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. 


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.


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!