Gardening in Summer-Dry Climates is now available.
Click here to learn more

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

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,

16 02, 2021

Wildland Invaders and Garden Thugs

2021-04-20T19:21:23-07:00Categories: Blog, Nora Harlow, weeds|Tags: , |

Plants that readily establish themselves in wildlands, on vacant city lots, and along rural roadsides typically are adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. They are long lived, self-sow readily, and produce many flowers over a long season. Some bear abundant crops of fruit loved by birds and other wildlife. In other words, some of the same sorts of plants we seek out for our gardens are those most likely to take over and spread. Echium candicans, Pride of Madeira, in a California garden Most plants are not invasive in wildlands or even weedy in gardens. Many

Go to Top