Thursday, April 30, 2015

My favorite drought tolerant plants

Discussions of the drought in California seem to be getting uglier with every passing day.  Instead of focusing on the big picture as to how the state as a whole can best cope with severe drought conditions that could persist for decades, finger-pointing has become popular.  The agricultural industry took a lot of the heat at first, largely because the restrictions announced by our governor don't address agricultural water usage, which by most estimates accounts for 80% of California's water use.  More recent commentary has focused on wealthy communities, blaming their residents for "moral isolation" and flagrant water usage.  Under the draft regulations poised to take effect in June, such communities will experience the deepest cuts in water allotments.  My own community is one of those facing a 36% reduction.

I've been focused on water use almost since the moment we moved here 4 years ago.  Our current lot is slightly over half an acre, huge by comparison to the tiny lot I tended for 20 years in a nearby beach community and relatively large by Los Angeles standards in general.  When we moved in, more than one-third of the lot was covered in grass.  We began removing the turf in sections early on, although we still have 2 sections yet to go.

One of the 2 remaining segments of grass to be removed, what's left is largely crabgrass and assorted weeds

We voluntarily reduced our water use by more than the 20% requested by Governor Brown in 2014 by eliminating turf grass, making modifications to our irrigation system to reduce water to selected areas, and by swapping out more and more plants for drought tolerant varieties.  Will it be enough?  Possibly not, although my husband's study of our water use suggests it should be.  Still I can see that I'm going to lose plants that can't tolerate parched conditions over long periods.  But enough of our drought doldrums, the purpose of this post is to focus on the plants I've found most useful in handling dry conditions.

Foliage Plants

Agonis cognata 'Cousin Itt' has adapted well to dry conditions and even tree root competition, although it's a slow grower and appears to prefer partial shade over full sun (low water needs)

Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' always looks good (low water needs)

I added a couple more Artemisia 'Powis Castle' this winter and they're filling out well - the plant does get ratty-looking over time but it responds well to pruning (low water needs)

Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' produces small pink flowers but its foliage is its biggest draw (moderate water required)

Planted last fall, Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' is still new to me but it appears to handle dryness with the aplomb of other plants in its genus (low water needs)

One of my all time favorite plants, Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' is shown here sporting its summer (left) and winter (right) colors (low water needs)

Phormiums vary in terms of their water requirements but this one, probably P. tenax 'Atropurpureum', gets by with relatively little water or attention alongside the driveway

Stipa tenuissima has a reputation for rampant self-seeding but a low water diet (and regular haircuts) helps to keep it within bounds

Thymus serphyllum 'Minus' has done a good job as a groundcover between pathway stones (low to moderate water needs) 

Yucca 'Bright Star' is a slow-grower  but it has presence in the border (low water needs)

Flowering Plants

I hesitated about including Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' here as it struggled last summer but, with moderate water, I hope it'll maintain its good looks

Arthropodium cirratum doesn't look like a tough plant but it's a stellar performer in dry shade as long as you control snails and slugs (low to moderate water needs, depending upon degree of sun exposure)

Convolvulus sabatius is a good filler I need to use more (moderate water needs; tends to die back in summer here)

Dorycnium hirsutum (aka Hairy Canary Clover) looks good even when not in bloom (low water needs)

Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Goblin' self-seeds freely (moderate water needs)

Gazania rigens hybrids can really brighten up a space (moderate water needs)

Grevilleas are stars when it comes to low water requirements - G. 'Peaches & Cream' bloom shown on the left and G. 'Superb' on the right

Grevillea lavandulcea 'Penola' is another low water user with an exceptionally long bloom period 

Limonium perezii, usually offered here in 6-packs, provides a lot of bang for the buck and, when it gets too ratty to rejuvenate, it's easily replaced (low to moderate water needs)

Solanum xanti 'Mountain Pride', a California native, is my best find in the past year - I recently scooped up 3 more, which I hope can get themselves established before summer arrives with a vengeance (low water needs)


Aeoniums of all kinds love it here - many can be propagated by simply snipping a rosette and portion of stalk and pushing it into the soil (low water needs; may go dormant in summer, especially in full sun with little or no water)

Agave attenuata does best with some shade during the hottest part of the day (low water needs)

One of the more compact Agaves, 'Blue Glow' is one of my favorites (low water needs)

Agave ovatilfolia (aka Whale's Tongue Agave) is said to grow bigger faster with extra water but mine gets by with little

Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' deserves more space in my garden than it's been given - it's become almost too popular here, rivaling Agapanthus with its ubiquitous presence (low water needs)

Senecio cylindricus is another succulent I can cut and simply stick in the ground

If you have a low water needs plant you like, please share!

For those of you that are interested I've added a number of links to information on California's drought in the right-hand side-bar of my blog.  Work is pending to remove the remaining lawn here.  Additional, extra-large rain collection barrels are on order.  And a mulch delivery is planned for next week when the weather cools.  Given that temperatures here have soared again, hitting 95F for 2 days in a row this week so far, I don't expect I'll do much more in the way of new planting until fall, when I hope to replace more of my drought-sensitive plants for more resilient ones like those I've presented here.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, April 27, 2015

In a Vase: Monday Morning Blues

I've been in a blue mood of late so focusing on blue flowers for this week's "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, struck the right note with me.  I've been impressed by the blue and white arrangements put together by other contributors and I'd planned to stick to those two colors myself but a limited supply of white flowers, as well as a desire to perk myself and the vase up, led me to include a dash of yellow.

Back view

The supply of blue flowers is plentiful at the moment.  My Agapanthus are already starting to bloom and, although I didn't include any of those this week, it means that you're likely to see more blue in the coming weeks.  Here's what I included in this week's vase:
  • Argyranthemum frutescens 'Butterfly'
  • Coleonema album
  • Eustoma grandiflorum 'Borealis Blue'
  • Gaura lindheimeri 'Snow Fountain'
  • Lagurus ovato
  • Leucanthemum x superbum
  • Nierembergia linarifolia 'Purple Robe'
  • Prostanthera ovalifolia
  • Salvia hybrid 'Mesa Azure'
  • Senecio stellata 'Giovanna's Select' (this is the name under which plant was sold but it's not found in The Plant List)

Argyranthemum 'Butterfly' brings instant cheer to any bouquet

I'm once again getting blooms here and there from the Eustoma 'Borealis Blue', planted last May, although I've yet to see a new supply of the plants in the garden centers

Lagurus ovato (aka Hare's Tail Grass) does surprisingly well in a vase - last week's stems are still looking great, even though most of the Alstroemeria and Pelargonium are looking sad

The ruffled form of Leucanthemum x superbum has produced only 2 blooms so far but my plants have lots of buds

Nierembergia linarifolia is more purple than blue but its yellow centers help tie in the Argyranthemum

Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata' brightens the arrangement almost as much as the yellow Argyranthemum

I didn't realize that my Salvia 'Mesa Azure' included a hitchhiker until I saw this photo on-line (and I haven't found him either)

Sold as Senecio stellata, this is some form of Cineraria, probably correctly classified as a Pericallis

The vase landed on the dining room table, where it can be viewed from front and back.

As I had some leftover stems, I tucked them into into a small vase to go in the guest bathroom.

In addition to short stems of the Cineraria/Pericallis and the Salvia, this 3-inch vase holds stems of Cynoglossum amabile, already past its prime, and a single stem of a succulent form of Senecio (no ID)

Visit Cathy to see what she's cooked up this week and to find links to other gardeners' creations.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, April 24, 2015

My favorite plant this week: Hoya multiflora

Even with many of my plants looking parched, it's hard to choose a favorite during this time of year.  Alstroemeria, Centranthus, Cotula lineariloba, Argyranthemum and Solanum are all in full bloom.  My Arthropodium cirratum are getting ready to burst into flower and the Agapanthus scattered throughout the garden have produced buds.  Still, what's grabbing my attention right now is the Hoya multiflora (syn. Centrostemma multiflora) sitting in my home office.  I picked up this plant at a local cactus and succulent show and sale a couple of weeks ago.

I'd been looking for this plant for some time.  I had a smaller plant a couple of years ago but I gave it too much sun and too little water and it perished.  I've been looking for another ever since.  When I saw this one at the succulent sale, I snapped it up, practically under the nose of another shopper.  (There were more hanging nearby.)

Also known as the shooting star hoya, it had a few buds but no blooms when I brought it home.  It now has more buds and lots of blooms.

Close-up of the off-white buds

Looking at the blooms, you can understand how it got its common name

According to some on-line sources, this evergreen shrub can get 4 to 5 feet feet tall if provided the conditions it prefers, although sources vary significantly in describing those conditions.  Some call for full to partial sun, while others refer to filtered light.  Some say to keep the plant moist, while others warn against over-watering.  All that appears clear is that it won't tolerate low temperatures, which isn't surprising as the plant's origins are in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.  Having given my other plant too much sun and too little water, I'm giving this one bright indoor light and allowing it to dry out during regular weekly waterings.  It looks happy thus far.

The flowers produce a sticky dew, which has a sweet taste

Loree of danger garden is hosting her monthly wrap-up of favorite plants with her post today.  Earlier this month, I featured Gazania rigens hybrids and, I'm happy to report that, just yesterday, I was finally able to locate more of my favorite G. 'Kiss Frosty White Flame', which I'll be adding to my front garden this weekend.

Enjoy your weekend, however you plan to spend your time!

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: Coleus in Combination

I'm joining Anna of Flutter and Hum in presenting a Wednesday Vignette, which she has described as a  combination in which "individual components lift each other, and make each other sing."  In February, I replanted the pots outside our front door with a simple mix of coleus (Solenostemon scuttellariodes) and Fuchsia.  I find myself admiring the pots every time I enter and leave the house.

The pot on the right

The pot on the left includes a yellow Calibrachoa, carried over from an earlier combination

Individual elements, clockwise from upper left: Solenostemon scutellariodes 'Electric Lime', S. s. 'Lava Rose', Fuchsia 'Swingtime' and Calibrachoa 'Double Lemon'

Visit Anna at Flutter and Hum to see what she's found for us this week.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, April 20, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: False Start

Last week, I got it into my head that I was going to use Pelargonium 'Oldbury Duet' as the centerpiece for this week's vase, prepared in connection with the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  Why I fixated on that particular flower with its relatively short stems, I can't say, except that I do like the way the sun shines through the flower petals in the early morning.

Pelargonium 'Oldbury Duet', photographed in the garden for Bloom Day

However, when I went to clip my first flowers from the shrub, I realized that the high winds we've had for the last few days had done the plant little good so, with one stem in hand, my plan fell apart.  I decided to stick with the color scheme anyway.  Here's what I put together:

Front view

Back view - the leaves make me think of the train on a formal dress

While the vase I used is short, its opening is rather wide so I ended up using a lot of flowers to fill it:

  • Alstroemeria (no ID)
  • Centranthus ruber album
  • Cercis occidentalis 
  • Coleonema album
  • Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink'
  • Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy'
  • Lagurus ovata 
  • Pelargonium 'Oldbury Duet'
  • Pelargonium peltatum (double-flowered form, no ID)

Alstroemeria is still plentiful in my garden

Centranthus (photobombed here by Alstroemeria and Cuphea 'Starfire Pink') spreads like a weed in the driest areas of my garden

The seedpods of Cercis occidentalis, the Western Redbud, are more magenta than they appear in this photo

Lagurus ovata, aka Hare's Tale Grass, shown here with Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', is incredibly soft  - I wish I could make a sweater of it

The tiny stem of Pelargonium 'Oldbury Duet' that started things off is barely visible as part of the overall composition

The double- flowered form of Pelargonium peltatum is front-and-center

This week's vase is in the front entryway (mainly because it doesn't look good with the current table runner in the dining room).

You can see Cathy's vase and find links to other gardeners' Monday creations here.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party