“The first season they sleep, the second season they creep and the third season they leap.”
That saying sure proves true with the xeriscape garden I’ve planted in my backyard. This is the third year for most of the plants and they certainly have taken the leap. Of course, having rain nearly every day in May certainly helped.
I’ve been adding plants each season over the last few years — some ordered through mail order catalogs, some purchased as “gardener-grown” at plant sales, some free plants to test and many others that are volunteers that sprung up from seeds on their own.
One of the best choices I made for the garden was to plant in unamended slightly sandy soil and to use rock mulch. Xeric plants prefer a well-draining soil to keep roots on the dry side.
Here are the plants that leaped into action this year and what’s so great about them:
Gold lace junipers. There are three large junipers in the background that provide structure for the garden. These shrubs have spread nicely to fill in the space in front of the fence and look good in all four seasons. However, they really shine in early spring when the gold shows through to give the garden color before the perennials start to flower.
Prairie Jewel penstemon. On the far left of the garden shot is a tall plant that’s just about ready to bloom. This penstemon is a Plant Select plant, and it’s one that seeded itself in the front garden so I moved it to the back. The large white, bell-shaped flowers grow on tall stalks. This plant needs at least two seasons to show off; the first season it starts as a silvery-green rosette and the next season it sends up the spike and flowers. I’m hoping it will spread throughout the garden on its own.
Ornamental grasses. There are four ornamental grasses planted among the flowering perennials. These are the gardener-grown plants that I’ve bought at plant sales, so the names aren’t available. I love their delicate grassy leaves and each year they continue to send up their own flower spikes that look lovely when the sun shines through them.
Greek yarrow (Achillea ageratifolia). The low-growing greenery topped by white flowers is the Greek yarrow. This plant is at the front of the garden because it flowers first in the season. The small white flowers started showing up in mid-March and are just now starting to lose steam. After clipping the spent flowers it may bloom again later this season, but its tidy mat of grey-green foliage makes a nice soft spot in the garden.
Native flax. Tiny brilliant blue flowers on tall stalks makes for a nice native addition to the garden. The perennial flax blooms in each morning and then goes quiet until the next day.
Purple sage. Behind the flax are the tall dark purple flower stalks of sage. This plant is a terrific tall filler plant that attracts bees like crazy. The flowers are long-lasting, too.
Yellow yarrow. There are two tall yarrow plants getting ready to bloom on the right side of the picture. These two plants are quite hardy and grow so tall they’re almost like shrubs. I’ll let the flowers stay on the plants through winter to add interest to the xericscape when all the other plants are dormant.
Some of the self-seeded plants in the xeriscape include sunflowers from last season and a green carpet of a plant called Sweet Annie. I had a nice bunch of Sweet Annie in the garden last season, left the flower stalks standing and all of the seeds sprouted on their own this season. It makes for a nice, unplanned soft green carpet that filled in between the stepping stones on the path.
I’ll continue to expand the xeriscape each season, but with so many plants that are volunteering on their own I may just run out of room.