The recent untimely heat wave is barely forgotten, but I‘m noticing the first signs that many of our water-wise plants have awakened from their summer beauty rest: Their green branch tips and new leaves are proof that they are actively growing again.
With the cooler nights and fresh breezes announcing fall, my impatience is growing to be out in the garden; I’d want to be planting and trying out some of the exciting plants that I have noticed in the recent months and that I could barely stop myself from buying.
The gardeners among us know that there’s always room in our gardens to improve and tweak, to improvise and create, or to replace those plants that have proven to be not so sturdy or are otherwise unsatisfactory. This provides us with a welcome excuse to compile our wish list, research these plants and see which ones we’ll fall for this year!
With plant sales happening now and some great growers offering their new releases, it would be easy to get carried away and come home with trunks full of exciting plants. I have done this myself and given in to plant cravings that I later regretted: A garden that is a collection of plants can look really disjointed, and I have come to prefer a garden that shows a theme and some continuity, and repetition of colors and textures does make for more soothing calm.
So with the following list I hope to highlight a few of the plants that make me drool. Besides drawing from my own notes, I have asked a couple of landscape designer friends to share their favorites.
All these plants have many wonderful attributes in common: They are xeriphytes from all over the world that share many desirable attributes: They are drought resistant plants (also marketed as “waterwise plants”), hardy, with a good structure and undemanding in maintenance (that includes fertilizer and pruning) and provide year-round interest.
Landscape Designer Marilyn Guidroz of Marilyn’s Garden Design says:
‘Rio Braco’ Texas Ranger is a fast growing, dense screen shrub that needs no pruning after the initial shaping to become established. At maturity it reaches 5 ft ht x 5 ft wide.
This is a drought tolerant shrub that only requires a once a month deep watering in the summer months once it is established.
The lovely lavender flowers cover the shrub in intermittent waves during the hot humid months of summer and fall. [In my experience in dry summers, the flowers are more sparse.] The evergreen foliage is a soft mint green all year long.
I like to use this plant as a dry garden border, a screening shrub and a colorful focal accent.
This is my favorite fall color plant. It is great as a screen on fencing. It takes moderate water and can even handle regular water if in an area that receives more. It is best in full sun and can handle partial shade. A deciduous native plant that has edible fruit and climbs by tendrils. Has gray-green leaf color all summer and then turns brilliant red in fall.
Owner/landscape contractor Mark Sterk of Columbine Landscape Inc. recommends:
Rosemary ‘Roman Beauty’, dwarf to 2’, they say, and grows in an upright, roundish form that is consistent and easy to keep in place. It also has a more graceful appearance and a bit of a different color than the usual look.
Here’s more about ‘Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Roman Beauty’ (‘Roman Beauty Rosemary):
A compact and slow growing semi-upright Rosemary with slightly arching stems bearing narrow mid-green leaves and violet-blue flowers in late winter and spring. This plant will likely get somewhat larger but 2 year old plants only measured 16 inches tall by 12 inches wide. Plant in full sun. As with other Rosemary it is resistant to deer and rabbit predation, tolerant to salt spray, alkaline soils and drought. Hardy to 15°F.
This shrublet could add that “needle-like” element that coniferous plants introduce (great contrast to a rounder, fleshier foliage), or allude to a classic Mediterranean landscape. I’d use it as an important connector and “glue” that, frequently repeated, can hold all your other plants together. (See my previous post about the role of shrubs: Better Beds with Shrubs).
Mark goes on to recommend:
“Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’ — variegated, dwarf, same kind of form as the Rosemary, but grows to 4-5’, I believe. White flowers, gold variegated foliage — good pop! Not sure if it’s low water, but we’re using it that way and it seems to do well.” (San Marcos Growers list this plant as needing ‘moderate water’.)
Please keep an eye out for my follow-up post where I share more exciting plants that promise to make a great show in your gardens next year.
Also: Next month, October 13, at the monthly meeting of the San Diego Horticultural Society I’ll be one of three landscape designers giving a presentation about design options for those who are considering removing their lawn.
Here’s more information: http://sdhort.org/
I’d love to see you there!