Opt for new installations that are water-wise

Opt for new installations that are water-wise

Opt for new installations that are water-wise
Woolly Blue Curls flowers are native to California, extending from Monterey to Baja California, and have been growing wild since ancient times.

Nicole Hackett, Garden GirlCONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (May 21, 2022) — Gardening during a drought can still be rewarding and beautiful.

There are many perennials, shrubs, ornamental grasses and trees for folks to install that will improve the appeal of their landscapes, all while using less water.

Calandrinia spectabilis is a spectacular, shrubby succulent with light blue-gray foliage and bright magenta-purple flowers that line 24-inch stalks. This evergreen perennial produces an abundance of flowers from mid-spring ’til frost. Calandrinia tolerates full sun, requiring a minimum of six hours a day to be productive. It can handle reflective heat from stone and is tidy enough to plant near a swimming pool.

Oleander is back in fashion

Oleander has been a bad word in the nursery for decades, but it has had a resurgence of interest.

Gardeners recognize that this evergreen shrub grows quickly, keeps its leaves and has showy flowers all growing season long. Oleander has flowers of cherry red, medium pink, coral or white. In the mornings, the fragrance of the blossoms is sweet.

Oleander makes a sturdy privacy screen and is an excellent hillside installation. Oleander is poisonous and should not be used anywhere near horses. Most oleander grows 6-10 feet tall and wide. Some petite selections reach only 3-4 feet tall and wide, making them excellent additions to property lines and as fence covers.

Going full circle

Verbena lilacina ‘de la Mina’ is a California native plant that anyone can grow. This wispy perennial naturally grows in a round manner, reaching 2-3 feet tall and wide. The foliage is delicate looking, but the plant is tough as nails. Lavender flowers appear late April through August. This perennial is butterfly and bee friendly.

Woolly Blue Curls is another California native perennial that’s easy to establish and grow. Maturing to 3-5 feet tall and wide, it loves full sun and requires well-drained soil. Install Woolly Blue Curls on a berm or hillside. The flower is deep purple, and the long stamens of the bloom add interest. This selection will also attract hummingbirds.

Those who like the desert/cactus look will admire Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Brakelights.’ This evergreen has structure to its foliage and grows almost completely circular in shape. The fronds are blue-gray, with curly, white “hairs” that add more detail. During the spring and summer, stalks of rosy-red flowers spike 3-4 feet up from the center of the plant. This evergreen gives the landscape an ornamental grass feeling as well as flower interest.

Drought-tolerant trees

Fruitless olive trees, Desert Palo Verde and Weeping Acacia make great drought-tolerant tree choices. Fruitless olives are available in standard shapes and multi-trunk. They would be your best choices for providing shade.

If you need vertical interest in the landscape, consider a Desert Palo Verde. This semi-evergreen tree has bright green branches and leaves. From middle spring through middle summer, tiny yellow blossoms cover this ornamental tree. Consider the blossoms when installing as they would be messy near a pool. Weeping Acacia looks great in a large container for an interesting backdrop or as a focal point installation.

Water-saving tips

To keep your existing plants happy during the hot, dry summer months, mulch every inch of bare soil you see. Apply a thick layer of ground mulch mixed with chicken manure. You can find products like this in bags. Once spread, top with bark – shredded, micro, medium, whatever you like. The layers provide nutrients, help ground moisture from evaporating and keep roots shaded.

Another water saver is to keep your grass taller. Do not mow your lawn weekly. (My own HOA should read that line.) Also, get a moisture meter to help eliminate some watering days. Soil can look dry, but deep down the roots may still be moist.

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with ­questions or comments by email at

Nicole Hackett
Nicole Hackett

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with ­questions or comments by email at gardengirl94517@yahoo.com