Winter in the Water Efficient Landscape Gardens
Winter is a wonderful time to visit the water efficient landscape (WEL) demonstration garden at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, which is open to the public seven days a week and is wheelchair accessible. Master Gardeners will be in the garden with tips and information during our first 2013 workshop on January 19 from 9am to 12pm, and at the open garden on February 23 from 9am to 12pm.
Much of the garden is resting. Hibernating. Simplified. The deciduous trees and shrubs are leafless, and brightly-blooming, warm season herbaceous perennial blossoms have faded into the earth. Formerly waving bronze sedge and golden grasses are withered and dry, and frost-blackened, slimy annuals are composting into mulch. The mocking birds and scrub jays are harvesting and caching berries and acorns.
The gardens demonstrate many water-wise plants that thrive in our Sacramento winter. Especially lovely now are the the solitary berry clumps on the Chinese pistache, and dried cloaking scarlet oak leaves (the scarlet oak leaves drop only when pushed off by young spring leaves). Fog-freshened evergreen manzanita, ceanothus, coffeeberry, and pigeon point coyote bush shrubs in the native garden are especially healthy and attractive (another reason to plant natives...they shine in the winter!). Other evergreen winter charmers are the mock orange (Pittosporum tobira ‘Wheeler’s Dwarf’), perennial spurges (Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii, Euphorbia myrsinites), early blooming rosemary, bush germander (Teucrium fruitcans, a UC Davis All-Star), and native coast silk tassel catkins (Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’).
The gardens feature natives, commonly available perennials, trees, and shrubs, along with plants from other Mediterranean climates that all do well with less water during our long, hot, dry summer days and tolerate our chilly, damp Sacramento County winters. Most plants are labeled and many are UC Davis Arboretum All Stars.
Garrya elliptica ‘James Root‘
Come out to the WEL this month and check out the spectacular yellow-green pendulous catkins (up to 1 foot long!) adorning our male, evergreen, January-flowering native shrub, Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’, perched on the back slope near the intersection of the native garden area and the common variety garden. (Female plants have much smaller catkins which mature into a pulpy, purple, grape-like fruit.) This 8-15’ shrub originated below 2000 feet along dry ridges and in mixed evergreen forests along the coasts of Oregon and California. The dense, attractive leaves, (dark green and leathery on top, soft and felted beneath) along with the drying catkins, make this an attractive garden plant year round. It can be trained as a small tree, espaliered, or used as a screen or informal hedge. Preferring well drained soil, it does well in our garden with partial shade and some summer watering. Pruning can be done as needed to shape, remove dead branches and old leaves, and rejuvenate older plants. ‘James Root’ is one of two male clones recommended for California gardens. The other clone, ‘Evie’ has smaller leaves and shorter catkins.
This durable, California native, UC Davis Arboretum All-Star, upright shrub with handsome red bark, glossy leaves and winter blooming delicate pink blossoms does well in our native garden. It accepts a wide variety of soils, handles pruning, can be grown in part shade, requires little summer water, and attracts hummingbirds and beneficial insects. Can grow 6 to 8 feet high by 6 to 8 feet wide.