| A Master Gardener's guide to
gardening in a hot dry climate
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Gorgeous Grasses. We
have added a new page about beautiful
ornamental grasses to this website. These are
carefree and versatile perennials that survive in a hot, dry
climate with little water and fertilizer. You
can go away for a week or two in the summer and come back to
find that your grasses will still be alive and growing
vigorously. Because they blow in the wind,
they add visual movement to a garden.
is the one month of the year when you need to care for
ornamental grasses in your desert garden by cutting them
Pampas grass (Cortaderia jubata) should be
cut back to 18 inches tall. In this photo the pampas
grass has been used as a hedge.
Blood grass (Imperata cylindrical 'Rubra') do
best when cut back annually to about 4-6 inches or less in
mid-winter. All these will regrow to mature height and
size in Spring and early Summer. Other ornamental
grasses, such as Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca
'Elijah Blue'), maintain their color year round and do not
need to be cut back.
In Praise of Geraniums -- er,
Pelargoniums. Another group of very sturdy
plants that survive with considerable neglect are the
Pelargoniums, or as they are commonly known,
Geraniums. (The plants, botanically named Geraniums
and commonly known as Cranesbill, are not what we are
talking about here.) Many Pelargoniums/Geraniums are
native of South Africa where the climate is similar to
the Mediterranean region and they are definitely
The ordinary Garden
(Pelargonium hortorum) will
bloom for months on end, even on a patio, with a
moderate amount of care. One couple told us that they
have been able to keep their geraniums blooming all winter
long in a corner of their Mojave desert garden.
Another gardener reports that he has planted geraniums
extensively because gophers will not eat them. In our
experience the scented geranium hybrids which have
fuzzy leaves, in particular, the Chocolate scented variety,
do not do well in the desert. Lemon and rose scented
geraniums grow beautifully and last for years.
A Geranium Tale:
Three years ago we purchased some lovely and rare
scented geraniums at a nursery one block from the beach
in Southern California and took them back to our desert
garden. They turned crisp and died within two days --
even though we kept them in the shade and watered and
watered them. The moral to this story is to buy from
nurseries which sell plants originally grown close to your
home so the plants will already be acclimatized.
||A densely planted herb garden
maintains its shades of green and gray at the peak
of summer. Includes scented geraniums, lemon
verbena, lambs ears and other herbs.
Taste of Summer in Winter. Many herbs we
commonly use as seasonings -- oregano, thyme, majoram,
coriander, cilantro -- grow wild around the Mediterranean
and are vigorous growers in our hot, dry desert climate.
You can get a head start on summer herbs by planting them
now in small starter pots in your home and use snips from
them as they grow. Once the weather warms, transplant them
to a perennial border or a patio pot garden. Basil, another
culinary favorite, is a native of the tropics and needs more
water and shelter from the direct sun than the Mediterranean
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