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Some of our favorite plants and gardens for summer-dry climates.

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,

19 05, 2021

Climate Change and Water Supply

2021-05-19T05:29:36-07:00Categories: Blog, Climate, Nora Harlow, Water|Tags: , |

Global temperatures have been rising at least since the middle of the last century, and most projections anticipate that this trend will continue. Effects of warming vary from one region of the world to another but prominently include the likelihood that precipitation will shift from snow to rain in many snow-fed watersheds. It is also likely that snow will melt faster and run off earlier, changing the timing of peak streamflow. Snow is an important, even critical, seasonal water source for many regions with large mountain ranges, including most summer-dry climates. Snowpack accumulates in the mountains in winter when demand

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

9 04, 2021

Living with Wildfire

2021-04-20T16:40:00-07:00Categories: Blog, Nora Harlow|

The goal of "firewise" landscaping is to reduce the intensity of fire and slow its advance as it nears the house. The basic principles are simple and few. Harden the target by making the house as resistant to fire as possible. Keep the area next to the house free of anything that will burn. Design and maintain planted areas farther out to provide no continuous path for fire to reach the house or move up into the tops of trees. Retain sufficient vegetation to buffer the house from airborne embers. Low plantings and concrete patio next to house reduce

19 03, 2021

Weeding in Summer-Dry, Winter-Wet Clay

2021-04-02T08:05:54-07:00Categories: Blog, weeds|Tags: , , |

Where winters are wet, summers are dry, and soils consist of any appreciable amount of clay, the difference between too wet and too dry to weed is barely perceptible. In some years there may be only a few days when the soil is dry enough to walk on without compaction, when weeds come out of the ground without resistance, and when the earliest weeds have yet to set seed. If you miss those days, well, I guess there's always next year. Invasive oxalis (Oxalis pes-caprae) and advancing Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri) mix inextricably with fortnight lily (Dietes grandiflora) in

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

25 02, 2021

Rosemary

2021-03-23T20:17:06-07:00Categories: Blog, Garden Plants, shrubs|Tags: , |

In our continual search for new and unusual plants for our gardens we tend to forget, or to reflexively dismiss, the old, reliable standbys. Rosemary needs no care, has no "down" season, and can last for decades. It is quite content to play a supporting role in any garden scheme and it comes in varied heights and habits. Salvia rosmarinus Prostratus Group cascades over walls There are prostrate or cascading rosemaries as well as upright forms of many sizes. Flower color varies from pale or bright blue to pinkish lavender or even almost white. The fine-textured, intensely fragrant,

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