Colorful California Landscape: A Water-Friendly Garden
Colorful California Landscape:  A Water-Friendly Garden

Foliage List


Below presents all of plants from our front yard.  Hyperlinks are provided for each plant if you wish to learn more about them in detail.  All of these plants are native and/or drought tolerant.

Kangaroo Paws (Anigozanthos manglesii): When people stop and ask about our garden, this is the first plant about which they inquire.  Endemic to the southwestern region of Australia.  Few plant equal the unique flowering character of these plants.  Flowers last 1-2 months, making them a popular choice for borders, perennial gardens and in containers.  They need light and fast draining soilsalong with regular misture during spring to sustain a robust flowering cycle.  Low moisture is needed during summer.

Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Margarita Bop') excites almost as many comments as the Kangaroo Paws.  People are enamored with the profusion of delicate blue-purple flowers which last for many weeks. T his is the spreading variety, 1-2 feet high.  Native to coastal and inland foothills of central to southern California.  Known for their colorful tubular flowers, they are top nectar plans for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.  Can be displayed with great effect around rocks, along borders and in perennial gardens.

The exotic Red Hot Poker (kniphofia uvaria) is aptly named for its very dramatic flowers.  This is a sturdy South African native known for its tough, easy-to-grow nature.  This species is the most common red-hot poker cultivated in California.  It is an evergreen clumpling perennial that develops long grass-like foliage to 3 feet hight.  Bright orange to yellow flowers grow on stalks 3-4 feet tall and produce a strong eye-catching impact wherever it is planted.  A substantial plant, it looks great along or in long beds lining driveways or entrances where dryness and alkaline soils might defeat even a daylily.

The Red Yucca (hesperaloe parvifolora) is another plant with which people are intrigued.  Long branched flower stalks with colorful tubular flowers grow 5-7 feet tall for several weeks in the summer.  Very attractive to hummingfirds.  Native to southern Texas and adjacent northern Mexico where it tolerates heat, sun, seasonal drought and winter temperatures well.

The Pacific Coast Iris (Iris douglasiana) has a beautiful, varigated purple flower in the spring.  A small clumping perennial with strap-like leaves, growing 12-18 inches high and spreading by rhizomes to form clumps 1-2 feet across.  Very showy in early spring.  Douglas iris in one of 3 species native to the West Coast.  It is one of the premium understory and border choices for California native and woodland garden plantings.

Hybrid Coral Bells (Heuchera hybrids are native to Canada, United States and Mexico.  These plants have rounded leaves, delicate flowers and tidy mounding habit.  The 'Santa Ana Cardinal' (shown above) is one of the oldest and best variety with scarlet red flowers.

Hardy Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas 'Otto Quast') blooms in bursts of purple color for months.  The 'Otto Quast" variety (shown above) grows 18-24 inches high, 2-3 feet wide and produces the showiest floral display with intense purple bracts in early spring.  Comes from warm and dry areas of Spain, Portugal and North Africa.  Very colorful plant for use in mixed perennial gardens, in mass groupings and in containers.  Grows well in sunny locations, in well-drained soils and with low to moderate amounts of moisture during the summer.

Dwarf New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax 'Red Warrior') adds a contrasting dark, reddish-brown background to the other colorful foliage.  It is a large and robust clumping perennial common in the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

Marina Strawberry Tree (Arbutus marina) is a medium sized evergreen tree, developing an upright habit and capable of growing 20-30 feet tall.  It has exceptional tolerance to summer drought making it the perfect evergreen for arid western gardens.  Dark green leaves contrast well against deep cinnamon-brown bark of the trunk that sheds periodically helping it maintain good color.  Pendulous, urn-shaped, pink flowers are produced in teh spring and continue to appear sporadically through summer.  A second heavy bloom occurs in fall.

Small Cape Rush (Chondropetalum tectorum 'El Campo') has turned out to be a much better alternative to the highly invasive Horsetail.  The rush provides the"reeds next to a creek bed" look we want without the invasiveness of the Horsetails.  A species from South Africa that is currently grown in California to bodly contrast with other foliage plants and for use in bioswales.  Naturally adapted to coastal conditions.

Ground Cover

Sea Pinks (Armeria maritima) is a small mat-forming evergreen perennial growing 6-8 inches tall, 10-12 inches wide. Dark green leaves are narrow and linear.  Showy deep pin ball-shpaed flowers develop on thin stems above foliage in mid to late spring.  This species is native to the Northern Hemisphere, including California.  They are an excellent ground cover that surround the area in a sea of, well, pink!

Silver carpet (Dymondia margaretae) is a ground-hugging, perennial, growing 1-3 inches high and slowly spreading 1-2 feet across.  Silvery foliage is comprised of narrow leaves that are pale green avoe and silvery-white below.  Small yellow daisy-like flowers grow to 1 inch across and provide modest accent character in the summer.  It is a great alternative to having a lawn because it is able to withstand light foot traffic.  It tolerates full sun and heat, and is adapted to low amounts of supplemental water during summer.

Creeping Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus') is the standard ground cover cultivar that grows to 2 feet tall, and has tiny, pale, lavender-blue flowers and a wonderful fragrance.  Flowers attract birds and bees.  Native to the Mediterrean region.  Does best in well-drained soils and full sun.  Neighbors have asked permission to harvest it for use in sachets and seasoning in cooking, however, this variety is not as pungent (and therefore not as delicious) as more vertical rosemary.  

Carmel Sur Manzanita (Arctostaphylos edmundsii 'Carmel Sur') is a spreading to mounding shrub with deep green leaves are rounded with red tinged edges; light pink to white flowers are showy in mid winter.  This species is native to Monterey County where it grows on ocean-facing bluffs near Little Sur River.  It is known to be a reliable and attractive species in coastal areas as well as in warmer and drier climate zones in partial shade with periodic summer irrigation.  The Carmel Sur variety is a dense and robust ground cover plant that is widey adaptable, even in southern California where it shows a greater tolerance of heat.  It can reach 18 inches high and spread 7-10 feet across.

Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue') is a small clumping perennial grass with blue-gray-green foliage that grows in a spherical shape.  A neat and uniform plant with attractive wheat colored inflorescences that occur in spring through summer.  Blue fescue is currently the most popular clumping grass for ornamental gardens in California.  Its soft texture and mounding shape makes it highly attractive around pools, in rock gardens and along borders.  The Elijah Blue variety grows 12-15 inches high with a silvery cast to the blue-green foliage.

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Stewardship requires the recognition that we are all caretakers of the environment and economy for the benefit of present and future generations. We must balance the impacts of today's decisions with the needs of future generations. - The Minnesota Round Table on Sustainable Development (1998)