Why this colorful, drought-tolerant plant might be a necessity in your garden

Why, “We just moved to Riverside County near Lake Matthews. The weather is very hot in summer (three months of 95–103 degrees heat) and can be frosty in winter. This is a rural area with lots of rabbits who like to chew. Can you recommend a ground cover for a home entrance area as an alternative to grass? It doesn’t need to be a water feeder and able to handle the summer heat. , – Nancy Tetroult

Dwarf rose yarrow (Achillea Millefolium ‘Rosea’) comes to mind as a grass or lawn substitute for your circumstances. Native to the Channel Islands, it can take some foot traffic and is heat and drought tolerant. In general, scent plants, including all Achillea species, are not tasty to rabbits. Seeds of this Achillea variety or something similar can be ordered from Seedcorner.com, You can find dwarf yarrow at Theodore Payne Nursery in Sun Valley and Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano. Six varieties of low-growing yarrow are available from anniesannuals.com, Another low-growing rabbit-resistant ground cover is prostrate rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’), although it cannot be pruned like dwarf yarrow.

Yarrow produces flowers from spring to fall and can be sown three or four times a year to keep it low to the ground. Water it once or twice a week during the growing season and once every several weeks during the winter.

Even if you don’t turn your front yard into a yarrow meadow, you might consider planting yarrow in that parkway strip between the sidewalk and the street.

There are many different ornamental yarrows—from dwarf varieties to giants several feet high—and they can be found with white, yellow, pink, red, or salmon-colored flowers that grow in flat, platy clusters called umbels. is called. The leaves are soft and finely chopped.

The word “yarrow” is thought to be derived from yellow, and some species have brilliant golden yellow flowers. Achillea ‘Moonshine’ is a highly popular cultivar that grows into a two-foot clump with long-lasting yellow flowers that rise two feet above the ground. Yarrow’s botanical name, Achilles, is associated with the war hero Achilles from Greek mythology, whose soldiers reportedly used it to heal wounds on the battlefield. The yarrow’s habitat extends across Europe, Asia, and northern North America, including extremely cold regions where winter temperatures regularly reach minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Some herbalists consider yarrow to be the most medicinal plant in the world, with healing properties that extend to every part of the body. Those who know how to prepare and use its extracts, its decoctions and teas swear by yarrow to treat headaches, flu, stomach disorders, and many other ailments.

The young leaves are edible and can be thrown into salads. All yarrows are attractive to carnivorous, beneficial insects that do an excellent job of keeping pests under control throughout the garden.

Choosing the right plant for the right place is part art, part science, part experience and part luck. As someone once said, you are always a beginner in the garden and, no matter how many years you have dug into the earth, every garden is different, every exposure and microclimate is different, and every plant has a tinge of unpredictability. aspect. selection.

In addition, a garden changes from year to year as trees grow and sunlight exposure shifts to loose shade, or a large tree branch breaks off and cool shade suddenly gives way to scorching sun.

In the early 1990s, dwarf yarrow was planted as a lawn substitute at Loomis House, the headquarters of the Historical Society of Southern California, in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles. I couldn’t help wondering if it would stand the test of time.

Twenty years later, I made a return visit and was impressed by the dense cover of yarrow that had taken hold. Most of the yarrow lawn, or “yarrow meadow”, to quote the interpretive sign on the site at the time, was growing in the significantly dappled shade produced by mature trees. This was much more shady than was present at the time the yarrow was planted, and thus it appeared that both sunny and partly sunny conditions were suitable for dwarf yarrow growth.

If anyone has had success with ground cover planted as an alternative to lawn, please tell me about it so I can share your success with the readers of this column.

In addition to fading lawns in general, their elimination from parkway strips, in particular, presents a conundrum. Some are replacing parkway lawns with gravel, smooth stones or bricks because these materials provide a permanent and virtually labor-free solution to the maintenance of the area. However, this option, especially at the entrance of a home, can present a very bleak face so few living specimens, such as succulent plants, can be inserted into dormant hardscapes.

Still another solution is to plant most of the parkway strip with drought-tolerant or succulent, low-growing yet flowering species, and pavers down in two or three places to achieve a walk through the parkway. Can, but not at the cost of giving up, lush, flowering, greenery in that area.

Ideally, established plants in your parkway, once established, will rarely need watering, and there are several options to consider in that regard, in addition to the aforementioned prostrate rosemary and yarrow.

Following Lantana is one such possibility. Available in both purple and white, it doesn’t require water once established and doesn’t grow tall. Lemon yellow lantana is a bushier form and orange lantana is even stronger. However, all lantana lend themselves to shearing once or twice a year so don’t hesitate to move them down to a foot or less if you want to keep them under control.

Blue chopsticks (Senecio serpens) are another strong candidate for parkway planting. It is a succulent ground cover with cylindrical, powdery blue leaves that was very popular until a few years ago when it was dying everywhere.

The cause of the untimely death of blue chopsticks is summer irrigation, soil with inadequate drainage, or both. It is native to South Africa where the climate is similar to ours, meaning that summer rainfall is absent. The habitat of the blue chopsticks is the crevices of sandstone slopes, where it goes dormant during the summer. Thus, hot-season irrigation, which activates the water-borne mold fungus in the soil to which it is highly sensitive, can be hazardous to its health.