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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What does a water-wise garden look like in summer?

Hooker's evening primrose (Oenothera elata ssp. hookeri) in 'Garden of Dreams' on the CSU Dominguez Hills campus.  Garden is watered once a month in summer.

Water-wise gardens have definite seasons.  Right now we're well into the dry season.  The annual spring wildflowers are just a memory; grasses have magically transformed to gold and silver.   Yes, we're in the dry season, which will last until the fall rains.
The dry season is the time of rest for some plants.  In the Garden of Dreams and Heritage Creek, the California encelia (Bush sunflower) and Salvias (native sages) are mostly dormant now.  The Salvias have produced a small second set of leaves to get them through the dry period.
Other plants are evergreen - but still mostly resting.  These include Mulefat (our large hedgerow plant in Garden of Dreams), Coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis) and Lemonadeberry.  Some shrubs have green berries that will ripen in fall: Toyon and the native cherries (Prunus ilicifolia) are among the most prominent.
But even in summer and fall, a surprising number of native plants are blooming.  They range from the larger Laurel sumac (Malosma laurina) and Southern island mallow,  to Annual sunflowers and Hooker's evening primrose (Oenothera elata ssp. hookeri) that brighten our summer with their yellow flowers.  The summer-blooming buckwheats add a touch of pink and white to the summer palette.  In fact, there are many native plants blooming on campus right now (see the 'Blooming Now on Campus' page).
Annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) brightens the foreground. Native buckwheats (Eriogonum species) bloom pink and white (left) against a background of green and gold.
So take the time to visit Heritage Creek Preserve or one of the native plant gardens on campus.  If you come from 11:00-3:00, notice the bees, butterflies and other pollinators busily at work.  If you visit earlier or later you'll be surprise by the number of birds you'll see.   Sit a while, relax, unwind.   And then you'll know what a water-wise, life-friendly garden looks and feels like in summer.