Drought Tolerant Gardening Today
Drought-tolerant gardening is not a new concept. But it after many years, it is finally getting to be popular. Oceans of homes have been built in every direction for the past decade with no concern for the future water supply — even in areas that have historically suffered from drought. If nothing else, I can’t imagine water bills going down in any part of the country! Now that many areas are looking at astronomical water rates or water rationing, I can’t imagine all these green lawns doing well. Whenever a year brings low rainfall, local consciousness can allow drought-tolerant gardening became oh-so-cool. Yet when it rains again, water abuse has slipped back to acceptable levels. Finally, the ecological movement has become popular and now is the time to consider getting a drought tolerant garden established. Unfortunately, in many areas like California, drought conditions have already been established. The good news, however, is that it’s better to plant wisely late than not to plant a water-wise garden at all!
Many folks are under the impression that having a drought resistant garden means they must have a sparse, hungry looking garden in varied shades of olive and brown. Absolutely untrue. Drought-tolerant or drought-resistant means exactly what it says. There are plants that bloom luxuriantly and offer rich green in the landscape yet still require minimal water. These plants may not look tough, but indeed they are.
Cactus and succulent gardens, when thoughtfully designed with paths, boulders, rocks, even sculptures, can become a maze of fascinating texture and color, created in diverse scenes. Chaparral and desert-type natives can be selected to be as ornamental as any other flowering plant. Seeding native annuals in fall and winter can blanket the ground with startling color by early and mid spring. Perennials can be grouped to give color most of the year. There is also a growing selection of wonderful new plants from South Africa and Australia where the climate is dry and hot. Mid summer is the resting period for most dry-summer natives. The hot dry air gives them the same signal for dormancy as the cold winter does to most plants in the cooler parts of the country. If you want color in your garden during this resting period, try planting an area or two with colorful plants that do require some summer water. Give them a selected sprinkler valve, or, better, snake in a drip irrigation line (putting it on a timer so you don’t have to think about it), and these specific areas will brighten up your garden for the short few months the natives are sleeping. You will still keep your water bills low and your maintenance minimal.
Take a wander through some of your local nurseries. You’ll find awesome bloomers in Ceanothus, the Matilija Poppy, Banksia rose, Salvias, or native Penstemmons. Non-native drought tolerants that put on a flamboyant show include the Butterfly bush, Rockroses, Daylilies, Society Garlic, and Verbena. The list of succulents and cacti that have sculptured, colored or amazingly textured foliage or showy flowers is far too long to cover here. And these are only a few of the many drought tolerant plants available. The best time to plant California natives is in the autumn or winter so they can establish their root systems for solid growth before summer dormancy. But they also do well planted in the spring. If you are willing to do some shading and extra watering, many of these plants will survive just fine even planted during the heat of the summer. Cacti and many succulents are not good to plant in wet winters as they don’t like their feet wet when it is cool and they can rot.
So, now’s the time to do a little research into drought-tolerant gardening. Don’t be limited by preconceived ideas. What these plants offer is less maintenance and lower water bills, with all the beauty of their more demanding counterparts. Yet they’re more than just good, practical sense. They’re fun!
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