Water Wise Winners

Madeira Cranesbill: a true geranium San Diego’s Mediterranean climate is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild rainy winters. Limited state water resources and rising costs are making water conservation mandatory. Let’s explore some considerations when selecting from the large variety of drought tolerant plant material available and the water wise favorites of myself and garden writer extraordinaire Nan Sterman of Plant Soup.
When designing landscapes, consider the sun/shade exposure requirements of plants and group accordingly. Don’t plant sun-loving plants such as bottlebrush in the shade and shade-loving plants such as philodendron in the sun. Keep the mature size of plants in mind. Make sure that the plants have plenty of room to grow. If not, they will become overcrowded or outgrow the space where they are planted. And, do not place plants in front of address numbers or signage that will grow tall and obscure the numbers and lettering. For example, planting a cordyline directly centered under an address number or flax in front of a monument sign is a mistake. The cordyline will trunk up quickly and block the address number while the flax will grow tall and block the sign. Or, planting 5 rockrose in a row is poor planning. The rockrose grow 4-5 in diameter each and will become an unsightly hedge. Landscape don't: plant shrubs that will grow large too close together. Groundcovers When choosing groundcovers, consider what type of foot traffic and exposure the area receives. I like Dymondia Margaretae. It grows in a dense silver carpet with tiny yellow flowers and can take heavy foot traffic along with some shade. Dymondia Margaretae and echevaria make a lovely combination of groundcover. Yarrow is available in a variety of colors and is an excellent alternative to turf grass. Mixing different color sedums is a great way to add color to a landscape. Senecio is a poor choice in areas next to pathways and where children or dogs play. It also contains toxic aloids. Senecio groundcover is a poor groundcover choice in areas next to pathways. It also clashes with the pink Arizona Rosa flagstone shown here. Shrubs Avoid overused freeway/parking lot plants such as indian hawthorne, flax and dwarf bottle brush. Yes these are bullet proof in terms of maintenance but they are also ubiquitous and extremely mundane options for residential landscapes.
Trees Trees are major structural elements of our gardens. When selecting, think about the proportion of the tree in relation to your home and yard.
My Perennial Picks: As an artist, I am drawn to plants with strong color, form and fragrance. Some of my favorites are:
Euphorbia Diamond Frost has delicate foliage and a beautiful spray of white flowers year round Euphorbia Diamond Frost has delicate foliage and a beautiful spray of white flowers year round. Madeira Cranesbill is a true geranium whose blooms are a dramatic mass of magenta flowers. Technically a biannual, it reseeds itself throughout the garden. Madeira Cranesbill is a true geranium whose blooms are a dramatic mass of magenta flowers. Technically a biannual, it reseeds itself throughout the garden. Aeonium Canariense is a striking succulent with a bold leafy rosette formation. Aeonium Canariense is a striking succulent with a bold leafy rosette formation. African Blue Basil is a great choice for color and fragrance. African Blue Basil is a great choice for color and fragrance. Spanish lavender is a fragrant gray-green shrub with large vividly colored flowers. Spanish lavender is a fragrant gray-green shrub with large vividly colored flowers. Mediterranean Marvels Nan Sterman draws from her encyclopedic knowledge of drought tolerant plants to recommend five great choices:
Kangaroo Paws feature great colors, texture and amazing long-blooming flowers in different heights and hues. Yellow Kangaroo Paws Lomandra an Australia native, is a species of big grasses in mostly green or blue/green with a very soft, showy fountain-like appearance. The fine to coarse textured grasses gently move in the wind but are tough as nails.
Grevilla is a flowering shrub available in tall and short varieties with dramatic clusters of curly flowers that attract hummingbirds like crazy.
Ceanothus or California Lilac is a fabulous native shrub also available as a ground cover. Ceanothus/California Lilac Catalina Ironwood Tree endemic to the Channel Islands is tall like a pine with attractive sculpted leaves and textured bark similar to a redwood.
Hardscape Selection How do signage, mulch and paving tie in with the backdrop of homes and plant selection? If opting for a coastal look, silver signage, cool tone paving and black beach pebble and good options. If going for a desert look, brown signage, Arizona Rosa flagstone and Arizona river rock are excellent choices. Hardscape choices can help determine the overall look of landscaping as demonstrated by the coastal options shown in the top row and desert options shown in the bottom row. Irrigation Tips To avoid wasteful overspray in narrow spaces, select the correct type of irrigation. Don’t use spray nozzles. Not only do these waste water but they can also damage paving. Do use professional landscape dripline as recommended by Hunter Industries, a major manufacturer of irrigation equipment. Don’t install fixed risers along walkways or parking spaces. These are dangerous trip hazards and a legal liability. Do use pop-up heads or dripline depending on the size of the area. Avoid installing fixed risers near walkways or parking spaces because they are dangerous trip hazards. Resources
Nan Sterman has written two wonderfully informative books on California gardening both available on her website: Water-Wise Plants for the Southwest and California Gardener’s Guide Volume II.
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About Jolee Pink

I am a California-based writer, designer, artist, super foodie and avid traveler. I view travel as a superlative learning experience and have visited nearly 50 countries. As the author of Living Coastal: Inspirations for Entertaining, Decorating and Cooking California Style, I brought together artists and chefs to capture the spirit of San Diego influenced by the Pacific Ocean. The Wabisabi Green lifestyle blog focuses on art, design, food and travel. My colorful ceramic sculpture has received national recognition and is on permanent display at Rady Children’s Hospital. I also design and market a boutique eco-friendly textile line featuring bold modern motifs based on nature, world travels and the southern California coastal lifestyle.
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