Posts Tagged ‘xeric’

rosemary in january

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Let’s just take a moment to marvel at the fact that the rosemary plants I put on the front hill last June are not only still alive, they seem to be doing really well! But wait, it’s mid-January and this is New England… right?

Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Prostratus’ (Creeping Rosemary) |         Zone 7 and up:

rosemarinis officianalis ‘prostratus’ (creeping rosemary in january




















Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Alcalde’  (Cold Hardy Rosemary) | Zone 6 and up:

rosmarinis officianalis ‘alcalde’




















Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)  | Zone 6 and up:

rosmarinis officianalis ‘arp’




















I realize I’m tempting fate here. Temps are about to dip down to 4 degrees in the next couple of nights, so we’ll see what happens. But so far so good! Come to think of it, this is the second winter outdoors for my three prostrate rosemary plants. Wow. I just realized that.

Luckily the hillside mostly protects them from the wicked north winds and the slope ensures that moisture drains away, which definitely helps. With any luck at all, they will continue to survive. No guarantees. We’ll followup in a month and see how they’re doing then.

For those who care, here’s a reminder of what’s on my front hill.

the front hill, revealed

Friday, June 15th, 2012

So. The front hill. Yes, it’s finally planted! Shall I whisk you back in time before I show you how it looks now?

When we moved in, the yard looked like this (biggify to see the full ugly)…

the hill when we moved in, complete with massive pile of crappy stone












Since then, the stone was hauled away — you can see the freshly built retaining wall now along the driveway…

stone taken away












The messy oak tree out front was removed and replaced with three Japanese cedars last fall…

oak tree remains in may 2011




















And the tenacious 3′ tall weeds…

weeds weeds weeds




















Yeah, I dug those up. Then last December, the front walkway was put in…

destruction in december












walkway done in december 11




















Once that was done, I added a truckload of soil…

added soil












…  and sculpted the hill to my liking, creating a series of flat strips to slow the runoff. Just me and a shovel.

And once that was done, I added Curlex erosion control blanket (like we did on the other hill) to hold the slope. You can probably spot the flattish areas if you biggify…

erosion control added in december 11












During the winter, I made plant choices plants for this dry, south-facing hillside. I went with mostly Mediterranean and hardy, xeric, native plants that wouldn’t mind the rocky, sandy soil, wind and summer heat —  grasses and perennials that will grow up into a bee/butterfly/hummingbird meadow. The closer to the house, the tighter, more regimented the layout. The farther away, the looser, more organic the layout.

In March, I started shoving the shrubs I’ve been saving into the ground. Then the boxes of plants for the front hill started arriving from various online sources…


live plants begin arriving!




















Shiva stopped by in April to help lay out the Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)…

shiva helps lay out the 85 nassella tenuissima in april












After that, I became the Mad Planter, popping plants in the ground at every opportunity. Then Shiva and Natasha came and helped with the final push…

shiva and natasha help out in may




















Thank goodness because if they hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have finished until July. I’m guesstimating but there are probably around 400 plants in. I should do a final count.

Although this is about as anti-climatic as a Mad Men end-of-season episode, here’s the not-so-big reveal (again, you might want to biggify):

front hill, view 1












front hill, view 2












Except for a few holdovers from pots, the plants are all tiny and won’t look like much the first year. If they grow in like my meadow out back, next summer you’ll see a huge difference.

In the meantime, have a closer look at a few bright spots…

festuca glauca ‘elijah blue’ and caesalpinia gilliesii (yellow bird of paradise) next to the front steps



















origanum ‘aureum’, helictotrichon sempervirens ‘sapphire’ (blue oat grass) and thymus pseudolanuginosus (wooly thyme)



















rhus typhina ‘bailtiger’ (tiger eyes sumac)



















Origanum rotundifolium ‘kent beauty’ (ornamental oregano) just beginning to bloom



















thymus x citriodorus (lemon thyme)



















the first callirhoe involucrata (purple poppy mallow) bloom




















For those who care, below is a list of what you’ll find on my front hillside. For  visuals, pop up my Pinterest plant menu page…


Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Blue Grama)

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ (Blue Fescue)

Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Sapphire’ (Blue Oat Grass)

Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)

Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ (Switch Grass)

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ (Little Bluestem)

Sporobolis heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)


Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ (Golden Oregano)

Origanum rotundifolium ‘Kent Beauty’ (Ornamental Oregano)

Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Prostratus’ (Creeping Rosemary)

Rubus pentalobus (Creeping Raspberry)

Thymus × citriodorus (Lemon Thyme)

Thymus lanuginosus (Wooly Thyme)


Agastache ‘Ava’ (Hummingbird Mint)

Amorpha canescens (Leadplant)

Amsonia hubrechtii (Threadleaf Bluestar)

Callirhoe involcrata (Purple Poppy Mallow)

Eryngium yuccafolium (Rattlesnake Master)

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’

Geum trillium (Prairie Smoke)

Lavendula x intermedia ‘Grosso’

Petalostemon Purpureum (Purple Prairie Clover)

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Alcalde’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)

Salvia pachyphylla ‘Blue Flame’ (Giant Purple Sage)

Verbascum nigrum ‘Album’ (Mullein)

Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena)



Baptisea lacteal (False White Indigo)

Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’ (Silver Fountain Butterfly Bush)

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise)

Comptonia peregrina (Sweetfern) — to echo the sweetfern we used on the other hillside

Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ (Fragrant Sumac)

Rhus typina ‘Bailtiger’ (Tiger Eye Sumac)



Cornus florida (American Dogwood) — the one and only thing original to the hillside!

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ (Japanese Cedar)

Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ (Japanese Black Pine)


Succulents, Yucca and such

Euphorbia niciana x nicaeensis ‘Blue Haze’ (Cushion Spurge)

Euphorbia myrsinites (Donkeytail Spurge)

Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii ‘Shorty’ (Cushion Spurge)

Hesperaloe parviflora (False Red Yucca)

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

Orostachys iwarenge  (Chinese Dunce Cap)


the desert garden at huntington

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

A rainy day in Providence seems like a good time to revisit sunny southern California. We stopped by the Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena two Fridays ago…


There wasn’t time to explore all 120 acres, but being fond of thorny, spiky, alien-looking plants, I definitely didn’t want to miss the 100-year-old Desert Garden. My friend John will appreciate this post.

Before I share some of the “ow! my eye!” plants, take a look at this massive bamboo just inside the entrance…









































And now, without further delay, I bring you glorious blue skies, oppressive heat and where’s my water bottle?

(As always, click to biggify)…













In case you didn’t catch it in the shot above, please note: some aloes can grow to become trees? Really? I had no idea…





















There’s no sense of scale in this shot. Those plants are at lease 2′ to 4′ across…













What the… euphorbia also grows like trees here? 6′ tall. So unfair…









































I love this sea of happy aeoniums…

























And these octopi…

































And these starfish…



































I’ve seen radio towers shorter than this thing! That’s easily 50′ tall…





















And the agaves are crazy huge, as you might imagine. Do not hug them…













I have no idea what this bizarre specimen is but look closely — green lily-like blooms and it’s about to launch missiles…





















Crazy. Who designs these things anyway?

Do yourself a favor and take a quick 360 spin around the Desert Garden. It’s wondrous. Better yet, go there in person because my pictures do the collection no justice. Bring protective eyewear.


Mediterranean planting inspiration

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

You don’t think I’d go to southern California without snapping a few pictures of plant combinations I find inspiring, do you? Nah. Didn’t think so.

(rollover pics for occasional plant ID, click to biggify)

Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: Nassella tenuissima, agave, festuca glauca, salvia and, hmm, something else











Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: Nassella tenuissima again, festuca glauca and succulents











Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: succulents in a mailbox!


Lodge Torrey Pines, La Jolla: rosemary and 6-7' tall Echium can­di­cans “Pride of Madeira” covered in hummingbirds



















Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: agave, rosemary, phormium. i wonder what that silvery stuff is?











sunny hillside at Lodge Torrey Pines, La Jolla: rosemary and lavendar











Lodge Torrey Pines, La Jolla: better shot of the tufted grass securing the hill below the lavender



















Hillcrest neighbood, San Diego: yucca, agave and lots of succulents and cactus I can’t identify



























house we rented in Palm Springs: festuca glauca and lavender, purple lantana underneath the palo verde tree


















Legoland: ricinus (castor bean plant) grows into tall, hard-trunked trees here!











Legoland: blooming succulents, yucca, euphorbia, cyprus papyrus alternifolius (in the pond) and an awesome blue swath of festuca glauca



















Legoland: gorgeous waving sea of Nassella tenuissima












Also stopped at a few botanic gardens, so I’ll share more planties with you soon!