April 2016

Welcome to our April edition. I can’t believe how fast the year is going. Time just seems to march forward and now we are in mid spring. Spring for us is such a busy time with everyone anxious to get their yards fixed up before summer. And with last year’s water restrictions there are more yards to landscape. As we make plans to do our yards it really helps to be receiving all this rain. It seems that we are going to dodge a bullet. Another year of drought would have seriously hurt our landscapes, not to mention our economy. I am most grateful for the rain. However, even in acknowledging our blessing, we must also recognize our stewardship of it. We are a Mediterranean climate known to have extended periods of low precipitation. Based on that knowledge is how we should precede with our landscapes. In the yard we are discussing, which was completed 10/15/14, you will notice some lawn is still there. It is about 35 percent of what they did have, so it is a significant reduction. And though there are many plants being used that are either semi drought-tolerant or low water use plants (they are not the same), the landscape does not have that sparse look that some semi drought-tolerant landscapes can have. It is attractive, colorful and pleasing to look at. In fact, in viewing this month’s photos you can see the benefit of one month of warm weather. Many plants and trees that were deciduous in last month’s picture are coming into bloom or leafing out. However, it is very important to note that even in last month’s picture the landscape still looked good; it just looks better now, and will continue to improve. When determining what combination of plants to use, it is important to know how much water they each require. We tend to classify plants into four types of water regimes. They include those that are low water users, semi drought-tolerant, drought-tolerant and the plants that most of us have in our yard that prefer more of a regular watering schedule. An example of low water use plants would be the Agapanthus pictured here in the lower planter. I would never call them semi drought-tolerant, but compared to our standard plants they can go for longer periods without irrigation. Their roots are very fleshy, almost like tubers with the ability to store water. The same is true with the Asparagus Meyeri, “Foxtail.” Again, I would not call this plant semi drought-tolerant but just like the Agapanthus the Asparagus hasthe same tuberous roots and can go for longer periods without water, and there are others such as Photinia or Xylosmas that are just tough plants. In the picture showing the stream bed there are two plants that are classified as semi drought-tolerant. To the lower left of the stream bed is a plant in bloom that is reddish in color and blooms heaviest from fall to early summer called Grevillea Coastal Gem. Another is located just above and to the left of the stream bed. It is a succulent type plant that has multiple petite yellow flowers (it’s just beginning to bloom), called Bulbine frutescens. They can go for an extended period of time without irrigation depending upon the season and where they are planted. If I compare the two classifications that I mentioned, low water use plants plus semi drought-tolerant, to our normal ornamentals it would be a savings of approximately 40% of irrigated water. Also extremely helpful in classifying plants is knowing a plant’s native habitat. It is always a clue to its drought tolerance. For example, the Bulbine comes from South Africa and the Grevillea from Australia, which are geographical regions that closely match our zones. Currently there is not enough selection of attractive semi droughttolerant plants to do a complete landscape, so matching them with suitable plants from other categories is necessary. Therefore, knowing the plant tolerances, how much water or how little water they can take and still do well is needed. And this is also true with sunlight. Many “full sun” plants to not require sun all day to thrive; in fact, some full sun plants prefer and look better with some afternoon shade. Knowing these boundaries between too much water and too little when grouping plants as well as the sunlight needs has been my life study. One final comment about our landscape: As the yard was coming together Suzie changed her mind about the far right corner. Originally I had plants for the corner but she wanted to add lawn to the far right to balance out the yard, which was a good thought. However, I did not suggest this in our planning stage because I really do not like to place lawns on slopes. Slope lawns are harder for the homeowner to water, plus the lower areas are always mucky. However, to solve this and grant Suzie her balance, we decided to build a lower wall. This raised the lawn allowing any excess water to drain below it as opposed to collecting within the lawn. This transition between the half circle planter and the curved lower wall gave a nice accent to the corner adding interest and helping to balance out both sides. Gardeners – plant, plant and plant, respect the spacing requirements. Make sure and prep the soil with a good balanced organic fertilizer. Also, to enrich the basic composition of the soil several bags of worm castings is super helpful – be liberal. The soil from worm castings is nice and dark and has a nice organic smell to it. It smells healthy.

Until next time – Good Gardening