How To! Drought Tolerant Gardens

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Installing a drought tolerant garden in your front or rear yard means you will be free from watering, contributing to water conservation and when done, your yard will likely be the envy of all of your neighbors. Drought tolerant landscaping uses natural features (berms, elevations, risers, mounds) and native plants to create interest.

The key item to establishing this landscape is to rent a piece of equipment called a Dingo (a piece of equipment that is like a mini Bobcat). This will help you establish your elevations and berms. Plot your garden on paper, so you know where your landscape will lie before beginning installation. 

1. Find your rocks - Locate your local quarry or rock supplier and determine which kind of rocks you will use for visual interest. The quarry will deliver and then it's up to your Dingo operator to position the rocks and soil. This can take a few days, so be patient as this is the base for your garden. Lay down flagstones for walk ways and watch as your garden matures and plants creep into the cracks. Rock-scaping will yield surprising results when integrating with your plants.


2. Use a Landscaper - To install your drip system for those plants that require some water, and to install flagstone - it is suggested to use a landscaper. 

3. Choose your plants - Xeric (drought resistant) plants can be found at most nurseries. Think of heights and levels. Choose a few trees (serviceberry, dwarf conifers, a shade tree) and plant your flowering plants around them. Think of plants that bloom at different times of the year so you always have visual interest. Some plants may require some irrigation, so consider planting an "inferno strip" of plants that need zero water. Use a root stimulant to help establish the plants. With perennials, first they sleep and then they creep and leap, so give your garden time to fully bloom and integrate with the other plants before changing plants.

4. Some benefits - Remember xeric plants are desert plants. They can be planted in topsoil (not with compost), and don't need feeding so you can skip the expensive compost or organic mulch. Use gravel and don't use weed fabric. In affect, you will be saving money installing this landscape with out the need for amendments.

5. Some favorite drought tolerant plant varieties.

Inferno Strip:

  • Fernbush
  • Rabbit Brush
  • Apache Plume
  • Penstemons
  • Mirabilis
  • Sulphyr Buckwheat
  • Woolly Speedwell
  • Prairie Clover
  • Globe Mallow
  • Salvia azurea
  • Liatris
  • Poppy seeds
  • Scutterlaria
  • Blackfoot Daisy
  • Salvia Ultra Violet

Drought Tolerant:

  • Creeping Grey Germander
  • Hummingbird Mint - Attracts hummingbirds
  • Salvia
  • May Night
  • Cardonna
  • Walker's Low Catmint
  • Ice Plant
  • Veronicas groundcover (ots of color)
  • Penstemon
  • Dwarf Iris
  • Western Sundancer Daisy
  • Thrift-leaf Perky Sue
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Here are local Bay Area nurseries that grow drought tolerant plants. They are sure to help you determine which plants will meet your landscape design requirements for height, space, water and visual interest.

Dedicated to You! From high heels to hiking boots, Cynthia Palmer, Realtor, BRE# 01445659 with Vanguard Properties, is a lot city and a little bit country representing buyers and sellers of fine homes, viticulture, agriculture and commercial property in San Francisco, Sonoma and Napa Wine Country. Connect with Cynthia to find out more about how to achieve success when buying or selling your home or property in the Bay Area.