One always starts with a weed patch, and job #1 is to eliminate the weeds. I use a combination of hand pulling and herbicide in small amounts. The photos below show a couple of different areas of my back yard after I had removed the weeds and other unwanted plants.
The top photo is an area that used to have 2 gigantic ficus trees. The combination of their shading and leaf drop effectively prevented anything else from growing there. So I had them taken out, including all their roots. It was a huge job but well worth it.
The middle photo is the area underneath my Santa Cruz Island Ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus sspl. asplenifolius). I had never done anything with this area and I decided it was time to add an understory of California Channel Island species.
In the bottom photo is an area that used to have European Rosemary and Lavender. I cleared them out, and you can see some of the plants that I am ready to put in the ground. There is also a boardwalk that I later removed.
I did this preparatory work in the summer of 2012 so that I could do my planting in Fall/Winter which I believe is the best time to plant natives. Below is the next phase with new plants in the ground.
The upper photo shows a 15 gal. "Dr. Hurd" manzanita, an Indian Mallow (Abutilon palmeri), a couple of Penstemon spectabilis, a Cobwebby Thistle (Cirsium occidentale), a Catalina Island Lilac (Ceanothus arboreus), a Heart Leaf Penstemon (Keckiella cordifolia), and a number of annuals from seed.
In the Ironwood understory (lower 2 photos) I used Giant Coreposis (Leptosyne gigantea), Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat (Eriogonum arborescens), St. Catherine's Lace (Eriogonum giganteum), Santa Barbara Island Liveforever (Dudleya traskiae) and miscellaneous others.
In the area next to the house I planted Indian Mallow (Abutilon palmeri), Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), Chaparral Snapdragon (Keckiella antirrinhoides), and more annuals from seed.
The next set of photos shows everything at its peak in March-April.
Now in mid-May I am in the process of deadheading the perennials in the hope that they might bloom again. Most of the annuals have gone to seed and I am collecting the seeds to spread around for next year. There are still blooms on Giant-flowered Phacelia (Phacelia grandiflora), Botta's Clarkia (Clarkia bottae), and Sea Dahlia (Leptosyne maritima).