Garden Guide: By Mary James
Add pizzazz to your garden with colorful, sculptural and drought-tolerant plants that can take the heat...
Does your garden get the blahs in the summer?
What’s missing is dependable seasonal color that can stand up to heat and glaring sun without upping irrigation costs. Luckily there are plenty of easy-care, waterwise perennials — flowering and foliage beauties — to brighten gardens during
the months we’re outside enjoying them the most.
One personal favorite is rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora). A Chilean native, this hardy succulent with icy blue-green leaves is right at home in dry gardens, even harsh “hell strips.” But from spring to fall, it morphs from pretty to spectacular when its cerise poppy-like flowers burst in-to bloom. Held high atop wiry stems, they waltz in even the slightest breeze.
Another summer-blooming heat lover is yellow bells (Tecoma stans), named for the sunny trumpets it bears spring through fall, to the delight of hummingbirds. This handsome shrub or small tree has charmed plant breeders who have warmed the flowers with sunset reds and oranges. Look for ‘Solar Flare’ and ‘Crimson Flare’ from Arizona-based Mountain States Wholesale Nursery.
Like yellow bells, Pereskia ‘Royal Queen’ has an almost tropical feel with its orchid-like lavender flowers and gleaming lush foliage. But, says Tom Jesch of Escondido’s Waterwise Botanicals, this summer-to-fall bloomer is a cactus, as its thorny stems and tough disposition prove. It grows 24 to 30 inches tall in full sun or part shade.
Foliage, too, can be a summer scene stealer, especially if the leaves form plate-size pinwheel “blossoms” that seem right out of Avatar. One is a new ‘Plum Petal’ aeonium, a hybrid introduced by Waterwise Botanicals this year. Wine-tinged whorls with lime centers cover the plant to form a showy, 3 ½-foot-tall shrub.
Conebushes (Leucadendron), natives of South Africa, seem to be blooming, too, hoisting daisy-like flowers with cone centers at the end of their evergreen upright branches for months on end. But the petals are really leaf-like bracts in warm shades of red, orange and gold. ‘Summer Red’ is a favorite of Barrels & Branches’ co-owner Danica Hirsch because it is one of the heaviest summer bloomers. Equally floriferous, Leucadendron discolor male circles a sunset-hued cone with silvery bracts. Both grow 6 to 8 feet tall and wide in full sun and can be clipped for long-tasting patio-table bouquets.
A New Zealand native, Cordyline australis adds both drama and color to summer landscapes. Bold blades form rosettes atop corky stems that can stretch and branch slowly to 18-feet tall. Unlike the yuccas they resemble, the leaves are flexible and brushed with color ranging from dusky burgundy to dazzling raspberry and cream. Sweetly scented white flowers on feathery panicles appear late spring into summer.
Plantplay Gardens in Carlsbad offers ‘Sunrise’ with its shocking pink and red striped leaves and ‘Torbay Dazzler’ with cream-edged green blades, as well as some new dwarf varieties. Give them full sun in the garden or a container for plenty of year-round sparkle.