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 A Master Gardener's guide to gardening in a hot dry climate 
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garden border fountain grass roses flax
A border of white roses, red fountain grass, society garlic, flax and star jasmine is sophisticated, simple and very water-wise.  (Well, the roses need extra water.)  

Beautiful Borders in Hot Climates

Yes--you can create beautiful flower borders like the ones we all see in magazines -- even though you live in a desert or desert-like climate. You can have flowers to admire in the garden for months on end or cut for fresh bouquets in your home. And it is easier than you might imagine. Simply select drought-tolerant plants that are suitable for our climate extremes, such as the ones we have listed and shown below.

Now here are some secrets to those lush-looking borders you see in magazines: 1) group 2 or 3 of the same plants close together. When the grow they will give the appearance of one large plant. And 2) plant your flowers fairly densely. If you plant them far apart it may take several years before the border fills in and looks good. You can always transplant if your border gets too crowded. Densely planted borders keep down weeds and help maintain moisture, too -- which is particularly important in a desert garden.

A Lavender and Yellow Border

Try some of these as a basis of a drought-tolerant, xeriscape border that has predominantly gray-green foliage with purple, blue, lavender and yellow blossoms. These plants need some water, of course, but many are considered to be at the heart of a low water-usage garden. The taller ones go in the back of the border; medium height in the middle; then the short ones at the front edge.  

coreposis Coreopsis (Coreopsis grandiflora) - expect golden yellow blooms for months if you pick off the old flowerheads. These daisy-like flowers stand 1 to 2 feet tall and grow easily from seed. Coreopsis self-seeds, so all you have to do is plant it once.
The coreopsis, right, are tucked into a terra cotta pot between a trailing Licorice plant and Dusty Miller.
lambs ears Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina) - a low grower that is good for edging borders and it grows fast and spreads quickly. Soft, fuzzy gray leaves. Small purple flowers bloom from thick erect stems.
This lambs' ear in bloom shares a border with varigated turf lily (Liriope muscari) and a sunflower (Helianthus)

artemesia powis castle
Artemisia (Artemesia 'Powis Castle') - artemesias are native to the American west, and many are known by the generic common name of sagebrush. The "Powis Castle" variety was developed for use in areas that get regular watering and can grow to 6 feet wide or more. The 'Silver Mound' variety does not do well in a desert climate.
santolina and purple petunias Lavender cotton (Santolina incana) - not related to lavender at all, this low growing gray or green lacy-leafed plant has a burst of yellow button-like flowers in early summer. Should be trimmed back after blooming and even then it is a short-lived perennial and quite drought-tolerant.
The  purple petunias won't last long in hot weather.

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mexican bush sage salvia leucantha Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) - another drought-tolerant gray-green plant with soft fuzzy leaves topped by spires of intensely purple blossoms. Long blooming. It grows to 2 or 3 feet tall and flowers both in Spring and Fall/Winter. Hummingbirds love these blooms and will feast on them from dawn to dusk.
yellow yarrow Yarrow (Achillea) - a hardy native plant with very fine gray-green leaves. (Shown here in front of golden day lilies) The flat flower heads stand 3 feet tall on slender steams. Yellow and white are the traditional colors, but new varieties come in pinks, purples, even a coppery red variety.
russian sage in bloom Russian Sage (Perovskia atriiplicifolia) - soft gray leaves with small lavender blue flowers that give the appearance of a blue cloud above the plant. Grows to 3 or 4 feet tall and is ideal for the back of a perennial border
golden lantana Lantana yellow blooms stay in flower into early Winter. Lantana also comes in purples, pinks, and brilliant orange flowers. A new Lantana hybrid has variegated leaves with chartreuse green edges. Very drought-tolerant.

Lavender (Lavendula) - a lovely favorite in Mediterranean gardens. Sweetly fragrant purple flowers. Will reseed itself and hummingbirds love it.

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Bearded iris (Iridacae) - select from dozens of yellow, purple or white iris. After the short bloom period in the spring, the leaves of bearded iris provide a nice vertical element. A vigorous grower in our climate with relatively little water needed, so give it some room to grow or you may find yourself dividing the clumps annually.

Verbena (Verbena - various hybrids) - this low growing plant makes a pretty edge along a xeriscape border. Both annual and perennial varieties are readily available in lots of colors, including purple and lavender.

Then, for variety, tuck in clusters of annuals like zinnias or marigolds in sunny orange, gold and yellow. Include dark green herbs such as rosemary or scented geraniums for fragrance and leaf color contrast. Or shrubs such as white roses or tall yellow hollyhocks for an old-fashioned look.

(Check out our guide to picking healthy plants in the nursery)

succulents cactus in bloom To see beautiful cactus and succulent borders go here.

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Our 8 Most Popular Hot Gardens Newsletters:

1.  Flowering plants that reliably bloom in scorching mid-summer heat.

2.  Australian plants and trees that grow well in hot, dry climates.

3.  Weather-proofing palms for winter; cold weather palm trees.

4.  A white garden for night time viewing.

5.  Topiary can be easy to create and add charm to your garden.

6.  Techniques to combat death by heat exhaustion of plants in pots.

7.  Cactus as security barriers for your property.

8.  South African aloes for brilliant late winter color in your garden.

9.  Frugal gardening tips to save you money.


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