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  A Master Gardener's guide to gardening in a hot dry climate 

flax, kangaroo paw, statice front yard A perennial front yard in full bloom in early summer.  This garden includes red flax, purple sea lavender near the front of this photo. Yellow kangaroo paw and lavender are further back.  The kangaroo paw, which comes in several colors, stays in bloom for a very long time.

Replace Your Lawn with Perennials

The homeowners have made a complete change to their front yard, above, by removing the lawn and installing drought tolerant--and very colorful--flowering perennials. This award-winning garden is, surprisingly, only one year old which means the owners purchased almost mature plants -- which can be an very expensive proposition. On the other hand, they did not have to wait three or four years for the garden to look gorgeous!

Among the plants in the photo: golden yellow Kangaroo paw, purple sea lavender, aloe with tall red blooms. For ground cover between the perennials: pink flowering miniature ice plants and dark green creeping rosemary.

perennials in parking median Many homeowners take a more gradual and economical approach by replacing the lawn in a parking median first. Much of this area is covered with ground covers, including creeping rosemary, miniature ice plants, and flat gray-green Dymondia margaretae. The red flowers on spires are aloe. For more ideas and photos for parking medians, go here.
fountain grass, lambs ears, society garlic white roses Another way to begin is to start with a drought tolerant border and then--year after year--expand it. Several of the plants shown here could be divided and replanted to save even more money.

Plants in this border: red Fountain grass, lambs ears, society garlic, white roses and flax. Note: Flax does not do well in desert areas.

Agaves. echiveria, iceplants, golden grass This is one of my favorite drought-tolerant gardens.  It has very simple plantings: agaves, echiverias, ice plants, and golden sedge.  That's all.  Once a year in mid-winter the owner cuts the grass back to about six inches tall.  That is the annual maintenance for this garden.

If you intend to plant your front yard with blooming perennials, spend some time at a good local nursery and ask which perennials will do well in your area. And because perennials--especially mature ones-- are a considerable investment, be sure to prepare the soil by adding significant amounts of organic mulch before you plant.

Another thing to keep in mind -- the scale of the plants. Make sure they will be approximately the same size when grown, so one or two perennials do not overshadow and become larger than the rest. 

Drought tolerant garden Santa Barbara In this drought tolerant garden the owner has planted taller plants, including bougainvillea and agaves, near the street and much shorter plants along the sidewalk leading to the front door.  Gray-green Dymondia margaretae fill in the space around the pavers.

Replacing your lawn -- read this for what NOT to do

Replacing your lawn with ornamental grasses

Replacing your lawn with ground covers

Replacing your lawn with pavers

Replacing your lawn with mazes and knot gardens

Replacing the lawn in your parking strip


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It may look like a palm, but
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Clematis is one of many
beautiful vines that
thrive in hot dry gardens
Preview the many gardens
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including the
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Our 9 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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