GFGR: Small Perennials and Friends

Today, we come to the final design post of the Great Front Garden Remodel. What's next? Maybe a video, maybe some photos, or maybe you can visit us during the Going Native Garden Tour on April 19. The tour page now has descriptions of all 51(!) gardens, and we're all excited and hope it will be sunny and pleasant.

I added the small perennials and grasses for color and structure. In the plan, you see the repetition, which makes the garden look more like a garden and less like a wild landscape. I thought of the garden in two seasons:
  • In spring and summer, the penstemon (blue) and monkeyflower (golden) will bloom.
  • In fall and into November, the California fuchsia (orange) will bloom.
Now, let's look at the plants:

Penstemon heterophyllus (Foothill penstemon) is a California native that has found its way into the regular nurseries. It blooms a beautiful blue, sometimes edged with pink. Beloved by native bees, it likes a sunny spot and, unfortunately, does not like clay. I've had one in a pot survive winter and look good, so I hope the spots I picked right next to the dry stream bed will yield a few more survivors.
The stunning picture on the left is from Annie's Annuals website. Annie's is an amazing nursery in Richmond, CA, that grows beautiful annuals and perennials, both native and exotic. They're a little far for me to drive, so I often take advantage of their excellent mail order service.
Mimulus auranticatus, orange bush monkey flower, is another popular native. Very drought tolerant, this mimulus blooms for months in spring and summer attracting birds, bees, and other critters. A mimulus I have growing near a retaining wall puts on a spectacular show each year. I cut mine back by about 2/3 each fall to keep it fresh. Last year, I rooted some cuttings and they seem to survive.
For the fall and early winter, I've tucked in some Epilobium (California fuchsia). I have some of those in the back garden and they reseed a bit, so I just dug out a few that were in the "wrong" place last fall and put them in the front.

The low growing Epilobium septentrionalis 'Select Matole' forms 2x4 foot mounds and starts blooming in late August in my garden. I have two different versions of the lankier Epilobum canum, both gifts from a friend. One, with bright orange flowers and greyish leaves grows to 5 feet and is, as they say, for the informal garden. The other, with greener leaves and salmon colored flowers stays at about 4 feet. I just sit back and enjoy the show, with the hummingbirds flocking to their favorite food. In December, only very few blossoms are left and I cut back everything to 1 inch, already looking forward to the next installment.

The green dots in the plan are Festuca California (California fescue), an attractive green grass that tolerates drought and looks attractive and sculptural year round. This festuca prefers either some shade or some water but can be ignored completely and does not reseed.

I'm hoping to add some Lupinus nanus and Gilia tricolor, which I'm trying to grow from seed. But regardless of how that adventure turns out, I'm already very excited about the plants, the birds that come visiting, and the spiders and other insects I spot. Very soon, I hope that the lizards will be back to share my garden with me and my neighbors.


Tatyana said…
Can you send some lizards our way? My boys will love to see them!
easygardener said…
I love the colour combination of the Penstemon. Unusually it has lasted well in my garden, probably because I have light soil.
I've enjoyed reading about your old and new front garden. Nice to see the large specimens going off to new homes!
Gail said…
I think I want the penstemon you've is a beauty and with the pinkish tones it would look good with so many plants...It is so exciting to see the plans and hear about plant choices...gail
I clicked on the tour link and enjoyed the photos and description of your garden! Looks like so much work went into it; you must be very proud and happy!
Anonymous said…
Great minds must think alike. I finished a plan for a client last week who wants to incorporate natives and used the same combination of orange monkey flower and Margarita Bop penstemon (set off in one bed with Mexican Sage "Limelight" and Salvia apiana in another). I get around the drainage by mounding up berms which I like to do anyway.

I think your garden will be a hit on the tour. It really shows you went through a design process. I've been a docent on the Bringing Back the Natives Tour and also for our local Master Gardener Tour and one thing I've noticed is that the gardens often have too many onesies. The individual plants are lovely, but there's limited use of repetition or other strategies to make the gardens flow, so to my eye they often feel overwhelming instead of restful.
What beautiful plant choices! And what a terrific variety of gardens on the tour. Thanks for the link to the virtual tour. Wish I were close enough to come for the real deal.
Katie said…
The lizards poked out of their den last week and have been driving my cat mad since then! Spring is here!

PS - I immediately purchased the EBMUD book upon your recommendation and it has become my ALL TIME FAVORITE gardening book. Thank you!
lostlandscape said…
The tour people will have a great garden to look at, with your monkey flowers and penstemon and all you other neat plantings. Hopefully you'll help make some converts to using more natives!
Wow--your native penstemon is a lot more showy than our Penstemon digitalis, and with blue flowers, too! Cool!