Planning a xeriscape

Being cooped up in an apartment in the towering shade of immense Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas Fir) may not be great for many garden plants, especially in a wet winter. It sures makes for some great motivation, though. What non-dormant plants I do have are clustered under plant lights in the warmest room in the apartment. I’ll spare everyone the headache and not publish any pictures of this odd assortment of plants bathed in pink light. It doesn’t look great, but they grow well enough.

What I’ll do instead is share some photos of desert landscapes that I took last year. I have been designing a xeriscape for my upcoming garden, and these pictures have helped me decide on placement and pairings in it. I will be planting quite a few yucca, in addition to the completely necessary cactus, agave and other succulents that will make their home at BL. Honestly, an exposed southern wall on a building should always be planted with drought tolerant, heat loving plants. It would be irresponsible of me NOT to plant these beds like this!

During the 2019 superbloom in the southwest, sights like this were common. Green plants growing rampant over the tougher xerophytes seemed to send flowers in their neighbor’s faces. I think I could pull this off with some Agave americana and Gilia or Phacelia.

The area to be planted has a gentle but not insignificant slope to it. This is bad for croquet, but excellent for drainage. With 16 inches of rain last month, it goes without saying that ridding the roots of excess water will be my main concern. There are quite a lot of plants that are hardy to my minimum winter temperature. So far (knock on wood…) we have only seen down to about 25 degrees, and never for more than about 24 hours. The next few pictures are of succulent gardens that have seen lower temperatures than that.

This impressive stand of Cylindropuntia bigelovii was sitting at about freezing when I took this picture. I’m sure it could take my winter temperatures, but it would rot where it stood after a few weeks of solid rainfall. Maybe some overhead cover would save it… like a pine tree?
Despite some frost damage, much of this garden is pretty hardy. I’ve got a plan for my Trichocereus terscheckii that I’ve been growing since 2014, and hopefully it will eventually be surrounded like this one.
Now this is what I call a cactus garden! I’ve got half a dozen Opuntia ellisiana and some semi hardy columnar cactus, but I haven’t picked up the right Cylindropuntia yet. Bordering a large mass of opuntia with Yucca aloifolia, Y. faxoniana or some large Y. rostrata would be a great way to accent the unusually soft outline of prickly pears.
For me, there’s just something special about yellow flowers and cactus. They go together like ferns and moss, which is something I feel like I’m very familiar with. Unfortunately the Echinocactus grusonii pictured here would never make it through a winter unless they were potted and were moved indoors every winter. Oh wait, I could probably do that…
What better way to break up the shapes of yuccas and cactus than with an agave or two? There is none, in my opinion. Unless it’s a big clump of Aloe striatula. That’s just as good, but a lot harder to find. As for the foreground, I was thinking I could achieve a similar look with some of the larger Sempervivum varieties and maybe Euphorbia characias ‘Dwarf’ thrown in for good measure.
Agave ovatifolia is an incredible plant that looks good enough to touch, despite the spines. I’ve got a few ‘Frosty Blue’ waiting in the wings.

With several months of construction left at this garden, I have to remember to pace myself when it comes to this project. The benefit to this extended wait is that I won’t be able to just start planting willy nilly with whatever looks neat at the time. I will have several generations of designing to do before I’m even close to actually putting anything in the ground. In the meantime I will draw and look at more pictures!

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