Native Plant Trio

While wandering through Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, I was intrigued by a trio of native plants that I noted for their beauty, versatility and design interest. Here is information on each of them.

Salvia Spathacea — Hummingbird sage
Type: Perennial
Shade or sun: Partial shade
Soil: Rich soil
Water: Drought tolerant
Natural habitat: Low elevations of California coastal ranges

This herbaceous, allergenic perennial is a pretty workhorse. It is chiefly noticed for its whorls of showy bracts and flowers with softly sticky, pointed leaves that exude a spicy and fruity fragrance. Only 10- to 30-inches tall, it spreads in a dense colony and is easily controlled by pulling up the new plants at the end of the rhizomes. In warm seasons, it flowers almost continuously with pagoda-like stalks bearing several dense whorls of dark maroon or ruby red bracts that offset the 1- to 1 1/2-inch-long flowers in shades of magenta to salmon. Deadheading dried flower stalks keeps this plant tidy and blooms coming.

Hummingbird sage is successful as a container plant, groundcover or used for erosion control on banks or under the canopy of oaks and other trees, where it contends with root competition and lack of direct sunlight. It attracts hummingbirds, bees and other insects. It mixes well with plants that won’t be smothered by its large leaves, such as bunch grass, iris, manzanita and coffee berry.

Aesculus californica — California buckeye
Type: Deciduous tree
Shade or sun: Full sun
Soil: Adaptable
Water: Drought tolerant to regular
Natural habitat: Woodland, mostly away from the coast and below 4,000 feet

This tree responds to heat or drought stress by dropping its leaves, which reveals its pretty trunk structure and silvery, smooth bark. In spring, branches clad with bright, apple green foliage carry white bottlebrush flower clusters, 4 to 12 inches long. The heavy, round fruit ripens in late fall and splits to reveal shiny, 1- to 3-inch, chestnut brown seeds that give the tree its name. Mature trees can reach 15 to 45 feet. Note: Seeds are slightly toxic if ingested.

This is one of the showiest flowering trees. Grown as a single or multi-trunked tree or as a large shrub with rounded crown, California buckeye complements coast live oak, foothill pine and California bay trees. It is an excellent choice to shade the south or west side of a house.

Salvia Clevelandii ‘Bee’s Bliss’
Type: Perennial
Shade or sun: Full sun
Soil: Well drained
Water: Drought tolerant
Natural habitat: From Southern California to northern Baja California

When in bloom with lovely periwinkle blue flowers on 1-foot-long stalks, Salvia Clevelandii ‘Bee’s Bliss’ (a hybrid of Cleveland sage and purple sage) draws insects and birds. This cultivar reaches 1 to 2 feet tall and spreads quickly to 8 feet wide. It is subject to powdery mildew during cool weather.

This low-growing, sturdy perennial works as an attractive groundcover for sunny slopes where it is used for erosion control.



Christiane Holmquist
Christiane Holmquist Landscape Design



Categories: Gardening