There are some great resources to help you do your homework when planning additions to your garden.
This is an ideal time to add California native plants. The California Native Plant Society has a resource, Calscape, that lists plants that are native specifically to your area. One of my favorites for (zip code) 95037 is Arctostaphylos Dr. Hurd. I love its reddish, crooked branches. At about 15' tall, in sun or shade, it's easy to fit into many gardens. Calscape also lists some annual wildflowers native to Morgan Hill. How about Baby Blue Eyes and Smooth Tidy Tips?
Santa Clara County Master Gardeners have a Waterwise Plant list that gives you great tips about which plants thrive in our area. You can choose based on plant type, and water and sun/shade requirements. They've done the testing for you, and the practical notes about growing conditions and watering are really helpful.
I'm renovating a garden with old oaks and here's what's on my list, that could easily be on your list, even if you don't have oaks. These are all typically easy to find in your local nursery. If you don't see them, they can order for you.
Arctostaphylos Howard McMinn – Howard McMinn manzanita is a native, medium sized (6' x 10') shrub that can be kept smaller by pruning. It is both drought and garden tolerant. I think it's quietly elegant and a graceful addition to any garden. It plays well with lots of other plants.
Correa Dusky Bells and Ivory Bells – I love Australian fuchsias and use them a lot. Dusky Bells is smaller (1' x 3'), with reddish pink flowers. I'm getting attached to Ivory Bells with its creamy white flowers and grey green, felt-like leaves. In the oak garden, it's planted next to A. Howard McMinn and underplanted with Stachys Helen von Stein, with its furry grey leaves, and they look great together.
This same planting bed under the oak includes Rubus pentalobus, a quiet, low dark green carpet, and iris Canyon Snow. There are lots of colors (purple, ochre, pale yellow, bronze) to choose from with our native iris, but I keep going back to the pure white charm of Canyon Snow.
Another area of this garden, includes drifts of Arctostaphylos Carmel Sur. Carmel Sur manzanita is my current favorite, low growing (1' x 4-6') native manzanita. It has glossy green leaves and grows relatively quickly. I'm also adding in Carpenteria californica Elizabeth as part of a mixed border.
When you're looking for inspiration and advice about great plants for your garden, make sure you also check out the UC Davis Arboretum All Stars plants list.
The horticultural staff of the UC Davis Arboretum have identified 100 tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum, are easy to grow, don't need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden.
Use your local Master Gardeners for advice to grow by! Call our hotline Monday through Friday, 9:30-12:30 at 408-283-3105.
by UC Master Gardener Janet Enright
This article first appeared in the September 21 issue of the Morgan Hill Times.