Front Yard Blues

Rosemary at sunset

I’m so glad I’ve started carrying my camera on our morning and evening walks; otherwise, I never would have captured the brilliant blue flowers blooming in our front yard. Rosemary, much loved by both us and the bees, grows like a weed in our south facing rocky soil. Amazingly, it survives solely on winter rain.

Salvia Pozo Blue 1Salvia ‘Pozo Blue’ is my favorite of all the drought tolerant California native salvias. It’s gray green foliage and bluish violet flowers are both beautiful and fragrant, it thrives in heavy clay soil (as well as sand) on nothing but rainfall, and it attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and California quail.

Salvia Pozo Blue 2While the butterflies and hummers (especially Anna’s hummingbirds) enjoy the nectar, the quail love the seeds, so be sure to allow the flowers to dry on the stem. If you choose to deadhead, leave the seed heads on the ground and the quail will clean them right up. Like all native plants, Salvia ‘Pozo Blue’ only requires supplemental water in it’s first summer; once established, leave it alone. Native plants thrive on “neglect” – making them the perfect choice for a drought tolerant, low maintenance, wildlife friendly garden.

Ceanothus 1

California Lilacs, or Ceanothus, are some of the most drought tolerant and beautiful evergreen shrubs native to California. Their stunning true blue flowers – a rarity among plants – can range from pale blue to royal blue to lilac, depending upon the species.

Ceanothus 3According to Las Pilitas Nursery, “the myth of Ceanothus being short lived is primarily spread by incompetent gardeners that insist on drip irrigation, summer water and soil amendments. California native plants hate all three. Expect a 20-25 year life from your Ceanothus in most gardens.” I have to agree with this assessment. This particular Ceanothus in our front yard is at least 40 years old, but we almost lost it because a “mow-n-blow” crew (hired by the realtor to “clean up” the yard) aggressively butchered and watered it; it took two years for this shrub to recover. When we purchased this house, we immediately turned off the badly leaking irrigation system and cancelled the “mown-n-blow” service. Shortly thereafter, the existing native plants – Ceanothus and manzanitas planted in 1965, along with volunteer toyons planted by the birds – began to thrive.

Ceanothus with beeBesides enjoying the beautiful blue flowers and the wildlife they attract, we also benefit from a drastically reduced water bill.


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