Today we are sharing a great guest post by Kitten Wylder Borgers. Kitten has been a client and friend for the past few decades. I have always loved and respected her viewpoint on our oxygen providing friends. I hope we provide you with good content and make your day a little greener.
What’s Wrong with Today’s Drought-Tolerant Yards
I’ve been designing drought-tolerant landscapes for almost 20 years, and I have to say I’m pretty disappointed in most of the non-lawns I’ve seen lately. I’m a big fan of drought-tolerant landscapes, but the way people are going about drought-tolerant landscapes is all wrong. Too many people are killing their lawns with toxic chemicals and then covering them with crushed granite and a few small succulents and calling it done. In reality, creating a drought-tolerant yard can be WAY more fun and interesting than that.
Doing Drought Tolerant the Right Way
First, rather than just putting down gravel or crushed granite, why not try a ground cover that grows? I’m partial to Aptenia cordifolia (known commonly as heartleaf ice plant, baby sun rose, or red apple aptenia) myself. It spreads well (although it can be invasive), grows with basically no water, and is a dark green ground cover with small red flowers. Unfortunately, there’s some sort of blight (bacteria? virus? fungus? no one knows) that’s killing it all over southern California, so I have to at least temporarily rescind that recommendation. There are, of course, lots of types of ice plants or sedums that also take very little water, although most spread more slowly.
If you think you might want to walk on your lawn replacement, you could try spreading thyme (not the clumping kind); once established and assuming you just step on it occasionally and don’t play football on it, it’ll survive the steps and smell wonderful in the process. The same goes with most of the mint family. In fact, most herbs are VERY hardy and drought tolerant because they were weeds that someone found a use for.
Or you might consider freeway daisies (Osteospermum fruticosum). You can be fairly sure that if they grow along the freeway they’ll be hardy. If they start to get woody and leggy, you can prune them hard or even mow them, and the new growth will be beautiful. You could also consider some of the lower low-spreading shrubs, like lantana, which while about a foot tall, has lovely purple, yellow, or red flowers; and each plant has a 5′-6′ horizontal spread. You can’t walk on it, but the bees love it!
Don’t mistake drought tolerance for low maintenance. Weeding will be required, at least until everything has filled in. And keep in mind that EVERYTHING (succulents, cacti, herbs, all of it) needs water when you first plant it. But if you get the right plants for your environment, they’ll be happy and healthy once they’re going. And you’ll be proud of your beautiful yard!
Kitten Wylder Borger
Kitten Wylder Borgers is a working artist, dog walker/sitter, and landscape designer in southern California. Her interest in plants began in college in 1970 at UCSC, where she learned about herbs and dirt from Alan Chadwick at the campus garden and learned about composition and design as a dance major. Since then she’s continued to explore the world of herbs and other drought tolerant plants, both native and not, although she’s had to give up the dance major. She’s fond of getting dirty and being silly.