Midsummer Drought Test

Over time and increasingly, I’m finding myself wanting a completely xeric front yard.  It probably started with seeing posts by Danger Garden and Flutter & Hum about Greg Shepherd’s garden, but there have been a million research projects, tests, conversations, garden visits, and boring hours watering plants by hand that have led me to commit to this.

NOTE: I’m also testing the new Gutenberg editor from WordPress – apparently it’s eventually going to become the default so might as well get into it now.  So far, so good…

Anyway, there are a couple areas in the front yard which are exceptions to the xeric scheme, most notably, this:

Eggplants, winter cabbage, leeks, lettuce – I like the look of them.

I want to retain some space in the front to grow edibles: no ducks here, good sun, and so far, no verticillium wilt which is very problematic for eggplants in back and I LOVE eggplants and would never be without them.

So aside from the above area, I didn’t water for weeks because I wanted to really SEE how bad it would look.  Some plants wear a parched look kind of okay and live through it, others just don’t.

The Losers

These plants are on my list for removal or relocation.  I am excited! This means I get to choose new plants to put in their places!

Veronica spicata

Veronica spicata – came with the house

I’m done with deadheading and watering this Veronica.  I like Veronica, but I have better things to do.

Eutrochium purpureum

Eutrochium purpureum

Joe Pye weed is another plant I really like a lot, but when I planted it, I wasn’t thinking about how much water it might want – it is definitely not part of the plant palette I should be using here.  And see that Calla in the lower left? I didn’t explicitly photograph it but I think it should move as well – its luscious black flowers are completely dessicated.  The Phormium is fine.

Santolina ‘Lemon Fizz’

Ouch, this poor Santolina has really taken a beating.  I am not 100% sure I’m going to move it, but at the very least I need to see if a mole has tunneled under it.  Here’s my other one, which receives basically no water: 

Happy Santolina ‘Lemon Fizz’

Although I rather like the profusion of brown puffballs, something is definitely up with that first one and I need to help it.

Agastache ‘Apricot Sunset’

Agastache ‘Apricot Sunset’ – sorry this is a terrible photo but you get the idea; the Agastache is wilting and the Phygelius isn’t.

At least I *think* it’s ‘Apricot Sunset’.  I got it at Portland Nursery and planted it at the same time as the two Phygelius you see behind it. They don’t care at all about water! The Agastache will move to the backyard where there are two others and they can all be a mass of  sunset colors together.

This bigass Cynara

It was some interesting Italian cultivar and I’ve lost the tag long ago

This spectacular artichoke has given us its grand finale this year! Pups may arise and if they do, I may or may not keep them.  I’ve enjoyed its huge silvery leaves for the last three years, and the bees go crazy for the flowers, but I’m ready for a change.  This isn’t really about no-water, it’s more about the plant just running the normal course of its life. And I want that Perovskia to be less floppy, which it’ll have an easier time doing if there isn’t a giant thistle immediately to the south of it.

Lysimachia clethroides

Major fail

My neighbor has a big stand of Lysimachia clethroides which she doesn’t water AT ALL and it looks just like this! It’s terrible! I don’t even like this plant, I don’t know why I have it.  

Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea is NOT drought-tolerant, no matter what the ENTIRE DAMN INTERNET tells you

Do a google search right now for “Echinacea drought-tolerant” and every last flipping search result will assert that “Echinacea is blissfully drought-tolerant” or some such.  FALSE.  This thing is also a slug magnet.  So she gets to relocate to the back yard! Maybe with all those Agastaches. 

Imperata cylindrica

HA Hahahaaaa what was I thinking

Now, I KNEW I’d have to water this grass but I planted it in several places here anyway, stupidly creating more work for myself because now I have to move it.  To someone else’s garden.  It can’t go in the back because the ducks will eat it.  It looks SO bad right now! I’ll water it from now on and it’ll be better by the time fall comes and I dig it up. 

And lastly:

Stachyurus salicifolius

This lovely thing really does need more water than I am willing to drag out to this farthest-from-the-hose part of the yard.  I will move it this fall. 

The Winners!

Ok now for the ones that passed the test. Not everyone got an A+ but I’d say anything in the B range or better is a pass. 

Epilobium/Zauschneria

I have ‘Bowman’ (pictured) and ‘Silver Select’ in here, along with some Sedum sediforme ‘Spanish Selection’ – All from Xera Plants. The sedum does look dry, but I give them all an A+ along with the Zauschnerias.

I planted these last fall, and they have not had a single drop of water that didn’t come from the sky.  They are also 4-5x the size they were at planting.  We better get some more Zauschneria cultivars out there cause everybody should be planting them.

Agave parryi var. truncata

A no-brainer.

I planted this in May after purchasing it from Pomarius Nursery last fall and keeping it in a pot under shelter all winter/spring. Took me that long to decide where, and then I spaded in a fair amount of pumice (from Concentrates, about $5/bag) and made something of a berm for it and a few other desert plants. Hopefully that’ll keep them from being waterlogged in the winter.

Origanum x ‘Bristol Cross’

I purchased this plant at Concentrates in 2015 and it has performed really, really well in this partly sunny spot (hot afternoon sun, mostly) just inside the canopy of my dogwood tree here. I watered it consistently last summer and very little this summer – just one good watering in June. It’s a little dry-looking but it’s blooming its heart out anyway. A- for looking quite decent, if not flipping amazing, even with moles and thirsty dogwood roots to contend with.

Gaura/Oenothera lindheimeri

The unphotographable Gaura is the absolute rockstar of my front yard – they’re wild and weird and they haven’t a care in the world.  I might try giving them a haircut just to see what happens.

Lavender

Duh. It’s lavender, they’re all Mediterranean and everything. I need to prune it some.

Arctostaphylos x densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’

Arctostaphylos mewukka ‘Mottley Crue’

Arctostaphylos silvicola ‘Ghostly’

Naturally, all the manzanitas look fantastic.  Extra credit to ‘Ghostly’ for enduring a mole tunnel DIRECTLY under the center of the plant which went unnoticed by me for probably months, until I detected the slightest tip-burn on the youngest leaves.

Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius ‘Silver Jubilee’

The smaller of the two commonly available Ozothamnus cultivars (that I know of), this plant just rocks my world.  It’s silver, it has tiny leaves, it makes rad flowers and does it twice a year, and it needs NO WATER. Love.  This was the first of three that I have planted (the other two are in the backyard).  I could see three or five more… 

Geranium harveyi

Wow. I am impressed.  After a bit of a rough start, this South African hardy Geranium (to low 20’s, according to Annie’s Annuals where I got it mail-order) has really taken off – it lost almost all of its leaves for a while because this is a rough area that is hard for me to water (hose isn’t long enough, soil is hard clay, blah blah blah). I planted it in April I think, and it took it a couple months to get established but now it looks great and I have high hopes.  I will mulch it well this winter and protect it with whatever I can if I have to.  Other sources say it’s hardier and I would love input on that if anyone has experience with it.  I’m a sucker for silver. And purple (flowers). And Geraniums in general.

Symphoricarpos (Snowberry)

this is not a great photo, but at least you can see the plant is green and lush

My last winner is our locally native snowberry.  I got these at the Friends of Tryon Creek native plant sale in late winter of 2015 and decided to test them out here under the thirsty dogwood tree in almost full shade.  They are doing fantastic there.  I love these leaves, the plant form, and those snow-white berries in the fall/winter.  You can see them forming here if you look close. In the right setting I personally think snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus and/or other western species) can be a very good garden plant. 

There are of course multiple others that I could show you, but with the selections presented I hope you get the idea that a bit of a shift is upcoming as I move toward a more sustainable and lower-input garden in the front yard.  I find myself much more excited about the plants that can thrive on their own with little or no input (read: water) from me, and there is a definite sense of accomplishment and delight with a garden that is aesthetically pleasing, botanically interesting, and also ecologically sound and sustainable.  It’s not all about laziness 😉

And one last thing! I wrote this entire post using the new Gutenberg editor from WordPress – first time for me.  After a brief learning curve at the start (new icons, things in different places, etc) I have to say I LOVE it.  It feels faster and easier and smoother and just all-around better than the old WYSIWYG editor which I’ve been using for many years. Good job, Automattic.  There is room for improvement in small ways, but so far, I think it’s fantastic! 

May Flowers

Just a stroll around the garden.  My flowering plants have always been kind of spread out – not grouped together all that much, so when I go around and take pics of everything that’s flowering I’m always shocked!

Let’s start with the Clematis.  I think Grace and I agreed the other day that this could well be ‘Elsa Spath’ (it came with the house so we’ll never know for sure but the description fits very well).

My hand span is 8″.

Whole plant:

This will be quite the show. The fence is 5′; at its tallest now the plant is up to 10′

My sister gave me this blueberry and it’s extremely floriferous!

Chives – Allium schoenoprasum

These pansies seeded themselves (from a hanging basket two years ago) into this pot with the grape and have been happily blooming away for months now.

Dwarf Korean Lilac – Syringa meyeri – is just starting its fragrant flower show.  I love its super-cute cupped leaves.  Excellent fall color, too!

Syringa meyeri

I let all that broccoli go to seed and the bees are having a ball.

Aptly named Polygonatum odoratum smells lovely, a very interesting scent.  You really have to get down low to smell it, though!

Polygonatum odoratum

My one Rhododendron.  I kind of want to keep this one… Kind of.   There were two others against the east wall of the house which we removed last year – they were so infested with lace bugs and bud blast and they were coarse and not fun to be around on the patio.  This one has some lace bugs too, but it’s not as bad.  I pruned it pretty hard last year, so it’s not covering itself with flowers like usual, but I think it’s healthier overall.

Speaking of covering self with flowers.  This is my neighbor’s and it’s very fragrant.  It WAFTS.

Look at the lusciousness.

I wish you could smell this.

This next plant never ceases to amaze me.  It started blooming in January, and look:

It will be FIVE MONTHS in flower by the time these are done. Amazing Hellebore.

Pelargonium ‘Vancouver Centennial’ bloomed indoors over the winter, and it’s been adjusting to outdoor life for several weeks now by coloring up its leaves with anthocynanin.  It was much lighter over the winter (pic from November).

Pelargonium ‘Vancouver Centennial’

Little Limnanthes is so cheery! I kind of like this with that weird orange Heuchera (upper right).

Limnanthes douglasii

And then there’s this old girl.  This won’t stop until frost.

Hot (Frickin) Lips Salvia. I’m working on making peace with it.

Here’s my plan with that Salvia, and yeah, hold me to this, would you? I’ve planted a few things around it that, once they grow a bit, will allow me to drastically reduce the size of the Salvia or move it/remove it (most likely the latter because this color of flowers is damned hard to work with and it’s not what I really want here). But until then, I’m going to just prune it as needed to allow those other plants some space.  I kind of like how it’s a weird shape right now which you can only see from the other side (I tried, but could’t get a convincing picture – you have to see it in person).  Maybe I should think of it as a sculpture.

Moving on – more pansies in a pot! Survivors from last year’s Mother’s Day event.

My third Geranium to bloom this year (three more to go) (unless I buy more plants, which I will).

NOID (yet)

The other geraniums are G. macrorrhizum and G. pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’ and you can see them both in this post.

This little Geum rivale just won’t quit and I find it kind of irresistably cute..  It’s really doing well this year.  I might have to move it to where it can get more water over the summer.  It survived here last year, but I might have been watering it constantly (I don’t remember).

Geum rivale – almost a native

Lavender #1 is off to a great start! Nothin yet from #2.

I like this little Euphorbia.  It’s very delicate and seems to only seed around very lightly. So far. We’ll see.

Euphorbia cyparissias?

Almost at the end, we’re over in the forgotten zone where the pile of wood chips almost buried this Ornithogalum, which I find very aptly named – see how the mass of flowers looks like an umbel?

Ornithogalum umbellatum

I wish it had better foliage, but that’s what cover-up plants are for!

I don’t think I ever took a picture of this CWTH* lily-flowered tulip (which lasted for EVER by the way), but isn’t it just the epitome of absolute decadence right now? I weirdly love tulips when they’re falling apart.  My friend Carol taught me to appreciate them in this state a million years ago, and it has stuck with me.  The parrot tulips are the best.  I should grow them just for that.

*CWTH = Came With The House

I’ll end with the most stunning flowering plant of all right now.  This thing lights up my whole street and I love it when it flowers.  I hope my neighbors do too as they drive by.

 

Update for Alison! Yes, Geum rivale has pretty nifty seed heads, though they’re not as flamboyant as G. triflorum:

 

April sprouts, blooms, buds, and a couple new plants

This is a post I started at the beginning of April and forgot to post.  Mostly recordkeeping…

 

Super early! First blooms on Eccremocarpus came out March 25. And a bit washed-out, color-wise. They will deepen.
Also from March 25, Pulsatilla is still flowering a month later.
Magnolia ‘Genie’ is now making leaves. A gift from a friend, I’m not sure where to site this yet. Possibly a large pot while I mull it over.
Unflippingbelievable Hellebore started blooming January 15, and on April 25 it still looks like this.
Purple sprouting broccoli knocks my socks off. It’s now in flower.
Raspberries looking great, but this will be their last year with me.
Came-with-the-house Clematis is 10′ tall now. Mild winter, no pruning.
New plant! Chamaerops humilis var cerifera or var. argentea. This will be a focal point in the backyard.
Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ just got this from Annie’s.
G. macrorrhizum (cv unknown if it is one). All Geraniums seem very successful under my dogwood tree.
This poor thing. I hope it grows out of this as it gets taller. It’s Arctostaphylos mewukka ‘Mottley Crue’ and it sure is looking “mottley”. A month later it’s now showing new growth.  I got this at Cistus last year.
Imperial white currant starting to bloom much later than the natives.
Geum rivale is incredibly cute and I’m going to have to move it now that I know it wants more water than it’ll ever get here. Very floriferous.
Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius ‘Silver Jubilee’ – got this from Xera Plants last spring and it’s doubled in size (at least) now about to flower. YEY
Can you see how far this tiny start of Zauschneria has spread just over the winter? I planted this one here last fall.
This is Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’, also from Xera, planted last year (forgot when) and you can really see why people say it’s an easier one for the garden. No mold, lots of new growth already.
My neighbor’s cherry. Brief, but so glorious. I like that some branches visit my side of the fence.

And lastly, Grevillea victoriae is making new growth! This is yet another I got from Xera last May. This is right in front of my house.

That’s it for this very belated April update.  Funny, everything’s different now, especially now that we’re having some actual HOT weather (80F right now at 2pm April 25).  Excellent excuse for a new post!