Better Selections Now!
A guide to choosing superior garden plants
Blue Sterling's Newsletter

Sunday, April 28, 2002

Join the (drought) Resistance

Winter at our nursery was warmer and drier than usual. Spring greets us this year with colorful Snowdrops, Crocuses, and dire drought warnings. We can still water our gardens of new plantings, although some areas mandate an every-other-day schedule. So should we just give up, forget about planting, and wait until fall? Of course not! Join us as we take steps to make your existing garden more water efficient and choose drought tolerant plants for your new gardening projects.

(Update: as of May 14th we have had quite a bit of rain and hopefully the restrictions will be lifted in the very near future).

In this article you'll learn ten easy tasks you can perform to make your current garden more water efficient and discover ten low maintenance, drought tolerant plants.

Ten Water Saving Tips

1. Mulch your garden! Top dress beds with 2 inches of mulch to reduce water evaporation.

2. Pull those weeds. Weeds steal water from your plants.

3. Prune. Cut back overgrown trees and shrubs in March to reduce water demands.

4. Fertilize appropriately. Over-feeding plants promotes fast, thirsty growth.

5. Use drip irrigation instead of sprinklers.

6. Move container plants to your garden beds before you water them. Any run-off will water your shrubs in the bed.

7. Water early in the day to reduce evaporation.

8. Water deeply and infrequently. Deep watering develops deep roots that help plants withstand drought.

9. Don't water on windy days.

10. Reduce large lawns by creating beds of water efficient plantings.

Ten Drought Tolerant Plants That Are Not Cactus

Drought tolerant plants don't have to look like they belong in the desert. These plants blend in perfectly with your existing garden. Like any new plant, drought resistant plants require regular water for their first month in your garden. Here are ten of our favorites. 1. Cotoneaster salicifolius 'Scarlet Leader'. This disease resistant evergreen groundcover blooms each May. Birds love the fall berries. Sun loving 'Scarlet Leader' tolerates partial shade. Zone 5.

2. Cupressus arizonica var. glabra 'Blue Ice' creates an unforgettable specimen in sunny Zone 7 gardens. Stunning blue evergreen foliage contrasts with cherry bark. A truly carefree tree. Zone 7.

3. Cupressus macnabiana, the rare MacNab Cypress may fool you into thinking it is an arborvitae. Surprisingly hardy and easy to care for, this is a great choice for a hedge. Reaches a teardrop shaped 30' at maturity. Zone 6.

4. Ginkgo biloba 'Witches' Broom' is a dense, shrubby maidenhair tree cultivar that never develops a central leader. It grows into a rounded globe about 3'high and wide in ten years. Perfect for perennial beds or specimen use, give this dwarf tree some sun and a kind word now and then. Shown below in excellent fall color. Zone 4.

5. Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'. Fragrant flowers when nothing else is blooming. Showy fall color. Low maintenance. Drought tolerant. If it would take out the trash, 'Arnold Promise' witchhazel would be the best shrub in the world. Maybe it is anyway. Zone 5.

6. Juniperus communis 'Compressa'. The compressed juniper is a dense, miniature cone. This carefree conifer (below) belongs in container gardens, garden railroads and perennial beds and looks excellent in a large patio planter.

7. Picea glauca 'Echiniformis'. The blue hedgehog spruce or blue bird's nest spruce (shown below) is a dense, miniature globe with blue gray foliage. Ideal in a rock garden or as a perennial companion. Zone 5.

8. Picea purpurea is a rare Chinese conifer with great qualities for American gardens. Purple cone spruce has a formal, pyramidal shape and is an excellent substitute for Norway spruce. A handsome specimen or hedge, this tree grows about 8 inches annually. Zone 5.

9 Pinus banksiana is remarkably cold hardy and tolerates conditions that would kill most trees, like drought and infertile soil. 'Chippewa' is a globose, miniature cultivar that makes itself at home in rock gardens. Zone 3.

10. 'Wate's Golden' is a cultivar of the native Virginia pine. It shares the rugged, artistic appearance of all Pinus virginiana with a unique added quality: Each winter this intermediate (to 40' tall) pine becomes brilliant golden yellow! Zone 5.

We hope April brings its' usual rainfall. But, no matter how much it rains we'll always search for plants that solve special gardening situations such as drought, too much water, heavy soil and hungry deer. Look for articles about these garden problem solvers in future issues of Better Selections Now, the newsletter for friends of Blue Sterling Nursery.