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

23 07, 2021

The Carbon Capture Garden

2021-07-23T17:07:40-07:00Categories: Blog, carbon capture, grasses, Nora Harlow, perennials, shrubs, trees|

Carbon capture is widely viewed as a promising means of slowing global warming by reducing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, one of a number of gases responsible for trapping heat and warming the earth’s surface. Carbon dioxide produced by industrial processes can be captured at its source and injected underground. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is naturally taken up by plants, which transform the gas into a form that can be stabilized and stored in soil. Carbon capture is maximized by a diverse planting of deeply rooted trees, shrubs, and perennials, minimally pruned, with no pesticides and soil left undisturbed as

21 07, 2021

Teucriums Are Deer-Proof Too

2021-07-24T12:44:58-07:00Categories: Blog, Garden Plants, Nora Harlow, perennials|

Those of us with unfenced gardens adjacent to wildlands usually learn the hard way which plants are ignored by browsing deer and which, without special protections, are not. It may seem that our choices in plants are rather limited, but lush and lovely deer-resistant gardens can be made. Madeira germander (Teucrium betonicum, in flower) with sages and santolina Perhaps the widest range of deer-resistant options for summer-dry climates lies within the Lamiaceae, or mint family, which includes among its more than two hundred genera many plants that are widely used in gardens where summers are dry -- salvia,

17 06, 2021

Lion’s Tail

2021-06-18T11:29:54-07:00Categories: Blog, Garden Plants, Nora Harlow, perennials|Tags: , |

Some plants just naturally bring out the child in all of us, and lion's tail (Leonotis leonurus) is surely one of them. The whorled clusters of softly woolly yet spiky-looking, neon orange flowers can look almost cartoonish --a caricature of flowers-- spaced out along emphatically upright, six- or even eight-foot stems. Leonotis leonurus in full bloom in the San Francisco Botanical Garden Of the nine to twelve or more recognized species of Leonotis, only lion's tail, a perennial or subshrub endemic to eastern South Africa, is reliably available in nurseries. Lion's ear (L. nepetifolia), an annual native from

11 06, 2021

Embracing Wildness and Change

2021-06-12T07:30:06-07:00Categories: Blog, California Native, Nora Harlow|Tags: , , |

It is possible that the most life-negating aspect of modern landscapes is the whole idea of landscape maintenance. Landscape maintenance implies -- no, insists -- that landscapes must be maintained as originally designed, whatever the costs and losses. A lightly maintained meadow garden in California In the service of what is called maintenance, most residential front yards and almost all commercial landscapes are forced into compliance, preserving the outlines of their original design but with virtually no sign of life. Shrubs considered too large or wrongly shaped are brutally distorted. Weeds and “bugs” are sprayed with pesticides. Soil,

13 05, 2021

Eucalyptus macrocarpa (mottlecah)

2021-05-13T17:27:49-07:00Categories: Blog, shrubs|Tags: , , |

With its large, tightly packed, silvery bluish white, mint-scented leaves and outsized, scarlet, pink, or rarely yellow flowers, this shrubby eucalyptus brings show-stopping drama to almost any summer-dry garden. Its features are decisively eucalypt, but its effect, especially at full height and in full bloom, is Alice-in-Wonderland. Eucalyptus macrocarpa can be pruned to maintain it at almost any size. Here it combines perfectly with Agave americana.   One of several Australian shrubs called desert mallee, mottlecah can reach eight to ten feet tall and wide, sometimes erratically upright but more often sprawling. Mallees are shrubby eucalypts native primarily

20 04, 2021

Mendocino Reed Grass

2021-04-20T16:37:56-07:00Categories: California Native, grasses, Nora Harlow|

Commonly known as Mendocino or leafy reed grass, Calamagrostis foliosa is usually described as having blue-green or gray-green leaves with seasonal tints of purplish red, but that's not how it presents itself in my garden. Calamagrostis foliosa flowering in California garden This cool-season bunchgrass is worth growing not for the color of its fine-textured leaves, which for me emerge a rather dull green and remain so throughout the seasons. I grow it for its manageable size, its pleasingly symmetrical form, and the improbably long-lasting, greenish white flowers that remain neatly arrayed on arching stems as they age to

16 03, 2021

Learning to Love Lomandras

2021-03-23T16:15:42-07:00Categories: Blog, Garden Plants, perennials|Tags: , |

I long resisted the siren call of lomandras as these evergreen, grasslike plants increasingly appeared in highly regimented commercial landscapes and city medians. They are, after all, decidedly not native to North America's Pacific coast, the flower spikes are often disturbingly spiny-looking and messily ungrasslike, and the most commonly seen lomandras can seem too perfect in both form and color to be real. Lomandra longifolia Watching these plants develop into full form over several years, I searched for incipient tendencies to spread, to flop, or to lose their attractive form or color. Nowhere did they change much over

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