Don't Give Up!

These are the dog days of summer. The gardens are dry and dusty, the street trees are stressing, plants all over town look flaccid and dull and hopeless. On the days when the city air is clear of smoke, we can try to forget how bad fire season is in the wild lands this year. But don’t give up!

Sturdy, established fruit trees are ripening their crops of apples and figs. Well-planned water-wise gardens are blooming with lion’s tail, lantana, yarrow, and verbena. Gardens planned for habitat are buzzing and fluttering with a variety of butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

Lion’s tail in bloom at the end of the summer.

Lion’s tail in bloom at the end of the summer.

Although it’s been a long time since it rained, and will probably still be dry until the end of October, the days are shortening and the soil temperatures are moderating. Dews and fogs are sometimes moistening the evening or morning garden. Some summer-dry plants are perking up or even beginning to bloom in anticipation of the coming rainy season.

For gardeners from other climates, or for gardens planned with plants from other climates, this can be a discouraging time of year. Instead of enjoying a lush summer, summer in California is the deep, dormant time for climate appropriate plants. They are shut down in survival mode as the annual dry season climaxes. But it will rain again, and when other parts of the country are deeply dormant, in December and January, our plants will be growing and blooming enthusiastically in the mild and juicy winter rains.

So don’t give up!

Right now is the ideal time to plan and prepare your next year’s garden! The perfect planting time for summer-dry plants is coming up at the end of October while the soils are still warm and the first rains normally come.

Removing the old to make way for the new.

Removing the old to make way for the new.

So right now is the perfect time to take out that lawn or bed of thirsty summer annuals and prepare to replace it with plants which won’t need much summer water next year. Remove plants which haven’t looked good or stayed healthy with this year’s cutbacks in summer irrigation... this is our new normal, folks. It’s time to replace plants that rely on regular summer irrigation.

When you remove inappropriate plantings, it opens up space in the garden. Now you can create a new look! Strikingly modern, wild tropical color combos, natural English cottage garden, neat Italianate gravel and hedges, Japanese dwarf conifers with scattered boulders, you can choose any type of design you prefer. Just choose the plants from the generous palette of summer-dry plants. You don't have to have cactuses and succulents, unless you want to. You can create a beautiful garden in any style using summer-dry plants.

You can develop your new planting plan, and research and order the plants. You can prepare the soil. And then you will be ready when that perfect planting time comes, just as the first rains of the year begin, usually right around Halloween.

There are so many beautiful and appealing plants which don't need much summer water. Many of them are demonstrated at GFE. Come on by and have a look! Or come to one of our workshops and learn what you need to know to have a gorgeous garden next year with even less water than you used this year.