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Descriptions with photos of garden plants suitable for summer-dry gardens.

17 11, 2022

Muhlenbergia Grasses

2022-11-17T18:53:48-08:00Categories: Blog, grasses|Tags: , , |

Muhlenbergia are wonderfully ornamental bunch grasses, widely adapted to almost all summer-dry climates. Yes, we are biased, but no garden should be without at least one Muhly grass.  As a warm season grass, flowering in late summer, they are particularly useful as focal points and drama for the autumn and winter garden. Muhlenbergia rigens Deer Grass, California native bunch grass with Ceanothus, at Native Sons Nursery The largest Muhlenbergia, M. rigens, is commonly known as deer grass, not because deer like to eat it, rather the big mounds draw deer to sleep on them.  Indeed,  like many

23 10, 2022

Ginkgo

2022-10-24T19:44:53-07:00Categories: Blog, Nora Harlow, shrubs, trees|

My neighbor's ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) is coloring up again, bright yellow now, headed for screaming saffron. I don't know why it still surprises me, this always welcome yet somehow unnerving contrast against the dark green coast live oaks and bays that dominate my garden. This ginkgo was planted more than thirty years and three neighbors ago and its fall transformation still takes me by surprise. Fall colors of Ginkgo biloba in the San Francisco Botanical Garden Usually planted for its stunning fall color, Ginkgo biloba is attractive and interesting at any time of year. Long-lived

30 09, 2022

Scented Geraniums

2022-09-30T16:55:04-07:00Categories: Blog, Garden Plants, Nora Harlow, subshrubs|Tags: , |

Plants commonly known as scented geraniums are species and cultivars of the genus Pelargonium with especially fragrant leaves. Most pelargoniums have at least lightly aromatic leaves, but some are grown primarily for their fragrance. Minty, fruity, spicy, nutty, lemony, or other distinctive aromas are released when leaves are touched or bruised. Pelargonium 'Orsett', with mint-scented leaves, cascades over rocks and walls Scented geraniums are small, tender, fast-growing, semi-woody subshrubs native to summer-dry, winter-wet climates of southern Africa. They are easily grown where winters are mild and where, if summers are hot, some afternoon shade can be

12 07, 2022

Island Morning Glory

2022-08-07T15:04:28-07:00Categories: Blog, California Native, Nora Harlow, vines|Tags: , , |

There aren't many vines native to California, and few are truly evergreen. Fewer still are both evergreen and vigorous enough to cover a good-sized arbor or trellis. Calystegia macrostegia (coastal or island morning glory) is one that really fills the bill. It may drop leaves in summer if grown dry, but a little supplemental water or summer fog is enough to keep it green and growing near the coast. And vigorous? You may have to hold it back. Widely flaring flowers of Calystegia macrostegia tend to close by late afternoon or on cloudy days. The species is

29 06, 2022

Shrubby Tanoak

2022-06-29T13:42:15-07:00Categories: Blog, California Native, Nora Harlow, shrubs, trees|Tags: , , , |

Tanoak or tanbark oak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus var. densiflorus) is a large evergreen tree with deep green, leathery, oblong leaves with prominent veins, sometimes wavy edges, and often toothed margins. The small, creamy white, late-spring flowers are held in showy clusters of narrow, stiffly upright or outstretched catkins. The leaves and flowers resemble those of American chestnut (Castanea americana) and the fruit is an oaklike acorn with a shallow, bristly cap. New leaves of shrubby tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus var. echinoides) Tanoaks are interesting and attractive at all times of year, but they are quite slow growing and they eventually

2 06, 2022

Matilija Poppy

2022-06-20T18:22:07-07:00Categories: Blog, California Native, Nora Harlow, perennials|Tags: , , |

You will hear that Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) is hard to start and hard to stop, and to some extent this is true.  But if you plant this magnificent California native from one-gallon cans in late fall or early winter, and the spot you choose has excellent drainage (hillsides, mounds, raised beds), you should have self-sustaining plants by the second year. Plant carefully without disturbing the roots.  Water thoroughly at planting and weekly through the first summer.  The huge (4-6 inches across) white, crepe-papery flowers with bright yellow stamens each last about a week and then cleanly drop all their

25 05, 2022

Solidago

2022-05-25T15:18:51-07:00Categories: Blog, Nora Harlow, perennials|Tags: , |

If you're looking for a perennial that feeds many butterflies, birds, and bees and serves as a host plant for many caterpillars, you can't do much better than a native solidago. With one or more species native to every state in the United States and much of Canada, the genus is high on the list of "keystone" plants for every ecoregion in North America. Painted lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies on solidago With the common name of goldenrod, solidagos could be confused with half a dozen other plants that share the name but do not have the same stellar

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