Actually, I should clarify. I don't hate grass per se, I just hate being expected to grow a lush green lawn in an arid climate that's really not conducive to the stuff.
So when I bought my house 20 years ago, I decided that I wanted to xeriscape the front yard.
Those of you who live in more moist climates might not be familiar with the word xeriscape. Essentially it's landscaping using low water plants - but I tend to think of it as the quest for socially acceptable weeds.
|A Portion of my Xeriscape last July|
Some plants have been more successful than others, and I fear the success of some has been the demise of others!
Anyhow, I thought I'd give you a little tour of my xeriscape with notes on what has worked and what hasn't. I have the hunch these sorts of things are very climate dependent, so what works in Denver probably wouldn't work in San Antonio, etc, but here's a brief look at my successes and failures.
Silver Stone Sedum -
Success but it takes over
Success but it takes over
Silver stone sedum is by far the most prolific plant in my xeriscape. A small clump of it arrived with some iris from a friend back when I first started the garden, and well... it certainly propagates well! Seriously, you just break off a stem and stick it in the ground and it will root and spread.
The problem is that it tends to take over, so I'm having to dig out chunks to make room for the other plants. But it does send up long spires with brilliant yellow flowers every June. The photo at the top was taken when they were just at the end of their blooming cycle - all of the yellowish browinish stuff sticking up was bright yellow just a week or two before (so much for timing my photos well!)
Sedum Angelina - Success!
This stuff is really pretty and it's very easy to grow. I love the yellow/orange color of the tips, and it propagates well by simply sticking a hunk in the ground. It needs virtually no irrigation, so it's a big win!
Creeping Phlox - Success-ish
This is one of the first plants that I added when I started my xeriscape a dozen years ago or so. It has done well, although unfortunately it seems to be creeping onto the sidewalk rather than spreading into the surrounding dirt - so I need to see if I can find a way to relocate a portion of it without killing it. But it blooms nicely every spring and adds some welcome color, so hopefully I can find a way to get it to spread into new territory.
Marigolds - Success!
Marigolds are an annual, but they reseed easily and seem to do well in our climate. They bloom most of the summer and only need the occasional squirt of water. Yes!
Purple Iris - Success
Purple iris were one of the first flowers I planted when I started the garden. A friend was thinning hers so I got a bunch for free. Recently I've noticed that they haven't been blooming as much and I concluded that they needed to be thinned. So last fall I attempted it with about half of them. It's too soon to tell if it worked or not, but most of them are coming up so hopefully that means I didn't kill them!
Dianthus - Success
Dianthus do well with very little water or care, and they bloom several times throughout the summer. I only wish they would spread quicker, but I'm working on gathering seeds and seeing if I can get some seedlings going - minimal success there, but not giving up!
Ice Plant - Failure
Lots of people in Denver seem to be able to grow ice plant, but I haven't been able to crack the code. I've tried 3-4 times and at best I can keep it alive for a year or so. I'm not sure if it needs more soil amendments or more water or what. It also might be that it got covered with bindweed and that killed it. But in my book, it's three strikes and you're out so I have officially given up on ice plant.
Nasturium - Total Failure
This stuff looks so pretty and in theory it's easy to grow, but I haven't been able to keep one alive for more than a few weeks. My hunch is that it needs more water than it's getting and/or it can't handle the hot weather. I think it's in the same family as cabbage and other cruciferous veggies, all of which I have had terrible luck with. Not sure what it means, but I don't feel real inspired to try again.
Echinacea or Purple Coneflower - Failure
At one point I had 3-4 of these plants in various places throughout the yard but they all died. I think that they didn't get enough water. Sigh.
Perennial Candytuft - Success!
This stuff totally rocks! There was a bit of it in the front planter when I moved in 20 years ago and it's filled in really nicely. Last year I took some cuttings and used root hormone to get them started and they all lived! Hooray! So I've got little bits of this throughout the garden and I hope to start some more cuttings this year. They bloom in the springtime and the rest of the year have a nice evergreen groudcover look.
Creeping Bellflower - Success-ish
They tend to take over
This stuff is a success if your definition of a success is that it grows and spreads without much water. It even chokes out bindweed - of course it also chokes out just about everything else too! It grows from big bulbs and the "creeping" part is a bit misleading - "galloping" might be more accurate! Anyhow, mixed feelings on this one, but it does take up space and bloom - both good qualities in my book!
Shasta Daisies - Failure
but maybe worth another try.
These did really well for about 2 years and then they died. I'm not sure if it was the water situation again or if they just got overrun by the creeping bellflowers. Anyhow, they might be worth another try.
Garden Cosmos - Success - I think
I've only tried these for one season but so far I think they are in the win category. They do really well in full sun with minimal water and poor soil! Whoopie!!!! I'll be planting more this year!
Hens & Chicks - Success but of the slow motion variety
Hens & chicks are one of the first plants that I think of when I think xeriscape. They do really well with very little water, and they're pretty cool looking. They even send up these long crazy spires when they bloom. The only problem is that they are really slow to fill in, so you have to have a great deal of patience... not my strong suit!
Flowering Oregano - Success
I planted some oregano in my vegetable garden years ago and the stuff has spread incredibly - I've actually had to start digging it up because it was sort of taking over. But... since it did so well and even came up in the cracks of the driveway I figured it could probably withstand the neglect it would receive in the front yard, so I transplanted a few hunks into the xeriscape and it's done really well. It flowers all summer long and while the blooms are tiny, they are pretty and it attracts lots of bees.
Autumn Joy Sedum - Success
This is another one that's successful but slow. I planted some over 10 years ago and while it has done well, it hasn't spread much. I've been trying to separate off little hunks and move it around to other parts of the garden with so/so results. Still a win though because it blooms in the fall and adds color to the garden at a time when it would otherwise be pretty blah.
Yarrow - Success
OK, to be fair, last year is my first attempt at growing yarrow but it's done really well! It spreads nicely and seems to thrive with virtually no water. Yippie! I have both a yellow and a red one, and I've got a packet of seeds that claims it's mixed colors, so I'm hoping to add some more this year.
Purple Salvia - Jury's still out, but it's not dead yet
I planted 2 purple salvia plants about 3 years ago and I'm still not sure how they're doing. They haven't spread or grown much, but they're also not dead yet, so hopefully that's a good sign. This picture is not mine, mine are, ahem, much punier than this one. We'll see... hopefully it will turn out to be a keeper.
So there you have it - a brief tour of my xeriscape plants. I'm sure I've left some out, like most of the spring bulbs, but you get the idea. So tell me, what is the gardening climate like where you live? Which plants have worked for you and which haven't?