Browsing at my neighborhood garden center for a special Mother’s Day plant, I notice the pink and purple/lilac flower clusters of Hydrangeas strategically placed at the entrance. I’m impressed by their gorgeous petal ‘bombs’ and think that this old stand-by would probably wow my host, too.
But then a thought steels itself into my mind: How long will my gift decorate my host’s table? Will she throw it away when the bloom is over, or will she plant it? This frilly one wants much more water than our rainfall provides, and many of our local micro-climates and soils are anything but easy on it. The farther away from the coast it grows, the sooner it will require shading from the hot afternoon sun, and then it wants coddling with acid-forming fertilizer to keep its color, and regular and pricey water.
As landscape designer San Diego that practices xeriscape landscaping and sustainability, I love plants that wow me AND have a good ROI, that are attractive low maintenance plants for the low water landscape. Check out these:
A Matilija Poppy Romneya coulteri in full bloom makes your jaw drop, and bloom is now starting, right in time for Mother’s Day. The fist-size flowers are carried atop 6-10 ft stems, for several weeks, exuding a strong fragrance of fresh apricots. This perennial shrub needs no additional water once established; it fits into all zones except mountains and deserts, likes sun or partial shade, and is adaptable to all soils except those that drain poorly. Establishment can be difficult, but once successful, it will send out underground stems in sandy or rocky soil and more slowly in clay soil and is thus difficult to contain. It is best planted along barely cultivated margins, on slopes as erosion control, in dry areas or along parkways. It should be cut down to a few inches above ground in fall to remove old foliage.
Consider also our native wild lilacs, the Ceanothus family that equally fit well into xeriscape designs. The members of this group can be evergreen groundcovers or small trees; some species have brilliant blue flowers, others range in hues of purple, violet and white. They keep their great form year-round, survive the greatest summer heat as true drought resistant plants; they make valuable contributions to any habitat garden by providing food (butterflies, insects, seeds) and cover.
Ray Hartman Wild Lilac Ceanothus arboreus ‘Ray Hartman’ is striking with glistening green leaves, a height of up to 18 ft, and with rose-colored buds and profuse clusters of sky blue flowers. It grows reliably in both interior and coastal sites.
California natives bring a sense of heritage and a connection to the future; they have an incredible potential in all sorts of garden designs if we understand which plants perform in which conditions. With lots of different foliage, flower colors and textures they’ll make your garden interesting in all seasons, and with careful selection you can get year round color because some plant will be in bloom any time of the year. With little needs to additional water or maintenance they are choice candidates for the residential landscape design that satisfy us for years to come and have a high ROI.
For other exceptional non-native plants for drought resistant landscaping, see my previous posts on My favorite plants for Southern California , on Gardens Exciting and Alive – Year round, Water-wise roses and more.
Check these links for recommended growing conditions, descriptions and sources: