Here in California and other arid states, we're really having to watch our water. But that does not mean that we have to forego lush, colorful, flowery gardens! Thanks to California native plants and many varieties from other dry climates like the Mediterranean and Australia, we have a huge selection of drought tolerant flowering shrubs and perennials to choose from.
BASIC DESIGN TIPS FOR A DROUGHT TOLERANT COTTAGE GARDEN
I. REDUCE YOUR LAWN: Lawns are not a key feature for a cottage garden anyway, and making them smaller will give you more room for those gorgeous colorful flowers. There are three basic techniques to do this:
-- Turn the big square lawn into a small, free form shape surrounded by planting beds, or perhaps a grass path between the plants.
-- Use native grasses such as Blue Grama, Sedge, or Buffalo grass. These give a soft meadowy look, and do not need to be mowed. Once established, they need no water during the winter, and only occasional water in summer.
-- Use artificial lawns. This ain't your daddy's Astroturf! It looks great and although a bit pricey to install, it makes up for the cost in zero water, maintenance, and fertilizer use.
II. USE RAISED BEDS: You can edge the beds with cobbles, bricks, wood, broken pieces of concrete (a great recycling use for an old concrete driveway being torn up), or keystone. Try to match the material to the style of your house. Or, you can simply mound a few yards of good planting mix and plant in that. Add compost and a balanced organic fertilizer, and the good soil will reduce water runoff and waste. Make sure that the beds are at least three feet wide so that you can plant in three layers: high, medium, and low.
III. ADD FOCAL POINTS like birdbaths, benches, fountains, statuary, or mirrors on the wall. This is a design, rather than drought tolerant, tip.
IV. PLANT IN A 'NATURAL' STYLE, combining flowers, vegetables, shrubs, herbs, and climbing vines. Let the colors mingle and alter the heights of the plants in a non-formal way. Add tuteurs or topiary shapes to give some vertical lines, and mix in some spiky plants (flax, kangaroo paw) to contrast with the broad leaf plants.
GREAT DROUGHT TOLERANT PLANTS FOR THE 'COTTAGE' LOOK:
Tall plants: Ceanothus, Manzanita, Waxflower, Russian sage, Melaluca
|Russian sage (Perovskia)|
Medium : Sweet lavender, Indian Hawthorne 'Jack Evans' or 'Pink Ballerina', Penstemon, Rockrose.
Tall: Ceanothus 'Dark Star,', Blue Juniper
|Podocarpus 'Icee Blue"|
Medium: Perovskia, Salvia 'Indigo Spires', 'Waverly', or clevelandii, Westringia 'Wynnabie Gem'
Short : Scabiosa, trailing rosemary, Convolvulus groundcover, Cranesbill 'Johnson's Blue.'
YELLOW, RED, ORANGE:
Tall: Grevillea 'Long John', Bottlebrush, Cotoneaster, Arborvitae 'Aureum'
|Grevillea "Long John"|
Medium: Tagetes, Leonitis, Penstemon, Salvia 'greggii', Jerusalem sage
Grevillea 'Golden Dragon
Tall: Pittosporum tenufolium 'Marjorie Channon' or 'Silver Magic,' Matilija poppy, white Waxflower
Waxflower (white flowers)
Pittosporum 'Marjorie Channon'
Medium: Salvia apiana, Westringia, dwarf fruitless Olive bush, Tansy, Morning Glory bush
Westringia Salvia apiana
Low: Yarrow (white flower), Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost', Heuchera 'Lime Rickey,' Euphorbia 'wulfenii'
' Euphorbia wulfenii
Heuchera 'Lime Rickey' Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'
SPIKY ACCENT PLANTS:
Phormium (flax), Kangaroo Paw, Sedge
Phormium 'Rainbow Queen'
BURGUNDY ACCENT PLANTS: Lophomyrtus, Coprosma 'County Park Red,' Euphorbia 'Blackbird', Heuchera 'Purple Ruffles'