Edited by Cathy Tylka, for Let's Talk Plants! December 2021.
This month's question:
Has anything other than the water shortage led you to change your gardening style?
Lisa Bellora responds . . .
. . . Yes, the addition of many local native plants.
Thelma Lee says . . .
. . . I refuse to reduce water and I garden as I please. No grass (hate it) for ten years but I won’t do more. Big corporations must be called on to restrict, not me in my little garden!
Ida Rigby, 92064, (who submitted this wonderful question), responds . . .
. . . I used to cultivate a “natural” look by letting plants fill in as they wished, expressing their own personalities. In March, a nose-to-nose encounter with a beautiful rattler, coiled up and grinning at me from inside its coil, not two feet from my hands and about the same distance from my nose, changed all that. It was under the “naturally” cascading skirt of a cistus and I was weeding on hands and knees. Of course, I leapt straight up and three feet in one maneuver (wrong). Fortunately, s/he was a wise, indulgent snake just hoping I would go away. Since then, I have been working to make the ground visible. These before and after shots illustrate two things. First, never plant Ruellia (which 30 years ago seemed a good idea for its drought tolerance and now is banned in some states) and that gardens have their own life. Ruellia and grassy weeds gone, the succulents expanded to fill the space, and dormant narcissus bulbs are emerging. Another encounter occurred when I reached down to pick up dead narcissus leaves and brushed my hand over a rattler sleeping under the dry leaves (these I’ll tie up in teepees until they dry). Then of course another aspect of the “natural look” is that it attracts lots of birds. I saw our resident spotted towhee fluttering from one still well covered area to another. So, I am just declaring some areas of the garden Ida free zones and towhee habitat.
Here are two photos, before and after.
Cindy Bruecks, 92017, states . . .
. . . I lost my garden helpers this past summer and discovered just how abandoned the yard can look with zero help while we were away snowbirding in Arizona all summer. So, while the front yard meadow survived intact, the back looks like an abandoned property. I will simplify yet some more. I have concrete walks and stairs, extensive mulch areas and a large gravel area. The fruit trees are largely self-tending. But I refuse to give up all smaller plants so I will pick the winners among them and possibly delete the others. And if I could bring myself to not let lettuces, herbs and amaranth self-sew in the mulch, the place might stay neat in our absence!
Judi Lincer added . . .
. . . Low water, of course! PLUS, importantly the desire to create habitat by planting natives. Providing native shrubs, grasses, trees, wildflowers, etc. that attract pollinators and provide a place for native animals to forage, make nests, and find shelter. The pleasure of having them hang around my home so I can enjoy their presence while providing a safe space for them to live is a great concept. Native plants can be beautiful and we should all be working at finding space in our gardens to make room for them and invite our local birds, pollinators and other animals to share space with them.
Masumi King, 92123, replied…
. . . My dog. I replaced almost all the vegetation in my garden with Pet Friendly plants as well as installed some gates and barriers to protect my plants and my dog … replaced small gravel with larger cobble so that my puppy would not swallow pea gravels (He did that frequently). Also, I installed a tall pot in which to plant some toxic to the plants instead of at ground level.
Greg Rubin shares . . .
. . . Actually, the current drought is what we've been planning for all along, and why we've tried so hard to advance the popularity and know-how of native plant landscaping. We find that our clients are seeing reductions of 60-90% in water usage, without having to give up on the beauty of a landscape. And they are gaining a sense of regional identity, lots of birds and butterflies, lower maintenance, helping to save endangered species, and creating inviting year-round beauty. This is not meant as an advertisement, as people are capable of doing their own native landscapes. It's just an appeal to reject a lot of the conventional wisdom and misinformation, and to explore a whole different side of horticulture.