By Jim Downer
Landscapes contain many variations such as perennial gardens versus annual color beds that are used for amenity and other purposes. Plants that are aesthetic, low water using, slow growing, low maintenance and high value are “enduring” plants. Enduring plants provide high landscape value because they are desirable plants that increase in worth as they age.
Many gardeners prefer fast growing plants that quickly fill space. Rarely are these sorts of plants “enduring”. Slow growth gives a plant a certain toughness and resistance to disease and insects; the slow growth is offset by their ability to survive adverse or changeable environments. Slow growth also contributes to reduced maintenance because slowly growing plants require little pruning and thus generate little excess. Slower growing plants also use less water, and, after establishment, are somewhat-to-extremely drought tolerant.
Enduring plants may be ground covers, shrubs, trees or herbaceous perennials. Enduring plants can be lost in a lush landscape, but are often specimens that command focal attention in the landscapes they occupy. They show off the most in drought tolerant or arid landscapes. Boulder or rock framed succulents such as tree aloes and cacti such as the golden barrel create interesting landscapes. When plants are displayed with room around them, it not only enhances their qualities, but leaves room for mature growth as landscape specimens. With a minimum of landscape maintenance and water these develop into incredible gardens.
I hate to advocate for certain plants in landscapes but my favorite enduring plants for trees are: Gingko biloba or Gingko, Olea europaea or Olive, Brahea edulis (the Guadalupe palm), Quercus agrifolia and Q. lobata Coast live and Valley oaks, Afrocarpus gracilior (the fern pine). For shade plants I favor: Aspidistra (the cast iron plant), Clivia miniata (Clivia) and the many Rhaphiolepis that abound now in the industry. Specialty arid climate plants such as Agaves, Cycads, Dasylirion, various tree aloes, Dracena, and Beaucarnia add dramatic interest to even the most eclectic landscapes.
Adapted plants that grow well in our Mediterranean climate and are irrigated appropriately can grow successfully here. Plants from South America Chile/Argentina; from South Africa and from Southern Europe are well adapted to California. Australian native plants are less adapted and thus cannot really be considered enduring here although they certainly are in Australia. Maples adapted to soils and climate of the Eastern United States are not enduring here, but are ubiquitous in eastern states. Climate matched plants from other lands often perform well in California and in some cases and locations become escaped weeds such as Eucalyptus spp. So the best bet for enduring plants is slow growing varieties not easily propagated or able to otherwise escape the garden.
While many new pests that feed on a surprising number of ornamentals plants are upon us in Southern California, we still have enduring plants. These plants are usually pest free or have low occurrence of pests. Less money is spent on pest management and these plants appear less blemished from injury or attack. Their leaves should also be free of mineral defects, either insufficiencies or toxicity. Mineral effects would indicate a lack of adaptation to our soils and thus these plants cannot be termed enduring. While nurseries don't categorize plants in this manner, I think careful plant observation in landscapes can give gardener guidance in the selection of favorite “enduring” plants.
By Jim Downer
The drought has California in a four-year grip of water shortages. The governor has mandated cutbacks and water districts are imposing conservation restrictions. This accompanies the already accelerating cost of water. The value of that patch of green lawn in front of most residences is in question.
Front yard turfgrass for coverage and appearance is being reassessed by homeowners all over Ventura County. Some water districts are actually encouraging turfgrass conversions by paying per square foot of turfgrass converted to low water-using landscape plants. Compensation or not, more and more homeowners are converting lawn to mixed perennial plantings. While this saves water, it also creates a new set of problems.
One problems is with trees. While lawn can be rapidly re-established if rains return and water becomes plentiful, trees take decades to mature and provide the environmental enhancements unique to them. Landscape conversions that eliminate turfgrass irrigation also eliminate water supplies for mature trees that rely on over-irrigation of turfgrass swards. When turf is eliminated and replaced with decomposed granite or other surface mulches, trees often decline. In some cases, water loving trees such as willow, alder, birch and sycamore will succumb to drought unless irrigation is specifically provided.
Often turf conversions involves planting shrubs and other plants and then mulching the entire landscaped area. Mulches are great, but not all alike. Some mulches have weed seeds or propagules in them. If used they provide a source of difficult-to-control weeds. Yard waste mulches should be thoroughly composted to control exotic weed propagules. The best mulches to cover newly landscaped soils are freshly chipped tree trimmings. There is no need to compost tree trimmings as they do not contain weeds or pathogens toxic to landscape plants.
Another way to limit plant water use and increase landscape visual impact is to utilize more hardscape. Gates, pathways, garden sculptures, walls, rocks and benches use no water and add interest to landscape. Meandering pathways in an “S” curve are highly aesthetic and add charm. Sculpture, while highly subjective and individualized, may compliment and increase dramatic visual effects of chosen plants.
A final note should be made about the plant choice. Plants can be drought tolerant and yet grow quickly and beyond their allotted space. This necessitates pruning in which most home gardeners are poorly trained. One of the great problems of landscape conversions is that “mow-blow-n-go” gardeners don't have a framework for maintaining these new landscapes and tend to prune everything into a ball or square for lack of knowing what else to do. The key to a beautiful landscape is choosing enduring plants. Enduring plants are slow growing, long lived, require little pruning and are usually pest free. While they take longer to attain maturity and fill in, they also require little maintenance and very little pruning. In a future blog I will discuss enduring plants and how to select them for your landscape.
- Author: Cris L. Johnson
The Entomology Association of Southern California will be holding a quarterly meeting at the Los Angeles Arboretum. These meetings address a variety of entomological related subjects relevant to local and state pest issues and are a great way to meet and share information with other individuals who are interested in this area of science.
- Bark beetle-caused tree mortality and risk following various management regimes in south California.
- Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer/Fusarium dieback: Recognizing symptoms and removing hosts.
- Observations on the control of bark boring and other wood boring beetles in landscape trees.
- Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer - a voracious Ambrosia Beetle threatening California's crops and native plants.
- Environmental effects on Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer.
- Influence of air pollution on bark beetle outbreaks.
This association has an annual membership fee of $45. Memberships cover annual registration for all four quarterly meetings in December, March, June and September.
If you are interested in attending:
Date: September 9, 2014
Time: 9:00 am - 4:00 am
Los Angeles Arboretum
301 North Baldwin Ave.
Contact: Dr. Jim Downer, 805-645-1458 or email@example.com
- Author: Cris L. Johnson
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is sponsoring a "Developing a Best Management Practice Program for Your Nursery" meeting.
Join plant pathologist, Kathleen Kosta and nursery biologist Ruben Arias to learn more about this important area of commercial nursery management.
Date - Thursday, August 21, 2014
Time - 9:00 to 10:30 am
Location - 669 County Square Dr.
Ventura, CA 93003
California Conference Rooms A & B
Admission is free!
See this flyer for more information.
- Author: Cris L. Johnson
The "Citrus Production Manual" covers the step-by-step process for preparing citrus for production and includes information on diseases and other issues that can affect citrus.
According to the ANR catalog website the manual will assist growers "From deciding scion variety and rootstock, to establishing an orchard, to managing production, to postharvest handling, you'll find it all here in a readable format. Colorful photos and clear diagrams and illustrations guide you through important concepts."
The manual costs $75 and you can order this publication click on the following link.
Or you can save 25% by bundling the "Citrus Production Manual" with the 3rd edition of "IPM for Citrus" for a cost of only $10 more ($85 for both!). Order the bundle by clicking on the following link.
SAVE 10% when you order this manual using the promo code "PREVEN56." This code extends the discount to you and provides a portion of the sale to UC Cooperative Extension Ventura which goes toward maintaining our local programs here.