"When gardeners use native plants, they can have beautiful landscapes." ― Dr. Douglas Tallamy
Left to right, they are two varieties of manzanita (arctostaphylos), a chamise (adenostoma fasciculatum), a false indigo (amorpha fruticosa) and a fern of the desert (lysiloma thornberi).
I got them at the Tree of Life Nursery. Plants like these can also sometimes be found for sale at places like the Fullerton Arboretum, the Shipley Nature Center or the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them other than water them infrequently, fertilize them very lightly and plant them in a very rocky mix of stuff like decomposed granite and pumice.
Manzanita has the coolest bark of any tree on the planet. There's a myth, that I once believed, that it was illegal to own those, but in reality, it's just illegal to collect certain types and/or from certain places. They are tricky to train and grow, however. It is generally only safe to prune in late summer or early autumn. They are prone to disease, so before pruning, it is prudent to use a 10% bleach solution on your tools. In a pot, it should be watered only once every week or two. In the ground, maybe once a month. They grow fast, and die back significantly if you prune the roots significantly. The foliage isn't great material for bonsai, but the trunks and branches can make up for that.
The chamise is a really cool bush that grows naturally in the hills above my home, so I know that it will do well here and I want to eventually grow a lot more of those. This is a black diamond cultivar. The foliage is really tight and the trunks look aged even when they are small, so it might make a really cool bonsai.
The fern of the desert is a northern Mexico native. It won't do well in a shallow pot, and it doesn't cope well with cold temps, but it might make for a pretty good bunjin.
My false indigo probably needs to go into the ground for a couple of years. I will plant it in the spring and see what happens. It's a deciduous flowering plant, but so far, it's not losing any leaves.
I'm thinking about buying some San Diego mahogany and California juniper. I'd also like to get some pinon pine, too, but that's more easily collected than bought. Hopefully, next year I'll have a couple of decent native species shohins, and they will be trees that few other people are working on, which will make it all the more interesting.