Robin will help you plan YOUR yard — including identifying
your plants…both native and exotic,
and recommending new problem-solving plants and ideas,
from pathways to yard design!

 

Do you long to know more about your own yard and property? Would you like to walk through your yard/property alongside a plant expert to identify any plants you don’t know, both native and non-native, and get ideas for other plants that would thrive in your yard? Would you like to get suggestions about planting hardy, drought-tolerant, attractive, desert-friendly plants, including trees, shrubs, and perennials that can help you reach your highest dreams for your property?

 

Landscape planning with views in mind

Landscape planning with views in mind

If you want to achieve your goals for enjoying your yard to its fullest potential without having to contract an expensive landscape architect, consider inviting botanist Robin Kobaly into your yard for a personal consultation. Robin will help you appreciate and identify what you already have, and suggest what plants, pathways, or other structures you could incorporate into your landscape to solve issues you may have with landscaping, views, privacy, wind, hot walls, soil challenges, or problem spots. Robin will share easy, concrete steps to help you successfully plan out a functional, sustainable, low-maintenance, attractive landscape plan to empower you in creating your own dream yard – yourself!

 

Robin identifies yard plants, and shares traditional and modern uses of native plants.

 

 

 

Robin will bring plenty of supporting materials to help you envision your yard’s potential, and supply photos of suggested plants to fit your yard’s needs. She will suggest a variety of methods that are easy but effective in achieving a landscape plan that suits your individual desires, personality, passions, moods, entertainment essentials, as well as considerations if you have children or pets, while providing suggestions to help you solve persistent problems on your property. Robin also can share homemade remedies that you can easily make yourself to solve common garden problems such as powdery mildew, insect attacks, rabbit munching, etc.

 

 

 

Imagining a new backyard plan

 

Your yard consultation will normally last 2-3 hours, during which Robin will answer your questions, offer ideas about how to plan your yard to achieve your dreams and desires, present ideas about what plants would do well on your property to achieve those goals (and where you can buy those plants), and give you valuable tips on irrigation for success. She will share secrets about how you can discover your best approach for getting the most enjoyment from your yard by knowing what to focus on to achieve great results. Robin will also identify all the native plants you may have on your property, and introduce you to some of your native plants’ special qualities and uses that you can incorporate into your own life.

 

 

Making yard plans with Robin

Creating yard plans with Robin

The fee for this personal yard consultation is based on yard acreage and distance for travel. Please call for a quote for this service on your yard or property. We are excited to meet you and your yard, and to discuss and brainstorm your dreams and goals for your yard. We love helping people get excited about reaching the potential of their yard. This is a very fun experience for both of us!

 To discuss your personal yard consultation, call (760) 363-1166 or email robin@powerofplants.com for a quote and to schedule a fun journey into your own yard through the eyes and experience of a seasoned botanist, Robin Kobaly.

You will love searching here for the best plants to satisfy your landscape needs for your Southwest yard! Click on the image below to search all categories. Our Water-Wise Plant Data Base includes hundreds of plants, both native and non-native, that are water-wise, drought-tolerant, available at Southern California nurseries, and that are cold-hardy in our cool desert winters but still stand up to our extreme summer heat. We have included a special category of “California Native Plants”, so gardeners who want to grow plants native to our area can find them all in one location in our database. See below for a discussion of USDA Hardiness Zones, Sunset Climate Zones, and cold hardiness, and how they each relate to our region.

Start your plant search here:

 

~ USDA Hardiness Zones are based on the average annual minimum winter temperature. This system divides North America into 11 separate zones. Each zone is 10°F warmer, or colder, in an average winter than the adjacent zone. Zone 1 is the coldest; zone 11 is the warmest. In the Mojave Desert, we are predominately within USDA Zone 8, based on our winter low temperatures that indicate where a plant may survive the winter. Our lower, Colorado Desert is predominately within USDA Zones 9 and 10.

~ Sunset Climate Zones are based on the combination of climatic factors that affect a plant’s total performance, including length of growing season, timing and amount of rainfall, winter lows, summer highs, wind, and humidity. Sunset climate zones indicate where a plant will thrive year-round. Sunset magazine classifies 33 western zones, numbered from harshest (Zone 1) to mildest (Zone 33), and organized by region from north to south. The boundaries of each of these unique zones are a function of six geographic and climactic factors: latitude, elevation, ocean influence, continental air influence, mountains and hills, and local terrain. Taken together, these factors determine what will grow well in your garden and what won’t. In the Mojave Desert, we are predominately within Sunset Zone 11 (“Medium to High Deserts of California”), based on many climatic and geographic factors that influence where a plant may perform the best year-round. Our lower, Colorado Desert is predominantly within Sunset Zone 13 (“Low or Subtropical Desert Areas”).

~ Cold Hardiness is shown in degrees Fahrenheit. This is the minimum temperature the plant can tolerate without suffering lasting damage.

 

Summers are tough for a desert botanist. It pains my heart to look out across both our yard and the open desert and watch the native plants turning brown, dropping their leaves, and shutting down for the summer. I know that these plants have to do this just to survive the coming months of intense sun, 100+ degree heat, and no promise of rain for most of the year. Yes, the scientist in me knows that all these desert plants have adapted to this climate by taking an obligate summer sleep, designed by nature to slip into dormancy for the summer, and that shutting down is what allows them to survive the brutal summers here. But it hurts me, none the less.

Like watching our friends struggle, it's hard to see desert plants go through long summers with no water.

Like watching our friends struggle, it’s hard to see desert plants go through long summers with no water, resorting to dropping all their leaves and going dormant during extreme conditions.

This is a strategy used by plants from deserts around the world. When the soil is hot and dry, the plants sleep. When the soil is cool and wet, they wake up and grow. I know that I must resist the urge to keep their soil wet over the summer; I would not be doing them any favor to constantly water them, because soils that are wet when they are hot would only grow harmful bacteria and fungus that cause root rot, and deprive the roots of needed oxygen, especially when soils are hot. I would literally kill my native plants with kindness.

But wait–it’s not the water per se that kills desert plant roots in the summer; it’s continuous water in hot soil that kills them. So what if we could occasionally deliver the water down into a soil depth where the soil isn’t hot? Moisture in cool soil doesn’t grow root pathogens like it does in hot soil. An occasional summer thunderstorm can be a natural occurrence in the desert, and that doesn’t hurt the plants, because it is fleeting moisture, soaked up by roots, and quickly drying out; the soil will not be soaked again for many weeks or months. Infrequent soakings don’t create enough incubation time for big populations of harmful soil microbes to grow and cause root rot.

So here is a strategy to help native and other desert-friendly plants get through summer with less pain for them and for their human garden stewards: during the summer, deliver water deep into the soil occasionally with “deep water stakes”, soaking subterranean soils several feet below the surface where soil temperatures are much lower.

Deep-water Stakes

Deep-water stakes are available in 1, 2, and 3-foot lengths to deliver water deep into the ground with no surface evaporation, delivering that water into cooler subterranean soil layers.

We decided to try this method when our 25-year old, 15-foot tall row of sugarbush plants (Rhus ovata) started showing the stress of seven years of severe drought. They have not been on an irrigation system for decades, since they are native to our valley and normally receive adequate moisture from seasonal rains. But seven years of almost no rain was just too much for them. Their leaves turned brownish-black, most with tiny holes like miniature buckshot; whole limbs were dying, and leaves were becoming scarce on the limbs that were surviving. It was grim. These plants had for years formed a thick privacy screen along our property boundary. Now we could see right through the branches.

Deep-water stakes to the rescue! We bought dozens of 2-foot long, hollow plastic watering stakes with holes along the sides, and a pointed end to make installation easy with a rubber mallet or hammer. In some places, our soil was so dry and compacted, we had to soak the soil with water first to pound the stake in.

We installed a stake between each adjacent plant, and one stake on either side of each sugarbush. We were careful to place the stakes under the “dripline” of each plant, the area under the ends of the branches, where the root system is most active and absorbs moisture. The area right next to the crown of the plant, where the stem comes out of the soil, does not have roots that still absorb water; roots near the crown have barked over, providing structure but not absorption. Many plants suffer from fungal rot if the soil near the crown is continually saturated during warm weather.

Sugarbush leaves before and after deep watering

Sugarbush leaves before and after deep watering.

These watering stakes are not cheap, but we weighed the cost of losing our trees, and watering much more frequently at the surface and possibly still losing the trees, versus the water saved by watering deeply only every few months.  We felt the expense was worth it in the long run. You can make your own deep-water sleeves by cutting short sections of PVC drainage pipe, digging holes next to your plant, burying the sleeve under the dripline of the plant, filling it with gravel, placing your irrigation line through one of the holes, and buying a PVC cap to keep dirt and animals out. However, the caps are fairly expensive, and digging the holes to bury the sleeve next to existing plants is very labor-intensive and can damage plant roots. Deep-watering sleeves made of drainage pipe are most practical if they are installed when a new plant is first planted. We also like the ease with which the manufactured stakes can be pulled out by sliding a screwdriver through the top set of holes, pulling the stake out of the ground, and pounding it back in further from the plant’s crown as the plant grows.

Adapting a garden hose to fit into deep water stakes, which are normally designed for 1/4" irrigation tubing. We place a washer over the opening of the stake when the cap is off to keep dirt out of the stake.

Adapting a garden hose to fit into deep water stakes, which are normally designed for 1/4″ irrigation tubing. We place a washer over the opening of the stake whenever the cap is off to keep dirt out of the stake.

The cap of each stake has a small slit to allow placement of a ¼-inch irrigation line into the stake before fitting the cap over the stake. Since we don’t have irrigation to this far section of our yard, we rigged up a hose ending that fits down into the stake (plastic tubing attached with a hose adapter to a garden hose), and watered with our garden hose.

To reduce the end size of your garden hose to fit down into narrow deep-water stakes, buy a screw-on hose adapter to fit onto a short piece of flexible plastic hose.

To reduce the end size of your garden hose to fit down into narrow deep-water stakes, buy a screw-on, plastic hose adapter to fit onto a short piece of flexible plastic hose.

We slipped our plastic tubing into the stake, turned on the faucet to a fast drip/slow drizzle, and set a timer for 6 hours per stake. To our amazement, we started to see not just new leaves, but entire new branches growing within two weeks. We did this just once in April, and again in June. We will not water them again until August or September, if we don’t get any monsoonal rains. With ample winter rains, supplemental irrigation won’t be necessary; however, if we have just a small fraction of our normal winter precipitation, as we have had for multiple years in the past, we might try one deep-watering session over the winter. If these plants hadn’t been so stressed from years of drought, they could likely thrive with just one or two deep watering sessions per year. So many new branches have regrown on every plant that we again have a thick privacy screen shielding us from the street. We feel we rescued these beauties from possible death, or at least a fate so unsightly we would have had to cut them back severely and hope for some regrowth next winter.

We will be testing deep-water stakes on some of our other deep-rooted native plants to determine whether an occasional deep, subterranean soaking keeps them from going totally summer dormant. Like they say, we don’t want to fool Mother Nature, but we would like to give our valiant desert native plants a little boost during our new climate regime of hotter and drier days. We will report back on our results.

Until then, remember that occasional deep soakings are better for your desert-adapted plants than frequent, shallow watering. Deep watering teaches plant roots to grow down deep to find moist soils, protecting roots from drying out at the surface.

Sugarbush after deep watering_4752

Privacy screen of mature sugarbushes with new flush of leaves and branches after being watered with deep-water stakes following a seven-year drought that killed off most of the branches and leaves.

Shallow watering teaches roots to stay near the surface to find moisture, but surface soils heat up fast and dry out quickly. There is little protection for shallow roots if the surface soil heats up and dries out. Roots will never learn to go deep if trained to stay shallow—condemning both of you to a schedule of constant irrigation. For desert native plants, frequent summer watering can speed them toward root rot and death. If you can’t resist watering your struggling natives during the summer, make like a summer thunderstorm and put lots of water on them over one or two days, then let the soil dry out completely before creating another “monsoonal storm”.

As we sip wine on our Hobbit Deck at sunset, it make us smile to look over our 1/2-acre desert garden and see native plants not just surviving this extreme summer heat, but thriving.

 

P.S. Deep-water stakes are available locally at Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley, Home Depot stores, and online from “Deep Drip Watering Stakes” at www.deepdrip.com.

 

Deep Drip Stakes_Trees

Placement of 24-inch stakes for trees. Courtesy deepdrip.com

 

Deep Drip Stakes_Shrubs

Placement of 14-inch stakes for trees. Courtesy deepdrip.com

 

 

You can find CALIFORNIA NATIVE PLANTS at these southland nurseries:

 

High Desert

Bush Monkeyflower - long-blooming, evergreen native shrub waiting for your yard!

Bush Monkeyflower – long-blooming, evergreen native shrub waiting for your yard!

 

Cactus Mart

49889 29 Palms Hwy

Morongo Valley, CA 92256

(760) 363-6076

www.cactusmart.net

 

Unique Garden Center

56637 29 Palms Hwy

Yucca Valley, CA 92284

(760) 365-1511

 

Oak Hills Nursery 

Hollyleaf Cherry - native evergreen shrub or small tree makes a great privacy screen.

Hollyleaf Cherry – native evergreen shrub or small tree that makes a great privacy screen.

13874 Ranchero Rd.

Oak Hills, CA 92344

(760) 947-6261

 www.oakhillsnursery.net

 

Low Desert

 

Bob Williams Nursery

48-575 Madison

Indio, CA 92201

(760) 347-6397

www.bobwilliamsnursery.com

 

Moller’s Garden Center

For stunning fall color & hummingbird magnet, plant California Fuchsia in masses.

For stunning fall color and a guaranteed hummingbird magnet, plant California Fuchsia in masses.

72-235 Painters Path

Palm Desert, CA 92260

(760) 346-0545

www.mollersgardencenter.com

 

Moorten Botanical Garden

1701 S. Palm Canyon Dr.

Palm Springs, CA 92264

(760) 327-6555

 

Southland and Beyond

 

Lily Rock Native Gardens

54385 North Circle Drive

Idyllwild, CA 92549

One of our most drought-tolerant native plants, California Buckwheat fills in your yard like baby's breath fills in a bouquet.

One of our most drought-tolerant native plants, California Buckwheat fills in your yard like baby’s breath fills in a bouquet.

(951) 468-3125

www.facebook.com/LilyRockNativeGardens

 

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens

1500 North College Ave.

Claremont, CA 91711-3157

(909) 625-8676

see website for plant sale dates

www.rsabg.org

 

Native Sons Inc.

379 W. El Campo Rd.

Arroyo Grande, CA 93420

1-805-481-5996

Bountiful flowers from late afternoon through early morning attract hummingbirds, butterflies and moths to Bigelow's Four O'Clock, a tidy, rounded, native evergreen shrub.

Bountiful flowers from late afternoon through early morning attract hummingbirds, butterflies and moths to Bigelow’s Four O’Clock, a tidy, rounded, native evergreen shrub.

www.nativeson.com

 

Tree of Life Nursery

33201 Ortega Hwy

P.O. Box 635

San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693

(949) 728-0685

www.treeoflifenursery.com

 

High Country Gardens

2902 Rufina St.

Santa Fe, NM 87505

1-800-925-9387

www.highcountrygardens.com

 

Mockingbird Nursery

Desert Sage's late winter and spring whorls of blue flowers attract hummingbirds.

Desert Sage’s late winter and spring whorls of blue flowers attract hummingbirds.

1670 Jackson St.

Riverside, CA 92504

(909) 780-3571

www.mockingbirdnursery.com

 

Theodore Payne Foundation

10459 Tuxford St.

Sun Valley, CA 91352-2126

(818) 768-1802

www.theodorepayne.org

 

Misty Meadows Landscape Nursery

43601 Mesa St

Banning Ca 92220

951-765-7542

 

Why Plant Native?

Inviting Native Plants into Your Yard

Tips on Planting Native Plants

Tips on Watering Native Plants

Native Plants for High-Desert Gardens

Sep
25
0

Why Plant Native?

Prickly Poppy

Prickly Poppy

We have been trained, over generations of time, that whenever we move into an area, we are to remove the native plants growing on our new site and replace them with plants from wherever we were before, or at least with plants we are familiar with. The plants we introduce into our new setting are not necessarily the ones best adapted to that area, but are the ones that have been marketed to us as the industrial standards that are the “right” ones to use. These plants are invariably mass-produced, mass-marketed, and are therefore the plants that we see for sale all around us: available, cheap, and familiar.

If our new place does not support the plants we have been trained to want (due to climate or soils, for instance), we change the place. We remove the native plants (often considered “weeds”), take out the native soil, bring in new soil, install irrigation, and add pesticides and fertilizers so the introduced plants will be able to tolerate a climate they are not naturally adapted to survive.

What we end up with across America are the same plants, with the same look, no matter where we live. What differs is the amount of time and resources spent to keep those plants living in every conceivable climate to which they are subjected. This may achieve a certain aesthetic look, but it is not ecological in any way. Traditional landscape designs often isolate yards and gardens from the natural environment, then drain the surroundings of resources and add nothing back in return (except for tainting the whole setting with toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides).

Our best approach to landscaping is to select plants appropriate to our place, and not try to change our place to fit inappropriate plants. By selecting plants that have evolved with our region’s climate and soils, we eliminate the need to constantly add resources not supplied naturally by our climate. Plants native to an area evolved to grow and thrive in those local conditions, and do not need the place changed at all to survive. Our native plants need very little care or maintenance and need very little or no added water or soil amendments. We may be surprised to find how many songbirds are attracted to our native yard plantings, and pleased to realize that those songbirds keep pests under control, eliminating the need for pesticides.

Paperbag bush flowers_0422_RK-sm

Paperbag Bush Flowers

Some of the benefits of landscaping with natives, or “naturescaping”, include low maintenance, little or no watering after establishment, no need for chemical pesticides or fertilizers, less cost to maintain, healthier home-site (no leaching of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers into groundwater), enhanced property value, and providing habitat for songbirds whose populations are dropping dramatically every year due to loss of habitat.

Let’s change our way of thinking: pick the plant that fits the place, and not change the place to fit the plant. Native plants take care of themselves because they evolved to grow naturally in your own back yard. Desert native plants, in particular, thrive in one of the harshest environments on our planet, and should be the first landscape plants invited back into our southwest desert yards.

                                           Inviting Native Plants into Your Yard

Tips on Planting Native Plants

Tips on Watering Native Plants

Nurseries Selling California Native Plants

Native Plants for High-Desert Gardens

 

First and foremost, planting at the appropriate time (late fall through early spring) is key to survival for desert native plants. This allows the root system to become established during the cool, rainy season, well before the harsh summer months.

Chaparral Bush Mallow

Chaparral Bush Mallow

It is in our nature to buy bigger plants because we want the end result right now; however, it is better to plant smaller natives because they will not develop a damaged root system from growing too long in the container, and the roots will grow faster in their new home. Deep roots are a critical element in a plant’s drought-tolerance. If a native plant has been kept in a pot too long, the roots will hit the bottom of the pot and start coiling. This can cause long-term damage to the roots, and hamper the tap root from reaching its full potential as a lengthy “straw” penetrating into deep, moist soil.

There is some discussion about whether to use a planting mix, mulch, or neither when plant­ing natives. One thought is that because they are nursery grown, they have been spoiled with optimal care, and to set them out in the world with poor soil conditions from the start would set them back. Once they out-grow the amended soil they are planted in, they will be stronger and better able to continue on their own. As the composted mulch breaks down, the humus it contains binds with soil particles to actually improve drainage conditions over time. This holds true for poorly-draining soils, such as caliche and clay, but granitic and sandy soils are fast-draining naturally, and don’t require amendments to improve drainage.

A second thought is that plants which are native to our “Creosote Bush Scrub” habitat have adapted to so little organic material in the soil, no amendments are needed during planting. While soil amend­ments may be optional for some of our desert native plants, one plant that seems to hate soil amendments or fertilizer of any kind is creosote. Native plants from other (more moist) California regions seem to tolerate or appreciate some soil amendments during planting; however, native plants from all habitats in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts except streamside or marsh habitats seem to grow best when planted with no added soil amendments or fertilizers. Most desert natives (especially cactus and all succulents like yuccas and nolinas), do best with no added soil amendments. Do not fertilize any desert natives.

Datura Native Plant

Datura

Most native species have difficulty becoming established if planted in the heat of summer. The best approach is to postpone planting until late fall. In high desert climates, postpone planting in early fall if temperatures are still warm, as tender new growth encouraged by the warmth may freeze as winter arrives. Later (cooler) fall planting is less likely to encourage new leaf growth before the plant’s first encounter with winter freezes. Early fall plantings are safe in low desert areas, as winter frosts are uncommon.

If you have to install plants in the summer, consider providing temporary shade to native plantings. Use burlap or other mesh cloth sup­ported by stakes on the sunny side of the plant to create a cooler micro-environment. Don’t drape the shade fabric over the plant, as this will create even hotter conditions. Remem­ber, if you wait until the fall or early spring to install native plants, everything is easier for both you and the plants.

Why Plant Native?

Tips on Planting Native Plants

Tips on Watering Native Plants

Nurseries Selling California Native Plants

Native Plants for High-Desert Gardens