It’s that time of year again: Summer! The sun can do a lot of good for your plants in your landscape, but not everything can handle the heatwave blaze. Here are 8 back-bone plants to rely on when the temps are high and the air is dry.
Agave ovatifolia (shown above) is family to the famed Century Plant which is prized for its durability and form. This variety, known as Whale’s Tongue Agave, stays much more compact, and has attractive blue/gray foliage with small teeth along the margins of each succulent leaf. A single, dramatic flower spike blooms at maturity. It is a sun-loving, drought-tolerant succulent that will add sculptural interest to any summer display.
Another California Native and reliable performer is Ceanothus. Known by many as California Lilac, Ceanouthus griseus horizontalis ‘Yankee Point’ is a specific groundcover variety that will tenaciously fill empty space in your landscape. Great for erosion control, this winter bloomer adds year-round interest with its small blue flower clusters. A main attraction for pollinators, this plant will not only tolerate drought and heat, but will help stabilize ecosystems.
Chondropetalumtectorum is a South African native reed grass which not only adds a sleek texture to your landscape but can endure almost any challenge that the Central Coast presents. This plant will take on searing heat, cold down to 20 degrees, and is one of the closest we’ve found to the ‘no maintenance’ dream. This one is bombproof and beautiful.
Kniphofia, also known as Red Hot Poker plant, is a striking option for foreground plantings, containers, and against walls. Its attractive blade-shaped leaves offer a clean texture during winter months, while the spring and summer blooms have a striking ombre color effect. Also native to Mediterranean South Africa, Kniphofia has an exotic look that maintains its beauty even in the blaring summer heat.
Our California native deer grass, Muhlenbergia rigens, is a drought-tolerant champion of the landscape. Attractive seed heads in the Spring give this larger grass an endearing tousled look which works in almost any setting, as a background, accent, or mass. Up to 5’ tall and wide, this grass stands out with its substantial size and will pull through despite the hottest California summer.
Jerusalem Sage, or Phlomisfruticosa, is a unique plant that offers many sought-after characteristics. This plant has the size and form of a sage, but the peach-fuzz foliage is true green in contrast to the silver of our native Sage varieties. Bright yellow flower whorls are non-toxic and stand out in the garden. Jerusalem sage is a sun-loving and solid choice for inland summers in areas such as Atascadero, Paso Robles, and San Luis Obispo.
Salvia x ‘Allen Chickering’ is another stunning California Native which loves arid climates and sunshine. This member of the Sage family showcases characteristic gray/green leaves and attractive, fragrant flower whorls. A top performer in the landscape, Allen Chickering Sage will attract hummingbirds and butterflies while deterring deer, making it a top choice for the warm season.
Creeping thyme is a dainty groundcover that adds charm to patios, walkways, and borders. Thymus serpyllum ‘Pink Chintz’ exhibits a showy bloom during the Spring and Summer months, with bright pink flowers speckled against the ashy green leaves. This Mediterranean herb has a distinctive aroma and can tolerate light foot traffic in addition to cramped conditions and heat.
Wherever you are in San Luis Obispo County, try out this complete palette for a glitch-proof approach to summer scenery.
It’s a beautiful summer day to Meet the Team! This month we are highlighting our General Manager – fearless leader and plant guru – Daniel. His passion for our work is deep-rooted and contagious: it is felt by everyone who has the pleasure of working with him. Our team wouldn’t be the same without our pun-loving, surf-styling manager! Read more below to get to know a bit about him!
How long have you been working at Madrone?
I have been working at Madrone for 11 ½ years. I started in December 2007 right at the beginning of the Great Recession. With a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture and a couple years of running and working in small design build landscape companies, it was a tough time to be starting out on your own. Before Madrone, work simply ran out. I reached out to a former Landscape Architect professor, Stratton Semmes, and she told me to come and talk to Rick Mathews at Madrone Landscapes. I interviewed with Rick in my nicest button up shirt, slacks, and shoes, willing to help out however I could as a 25-year old young adult. The next day, I came in with work boots and jeans and started running landscape construction jobs. As time went on, I took on design, estimating, and sales while managing construction projects. Madrone was about 10 people and we all did what we could to survive in the dismal economy of 2007-2010. Sure enough, things turned around and the phone started ringing. We started working with business consultants to organize our roles and the company makeup to handle more work. We started building the team of key people we still have today and it helped us get past the hurdle of being an awkwardly small company where everyone wears a lot of hats.
Today we have about 25 people and 4 distinct departments: Design, Construction, Maintenance, and Service. Our capability, organization, and talent has grown. I have been the General Manager for the last 4 years and it has been an honor to work with such great people and see how much we can accomplish working together.
2. What is your favorite thing about working at Madrone?
My favorite thing about working at Madrone Landscapes is the culture. We have some unique characters and everyone is free to be themselves. We spend most of our adult lives at work, so it is important that we make the best of it. The support I feel from everyone, and the comradery I see really makes me feel good about working here.
3. What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on and why?
My favorite project is Halter Ranch Vineyard. Before I came on in 2007, Madrone had already installed several projects on the property. When I started working with Halter Ranch, there were several multi-firm design and construction collaborations for various projects. Everyone involved shared a pride in the work. It was fun to work with the ownership and other trades with the common goal of producing the best product we could. Halter Ranch’s internal team shares a lot of our core values like stewardship, quality, teamwork, and integrity. Not to mention, we have installed some of the most beautiful landscapes of our portfolio there. We have won 3 county and statewide CLCA awards in 2012 and 2016, notably 1st place Large Commercial Construction in 2016 for the Tasting Room Landscape. Having a stoked team that works well together and produces award winning projects is a true privilege. To add to that, the property is open to the public 7 days a week and it is great to be able to enjoy the landscape and share it with others. Win, win, win!
4. What is your favorite, or least favorite, plant and why?
My favorite plant is ever-evolving and it really comes from emotions and horticultural nerdiness. If you are not a plant nerd, you may want to skip this section ;). Generally, I get excited about seeing California native plants in their prime season. Right now in summer, Mimulus aurantiacus, Mimulus ‘Cone Peak,’ Trichostemalanatum are pretty awesome mid-summer bloomers, with the Trichstema having one of the coolest scents. In the winter and spring, Salviaspathacea is beautifully blooming and fragrant, while the Saturejadouglasii is the most refreshing herby mint scent of all. In fall, the Zauschneria (way more fun to say than Epilobium) is a showstopper. Basically, growing up in California, then learning the plants, allows me to flash back to memories exploring the woods as a kid. If I step on a Gnaphaliumcalifornicum, it smells just like maple syrup and brings me back to the walk home from the bus stop in 5th grade, where we would step on them. Native trees are also very dear to me. I grew up in a mixed evergreen forest with Quercusagrifolia, Quercuslobata, Quercuskeloggii, Acermacrophyllum, Arbutusmenziesii, Heteromelesarbutifolia, Umbellulariacalifornica, and Sequoia sempervirens. Being in a forest feels like home to me, anywhere in the world. Finally, the almighty tomato, my first introduction to gardening. I owe my career to growing tomatoes as a kid and developing a great appreciation for how good a home-grown tomato can taste. The connections to plants in my youth definitely shaped me as a person. The beauty of horticulture is that it is limitless with cool things to learn every day.
When it comes to landscape installation, I have a different set of favorites and least favorites based on performance. As I see more landscapes mature, I tend to like to design a majority of long-lived low maintenance plants with far less perennials and high maintenance flowering plants. There is nothing worse than showing up to a landscape 5 years later to see that it was not maintained to your vision and plants have died. Therefore, my pragmatic favorite plants are: Rhamnus californica ‘Leatherleaf’, Chondropetalum tectorum, Carex divulsa, Arctostaphylos (several good Manzanita), Quercus (agrifolia & lobata), Pistacia chinensis, Cedrus deodora, Cistus ‘Sunset’, Muhlenbergia rigens, Pennisetum spathiolatum, Agave ‘Frosty Blue’, and of course Arbutus ‘Marina’. My least favorite plants are invasive pests such as Cortadera selloana, Ehrhart acalcina, Arundo donax, Delairea odorata, Stipa tenuissima, and Cytisus scoparius. These plants threaten our native California landscape – which means a lot to me.
5. What’s one of the things on your bucket list?
On my bucket list is getting my Landscape Architecture
License. I haven’t needed it personally
to do my job, but it is something I could get this year with the little I have
remaining in the process. Life has a way
of changing plans, and it has been evading me thus far. Free time to study is what it will take. I will get it done, and hopefully very soon.