week we're at Randy's Perennials and Water Gardens in
Lawrenceville, Georgia. We'll talk with the owner Randy
has been in this location for over 16 years, about plants
that thrive in
hot and dry locations.
One quality of a great garden is its' ability to take care
of itself. There is no such thing as a "no maintenance"
garden, but we can keep maintenance to a minimum. To do
so one must consider how cold are the winters, how hot the
summers, how much rainfall, does the site get
full sun, when during the day does it get sun, where is
it shady in your
yard, where does it stay moist or dry. Match the plant to
the conditions, "don't fight the site."
There are over 2,000 varieties of plant material in this
location. We'll today discuss Xeriscape or water efficient
Yucca Torreyi, typically found in zone 7 and in elevations
to 4,000-6,000 feet. It likes full sun and a southeast/southwest
environment. They tolerate cold and wet, they just don't
like cold and wet combined. They like well drained soil,
which can be created with a mix of 60% permatil, which is
expanded shale and 40% compost or humus. Elevate the planting
bed for better drainage and a western slope is ideal. They
are low feeders so fertilization isn't essential, the organic
humus is usually enough to sustain the plant. Typically
as they grow in height they loose lower leaves, so lower
limbs can be removed. The trunk has an attractive appearance.
This is a plant that will make a strong statement in your
Trichocereus Terscheckii, Suguaro, is from the Andes in
It is found in elevations 4-5 thousand feet. It is slow
to grow and
likes dry conditions. Some use these plants indoors, they
only a couple of teaspoons of water every month. They grow
very slowly, especially indoors, adding only about one foot
a year. They are
federally protected so make sure to buy from a reputable
because they grow so slowly it takes a long time to replace
Agave Americana, provides a western feeling. It's leaves
with a strong, coarse, textured look, it's indigenous to
Mexico and can grow to 6-7 feet tall and in diameter. It
requires a well
drained site, it's a little sticky, every 10-30 years it
tall stock up to 7 feet of white, very fragrant blooms that
attract a kind
of bat. That bat pollinates this flower.
Yucca Rostrata, also known as The Blue Beaked Yucca. It
is found in
northern New Mexico, in the mountains at 4-5 thousand feet
It is kid friendly, can grow to 20-22 feet, is used in Mediterranean
atmospheres and cools and softens an environment. It requires
moisture, is not temperamental, requires good drainage but
the moisture and cold of zone 7 very well.
The thornless Prickly Pear, Opuntia Ellisiana is used by
some as a
food source. They will grow to 5-7 feet tall and 8-10 feet
in width. They
like full sun, they don't need a lot of fertilizer and require
good drainage. Humus helps because they feed on humus type
Cholla, is an upright Cactus in the Optunia family. It can
grow in zones 6 and 7. Some species are very cold tolerant,
drainage is imperative. In nature they fall over themselves
for support. Some of the parts of the plant will fall into
the soil and start rooting forming a whole new plant. It
makes an interesting focal point for a western garden.
A nice compliment to upright forms of Cactuses and Yuccas
are a ground cover plant. A ground cover is anything 18
inches or lower. Sedums are very good for hot, dry areas.
They are colorful in the fall, attract butterflies and have
an interesting texture to their foliage. They range in color
from green to gray to variegated with the Delosperma family
having purple and sometimes white blooms. The leaves have
a thick texture because they retain moisture within the
leaf, therefore they don't dry out quickly and they don't
need a lot of water.
Sedum Tetratinum, Chinese Sedum, has
very fleshy, green foliage in the summer, blooms early in
the spring and late in the fall has a rosy color to the
foliage. It has a couple of seasons of interest which makes
it fascinating. Butterflies like them as a nectar plant.
Sedum Cotacoleum has a slight blue gray foliage and has
a rosy pink bloom in the fall. These plants, with their
soft textures, bring out the coolness in an environment.
They spread by dropping their stems onto the ground, where
they root. They matt, so are good along walkways or on walls
because they cascade over. Sedum Linareas Tricolor is also
a low growing plant. In the sun its rose tones are more
accentuated. In the fall it has a yellow bloom that compliments
the foliage. Sedum Angelica is chartreuse, a hot, hot color.
It accentuates itself in the garden. It is fine textured,
goes well with coarse textures, it accents but doesn't compete
with other plants. It, too, cascades so looks good in a
pot or on a wall or walkway. Rosy Glow is a member of the
Stonecrop family of Sedums. It is compact, a fall bloomer,
has a nice soft pink bloom late in the fall. It has a bluish
silver tint that compliments cooler colors.
A hose guard protects plants in your garden from your hose.
essentially a long metal stake, placed in the ground that
wraps around keeping the hose out of the garden and away
from plants. They come in plastic forms, concrete and metal.
They work well protecting your garden from your hose.
Salvias all have square stems and opposite leaves (leaves
opposed to one another). There are so many different varieties
one could never collect all of them. Most have a scent when
the flowers are tubular and two-lipped.
Salvia Nemorosa, Marcos, is very compact, only hardy to
degrees, good in containers and along walkways. Also compact
is Salvia Leucantha, Mexican Brush Sage. It's a dwarf variety
compared to other Salvias. Salvia Greggii is an autumn sage.
It grows to 12-13 inches in height. Salvia Superbum, May
Night, is another compact plant and was 1998 perennial plant
of the year. Again, Salvias are excellent at attracting
butterflies. The tubular flowers attract the proboscis of
the butterfly. The blues and purples seem to be more cold
hardy, the reds should be treated as an annual or very tender
perennial. Blue and Black is another Salvia, growing to
between 24-36 inches. It offers a completely different,
intense blue in the garden.
Salvias tolerate drought conditions, once established which
6-8 weeks to get roots established in the soil. Once established
they are easy to care for, white flies are the only pest
problem and they can
bloom the entire season.
Silver is an important color in the garden. It's important
it's versatile. If silver is added to oranges, yellows or
reds it tends to
tone them down, cool them off a bit. Conversely by adding
blues, greens and purples it tends to brighten them. Another
of silver is late in the day, after a little too much sun,
if there is
some shade, the silver tends to brighten an area. Many plants
with silver on the leaves actually have small, tiny white
or pure silver hairs all over the leaves. They are from
Mediterranean or full sun areas where it gets hot and dry.
A key point to keeping silver plants looking good is to
make sure to keep water off the leaves. To do this make
sure not to
have overhead irrigation and make sure they have full sun
early in the day. Dianthus Gratianopolitanus, Cheddar Pink,
is a great ground cover. It produces a pink or red flower
and has a thick, dense matt. It's
flowers smell like clove. Artimesia, Wormwood, has varieties
as low as 18 inches tall with some varieties ranging to
5 feet tall. It likes full, bright sun, does not like fertilizer,
likes a dry environment, cutting it back makes it fuller
and denser. Dusty Miller is often confused with Artimesia.
An easy way to distinguish the two is to crush the leaves.
If there is any scent it's Artimesia, Dusty Miller has no
scent at all. Dusty Miller will grow to 4-6 feet tall, has
a small insignificant yellow flower but is grown primarily
for its silver foliage. Russian Sage, Perovskia Atriplicifolia,
produces a light blue flower that lasts 10-12 weeks. It
likes well drained soil (especially in winter), hates wet
feet and likes full sun. Euphorbia Marginata, Snow On The
Mountain, has a white tipped leaf. It grows to about 2 feet
tall, when planting, space them 12 inches apart. It prefers
a less fertile, almost poor soil and full bright sun. Artichoke,
Imperial Star, has a silver foliage, a very bold, very
coarse texture. It produces a bud that is spineless, full
and bulb shaped. They are a nice green color that contrast
nicely with the silver foliage. It not only looks good in
the garden but is a great addition to the table.
Sean Miller thinks Palms are often overlooked in the garden.
typically think of palms as tropical plants, only for tropical
of the country, yet some Palms are hardy. Sean likes Palms
because they add a tropical effect, they're stunning, they
stand out in a landscape. Some plants you see when passing
by, Palms cause you to take notice. Windmill Palms in their
native habitat grow on rocky hillsides, they do well in
hot and dry conditions. It is native to different areas,
China, for example. It often is an understory tree, is tolerant
of different conditions and does well even in clay. It is
one of the most cold hardy of any of the trunk forming palms.
It's hardy to around zero degrees Fahrenheit, and has survived
even lower temperatures. To prepare the soil, as with any
tree, dig a hole about two or three times larger than the
root ball, then mix in good soil when planting. Sago Palm,
Cycad, is one of the oldest living plants on earth. It generally
will survive to approximately zero degrees, with some protection
in the winter. It looses its leaves, but they come back
from the ground, resprouting about May of the following
season. Mulch it heavily and it likes well drained soil.
Needle Palm is the most cold hardy, it has been known to
withstand temperatures as low as 20 degrees below. Humidity
can effect the low temperature, the higher the humidity,
the less hardy the Palm. This species is native to flood
plains and likes soil moisture although it will tolerate
drought conditions. Silver Saw Palmetto has a silvery blue
foliage and works well with other blue-green plants. It
grows to between 4 and 5 feet tall. It likes full sun and
hot, dry conditions and well drained soil.
Herbs are effective as a landscape element and for your
like it hot, with full sun and well drained soil. Many herbs
Mediterranean parts of the world so they are acclimated
to that type
climate. Some grow herbs in a strawberry jar. Herbs work
environment because it is vertical, creating a well drained
One problem with that is the soil tends to dry out a little
but herbs like dryer conditions. A well drained part of
will also work well. Fennel, for example, will grow to about
4 feet tall. Bronzed Fennel is good for cooking and can
be used in potpourri. It attracts Monarch Butterflies, in
fact, is one of their primary foods.
Lavender is another choice. It isn't used for cooking but
in potpourri and in dried flower arrangements. It likes
full sun and
has a great scent. Sage, this variety a variegated foliage
variety, is attractive, yet good for culinary purposes as
well. Thyme in between pavers works well. When it grows
and you step on it it release a bit of odor. Rosemary is
almost a shrub. It is used in cooking but has a bright
blue flower, an aromatic foliage and provides a good, fine
texture in the
garden. Don't forget about herbs. They do double duty in
the garden and in the kitchen.
By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist,
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms
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