On Tuesday at the monthly Master Gardener meeting, our guest speaker was former Master Gardener, Nan Sterman. Nan is now the weekly garden columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune as well as drought tolerant planting guru. I first heard Nan speak at a Master Gardener seminar many years back. I signed up for her class because I needed to fill my first class space and went in with no expectations. Turned out that Nan’s class was the highlight of my seminar day, and was a complete shift in thinking for me.
Nan’s talk yesterday was about Mediterranean gardens. She had a nice slide show that highlighted low water gardens around San Diego. She stressed that any style house can have a beautiful low-water garden that would be appropriate for the style of the house. Another statement she made which brought a wave of giggles around the room, but it SOOOO true, was “You only have a low-water yard if you don’t water!” Amen.
The biggest industry in California is the movement of water. Nan cited a statistic that really gnawed at me. Turning on your water spigot and letting the water run for 5 minutes is the equivalent of burning a 60W lightbulb for 12 hours. It took me a while to get my head around that. But think about all the entities involved to bring water to your house with the turn of a knob. It takes manpower, infrastructure and energy to move water.
Most of the water we use in California is for irrigating our landscapes. Still, we pay very little for something that is vital to live! It’s the best deal going. Unfortunately, we take it for granted, and we shouldn’t. It really irks me to have my neighbors, who rarely set foot in their front yard, running their sprinklers every morning just to keep the grass green. Their yard, and so many others, would be sooooo much interesting with interesting, less thirsty plants. I’d even plant it for them! (Yard Envy!) But first, a nice, cool glass of water.
I rarely water this Lion's Tail (Leonotis leonurus) and it is thriving!
To finish out the end of the year, here’s a selection of photos I took throughout the year.
Happy New Year!
I saw this in the December 2010 issue of Sunset and it is too good not to post. First of all, I love “before and after” scenarios, and secondly, this is SOOOOOO great!
Found Space: 5 fresh ways to turn a bleak lawn and driveway into a lush, livable garden
Wikipedia definition: “Tagetes lucida (Mexican marigold, Pericón, Mexican mint marigold, Mexican tarragon, Spanish tarragon, or Texas tarragon) is a half-hardy sub-shrub native to Mexico and Central America. It is eaten as an herb and is commonly used as a substitute for tarragon. The leaves have a tarragon-like flavor, with hints of anise. In late summer or early fall, the plant bears large clusters of small yellow flowers.”
Interesting description of the scent of this plant. You don’t smell anything until you rub against it and then it is very pungent. I guess I can smell tarragon, and a bit of anise, but I think there is a strong spearmint base, and all of the smells together are nuclear-strong for lack of a better description.
Also, my plants tend to bloom year round, but late fall/winter are when the bush is covered with blooms like this. It is spectacularly bright yellow on a cloudy day, and even more so when it is sunny. I love to get dazzled when I pull up in front of my house!
These plants are bullet-proof. Very drought tolerant, and they take a lot of abuse. Once, I chopped one way back, dug it up, threw it in the corner of the garden for a week thinking I was going to throw it away, decided to plant it and it came back. You’re looking at it now.
Talk about bright!
I was driving on Toll Road 125 in Eastlake, near the Olympic training center today, and saw wild lupine, California poppies and gazania growing everywhere. Stunning color all along the highway, and right in our back yard. Unfortunately, I was driving and couldn’t pull over but I was dying to take a picture. I might have to go for another drive! It was beautiful.
I did get a picture yesterday of a hillside in Balboa Park, just above Florida Canyon. This is the result of the good rain we’ve had this year. Isn’t this pretty?
Mexican Marigold is one of my favorite plants. Drought-tolerant, tough and hardy, this plant is lush and starting to bloom out in the yard. I love the bright yellow blooms when not much else is going on in the garden this time of year.
Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), or as it’s more commonly known, Christmas Holly or Christmas Berry, is a common perennial shrub native that adapts to a wide range of growing conditions. It is a drought-tolerant native, growing from the ocean to the middle Sierras, from northern California to northern Baja. It thrives on full sun, tolerates part shade, is drought-tolerant but tolerates some water if drainage is good. In fire-prone areas, it can be fire-resistant if watered a bit every couple of weeks during spring and summer to build up a little moisture content in the plant.
Toyon can grow up to 20’ tall, but generally grows as a large shrub to small tree. The leaves have little sharp teeth along the edges, almost looking like holly leaves. It has white flowers in summer, but is more famously known for its red berries in winter.
The berries are edible but don’t taste very good. They are acidic and astringent but, if cooked down, can be palatable. They contain cyanide compounds so you would only want to eat in small quantities, if you could even stand the taste.
Berries were eaten fresh or dried to used or used for tea by Native Americans who also used the leaves and berries for dyes. Settlers used the berries in a variety of ways for food, from making jelly and custard, to wine. Personally, I will let the birds eat them and, instead, would use them for decorations.
Interesting side note: It is said that Hollywood derives its name from the Toyon bushes that grow on the hillsides there. In the 1920’s, in Los Angeles, the collecting of toyon berries at Christmas time became so rampant that a law was passed that prohibited collecting on public lands.
[caption id="attachment_2688" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Toyon aka Christmas Berri