The native prairies of California were a gorgeous mix of mostly perennial bunchgrasses, some annual native grasses, and a plethora of wildflower species. They are reduced now to less than 95% of their former complex glory. Many of these grasses are easy to grow, and can be used in gardens in a variety of ways, as well as in "grassland restoration projects." Their ecology and ways to use them are described in our Notes on Native Grasses chapbook and in Bunchgrass Basics on this website. It is a fascinating, complex, and rewarding topic.
Each grass has its own particular characteristics and ecology. We grow most of the grasses we offer in our Demonstration Garden here in Bolinas and welcome you to visit. They range from 8" tall to 4' tall. Most of the grass species are not sodforming, (spreading through underground roots), unlike lawn grasses, but some species, like red fescue, Festuca rubra, are often used to create a lumpy naturalistic lawn.
They can be grown in 4" pots or in liners for later transplanting, or sown directly where they are to grow.
Finding a relic native prairie, that looks the way it did for the last 10,000 years or so, is a valuable opportunity, and their particular beauty is one that deserves preservation. They are still to be found in most parts of California, especially in areas that are formed of serpentine rock-based soils or other lean soils not conducive to weedy grasses from elsewhere. If you have such a place near your land, use it as a restoration model for your own prairie.
Many California lawns are currently being replaced with locally native bunchgrass species.