Posts Tagged 'water'

Phlomis species in the garden

The trial garden at Pépinière Filippi (, Meze, France
In the above shot of the trial garden at Pépinière Filippi, Meza, France, many different Phlomis species still wearing their spent flower stems, contrasting nicely with the various shades foliage color. Phlomis was once planted extensively in California by gardeners wishing to decrease the water footprint of their gardens. On late I note that these plants seem to be seldom used, and indeed many type we once saw in California are becoming difficult to find.

I wonder what has caused the trend away from these interesting and useful plants? Like many plants in our horticultural trade, after an initial enthusiasm for a plant they are often considered passé. Possible this group merely fell off the radar and have not yet been taken up again by growers?

Relatively speaking, these are shorter-lived plants, needing to be renewed after a time in order to keep them looking their best. This is possibly exacerbated by the fact that California soils are far richer than those in the Mediterranean homelands of most of this genus, causing these perennial shrubs to grow faster, looser, and more untidy than they would otherwise. At the inevitable time of replacement, if these plants were not available in nurseries, perhaps they’ve been replaced now by others that were.

The plantings above are on lean, stony soil, and received supplemental water only upon planting (i.e. they get only rain falls on them or what moisture they can find deep in the soil) – note their compact form. While it is true that many parts of the Mediterranean do receive occasional summer rainfall, it is clearly not in the amounts that Californians dump on their gardens year-round!

With a renewed interest in creating gardens that are not heavily irrigated, I think Phlomis species should be considered. Their foliage alone can satisfy our current trends in composing foliar contrast, and their seasonal flowering (and spent flower stems as pictured) are also an interesting and unique counterpoint to many of the plants we currently grow in our gardens.



The Dry Garden: More drought ahead?

North Hollywood resident Gilda Garcia replaced her lawn with a mix of drought-tolerant plants. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

LINK: The Dry Garden: More drought ahead?.


The heat of summer

Fontaine et panorama, originally uploaded by ThéoBoy.

We recently had a very serious brief heat wave – after most of the summer being shrouded by our pacific ocean fog. It was a relief to finally have some sunny weather but the intensity of the heat took us by surprise! Very unusual for our area, but it made me recall that many other parts of the mediterranean climate can routinely receive hot dry temps during the summer months.
This warm dry period is actually our dormant season and usually a time we’d like to also be dormant in the garden. ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ as they say. It makes a lot of practical sense to plant your garden with species that will not be trying to come into their peak during these difficult months. The lack of water (we get no rain for 6 straight months!) also makes gardeners appreciate this precious commodity. Rather than huge artificial waterfalls and spraying fountains (both of which evaporate far too much water) it is still pleasant to have a quiet bit or water play in the summer garden in mediterranean climate regions, especially if one can easy put a hand into its coolness while passing by.


A blog by Seán A. O'Hara

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Flickr Group: mediterranean climate garden