Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass
Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’

  • Plant Form: Perennial grass
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar – May), Summer (June – Aug)
  • Native to: Southern California, Canada, North America, Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -30°F

There are so many desirable aspects of this interesting bunchgrass that Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass is bound to find at least one way into every gardener’s heart. It is long lived, deep rooted, drought tolerant, very low water-use, extremely cold tolerant, heat tolerant, deer resistant, can tolerate foot traffic and mowing, provides winter interest with distinctive seed heads, attracts songbirds, is comfy in containers, and even makes interesting dried flower arrangements. Can you resist it?

Blue Grama Grass is a long-lived bunchgrass with distinctive seed heads that look like curved combs or blonde sets of eyelashes. Its unique seed heads hover horizontally above green foliage from summer into fall, starting out chartreuse, then turning brown, and finally blonde (hinting at this selection’s name). In winter, its leaves also dry to a tan color, so this warm-season bunchgrass looks best when cut back in early spring to 2-3 inches above the ground to remove last winter’s dry leaves and flower spikes. Don’t prune too soon, though–the dried, tan seed heads are interesting all winter, and wintering songbirds love the seeds. This drought-tolerant, extremely cold-hardy grass fits into any garden style, including rock gardens, Mediterranean gardens, meadow gardens and naturalized areas. Lovely as a specimen plant, or along sunny paths, in borders and beds, in containers, or massed as a groundcover. Tolerates foot traffic and mowing, so it makes a great choice for drought-tolerant lawns. Its interesting flowers work wonders in dried arrangements.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for August

Jul
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Plant of the Month – July

Carob Tree
Ceratonia siliqua

  • Plant Form: Evergreen tree, shrub
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 30-45 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Fall (Sept – Nov)
  • Native to: Mediterranean region, Iran
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 20°F

Evergreen shade trees that can take the heat, cold, wind, and drought of our deserts are hard to come by, but Carob Tree takes all those challenges in stride. After established with infrequent watering, little or no summer water may be needed for Carob Trees to survive. You can train this plant into a tree for shade, or allow it to remain a shrub to create a windbreak, sound barrier, or tall hedge.

Carob Tree, best known for its cultivated seed pods used as a substitute for chocolate, is also valued for its ornamental landscape qualities. Its dense canopy of glossy, evergreen foliage makes a wonderful shade tree. Allowed to grow naturally, it retains its bushy form as a multi-stemmed shrub with branches to the ground, useful as a big hedge. If the plant is trained as a tree, with lower branches removed, it grows into a dense, rounded tree. Trees are either male or female, with both needed to produce carob fruit. Female trees produce flattened, brown leathery pods 1 foot long, which can be messy and may require occasional clean-up. Request a male tree to avoid fruit drop.  Young trees may need winter protection the first year or two. Water infrequently and deeply until established, after which little or no summer water may be needed. Use as a shade tree, windbreak, sound barrier, or tall hedge.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for July

Jun
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Plant of the Month – June

Creeping Thyme
Thymus praecox ssp. articus

  • Plant Form: Groundcover, perennial herb
  • Water Use: Very low, low
  • Mature Size: 2-3 in. tall x 1.5-2.5 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June – August), Fall (Sept)
  • Native to: Europe
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

This low, mat-forming groundcover is delightful in so many ways; it is low maintenance, low water-using, it attracts butterflies when in bloom, it releases a pleasant fragrance when crushed under light foot traffic, and it softens hard edges of anything from rocks to walls, ledges to dry banks. Let your Creeping Thyme cascade over a container or spread out as a lawn substitute.

Creeping Thyme is a low evergreen ground cover that fits into small spaces but seems to bring big smiles to everyone passing by. It has a pleasant, spicy fragrance when crushed, and it will tolerate light foot traffic to release its scent. The stems spread out horizontally, taking root to form a flat mat, easily spreading over rocks, ledges, or a dry bank. In summer, this mounding plant produces a bounty of lilac or pink flowers that attract butterflies. This low water-use plant is also low maintenance, needing only slight pruning to maintain shape. Creeping Thyme does best in well-drained soils, and suffers in wet or poorly-drained soils. Perfect in pots, between rocks or stepping stones, draping over walls or banks, as a lawn substitute, or in any small area that needs a touch of magic (try it in a fairy garden).

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for June

May
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Plant of the Month – May

Smokey Coast Rosemary
Westringia fruticosa ‘Smokey’

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 3-6 ft. tall x 4-5 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March – May),
    Summer (June – August)
  • Native to: Australia
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 20°F

This compact, neat shrub is a favorite of landscape professionals because of its low maintenance needs, drought tolerance, versatility, and the beautiful contrast of its foliage with green-leaved companion plants.

Smokey Coast Rosemary is a rugged Australian native with dainty evergreen leaves covered in soft white hair that makes the whole plant appear “smokey”. Its dark green leaves are edged in creamy white margins, creating attractive foliage year-round. Small, two-lipped white flowers tinged in purple can appear almost any time of year, but are most prolific in spring. Landscape professionals commonly use this outstanding plant because it is fast-growing, versatile, strong, drought-tolerant, and resilient.  This compact shrub retains a neat, globe shape without pruning, and lends itself to low borders or hedges, as well as mass plantings, accents among green-leaved companions, and for erosion control. Beautiful in butterfly and Mediterranean gardens.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for May

Daylily
Hemerocallis varieties

  • Plant Form: Perennial herb
  • Water Use: Low, moderate
  • Mature Size: 2-3 ft. tall x 1-3 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March – May),
    Summer (June – August)
  • Native to: Asia
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to – 20°F

Daylilies may be common world-wide, but they give an impressive mix of uncommon benefits to gardeners. Their reliable flowering and lush foliage might fool you into thinking they need to be pampered, but they are cold hardy, heat tolerant, drought tolerant, low maintenance, tolerate almost any soil, provide erosion control, and perform beautifully even through hot, dry summers. Put these beauties to work for you in borders, perennial beds, pots, on slopes, or as groundcovers.

Daylilies are one of the most adaptable flowering plants in the world, with over 80,000 varieties, and more being developed every year. Sometimes discounted because they are so common world-wide, they have good reason to be embraced by so many gardeners. Besides their beauty, Daylilies are cold hardy, heat tolerant, drought tolerant, low maintenance, and happy in almost any soil, providing dependable color and lush foliage in even the hottest, driest summers. Their thick, tuberous roots not only sustain them through drought, they provide excellent erosion control by holding soil in place, even on steep slopes. Daylilies make great container plants, meeting all three goals in pots as “thrillers, spillers, and fillers” all at once with their lush, cascading foliage and tall wands of flowers. Use a mix of varieties to extend the bloom season. These versatile plants work well in shrub borders, pots, perennial beds, on slopes, as groundcovers, and in butterfly and hummingbird gardens.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for April

Greek Sage
Salvia fruticosa

  • Plant Form: Perennial sub-shrub
  • Water Use: Very low, low
  • Mature Size: 3-3.5 ft. tall x 3-5 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, very light shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March – May),
    Summer (June – Aug)
    (Sept – Nov)
  • Native to: Mediterranean region,
    North Africa, Canary Islands
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15 – 20°F

Greek Sage gives in so many ways, and requires so little in return. It is a treasured culinary herb that is used like Garden Sage due to its aroma and flavor, but is more subtle. It tolerates poor soils, drought, frost, and heat, resists browsing by deer and rabbits, and attracts hummingbirds. Add to all this its beautiful, long-blooming, blue flower spikes, and you have a true garden winner.

Greek Sage is as beautiful as it is useful, from its aromatic leaves to its tall spikes of striking blue flowers. No pampering is needed, because this heat-tolerant plant prefers poor soils to fertile ones, is drought-tolerant, and is fairly cold hardy. As long as the soil is well-drained and the plant gets lots of sun, Greek Sage will thrive. Maintenance is simple: a hard prune in early spring for shape, and a light prune after flowering in summer to encourage a denser bush and tease out another flush of flowering (trim at the base of the flower stalk to the next pair of new buds). Despite its similar appearance to Garden Sage, it grows taller and is prized for its distinctive aroma and flavor, considered more subtle. Greek Sage actually contributes between 50-95% of all dried culinary sage sold in the US. Besides its long history of medicinal uses, this sage is valued in borders, beds, pots, flower-cutting gardens, herb and hummingbird gardens, and Mediterranean or rock gardens.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for March