A Purple Dream – From Start to Bloom

When this garden was transformed from a weedy turf to a water efficient garden, not only would it save water, but a seed of a purple dream was also planted.  When the garden was being planned, the idea was to have this dream place with the purple splendor.  Lavenders lined two complete sides of the garden, as well as the parking strip.  When the garden was finished, everyone was eager to find out: when will the purple walk come into life?

weedy turf

a garden with lavender

a walk with lavenders on both sides

Growth in Spring

Spring 2017 was a season blessed with heavy rains.  After the garden was done in early spring, in two months of time, the plants had grown a lot.

lavenders grew up

While the lavenders had not bloomed, rockroses put on their pretty pink flowers, giving the garden that “pop”, just in time when the pink and red blossom from camillas receded.

Rockroses are drought tolerant, require only little water once established. Planted in early spring, the blossom broke out after just 2 months.  Tough yet pretty, this is a great choice for a water efficient garden.

rockrose

 

These other plants also grew a lot and bloomed.

Yellow Bloom

Purple Blossom in Summer

With waves of heat the summer arrived.  How are the lavenders?  The purple that everyone have been waiting is here!

purple blossom

Most lavenders had their first bloom, just couple months after they were planted.  Not a full blown purple walk yet, but very clearly heading there.

purple walk

Walking on the sidewalk, you can smell that strong aroma of lavender’s. They remind you of those wildflower meadows out in the country under the blue sky. Meanwhile, you can see dozens of bees flying in the bushes, making the buzz sound everywhere they go.

Great for Bees

Like many other native and drought tolerant plants, lavender is a bee’s magnet. Bees love to feed on them, better yet, they bloom for a long time, usually from summer to early fall, which means they can provide food to the bees for a rather long period.  As bees are on on a decline, planting more bee friendly plants like lavender has become more important.

bees on lavender

Lavenders are drought tolerant.  As a matter of fact, they don’t like to stay in wet soils.  Over-watering is one of the most common reasons that lavenders die.  Using drip irrigation, just provide enough water when first planted, then water it occasionally once established – they can grow fast and well.

drip irrigation

A Purple Dream With Less Water

When the garden was built, it was designed to be water efficient: drought tolerant plants, drip irrigation, automatic controller with rain sensor.  The garden complied with all the requirements of Santa Clara Water District’s Landscape Conversion Rebate program and received the rebate upon finish.

In just several months, this garden grew from a collection of small plants into one filled with purple splendor and color.  It adds this nice view to the house, realize the “purple dream”, filled the air with the pleasant lavender aroma.  Better yet, all these were achieved with much less water than what were required for the lawn before.  Although California is no longer in a drought,  one big lessen we learned was that water is valuable, and we must cherish and conserve it to the best we can.

As Gov. Jerry Brown said, “Water conservation must remain our way of life.”  As ourdoor watering typically accounts for half or more of a household’s water use in California, building a water efficient garden can save us a significant amount of water and go a long way towards that goal.

 

 

 

 

A California Native Garden: How Long Does It Take to Bloom?

When a garden is installed, naturally, everyone hope all the plants will establish and grow. Specifically, everyone wonder: how long will it take to bloom?  Last fall, in the blog post “From Brown to California Native Charm” we talked about how a brown lawn was transformed into a charming garden with many California native plants.  It looked great when finished, but when will it become a garden full of flowers?

A water efficient garden just installed

Winter Time

2016 was an unusually wet winter, with copious amount of heavy rains. At night, the frost was quite brutal to the new plants.  Luckily, with the exception of two to three plants, all were live and well.  The plants did not grow too much during the whole winter time, about 5 months after they were planted.

a water efficient garden 2 months after install
Winter, in the rain
Spring Time

When spring came, it surely looked different!  Colors started popping up, became bigger and denser later in spring.

a water efficient garden in spring
April
a water efficient garden in spring
May

There are 3 prominent California native plants in the garden : Matilija Poppy, California Golden Poppy,  and Monkey Flower, which all bloomed at this time.  Others like Hot Lip Sage, Blanket Flower, and Primrose also bloomed wonderfully.

CA native plants in bloom

Summer Time

As summer approached, temperatures rose sharply.  Several heat waves hit the San Francisco bay area, with temperature going up to as high as over 90F.  How did the plants hold up?  Did they fizzle?

Not a chance!  With the hot weather all the plants remain strong.  As if spurred by the heat, the California native Red Buckwheat exploded into this splendid blossom, like a dancer in hot pink bursting onto the stage. The blanket flower also expanded its early colors into full blown spectacle.  A garden full of colors finally came, just 8 months after the plants were first planted!

a water efficient garden in summer

From First Planted to Bloom

As this garden illustrates, for a water efficient garden with mostly native and drought tolerant plants, it only takes 7- 8 months to go from newly planted to full bloom.  In this case, if you install a garden in fall, you can see the first blossom next spring.  Isn’t that nice?

The plants can really grow during this period of time.  In winter they did not seem to grow much, when they might just be storing the energy; when spring arrived, that energy came out in full force and propelled the rapid growth like magic.

Look at this native plant Red Buckwheat.  When it was first planted in October, it was this tiny plant.  After 6 months in May, it grew quite a bit, but there was no flower yet.  Then, in the next 2-3 weeks, all of a sudden, the bush expanded by two times in size and the hot pink blossom broke out from nowhere.  It is quite a view.

CA native plant growing process

The blanket flower also went through the same magic.

CA native plant growing process

Benefits of a Water Efficient Garden

Before this garden was installed, it was a lawn (turned brown from saving water during the drought).  Now that the new garden is fully grown, we can do a comparison.  How do they stack up?  What are the benefits of a water efficient garden?

a lawn in CA drought

Saving water

To keep the lawn lush and green, it needs about 600 gallons of water a week, and even more in the extremely hot days like the ones over 90F couple weeks ago.  The garden that was installed, on the other hand, only needs about 1/6 – 1/4 as much.  This means some 1500 gallons of water can be saved in a month, enough for 3 months of indoor use for an average family in California.  The secret to this much water saving?  the plants – all are drought tolerant, and  drip irrigation system.

A Beautiful View for the House

With all the vibrant colors the garden adds a beautiful view for the house. Better yet, it changes with different seasons.  In May, it was yellow with the California Golden Poppy; in June, the hot pink from Red Buckwheat and red from blanket flower splashed the space.

Provide Food to Bees

Bees and other pollinators like the native plants, as they have been feeding on them for hundreds of thousands of years.  Look at these bees on this Golden Poppy – they just like it, even when most its flowers already faded and they can find other plants in the same garden.  Bees are hugely important for us, yet they have been on a decline.  Plant more native plants in our garden,  bees surely will appreciate it!

a bee on a Golden Poppy

Santa Clara Rebate Program Open

The Santa Clara Landscape Conversion Rebate Program is still open, and you can apply for its rebate.  Take advantage of the program and plan for converting your lawn to a water efficient garden.  Find out details here.

Act today, and see a water efficient garden in bloom tomorrow!

a water efficient garden in bloom

 

A Floral Dream Blooms In Spring

After experiencing one of the worst droughts in the state’s history from water year 2011-2016, California went to another extreme since the start of water year 2017, receiving so much rains that it became one of the wettest for the time period so far.  We know generally plants like rain, but how about the drought tolerant plants and native plants that were planted in water efficient gardens last year?  Did they survive?  How do they do after all the rains?  Recently I went back and checked on those gardens, what I saw totally blew me away.  A floral dream is blooming!

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A floral dram came true

In the design phase of the garden, one plant chosen to be the anchor was Pride of Madeira (Echium), a drought tolerant plant. At 6-8 feet when fully grown, their big spikes are like flower towers in a garden.  With them in the picture, there is no chance a garden is plain or dull!  However, the Echium was just this small plant when the garden was installed.  It would take quite a while before it could grow to 6-8 feet and bloom, everyone reckoned.  “Let’s just wait, and it will come in some years.”

But, as it shows, you don’t need to wait that long!  In a mere 3 months of time, during which it rained heavily, it grew from one foot to 5 foot, with 4 huge spikes of flower tower in full bloom.  It is a spectacular view.  The owner took a trip before it bloomed.  When she returned and saw those spikes, “I was so surprised! It was gorgeous!”

Jan 2017

Echium

Apr 2017

Echium 2

Apart from Echium, other plants also grew and bloomed beautifully.

Jan 2017

Sage 1

Apr 2017

Sage 2

More flowers

blossom-2

blossom-1

Rain help make floral dreams come true

While most of the drought tolerant plants are tough and can thrive in new environments, without a doubt, the heavy rains in the last winter and spring helped them grow so well as they did.

One might ask, since these plants are drought tolerant, why are the rains still so important?  Yes, it is true they adapt to dry conditions and can survive in a low water environment; however, most of them would still like a certain amount of water to bloom, or bloom well.  If it was dry in the last season, they can still live, but likely not produce such splendid blossom.

For plants like Echium and Seaside Daisy (the purple flower above), which originate from areas of Mediterranean climate (Canary Island and California coast), they are accustomed to rains in winter and very little to no water in summer.  They will grow rapidly in the rainy season, then go dormant or grow slowly in the dry summer season.  It is amazing how we can observe the same wonder of nature in our garden.

A beautiful view, and conserving water

In addition to providing us with a beautiful view of all the blooming flowers, water efficient gardens like this can conserve a lot of water. Compared to a lawn, such a garden can save water by 15 to 40%.

Yes, with the heavy rains, California is out of the 5-year drought. However, with population growth and climate change, water the resource will just become scarcer relative to its demand.   Water conservation is a way of life in California.  By building a water efficient garden, one not only can live in such a way, but enjoy all the beautiful views from the many blossoms nature has to offer.

 

floral-dream-3

 

From a Weedy Turf to a Dream Garden

From a weedy turf to a dream garden:

beforenafter

Against a full wall of Camilla trees, Lucy (not her real name)’s lawn used to be green and lush.  With the drought, however, parts of the turf just went bare, with the remaining thin and weedy.  Then rains – lots of them- came, the turf just turned into this big bed of wild weeds.  Lucy had been wanting to replace it with a much nicer “dream garden”, but with her really busy schedule, she did not even have the time to think about it.

Graden - Before

Graden - Before

After Lucy heard about the Santa Clara Landscape Conversion Rebate Program, especially the way her project will be done, i.e., all the paper work will be handled, the project will cover the entire process of design and installation, the only time she needed to be involved was the design of the garden – she happily got on board.

Landscape Conversion Program Application

To apply for the Rebate Program, a pre-inspection was scheduled.  At the end of pre-inspection, the application forms were provided.  For the application, the filled forms, along with the design of the garden were to be submitted.

Rebate Program Pre-Inspection

Designing the Garden

This will be a water efficient garden, meeting all the requirements of the Rebate program, i.e., using only native or drought tolerant plants, using drip irrigation, applying mulch, etc.

The next consideration was the look.  There was a wall of the camellias at the back of the front yard; in addition, two small fruit trees in the middle. The camellias were in their full blossom, sporting bright pink and red colors, against thick green leaves. It was a beautiful view.  A good design should add to the view, not take away from it.

At the time of plant selection, when Lucy spotted a picture of a lavender, she cried “that is it!” A path with lavender on both sides, with its strong scent – that was something of a dream for her.  Very luckily, lavender is one of those low water-use plants that qualify for the rebate. Now she could have her dream realized!

The application was submitted with the garden design.  After a week or so, the Notice to Proceed was received.  The project could kick off now.

Installing the Garden

The weeds and turf were removed, plants purchased and placed.  For mulch, it was bark chips, which came in different colors.  The mulch can effectively prevent evaporation and keep the soil moist longer.  When the chips decompose, it can add to the organic matters of the soil, improving the its quality and water holding capacity, which in turn will save more water.  Lucy chose the black color, which turned out to be a great choice.

Installing a Water Efficient Garden

A Dream Garden Came True

Beautiful Water Efficient Garden

The clean design and black surface from mulch make the Camilla’ colors really “pop” out.  The light step stones surrounding the two small trees in front not only provide something very functional, but accentuate the trees and add liveliness to the garden.

These plants dot the garden space with colors and textures, without distracting from the main view of Camilla.  They are all drought tolerant and qualify for the Rebate program.

Water Efficient Garden

Water Efficient Garden

While the garden already looks nice, there is more to look forward to. When the lavenders grow up and fully bloom, walking in the middle will be like walking through a purple corridor with that wonderful lavender scent.  Now that is something to wait for!

Dream Garden with Lavender

 

From Brown to Floral Dream

“I want to get rid of the brown lawn, like yesterday!  and I want a garden of flowers!  ” declared Sheena (not the real name), the owner of the house and a mom of young girls.

lawn2watereffigarden

 

The brown lawn had been an eye sore to Sheena for a long time.  Like so many other Californians, she stopped watering the lawn when the state implemented the drought Emergency Regulation.  The lawn turned brown and did not look good.  Sheena wanted to do something about it, but had no clue where to start.  When she was told about the Santa Clara Landscape Conversion Rebate Program, she could not wait to get onboard.

Designing the Garden

Sheena wanted a garden of flowers boasting of strong, festival colors, like red, purple, and orange.  “It’s a garden for my princesses!”  She also likes different types of grasses as nice decorations.

Plants of Beautiful Flowers

It is a blessing that many drought tolerant plants do have very beautiful flowers.  It was quite easy to pick the plants that Sheena wanted from a big collection.

Mexican Bush Sage:  With its big volume of bright purple blossom (with some white blended in), it is the kind of plants that you will notice right away.   Drought tolerant once established, it blooms for a long time from summer to late fall, providing incessant color and beauty to your garden.

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Lion’s Tail: brings a festival feel.

lions-tail-2

New Zealand Flax:

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Red Hot Poker

red-hot-poker-2

Erigeron:  Tough, drought tolerant, pretty blossom.

erigeron

Mulch

Mulch is a must for any water efficient garden.   After all the plants are planted, a layer of mulch is placed on the surface to 1) keep the soil moist and 2)reduce evaporation.  Mulch can reduce evaporation by as much as 75%, so is a very important element for any garden that aims to conserve water.

Organic mulch such as chipped bark is a good choice.  In addition to keeping the water in soil, they can add to the soil’s richness once composed.  This is critical for the health of the soil and the growth of the plants.

There are different colors of mulch, and the choice was easy for Sheena. The garden is already filled with flowers of all pretty colors, with the mulch, it is further enhanced to this other level of prettiness and excitement.

Rain Sensor

A rain sensor and automatic controller were also installed with the garden. When it rains, the sensor can send the signal to the controller, which will delay the watering scheduled, saving irrigation water for the garden.  Rain sensor is another great way to make a garden water efficient.

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The project was finished within a week, and the total cost was less than $3000.  The rebate made it substantially lower.

Sheena was very happy.  “My princesses like the garden!”  Sheena is glad now the brown lawn is gone, and she and her princesses have this big beautiful view to enjoy everyday.  In addition, “It saves me a lot of money. We use much less water now, and no longer need to hire hands for maintenance.”

 

waterefficientgarden1

 

From Brown to California Native Charm

The brown lawn has been an eye sore to the owner of the house for quite a while.  He had been wanting to replace it with something more beautiful, but did not know where to start.   Since California’s drought five years ago, he put in his effort to conserve water, turning off the sprinklers. Sure enough, the lawn went brown.  He heard about Landscape Conversion Rebate Program, but did not know how it worked.

Water Efficient Garden Conversion

When he had a chance to talk to the designer, he was happy to find out everything would be taken care of from end-to-end.  Not only will they design a water efficient garden to replace the lawn, but also take care of the program application paperwork.  Hassle free – that was exactly the way he wanted.

Designing the Garden

The owner favored a natural and easy look for the garden; he also had some pebble stones from his last project, which he would like to repurpose for the new garden.

The designer decided to do a “California Native” garden.  The selection of plants showed this focus.

California Native Plants

California has many native plants, which are great for gardening.  Adapted to California’s dry and windy environment, they are hardy, strong and can thrive without any care.  There are a lot of benefits gardening with native plants:

  • Water efficient:  they do not need that much water; compared to a lawn, a garden with mostly native plants can save a significant amount of water;
  • Low maintenance: they can thrive on their own; no or little care is needed.
  • Attracting pollinators:  the bees, birds and butterflies sure like the plants that they know well for tens of thousands of years.  Those bees and birds need more food, and this will provide them.

These California Native plants are picked for this garden.

Douglas Iris:  beautiful blue iris, native to areas along west coast.

Native Plants for a Water Efficient Garden

Buckwheat: pretty small pink flowers will bloom most of the year, its nectar is the favorite of butterflies.

Monkey Flower: The full yellow blossom can be seen everywhere along the coast in spring and summer.  Some cultivars have bright red flowers, which are equally pretty.

California Poppy: the golden state flower.

CA Golden Poppy

Matilija Poppy

Native Plants for a Water Efficient Garden

The designer included the design into application materials and submitted it.  2 weeks later they received the Notice to Proceed.

Installing the Garden

All the materials were purchased.

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The brown grass was first removed.

Next was to create a miniature “nature”.  The curves for “mountains” were added, and a “river” was made with the cobble stones.

Then the piping was done, all the plants planted.  The whole area was covered with black mulch, which contrasts nicely with the river and the colors of the flowers.

WaterEfficientGarden

The California native plants: Douglas Iris, Golden Poppy, and Monkey Flower

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Irrigation Equipment Upgrade

Along with the lawn conversion approval, the garden also qualified for an upgrade with automatic irrigation controller and rain sensor.  Both were installed after the garden.

With the rain sensor, when it rains, it will detect and transfer the information to the controller, which will shut off the next watering scheduled.   This way the irrigation water can be saved.

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It rained right after this was installed.  It worked!

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Within a couple days, a brown lawn was successfully transformed to a beautiful water efficient garden.  The eye sore is gone, and the owner has something nice to enjoy and more to look forward to.

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