Ever wonder why everyone is talking about drought-tolerant gardens? You can see for yourself Saturday, May 19 during the First Annual Long Beach Lawn-to-Garden Tour. It showcases 30 landscapes transformed using money and guidance from the city’s water-efficient landscape program (lblawntogarden.com). Talk to homeowners about their experiences– maybe you’ll be inspired to try it yourself.
I once thought drought-tolerant landscapes were the prunes of the gardening world– dry, shriveled acts of desperation. Boy, was I wrong. In the year and a half since I ripped out the grass and plugged in unthirsty flowers, ornamental grasses, lavender, sage and an ongoing list of new plants, I’ve had a ball– and the front yard is full of color, movement and interest.
What would I do differently? Well, I’d think twice about the Mexican Feather Grass lining the decomposed granite pathway. I knew it was invasive but failed to realize how irritating it would be to pick tiny grass tufts out of nooks and crannies far and wide. After trimming back the long, clingy grass blades, I look like Chewbacca on holiday. But on a breezy day, the grassy border ripples like an amber wave, and the cats love to play hide ‘n’ seek in the stuff. So I guess it stays.
I would also do a better job selecting plants of varied heights. Having seen too many drought-tolerant yards where large, hulking intimidating bushes blocked any view of the home behind them, I inadvertently chose plants that top out at three feet. Heightwise, it looks too uniform. And I would keep up with mulching. Without a two- or three-inch layer, weeding is constant.
The happiest surprise, and the one that draws the most attention, is the scattering of wildflowers. I sprinkled seed over the parkway and along the driveway and was rewarded with a riot of California poppies, blue globe gillia and purple alyssum. When the bright-orange poppies fade, sadly, it looks as if the light has gone out in the garden. So here’s the plan: Come summer, look for cosmos in yellow, orange, pink, purple and white, plus delicate Oriental poppies in shades of rose, salmon, scarlet, red and crimson.
I’m looking forward to inspiring new tips and tricks at the Lawn-to-Garden Tour. It’s one day only, Saturday, May 19, and only from 10am to 2pm. Sign up for the free tour at lblawntogarden.com, and the list of homes will be emailed to you.
Jennifer E. Beaver, a Wrigley resident, is a master gardener and author of Edible Gardening for California.