Articles in Category: Drought tolerant

Thoughts on the 2017 Perennial Plant Symposium

on Tuesday, 05 September 2017. Posted in Drought tolerant, New Plants

Inspiration from the PPA Symposium by Erik Petersen

Recently I had the opportunity to attend an amazing conference hosted by the Perennial Plant Association.  Held in Denver, Colorado, the overall theme was plants that perform well in high mountain areas, barren soils and low water settings.  The Rogue Valley fits squarely into this designation. 

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While there was certainly a lot of discussion about new plants and plant selections, I found many of the big picture concepts to be really eye opening about the current state of gardening we find ourselves in and heading into.

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Regional Appropriateness

For years there has been a heavy presence of either East Coast plant material or plants that thrive on the East Coast that has been marketed across the entire United States in a one size fits all category.  Botanist, breeders and gardeners alike have started to shift away from this mentality and focus more on either western forms or regionally appropriate selections that will thrive in the Western United States.  As an example, some ornamental grasses originating from overseas or the Eastern U.S. or the mid-west struggle in our arid soils containing low organic matter and a high pH.  New western forms such as Bouteloua ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Blonde Ambition Grama Grass) or Sorghastrum nutans ‘Thin Man’ (Thin Man Indian Grass) are excellent examples of grasses that are regionally appropriate since they perform well in our area.

 

Arctostaphylos Howard McMinn 8032077f8a2fbf8f459f39a08c7ee55bAnother issue this area deals with is that we do not get the natural summer and fall rains the east coast does so this factors into what plants will regionally thrive in this area.  Gardeners and designers from around the country are envious that we can grow Arctostaphylos (Manzanitas), Ceanothus (California Lilac) and Rhamnus ‘Eve Case’ (Coffeeberry) here.  These evergreen shrubs won’t miss a beat in our dry summers and early fall and as such we should embrace our region’s environmental uniqueness and plant accordingly.

 

 

 

 

Alliums (Ornamental Onions) while not always native, are another wide-ranging species that perform exceptionally well here.  They can thrive in dry soils that drain well and are devoid of lots of organic matter.  There are literally dozens of forms to choose from but a few highlights from the conference were:  Allium ‘Millenium’ (2018 Perennial Plant of the Year), Allium ‘Christophii’ (Huge ornamental heads with steel-blue flowers) and Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’ (A fall blooming selection).  Alliums are incredible pollinator plants that provide both pollen and nectar for beneficial insects. 

Euphorbia with Allium

Having a love affair with the hose when the trends suggest otherwise!

IMG 0297 1One of the top current trends in gardening is gardens that are low water and adaptive to the conditions.  For a resource in that is often scarce and expensive (water) there are plenty of plants that can be solutions to this need.  Many plants that are regionally appropriate for this area do not want constant or copious amounts of water once they are established in the ground since this can be detrimental to the plants or lead to their death.  Plants such as Agastache (Hummingbird Mint), Arctostaphylos (Manzanita), Penstemons (Beardtongue) and Eriogonum (Buckwheats) and ornamental grasses in general are all water wise plants that thrive in our region and have many attractive qualities about them.  When summer temperatures and heatwaves consistently reach over 90 degrees plants such as these usually go into a hibernation phase of sorts where they stop growing and ride out the heat until temps return to normal.  As gardeners, our natural inclination is to water more as the temperature increases which is often the exact opposite of what we should do.  A once or twice a week deep watering of plants in the ground will be adequate to meet their needs.  Over watering leads to rotting of the roots or stressing the plants.  Designing gardens with low water needs but that also exhibit desirable ornamental qualities is the current and future trend.  Other amazing perennials that are adaptive, low maintenance and drought tolerant are:  Monardella (Coyote Mint), Zauschneria (California Fuschia), Delospermas (Ice Plants), Hesperaloe (Red Yucca) and Sedums (Spreading Stonecrop)

 

New Concept of value of plants.

panicumThe traditional benefits of plants were promoted and thought of as “items” that brought happiness, beauty and increased property value to our life.  Over time new concepts have risen to the top as to the value that plants bring into our world.  Today’s cutting-edge designers are thinking about how plants can help with improved water and air quality, providing food (both to humans and animals), their functionality and how they benefit wildlife.   Many plants can serve multiple functions and overlap criteria when it comes to designing.  For example, Panicum grasses (Switch Grass) serve multiple uses.  Not only are they extremely drought tolerant (their roots can go down 14’) but they sequester carbon from the air and put it in the ground thus helping with air pollution.  Their foliage is very attractive and their seed heads can be a food source for birds.  This is an example of one plant providing at least four sources of value, not all of them just for humans. 

I came away from the Perennial Plant Conference with a new sense of looking at how plants are being used, valued and incorporated in today’s designs and projects and what our responsibility as gardeners, landscapers, designers and plant propagators is in today’s changing world. 

-Erik Petersen

Locally Grown

on Sunday, 27 March 2016. Posted in Drought tolerant

Plants are one area where it makes sense to 'Buy Local'

Locally Grown

Locally Grown

by Christie Mackison, co-owner and designer at Shooting Star Nursery

(this article is originally published in Southern Oregon Magazine)

One of the things I like best about gardening and plants is what a localized pursuit it is and at the same time enhanced by global influences.  You need to truly understand your garden’s microclimate for plant success.    It also helps to have a sense of what local or native plants do well in your area.  But at the same time we have the entire globe at our disposal when it comes time to choose what we put in our garden. Many of our favorite common garden plants come from Asia (Rhodies, Hydrangeas), the Mediterranean (Cistus, Rosemary), or even the Himalayas (Deodar Cedar).  So where to begin?

First, observe and understand your area’s climate and then on a smaller scale your garden’s microclimate (that includes sun/wind exposure and soil type).  Most of the Rogue Valley is USDA Zone 8a, I like to verge towards Zone 7b to be on the safe side.  We have a long dry season with temps reaching into the 100’s.  We have a shorter rainy season than the typical Pacific Northwest but it is still concentrated in late fall-spring.  So our goal is finding plants that can withstand winter wet/summer dry cycles and occasional extreme temps of single digits to triple digits. 

That tag on the Hydrangea that you just bought from the box store says it will take full sun.  But now you know- not in our drier/hotter climate.  Even though Oregon is a huge producer of nursery plants, most plant tags and most plants coming straight off a delivery truck are produced for an east coast market.  So put your filters on and make sure you are buying for your climate- not just the pretty new plant that is being marketed across the country. 

So here is where you can get local. Start with your local nursery that is ideally growing plants themselves- the plants are acclimated to the climate and the nursery makes choices on what to grow based on what will do well here.

We still have the world to choose plant species from but we choose from areas that have a similar climate- like the Mediterranean, and we can choose native plants from our unique area.   Keep in mind we are more similar to northern California for natives than the Pacific Northwest.  Plants are one area where it especially makes sense to ‘shop local’.

Garden tour

on Wednesday, 16 September 2015. Posted in Deer resistant, Drought tolerant, Landscape architect, Landscape contractor, New Plants

Checking out our plants in the outside world

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Shooting Star Garden Tour 2015!  Our friend Tracy suggested we go on a tour of some gardens that she and her company- Sage Hill Landscape had designed and installed using some of our plants.  We thought that sounded like a great idea!  We don't get out much and it would be such a good learning opportunity to see how our plants were doing outside of their little nursery environment. As well as what plants were winning the fight against deer, heavy clay soils, drought, and a hot summer.  First off, we were all stunned by this Chilopsis 'Bubba' pictured behind Erik.  It was huge and covered in burgundy flowers.  In the foreground are Salvia 'Caradonna' and Stachys byzantina (or Lambs Ear). 

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First off, let's say what a great job our designer, Bonni Criswell, did on this landscape design.  We were truly impressed with the beautiful combos and textures she created of silvers, blues, purples, and whites.  This client is nearby the nursery on Old Stage Road and the garden was planted in April of 2014.  So this was it's second summer when we visited and it looked filled in and thriving.   The client needed drought tolerant, deer resistant, and all season interest plants and Bonni delivered.

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Dwarf conifers were requested by this client so this combo includes a Papoose Sitka Spruce, Nepeta 'Walker's Low' and the ornamental grass Panicum 'Northwind'.

More fun combos!  On the left:  Panicum 'Northwind' with Agastache 'Heatwave' and Salvia 'Heatwave Glimmer'.

On the right:  Salvia 'Caradonna' (purple blooms) and Feijoa sellowiana (Pineapple Guava) with Picea Globosa, and Salvia x 'Heatwave Glimmer' (creamy white blooms).  Evergreen textures mingle with early summer and late summer blooming perennials so you'll never be bored.

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