Child of the drought Essay

Child of the drought At the height of California’s most recent serious drought,Mrs.

Rorie Skei began to landscape the bare 1/3 acre around her house inThousand Oaks, using mostly California native plants. Except for a small vegetable garden, lawn, and some pots, herseven-year-old garden now consists almost entirely of drought-tolerantCalifornia natives. “Many common landscape plants such asraphiolepis and photinia have native counterparts that grow well in ourclimate,’ she says.

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Fall, just before winter rains, is the best time of year to plantany drought-tolerant natives or non-natives. Mrs. Skei handwateredregularly the first year after planting, then only occasionally duringhot summer months. In her landscape, natives serve many different functions. Thehouse backs up against unspoiled open space, so the garden blends intothe hillside, attracting birds and helping buffer the house againstpossible chaparral fire. To reduce fire danger further, Mrs.

Skeiprunes regularly, removes dead wood, maintains a cleared space betweenhouse and hillside, and keeps plants next to the house well watered.(For more on native and non-native low-fuel-volume plants, see page 162of the September 1984 Sunset.) Mrs.

Skei has found that small plants generally establishthemselves faster than large ones. For example, after only five years,two coast live oak trees (Quercus agrifolia) reached nearly the samesize– even though one was planted from a 15-gallon can, the other froma 1-gallon can. And except for the lawn and vegetable areas, none ofthe soil has been amended.

Experience has shown Mrs. Skei that amendedsoil dries out two to three times faster than unamended soil. Easy-to-grow native plants for drought-tolerant landscapes Once established, the following California natives are easy to grow(most thrive in full sun) and require little or no watering.

Numbers inparentheses show height at maturity. Ground covers. Manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana, 30 inches;A. “Emerald Carpet’, 9 to 14 inches). Artemisia (A.”Canyon Gray’, 18 inches). Coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis”Twin Peaks’, 8 to 24 inches). Carmel creeper (Ceanothusgriseus horizontalis, 18 to 30 inches).

Shrubs. Bush anemone (Carpenteria californica, 3 to 6 feet).Ceanothus (C. “Frosty Blue’, 6 to 9 feet; C. “MountainHaze’, 6 to 8 feet; C. “Ray Hartman’, 12 to 20 feet).St.

Catherine’s lace (Eriogonum giganteum, 3 to 6 feet). Toyon(Heteromeles arbutifolia, 6- to 10-foot shrub or 15- to 25-foot tree).Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium, 6 feet; M.

nevinii, 3 to 10 feet; M.pinnata, 6 feet). Fuchsiaflowering gooseberry (Ribes speciosum, 3 to 6feet). Pink winter currant (R.

sanguineum, 4 to 12 feet; R.s.”King Edward VII’, 4 to 10 feet; R.s.

“SpringShowers’, 4 to 8 feet). Trees. Alder (Alnus rhombifolia, 50 to 90 feet).

Foothill ash(Fraxinus dipetala, 20 to 25 feet). Catalina ironwood (Lyonothamnusfloribundus, 30 to 60 feet). Sycamore (Platanus racemosa, 50 to 100feet). Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia, 20 to 70 feet). Valley oak(Q.

lobata, 70 feet). Bulbs. Brodiaea (Brodiaea coronaria, 6 to 10 inches). Camass(Camassia quamash, 12 inches). Douglas iris (I. douglasiana, 24inches). Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum, 6 to 12 inches). Perennials.

Columbine (Aquilegia, 3 feet). Coreopsis (C.maritima, 3 feet). California poppy (Eschscholzia californica, 12inches). Coral bells (Heuchera, 2 to 3 feet). Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis, 12 inches). Penstemon (P.

azureus, 6 to 8 inches).California fuchsia (Zauschneria, 12 to 24 inches). Photo: One of the best ground-cover manzanitas, Arctostaphylos”Emerald Carpet’ bears tiny white to pinkish bell-like flowersin spring Photo: Different textures in shades of white, gray, and greeninclude Eriogonum giganteum and E. crocatum in foreground, coast liveoak (Quercus agrifolia) near house Photo: Catalina Island’s native tree mallow (Lavateraassurgentiflora) displays 2- to 3-inch purple flowers nearly all year Photo: Unusual use for native plant: espaliered against housewall, five-year-old Ceanothus “Gentian Plume’ bears brightblue 3- to 4-inch flower clusters in April, May


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