I imagine that low water landscaping fans here in the south-west share a common tingling sensation in the finger tips these days; the recent harvest moon and the longer nights awakened out plant lust: Without doubt fall is here, and soon we can work outside again without risking a heatstroke.
So what better time to consider our next moves in our low water landscape? On my list the to- do-chores are conveniently intertwined with the to-buy-list:
Replace the plants that haven’t made the mark; there are much better ones available.
In the increasingly hot summers these past years, a number of my drought tolerant plants have been looking sparse, lanky and tired; even when cooler temps set in they didn’t pick up the pace. I’m itching to replace them with tougher plants: Mountain States Wholesale Nursery specializes in desert plant species promised to do better in our climate and soils. Although not ‘a desert’, our climate in San Diego is getting drier, and our occasional ocean winds should be a bonus (salt spray and heavy clay soil excepted – please check on the individual plant’s requirements). Their plants are retailed at Kniffings Discount Nurseries in El Cajon ; (they will order for you what’s not in stock.)
Here a 3 beauties that I’d like to try:
Leucophyllum candidum ‘Thunder Cloud’ Thunder Cloud Texas Sage
An evergreen shrub with compact form, silver foliage, deep purple flowers summer/fall. Blooms repeatedly; needs well drained soil.
SIZE (H X W) 3 feet x 3-4 feet
GROWTH RATE Slow
HARDINESS 10º F, USDA Zone 7
PRUNING : Shear in late spring if at all
Red Yucca Brakelights has vivid red flowers from Sept. to June that attract hummingbirds; it’s a compact grower with narrow, leathery, blue-green leaves. This tough, low maintenance native to Texas and Northern Mexico thrives in full sun and reflected heat; good specimen container plant, suitable for a wide range of climates and soils.
SIZE (H X W) 2 feet x 2 feet
GROWTH RATE Slow
HARDINESS -20º F, USDA Zone 5
PRUNING Remove old flowers
The natural form of this deciduous tree is multi-trunked with a graceful, weeping appearance with long, narrow leaves and attractive burgundy trumpet-shaped, orchid-like flowers. Blooms appear in terminal clusters from May through October. The resulting seedpods cling on branches throughout winter. After flowering, long narrow seed pods are produced.
SIZE (H X W) 18-20 feet x 18-20 feet
GROWTH RATE Moderate
HARDINESS -10º F, USDA Zone 6
PRUNING Prune to shape
And now to my to-do-list:
On the very top of my to-do list is “Renew landscape mulch”
My layer of mulch has thinned considerably over the last season, and it’s time to replenish it – benefits will show in a few weeks.
Here’s what mulching does;
- Mulch will reduce the amount of water that evaporates from soil, greatly reducing the need to water.
- Mulch improves the quality of your soil by breaking up clay and allowing better water and air movement through the soil.
- Mulch provides nutrients to sandy soil and improves its ability to hold water.
- Mulch acts as an insulating layer on top of soil, keeping it cooler in the summer.
- Mulch keeps weeds down, and the weeds that do grow are much easier to pull.
Mulch like you mean it;
- Before applying mulch, remove weeds and water thoroughly.
- Replace the grass under trees with mulch, to mimic the way trees grow in nature.
- Keep mulch 6-to-12 inches away from the base of trees and shrubs.
- Apply 2-to-4 inches of mulch in all planting areas. Finer mulches (sized a half-inch or smaller) should be applied no more than 2 inches deep. Courser mulches, such as large bark chips, can be applied 4 inches deep.
Shopping for Mulch
Mulch is available by the bag or in bulk. Bulk mulch is measured in cubic yards. You can calculate the volume of mulch you need by multiplying the area (in square feet) by the depth (fraction of foot, not inches), then dividing by 27.
Here’s a link to FAQ about mulch that holds a table that will guide your calculations: http://www.agriserviceinc.com/faq.html
Here are links to more providers of mulches, top soils, amendments:
El Corazon Compost Facility (AgriService), Oceanside.
San Diego Landfill, San Diego (some products are is free for SD residents) .
For the County of San Diego, for locations to recycle your green yard debris and woody material or to pick up compost and/or mulch consult the Compost and Mulch Facilities Guide.
My take on maintenance: Cut down on it.
Garden maintenance may occasionally be tedious, but most of the time it’s simply gardening, and that’s what many of us love to do.
Be confident: a garden is rarely finished.
It’s the journey that counts. You might have a very special micro climate formed by the special building materials of your home, or the particular accumulation of decomposed granite or boulders or sediment soil…
Gardens are not static.
We just don’t have control over climate, or over the individual plants.
Shy away from things that cause frustration:
– Shrubs and trees that outgrow their space ;
– Plants that need better drainage than your soil can provide;
– Flowers that are unsightly after flowering, that are susceptible to diseases or flower only for a short time (f.e. Hybrid Tea roses)
Choose low maintenance plant:
They demand very little but will pay you back with permanent interest from their beautiful structure and exceptional texture:
- Foliage plants such as the stunning Safari Sunset Conebush Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset‘, terrestrial bromeliads (see Rancho Soledad Nursery, Rancho Santa Fe, for their great collection of Aechmeas, Vrieseas, Dyckias and more; many of these with very low water needs)
- Perennials grasses (f.e. the beautiful Melinis nerviglumis Ruby Grass )
- Succulents such as low-growing Graptopetalum or Sedums
- Crimson Grey Geranium (also called Kalwerbossie Geranium)
Employ the permanent colors from hardscape – that’s a no-maintenance garden:
- colored concrete, flagstones, DG (decomposed granite)
- attractive gravels & boulders
- glass and concrete balls
- attractive furniture
- colorful containers
- garden art
- shade sails
- pillow and cushions, umbrellas
Are you getting anxious yet to get outside and let your creativity flow? Shape your garden, enjoy the changing season, experiment? I’m sure you have many landscaping ideas of your own. Enjoy this season; soon the winter rains will help us establish our new plantings and will reward us with new growth and even bloom – the year in the drought resistant landscaping is long from over.