Drought Defying Gardens

| January 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

They began by pointing out that we should be using native plants. Many of the plants we think of as natives are not; they are either imports or invaders. Most native plants are both drought and heat tolerant. With water becoming scarcer as our drought continues, the lovely Mediterranean plants which have flourished so long here with ample water are no longer practical nor are they good for our planet. Natives need far less supplemental water. Natives contribute to our sense of place. Not only have they adapted to a dry and hot climate through their evolution, but there are some 4426 native plant species recorded in California, a state known for its incredible biodiversity.

Native plants are much easier to maintain that our Mediterranean plants. They need little water, thrive without fertilizer, and create their own mulch if they drop leaves. If planted carefully, small plants will quickly grow and fill your garden with beauty that you need tend to once in a while. An overhead watering system timed to go perhaps once a week or twice if it’s very hot and dry is all you need. You may need to prune them as they grow.

Another advantage you can buy smaller plants and give them room to grow. This saves you a great deal of money. A garden of natives need not be an expanse of dormant or half dead brown plants for half the year. Instead, native plants come in a variety of colors, textures, and sizes.

Ruben and Warren favor using 75 percent evergreen trees, which avoids a dreary brown landscape. By choosing foliage with varying colors and textures, you will have a pleasant background against which to plant annuals and perennials, which bloom or produce berries or both.

Erosion control is another benefit of our natives. Because of the symbiotic relationship between the plants and an ecosystem that includes a network of fungi, bacteria, and soil microbes, the soil not only nourishes the plants but it binds the soil and often repels weed invasion.

Native plants that receive light but regular water protect your property from fire. A home in Ramona landscaped by Ruben was in the midst of a terrible fire a few years ago. The fire burned around their property but never touched it.

Native plants create a community, unlike imported plants, which compete for nutrients. The natives share their resources. They are linked and nourished by the variety of organisms in the soil and native pollinators foster their continued success. These communities provide habitat for our native birds and insects. Kept healthy, these communities also discourage weeds and disease.

When planting a garden, keep the natives together. Mixing them with foreign plants defeats the growth of their community. They create their own ecology, which does not work well with the others. Native and non-native plants need separate watering systems and separate soils.

Your plants should be grouped according to their needs. Desert and costal plants thrive in an inorganic soil such as gravel and sand. Inland plants prefer a more organic soil as fungi, bacteria, lichen, and discarded leaves form mulch. It takes seven years for this type of soil to form. Shredded redwood bark and clean chipped tree or shrub trimmings are good. One tip Ruben gave us is that many succulents like having heavy rocks set next to them on top of the roots. He didn’t explain why.

A native garden can be designed to look any way you choose. We saw a slide of a Japanese garden made with all California natives. We also saw a bonsai done with California native. You will choose your style keeping in mind what is available, how to use the plant and what type plants will thrive where. Avoid mixing inorganic plants with organic plants. Keep sun-loving plants together and those who prefer shade together. Type of soil, frequency of hydration, and how much sun or shade must all be considered so that each community of plants can create its own ecosystem. You will find a plethora of plants to suit your taste if you go on the internet. Enjoy creating a water-wise drought tolerant garden.

On January 25, John Bagnasco, a local radio personality with Garden America and a professional rosarian, will present a selections of rose gardens from around the world as well as tell us about some possible vacations planned around gardens. The meeting is at Mission Hills Church of Christ at 4070 Jackdaw Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.