California Native Plants at the Packard Foundation Headquarters

Last summer we toured the new headquarters of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.  David Packard was a co-founder of Hewlett-Packard. Located in Los Altos, California, the Packard Foundation headquarters is designed to be a Net-Zero energy and LEED Platinum building. The landscaping features California native plants, a rooftop garden, and no lawns to conserve water and reduce runoff. People can see the landscaping year-round and incorporate these techniques into their yards.

The Packard Foundation landscaping relies on frequently-used California native shrubs, grasses, and trees. The principal shrubs are Carmel creeper ceanothus, ‘Louis Edmunds’ manzanita, douglas iris, Catalina perfume currant, and Cleveland sage. The grass selection is dominated by the California fescue and sedge. They have coast live oak and pacific dogwood trees.

The two-story building encloses a courtyard that provides light and a pleasant place to sit. Every employee has a laptop, and they’re increasingly moving outside to work. The grassy area is sedge, a native bunchgrass, with wood chip mulch between the sedge.

Inner courtyard at Packard Foundation
Inner courtyard at Packard Foundation

The western columbine, with the orange-red flowers, is one of Lucile Packard’s favorites. The columbine flower is featured on the Packard Foundation visitor name tag.

Western columbine, courtesy of Amelia Hayter
Western columbine, courtesy of Amelia Hayter (Packard Foundation)

There’s a green roof, a roof covered with vegetation. The green roof absorbs rainwater, provides insulation, and provides a habitat for wildlife. The green roof has stonecrop, thyme, blue fescue, and hen and chicks. There are gray solar panels across the street, over a parking lot.

Living roof at Packard Foundation
Living roof at Packard Foundation

Parking strips around the building are bioswales, a landscape element designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. Storm runoff in the street gutter enters the bioswale at one end, is filtered by plants and rock, and any excess exits the other end, before flowing to the bay. The bioswales illustrate “Slow it, spread it, sink it”.

bioswale at Packard Foundation
bioswale at Packard Foundation

At the Packard Foundation we can see water conservation and other environment features in action. They use California native plants that perform well in our area and are available to consumers. The trees, shrubs, and grasses mentioned here (except for the dogwood and greenroof plants) are planted in our yard, and we’d plant them again.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

2 thoughts on “California Native Plants at the Packard Foundation Headquarters”

  1. David Packard gave CNPS $10,000 which built our nursery for native plants in 1996. He also built a nursery at Elkhorn Slough for native plants. a man ahead of his time. Jean


    1. Thank you, Jean. I didn’t know about Packard’s early support of California native plants, which I count as a good thing. We purchased our first native plants from our CNPS nursery, as have many others. So his grant is still benefiting people and our CNPS chapter.


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