn more or purchase a native plant, “The Theodore Payne Foundation”, in my humble opinion, is the number one garden nursery resource for purchasing and number one in educating the public on the benefits of  native plants in the Southern California area as well as the “How To” in nurturing and maintaining them.

The Theodore Payne Foundation (TPF) is a non-profit education center and full-service native plant nursery — open to the public year-round and offering, over the course of 1 year, more than 800 different native plant species and cultivars, as well as 200 kinds of native plant seeds. It is the largest retail nursery in Los Angeles County devoted exclusively to native plants with gardening and natural science classes. We have found it is the perfect place to start a native plant journey.

I love being a small part of the solution to saving our native landscape, local wildlife and making a baby step in helping our planet to survive climate change.  Not only that, but native plants are just exquisitely beautiful, especially when they bloom.  They contain the magnificent spirit of Los Angeles in every leaf and flower and hold the key to the nature around us thriving.  And if the birds and the bees are happy then my heart is full. So, let’s go native, Tomatoes!


  • The Three Tomatoes LA Life editor, Debbie Zipp is your friendly guide to the best of everything in LA with a tomato style perspective. Debbie is an actor, producer, and writer. She is best known for her recurring role as Donna on the CBS series "Murder She Wrote" starring Angela Lansbury. She has had many other TV and stage roles and has starred in over 300 national TV commercials. As head of In The Trenches Productions, Debbie produced, directed, acted in many short films for her company. Her book, The Aspiring Actor's Handbook: What Seasoned Actors Wish They Had Known was recently published. Buy her book: The Aspiring Actor's Handbook: What Seasoned Actors Wish They Had Known

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