Check out any of your local nurseries, and you'll find lots of choices right now for colorful perennials that bloom in summer. There are some great options for Morgan Hill gardens that are low water users once established.
Here are two resources to help you decide which plants will work best in your garden.
UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars includes 100 plants that are recommended by the horticultural staff of UC Davis Arboretum. They were selected because they thrive in California's Mediterranean climate and are tough, low-maintenance, and attractive for most of the year.
The UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County Water Wise Garden, located at the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, includes native and non-native ornamental plants that thrive in our summer-dry climate and clay soil without a lot of extra work. Many of the plants on the following list have been grown in the Water Wise Garden. Check out their favorite plants in the Drought Information section. You can learn about specific sun/shade requirements and other useful information to help make your plant selections.
Many varieties of African Daisy bloom during the summer. Some of my current favorites include Arctotis ‘Pumpkin Pie' for a bright orange pop, or Arctotis ‘Pink Sugar' with its pale, shell pink blooms. The soft grey leaves look good even when the plants are not in bloom.
There are a number of cultivars of the California native Epilobium, and all of them are hummingbird magnets. The Water Wise Garden is growing Epilobium ‘Select Matteole'; it's a compact grower and doesn't spread. In my own garden, I've planted Epilobium ‘Everett's Choice'.
Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP' is a very reliable, long-blooming California native. It was selected as a UC Davis All-Star because it does well in average garden conditions.
Mimulus is a California native with a wide range of colors including white, yellow, orange, red and maroon. Hummingbirds are frequent visitors. I'm a fan of Mimulus ‘Curious Orange', the yellow Mimulus ‘Pamela', and Mimulus bifidus ‘White'. There are many new cultivars on the market. It's tough to choose just one.
Red Hot Poker
Kniphofias are great for a vertical accent in the garden. I'm partial to the smaller varieties and am currently growing Kniphofia ‘Creamsicle', with orange and creamy yellow flower spikes.
Achillea ‘Moonshine' is a bright yellow, reliable mid-summer bloomer. Yarrow is a visited by both butterflies and beneficial insects, which is a great reason to plant it. California natives Achillea ‘Island Pink' or the white flowering Achillea ‘Sonoma Coast' are also good options.
Be smart about watering your new plants. At the water-wise demonstration garden, new plants are hand-watered once a week for the first year, then every two weeks the following year. Once plants are established (about three years), they are watered once every three weeks in late spring, summer and fall using a drip irrigation system.
Even in drought conditions, you can have a beautiful garden. UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County are your resource for learning how to do that. Check out our website for ongoing updates, attend our classes, and learn from and with us about how to help your garden thrive.
by UC Master Gardener Janet Enright
This article first appeared in the June 6 issue of the Morgan Hill Times./h4>