Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dealing with Drought

A gardening friend and I were talking about the Nor Cal drought and among other things we talked about the 'hot' issue of whether to plant something that isn't drought tolerant. Each gardener has to arrive at that decision on their own but one thing we agreed upon is that if you DO plant something that needs regular water to be happy, you can't then later cheat and try to skimp on the water. All you do is make the plant unhappy and likely poor looking. And then it's a "why bother?" kind of deal.
That said there are things you can do to minimize your water use. These include:
1. Mulch, mulch, mulch. Use a thicker layer of bark mulch than you might otherwise do.
2. Gradually scale back on the frequency but use a deep watering method. Make the roots search out moisture deeper in the soil where it does not evaporate.
3. Choose drought tolerant perennials OR deciduous shrubs that need a little regular water. In both these cases, they should need little or no water between November and April.
4. Seek out drought tolerant plants for shade. Dry Shade plants, as they're known, do exist (no urban legend here). This list would include Plectranthus, Liriope, Heuchera maxima (a native), Western sword fern (also a native), Sarcococca (Sweet box), Camellias, Clivia, Hellebores and many others. Curiously, many of the popular shade plants use more water than those in the sun.
5. Use drip irrigation where possible.
6. Keep the amount of plants in pots to a minimum. They naturally use more water than those planted in the ground.
7. Plants things with similar water needs together wherever possible. That is, plant drought tolerant plants together and those that need a little regular water together.
8. Expand out past natives to include the larger list of Bay Friendly plants. These are also drought tolerant, tough and non-invasive.

And of course recycle all the water you can.
And now here are some new photos from my garden.

Calceolaria calynopsis. Thanks to Jeff at Monterey Bay growers for gifting me this exciting red Calceolaria. Difficult to find in the trade, hard to fathom given how striking it is, its flowers are even larger than on the commonly available C. mexicana. This 'Pocketbooks' certainly holds lots of treasure.

Abutilon thompsonii. It's growing slowly but surely. The question will be whether this more delicate species can take the sun it's getting. Lovely peach flowers too.

Clematis niobe. Still my favorite clematis, for that rich burgundy color. It was developed by a Polish grower in the 1970s and has been a popular cultivar ever since.

Salpiglossis variety. Painted Tongues are supposed to be annuals and they mostly have for me but this red one is on year three and has just begun blooming. So cheerful!

Got vexing gardening issues? No problem. Just consult Ganesh. Ganesh knows all and if it suits him he will reveal the answer. Well, maybe not but he definitely holds court wherever I put him in the garden.

Penstemon sp. This fire red penstemon is ablaze with color but no need to turn the fire hose on him! (save the water). For me, penstemons are in that "when they're good they're very good and when they're bad they're horrid" group of plants. Mine inevitably get powdery mildew and don't look their best. So I enjoy them while they're 'good' and keep my fingers crossed.

Alyogyne hakeafolia. Here is a closeup of the flower, meant to show the inner boss of stamens. To me they look like a little beehive.

Most of you will recognize this plant, commonly called Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena).  Curiously, when I googled 'Nigella' what came up first was Nigella Lawson. That just goes to show you that I'm not a foodie. Nigellas have been around in English gardens since Elizabethan times. That's like, way older than last week ...

I love to photograph my Phylica plumosa. This closeup makes them look like sea creatures (jellyfish?) or maybe sea anemones. Of course the "flowers" are super soft, giving the plant another unique dimension. Not as hard to grow as is commonly thought (but hard to find).

Bird of Paradise. In the immortal words of Jon Stewart (when I was thinking of something interesting or pithy to write about this plant) "Uh, I got nothing." No need. The flowers speak for themselves.

Iris douglasiana. Although this short lived Native flower is already starting to curl up I thought I'd post a photo. Douglas iris are tough and though simple, quite pretty in their own right.

I recently bought some garden art and here's one of the pieces, a metallic Bluebird. The orange and yellow part is its head and the blue are its wings. 

Here's another garden art addition, a metal Blue Heron. I put her by my back yard pond, where she appears to be gazing into the water looking for fish (which is kinda what herons do). 

Here's another shot of my developing Amorphophallus kiusianus spathe. When it opens, the black tip will become a six inch tall spadix, rising out of a ruffled horizontal white 'vase.' This will eventually be followed by a vertical fruit stalk covered in bluish-black berries.

Pteris cretica 'Green on Green' plus Fuchsia 'Rose Quartet.  I love this fern and it has made itself at home with a smaller, very pretty fuchsia.

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