Friday, March 13, 2009

GFGR Part 4: salvias, buckwheats, and a few odds and ends

With only a little more than a month to go before the Going Native Garden Tour, I do feel compelled to make progress on the story of the Great Front Garden Remodel. So, without further ado, here come the salvias, buckwheats, and a few other delights.


Some of the best plants for a California native garden are the native salvias. I planted three different types of salvias. All are very drought tolerant and beloved by bees, and hummingbirds will visit in a pinch.

SA - Salvia apiana (white sage). This plant is new to my garden. I picked it because I missed the high flower stalks of the Phormium in my design. Salvia apiana gets big, with flower stalks up to 5 feet. The fragrance is strong and some people don't like it, so I planted it away from the walkway.
SC Salvia brandegii 'Pacific Blue' (Santa Rosa island sage). This was supposed to be Salvia clevandii, which I have on the other side of the walkway. But I couldn't find one. This salvia with its beautiful bright blue flowers seemed like a good fit and an interesting experiment. It seems very happy and has already grown quite a bit.
SL - Salvia leucophylla (Purple sage) 'Pt Sal Spreader'. This low-growing sage, true to its name, spreads to 8x8, but is only 2 - 3 feet high, so it's perfect in the front. It has green leaves in suring the rainy and wildflower seasons and a different set of greyish, more fuzzy leaves during the dry season. A light minty fragrance and abundant light purple flowers beloved by bees make it a great choice for the wildlife garden. Here's the one on the other side of the driveway, just starting to bloom.

Salvias bloom in the spring and into early summer, but when the hot and dry times start, the California buckwheats start to put on a show. I planted three types, and each is very different. All tolerate drought and attract butterflies. I spent an hour watching one last summer and was amazed at the number of visitors.
EG -- Eriogonum giganteum is a -- mistake. I had thought if Eriogonum grande rubescens grows to 2 feet, giganteum might grown to 4 feet. Wrong. It will easily grow to 8 feet, and is really to big for my garden. But I had it, so I put it in and will remove it when it gets too big. Should have looked it up! That said, it's a very attractive plant with large grayish leaves and white flowers that attract butterflies for months. I'll be sorry when the day of reckoning arrives.
EF -- Eriogonum fasciculatum is a local buckwheat that does very well in my back garden. It looks great if it gets just a bit of water, but turns into a dry stick if it doesn't. No problem, really, it comes right back when the rains start, but in a garden, I favor the green to the dry stick presentation. This buckwheat has small white flower clusters from summer into winter in my back garden, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will do just as well in the front.
EA -- Eriogonum arborescens is a compact shrub that gets 3-4 feet high. Flowers are reddish, and fade to a beautiful brown. Here's one plant that looks great with spent flowers.


Also on today's menu we have one of the most amazing grasses: MR -- Muhlenbergia rigens (deer grass) can do completely without water, looks attractive year round, and gets big. I tidy mine up in the fall, cutting off the spent pieces. I have two on the side strip on the other side of the driveway, and I'm using this plant, just as the Salvia leucophylla, to tie the two sides together.


H -- Heuchera maxima (Island alum root) has grown so well for me that I (successfully!) rooted a few offshoots and planted them in the front and back. In the real garden (as opposed to the plan), I had to make room for a hose pot and I only have two heuchera for now, but it will be perfect for dry shade, and attract more hummingbirds and insects.
T - Trichostema lanatum (wolly blue curls) is one of the more amazing California natives. Fussy to grow and in need of excellent drainage, it is hard to grow in gardens but I hope the dry streambed slope will help it survive. Otherwise, I might just be tempted to grow it as an annual for its stunning flowers that hummingbirds and humans feel drawn to. Here's the blooming baby I planted in October. Still alive, still small. Let's keep our fingers crossed...

7 comments:

AnneTanne said...

It's a delight to read about those plants that are completely unknown to me...

Town Mouse said...

I just wish you could smell them as well! Much of the joy of salvias is in their delicious fragrance.
Glad you enjoy the plants.

Gail said...

Now if only I could grow a few of these stellar plants. I adore salvias! The Texas salvias don't usually come into their own until the late summer so they carry our gardens through to the fall asters. Are there native penstemons that you grow? Or did I miss that post! My computer is down...this is the husbands! gail

SusanGardenChick said...

Yea! A design post! I like your plant choices, especially the Salvia apiana - did you know its other nick name was moonlight sage? Quite accurate; it really does glow in the moonlight.

Underestimating the size of a plant? I have so been there done that!

A few of my master gardener clients are going to be on the fall garden walk and want my help sprucing up their gardens to showcase some additional fall color. I think of most natives as being winter/spring into summer bloomers. Other than epilobium, any native suggestions?

Daffodil Planter said...

How about a video when the garden is ready for the tour? Galloping off to investigate Erigonum giganteum (I love a tall, back of the border plant) to see if it has a chance against the deer here.

Country Mouse said...

Good new on eriogonum giganteum. Around here, anyway, deer don't touch it and it grows beautifully. Lovely masses of white big inflorescences that turn rich brown.
C. Mouse

lostlandscape said...

Neat! I also have a fairly new Eriogonum giganteum which sat there for a while. Now that it's spring I'm seeing its giganteum potential. Different clones, different locations seem to play a role with this plant, because I've seen some mature ones not an inch over 5 feet. Maybe yours will work out?

It's fun to see the rest of your plant list as well. It looks we share several other species. I like your comment about the smells of the plant. Some of the plants look really Californian, but it's the smell that's really distinctive for me...