Simplicity in planting combinations

bahia(SF Bay Area)October 10, 2012

This photo is in complete contrast to the riotously colorful garden shot I posted a day ago here, and in some ways is even more satisfying to me as a garden composition. I tend to use a lot of silvery/white/blue foliage in garden designs here in California because they can look so good year round, and typically don't require much pampering because there foliage color actually is an adaptation to our long dry summers and sunny, dry conditions. This Cotyledon orbiculata v. longifolia along with Blue Sheep Grass is one of my favorite combinations, and is particularly useful in narrow hell strips along the sidewalk/street. I find the cushiony grass actually helps to protect the succulent foliage from damage with people getting in and out of their cars, as this is a high traffic parking area so close to the local metro rail line,(called BART here locally). Aristea inaequalis is another bluish foliaged flowering perennial I like to add to this mix.

Here is a link that might be useful: Icy good looks year round, silvers and blues

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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

David and others,
I enjoy working with silver foliage and on occasion embrace simplicity of planting design/ layout.
There is something to be said for repetition in design, especially when you have a large area to work within and want to limit maintenance but still pull off big visual impact.

In the photo below we used a basic palette of 5 plants. Myoporum in the background to screen a neighbor's house, then a swath of silver foliage echium fastuosum, silver helichrycum and silver green foliage salvia leucantha.
Infront of the stone wall is a planting of dietes.
It is a fairly long driveway entrance, about 200 LF.
Very low in maintenance for most of the year and deer and drought tolerant.

I love the silvery blue cotyledon orb. that David linked to, and have been fortunate to receive cutting from him of this plant ( and many many others ! )
Silvery plants seem to just sparkle in the sun.

Thanks for starting this intriguing post David.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 11:10PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Michelle, thanks for posting the photo, you're giving a great example of how a simplified/pared down plant list can give dramatic results. The point about simplified maintenance as a result is also a consideration too seldom really appreciated. Myself, I find it a bit difficult to really pare down the plant choices, a few more species always find their way into even my more minimal designs.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 1:05AM
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Great designs. Love the look of the grays and blues too and there are so many of them that do well in the extremes of the desert. The pared down designs are very appealing, wish I could have the discipline to say no to more plants to simplify our own landscape.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 9:17AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Maria, I've enjoyed the photos of your garden that you've posted in the past, and know that you have a lot more work there to even get a garden to grow, let alone the harsher conditions to endure for both you and the garden. I like how you have chosen to work with your climate rather than deny/fight it. I designed only one desert project in my career while working for an office in San Francisco; a Hertz Rental Car office near the airport. I've never been back to see how it matured, but enjoyed researching the desert plants for the design. I remember Mountain States Wholesale Nursery and the Las Vegas Water District's Demonstration Garden as being particularly useful for info/ideas. My second desert gardening experience took me to Saudi Arabia and a palace gardens for a prince in the royal family. That project was interesting, set upon the high plateau on the outskirsts of Riyahd, overlooking a dramatic wadi(barranca/canyon). That garden was in complete denial of the desert climate, but also contained a part that was an exact replica of the Alhambra.

Maybe Maria, you could include some more recent photos of your garden,(or older), and talk about your challenges/plant choices for a Las Vegas garden. I remember discovering the genus Dalea while working on that Vegas project, and was intrigued, because only the larger Smoke Bush was ever used here in California. Dasylirions and Nolinas were another epiphany for me, and these two actually grow well here along the northern California coast,(excepting right at the beach).

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 12:14PM
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Thanks for your kind words David. Over the years I have posted some pics of our front and back yards, the back yard desert plants and the front yard more english perennial border using drought tolerant type plants but things are changing.

Plants that grew successfully for five years in the front started struggling with our heat or outright dying during our summers and I finally realized that our back yard was looking better and better while our front yard was looking bad. Probably we could have thrown more water on the whole area and tried some shade to create a microclimate but by then we were really appreciating desert plants so we've been converting the front.

Besides the very common Las Vegas mainstays leucophyllums, hesperaloe parvifolia, lantana and mesquite trees we have some less common plants that I really love. A pithecellobium flexicaule that is the deepest green you can imagine on a desert loving tree. It's relative Pithecellobium pallens that has fragrant puffs of flowers all summer, Acalypha monostachya that is positively bronze until it lights up with red. Even a plant that died three times out in the yard in winter until I put it up against the east side of the house and it rewards me with blooms all winter and spring, Cassia oligophylla and another unusual cassia for here because it is so ugly in a nursery pot and deciduous but grows up into a lovely shrub that blooms the entire summer Cassia wislizenii.

Can you tell that I have a passion for desert plants? The desert demonstration gardens are gone, replaced by the bigger springs preserve. Ethel M gardens was once a truly magical place but has been moving from very naturalistic landscaped areas representing different southwestern US, South American, African and Australian deserts to something more contrived looking but still worth the trip.

I'll post some pics later, Maria

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 10:44PM
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