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>
Get ready for the 22nd Spring Garden Market, brought to you by the UCCE Master Gardener Program of Santa Clara County. The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 16 at History San Jose, 1650 Senter Road, San Jose.
Admission is free, parking is $6.
Again this year we will have a mind-boggling selection of 80 varieties tomatoes and more than 100 types of peppers, which is what we have become known for. There will also be hundreds of herbs, eggplants and ornamentals to choose from. New this year will be decorative succulent arrangements, all potted up and ready to go.
70+ Tomato Varieties
There will be more than 10,000 tomato plants this year, including the always popular Sun Sugar cherry, the classic Cherokee Purple. There also will be paste tomatoes, which are great for sauces and canning.
In order to extend your harvesting season as long as possible, opt for a few of the earliest fruiting -- ripe in 50 to 60 days -- and some of the tomatoes that take 90 to 100 days to ripen.
If you are growing in containers, look for determinate varieties that only grow to about 4 feet high.
90+ Pepper Varieties
If you love making salsa, try Jersey Devil or Opalka. Pair them with some new offerings from our "chili heads," including Sweet Sunset, an early fruiting, very sweet, Italian variety that is great for frying. It is compact, and it's good for containers, too.
Tunisian Baklouti is a hot pepper that is great for couscous and North African dishes. Etiuda is an orange bell from Baker Creek that produces a half-pound fruit.
Holy Moly is a mild pepper that turns chocolate brown when ripe. It is great for mole sauce.
If you love fire-breathing-hot, don't miss out on Bhut Jolokia Ghost and Trinidad Scorpion. For great habanero flavor with a little less heat, try Aji Amarillo, Bulgarian or Martin's Carrot.
Sweet pepper options include Corno di Toro, Romanian Gogosari and Cuollarici.
More vegetables and herbs
If you haven't tried growing your own eggplant, give it a go. Not only are they easy to grow, they are beautiful plants as well. There will be nine varieties to choose from, including Little Prince, Nadia, Rosa Bianca and Long Purple. They are great in stir fry dishes, hummus and even on pizza.
We will have 17 varieties of basil, including the prized Tulsi (Holy Basil) from India. Other herbs include oregano, thyme, lemongrass and stevia.
And ornamentals and succulents
Although we are known for our incredible edibles, we also offer more than 20 types of ornamental plants and flowers, including amaranth, cosmos, Rudbeckia and about 20 types of zinnia and 13 varieties of sunflowers.
In additional to the succulent pots, there will be dozens of succulents to choose from including aloe, aeonium, agave, echeveria and many more. Sampler packs will be available as well.
Although the plants are what might draw you to the sale, don't miss out on the educational talks. You can learn about drought-tolerant plants, growing tomatoes, embracing your clay soil, composing and gardening with pests.
There will be information booths featuring Martial Cottle Park, UC Davis All-Stars plants, native plants and the master gardener help desk, and garden-based activities for the kids. More than 40 vendors will offer food, arts and crafts, tools, clothing, chicken coops and, of course, plants, plants, plants.