Sick plant? No, summer dormant.

 July and August are the cruelest months in my garden. In spring, everything is glorious. But now I'm worried what the neighbors will think as they walk past my monkey flowers, so beautiful from April through June, now entering summer dormancy.

I must admit I wanted to come running with the garden hose when I saw my beloved baby madrone lose some of its leaves. That, however, might have proved fatal, because this madrone does not have the sharp drainage they prefer. So I just watched the yellow leaves drop and tossed them in the compost.

The Salvia apiana (white sage) is dropping its bright green summer foilage and starting up the grey summer leaves. I'm actually not sure about the process, I think the green leaves are an extra spring growth on top of the grey, I don't see that many leaves on the ground near the plant.

Here you can  see the difference between the different color leaves.

And here some Salvia Leucophylla (purple sage), already done donning its grey summer coat. In the background, some coyote brush, blooming succulents, and Arctostaphylos pajaroensis, a nice contrast between the greens and the greys.

 While the greyish leaves displayed by the sages can be quite attractive, summer dormant ceanothus is decidedly a matter of taste.

This year, it's actually not so bad. The winter rains were good and there is a lot of green with the yellow. But I'm still thinking of replacing my Ceanothus thyrsiflorus with some Ceanothus Tilden Park, which seems to keep its leaves much better.

Fortunately, Salvia clevlandii, while doing the drop-leaves thing, is still blooming beautifully (and so fragrant!)

Furthermore, some plants are just getting started. Here we have Monardella villosa (coyote mint), opening its blossoms, surrounded by strong green leaves.

And the buckwheats, just opening up, will keep the garden colorful and the insects happy all through the summer. Here is Eriogonum fasciculatum, which I keep having to prune away from the water feature. How can this plant bloom and grow so extravagantly with no summer water?

As for the neighbors, this is the time of the year when I move the sign. No point rubbing it in that the monkey flower looks ratty. Let us instead focus on the beautiful Eriogonum arborescens, just starting to bloom, and the last of the Triteleia blossoms from the bulbs I planted last fall.

That's better! I'll move the sign back in the spring.


donna said…
I'm used to my natives in the back yard, but am now going with natives in the front. Some of the salvias are really showing off, though, especially the salvia repens. But I think the neighbors may have to get used to it not always looking so green and lush as it does in the spring!
Having been following various debates about "what is Native" and "being puritanical about natives" I must say that I get tempted at this time of year to spice it up a bit! But seeing as how I'm still at the planning stage and still ripping out Ivy at least I won't have to worry till next year - anythings will look better than the garden in its current state!
I've been noticing how drab things are becoming around here too. Our truly native natives are just about pooped out for the season. Lotus scoparius, Holodiscus and Mimulus are just about done, and after they're gone, I don't think there's much left to bloom. Well, except for the lovely buckwheat Christine gave us that's just throwing up it's flower stems. Seems I need to find some other natives to mix in here that bloom later in the season...spring is long way away!
Kimberly said…
Things are duller at my house too, although I still have lots of's just not the quantity that I'm used to. It was such a tough winter and now a hot summer on top of it. ?!?!

I like how you show the different color leaves. Very observant. They're pretty.
Noelle said…
This is a great post dealing with something many gardeners may have never heard of. Being in the desert, summer dormancy hits my roses each year, but they always bounce back in the fall :-)
I got really demoralized earlier this week, by what I saw as the sad state of my Oakland garden.

It's hard to be hands-off at this time of year, but I know I'd kill just about anything that I'd try to plant at this time.
Christine said…
Yes, I've been meaning to do a post entitled "there is life after spring." my Clarkias are fading, but the Eriogonums are taking over, hopefully to be followed by the Zauschnerias. My Monkey didn't go dormant at all, but blooms all year- we're so close geographically, but so far horticulturally! That shot of the Eriogonum and also the Monardella look incredible!
Town Mouse said…
Christine, thanks for noticing that I meant to say while a few plants are cutting back (or getting cut back), the garden is still attractive to both humans and critters. Byddi, I'd recommend some containers with non-natives. It often looks odd to stick a few water lovers in the middle of a dry garden. Containers, on the other hand, work great.