Water Wise Plants Can Be Soothing To the Spirit And The Water Bills
There are some less than accurate perceptions of all water-wise plants not being “user-friendly”—you know, sharp and pointy, not things you want to go touch, etc. Today I would like to put that idea to rest. I am writing about water-wise plants with magnificent fragrance— the delights of flowers and plants that smell good enough to eat—and how having a few of these in your garden will change your thoughts and have you heading for user-friendly, very low water use plants like lavenders and sages. Please know that we do not wish to overwhelm you with the fact that there are many hundreds more to choose from. These just happen to be some of my favorites. Check out the nurseries for many other choices.
Just outside my back door is a beautiful patch of French lavender Lavandula dentata that I planted a couple years ago in a hot spot that seemed totally unwilling to support any sort of reputable plant life. Trying lavender here seemed logical and appropriate, as I had installed other low water use plants close by that I thought looked nice together—and smelled great together. The other plants included Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans (the soft furry leaves smell just like ripe pineapple) with fire engine red, tubular flowers that start blooming in September and are still drawing hummingbirds at Christmas. Next to that is Cleveland Sage Salvia clevelandii, with brilliant cobalt blue flowers and almost sweet-smelling foliage. And they all get the same irrigation, about once a month. Being in this hydrozone where all plants get the same water and sun requirements makes taking care of this garden a snap.
Now about 3 years later, this is the best “fly-in” restaurant on the property for the hummers and their friends and on any given morning I can sit quietly watching these tiny bejeweled birds drop in for breakfast. In addition, the plants are alive with pollinators like orchard bees, bumblebees and of course, the humble little honey bees; if you freak out at the word “bee”, consider the fact that most pollinators, such as these bees, are gentle in nature and are not out to get you—just all that lovely pollen.
Speaking of lavenders now, they seem to cause many concern when it comes to how many are available (hundreds) and how to prune them. There are books totally devoted to this lovely fragrant plant but if you’d like to check out a good video clip on the ways to prune different forms—they can range from a tiny ten inches to about five feet—go to http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/Lavender.htm and get some great tips from my friend who grows 28 varieties! I still have sachets that I made ten years ago with my own lavenders that smell as dreamy as the day I put them in the bags.
There is lavender for every space, as long as there is sun—they do not like shade (all day), wet feet or being planted too early in spring. If you try to put them in the wrong place, you will be disappointed and so will they.
There is another group of aromatic plants that you can tuck in near the ones I have mentioned: Herbs! Although they are not all low-water use, most are and the hotter it gets, the happier they get. These “useful” plants provide nectar and pollen for our winged friends and good eats for us. I guarantee that once you plant herbs, you will be permanently hooked on the many positive benefits of fragrance in the garden. And as Luther Burbank put it so well, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful: they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.” Til next time, keep learning and earning your Blue Thumb.