Native Plantings in Jeffrey Fontana Park
A beautiful selection of mature and new native plant gardens can be found in Jeffry Fontana Park in San Jose. Wandering through the park, you will find plants from both northern and southern California in a variety of settings.
This is the perfect place to view plants that grow well in San Jose and find ideas for your own gardens.
From buckwheats to monkeyflowers to California fuschias, you’ll see something in bloom year-round. Many of the plants are labelled, making it easy to identify your favorites.
The two original berms were planted in 2011 as an alternative landscape feature to tall trees under PG&E power transmission lines. The plants are well-established and no longer need irrigation.
This garden was planted at the beginning of 2018, although the concept was conceived years before. In the words of Patrick Pizzo, its founder:
The concept of the Five Island Project was born about six years ago. We wanted to create islands or berms much like the two that we first introduced into our park, Jeffrey Fontana, as an alternative landscape feature to tall trees, which have impact on the safe delivery of power transmission by PG&E. You see, our two parks, T.J. Martin and J. Fontana are contiguous along the PG&E power transmission easement in south San Jose. Our contribution, toward potential loss of trees, was to develop native plant and shrub alternatives. This was our first effort.
Now near this island is an open area between heritage coast live oak trees, Quercus agrifolia. Our vision was to have a network of islands/berms in this open area. Neighbors wanted to have an alternative to weeds and summer dust storms. The area is about 120 foot by 120 foot. We envisioned five CA native plant islands in this open area.
Part of the reason for the passage of time was due to the drought. The City policy became ‘no new plantings’. Then, a couple of years ago, with MFPA postured financially to support a major project, the idea came to the fore and I was asked to implement the proposed project. During the four years leading up to this okay, we had been in multiple conversations with our Parks Department in San Jose about the Five Island Project. About a year ago, we broke ground.
The elongated islands are about 35 by 15 foot and of elliptical shape. The spine is about 2 foot high, tapered to ground level, providing good drainage. The native soil was removed or ‘dished’; and this native dirt (sand and adobe) was mixed with ‘garden soil’ from Evergreen Supply in San Jose. It is the lowest grade of organic soil on the market. The combined soils were used to create the islands/berms. Each island is sponsored, to raise money to implement the project. We have five sponsors: East Bay Wilds, DGDG, Almaden Valley Nursery, PG&E and the past presidents of our organization: MFPA (Martin-Fontana Parks Association):
After forming the islands, plants were planted. Each sponsor selected plants and designed their own gardens. Directly after planting, drip-irrigation was installed. We are using Techline drip line with pressure-opened emitters: 1 gallon per hour per emitter. The emitters are spaced 18 inches apart. I designed the irrigation system and will relate at the site-visit. Currently, due to low rain (nothing Jan and Feb), we irrigate every 8 days for 1/2 hour and this is working out fine. We have a variety of water-need plants on the island, by design, so it will be a challenge to fine-tune any summer watering. The islands were planted from mid-Jan through the end of February, which worked out great as you recall the beautiful weather (minus rain). The plants seem very happy with their new homes.
Additional information is available at:
Here is a plant list for the five islands.
Directions: The original two berms and the Five Islands area of the park is across from 1278 Oakglen Way, San Jose. Street parking is available.