Monday, August 29, 2011

Rockery and Roll: Xeriscape gardening

Just when the heat of the city seems endless, the coolness of Zone Three beckons. So does our once a year garden.  Xeriscape gardening, which focuses on plants dependent on sporadic moisture, minimal pruning and nature alone is perfect for busy live.  It is possible to experience a colorful garden full of texture and structure with very little attention and moisture. 

Kirk's crocosmia
Located on a rocky hill, the neighbors have collectively turned a barren tract into a bed of vivid color which greets us each morning and reflects the setting sun at dusk.  Kirk, who also works as a garden volunteer, is especially proud of the healthy clump of burnt orange crocosmia which graces the center of her hillside.

Yet on Eastern Standard Time, I crept out the back door in  snowman robe and flip flops, unable to resist the opportunity to photograph the dew laden blooms in the bright morning sunlight. Met up with neighbor Bill frying bacon for his church group on the grill. "Kirk's really proud of that orange flower over there."  So she should be.

Crocosmia is a fickle flower which is difficult, but not impossible to grow in Zone Five and a Half.  In areas prone to heavy snowfall, its summer success depends on the depth of winter snows and the protection afforded by layers of moist flakes which keep the temperature even and the likelihood of "freeze and thaw" damage far less.  Thus the success this year of the Crocosmia crop!  Big winter means big color in the summer.  This year we hit the landscape lotto!

My scruffy section of the hillside rockery is at the tail end, which is fortunate for the more frequent residents.  Understanding and working within limits is one key to gardening success.  Each year I check out what is blooming during our family trip so that color is maximized. 

Not around much to water my little patch, xeriscape plants are the focus. Xeriscape plants require little water and ongoing care.  Day lilies are classic and frequent plants of this nature, but saxifragia, sedum, lavendar, coral belles and lady's mantle also require minimal attention once established.  Low fuss and little fluid required yet these plants offer a variety of color, height and blossoms.

No crocosmia for the far end of the hill. Catmint, a staple of the garden provides lavender flowers and silvery foliage.  Its quick recovery after cutting back and mounding quality moves it to the top of the punch list.  Lemon yellow spirea shrubbery and euphobia add structure along with a small birdbath. The end is anchored with a young blue spruce, planted at about eight inches, now three feet, marking time each year.

Surrender to invasive grass is tempered by flourishing white shasta daisies holding their own.  Silver grass picks up and repeats what the Catmint starts.  The advantage of gardening at the end of the season are the dollar deals available in abundance, so it's easy and cheap to pop in a few bright annuals for the price of a grocery store cut bouquet.  Pansies and sweet alyssum may reseed and come back--weather permitting.

Boulders lugged back from car rides line the front, and are sunk in periodically to protect root structure and emanate warmth when needed. Heavier bark mulch doesn't float away as easily and only has to be touched up. To keep the lawn from taking over, botanical edges are recut.

Sounds like a lot of work, but only a couple hours unearths a lovely garden and reenergizes our end of the collective ribbon of color.  Hummingbird attracted to the bright colors of the crocosmia and phlox make it even more interesting. 

Rockery and roll. 

Sun laden blooms, birds chirping and the smell of frying bacon.

Getting away is good for the soul, but so is being welcomed by your own garden.

More Articles of Interest:

Will My Plants Survive this Drought?

Yellow Flowers -- Blooming Sunshine

Will This Warm Weather Harm my Plants?