Finding plants to withstand drought

Visit the Oak Bay Native Plant Garden this week to see two beautiful drought-tolerant shrubs

The perennial Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis russeliana) is both deer-proof and adapted to drought.

The perennial Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis russeliana) is both deer-proof and adapted to drought.

The summer solstice has arrived and with it water restrictions, so I’m going to depart from essaying this week and offer up some practical information on drought-tolerant plants. The trick in our climate is to choose plants not accustomed to year-round dryness, but rather adapted to our seasonal shift between summer/dry, winter/wet.

Visit the Oak Bay Native Plant Garden this week to see two beautiful drought-tolerant shrubs. Oceanspray (Holodicus discolor) is in full foamy splendour at the corner of Beach Drive and Musgrave and the scent of mock-orange (Philadelphus lewisii) simply delicious. Both shrubs are adapted to our climate and can be pruned to size for use in the garden. (If you’re lucky enough to already have a mock-orange, trim out the old flowering branches to boost your blooms next year.)

Earlier this month I had the very rare treat of spotting a native honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa) – bright orange/red, perfectly designed for our hummingbirds – twining through a thicket of mock-orange on a municipal boulevard in south Oak Bay. How lucky we are to still have urban wildernesses to botanize in.

One of my favourite exotic full-sun deer-proof herbaceous perennials is Phlomis russeliana. It spreads, slowly but emphatically, in any average soil, making an effective ground cover. In the winter its felted leaves stay green, looking a little tattered, but all is forgiven come mid-May when fabulous architectural flower spikes ringed with pale yellow flowers arrive. The flower stalks remain upright into the winter and if we ever had that delicate kind of Oudolf frost, the seed heads would be truly dazzling. Use them in arrangements into the fall.

Another great low-maintenance plant for dry exposed sites is Euphorbia myrsinites, also known as Donkey Tail Spurge.  With glaucous silver/grey foliage shaped like a thickened bottle-brush, the plant resembles something you’d see in a Dr. Seuss book. Spurge blooms in April – yellow/chartreuse flowers that need trimming in early summer. Some people are allergic to Euphorbia sap, so use caution when clipping.

The Euphorbias are a great group of deer-resistant drought-adapted plants, but stay away from the new hybrids. Tempting as they are, they just haven’t been tested by time. Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ has, performing well in Victoria, spreading in rocky dry soil, and offering both spring floral interest (fiery orange) and autumn colour. The large Euphorbia characias ‘Wulfenii’, a thigh-high shrub with gangly ‘arms’, has practically naturalized in parts of Oak Bay. Be sure to keep it trimmed to maintain a good shape and remove the spent flowering stalks.

If you’d like to learn more about low-water use gardens, search ‘xeriscaping’ or look for Beth Chatto’s classic book The Dry Garden. A great resource for native plant gardening is The Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team which can be found at www.goert.ca. GOERT lists the Victoria area nurseries which trade in native plants.

 

 

 

Christin Geall teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Victoria and is an avid Oak Bay gardener.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NEW CUTLINE Pacific FC fans fill the stands during a game at the former Westhills Stadium
 Starlight Developments has purchased the naming rights from the City of Langford for the next 10 years.(Gazette file photo)

Pacific FC slid into third place in the league after defeating FC Edmonton 1-0 at Westhills Stadium on Saturday. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Langford sells stadium naming rights for $500,000 to Starlight Developments

10-year sponsorship deal largest in the history of Langford, says mayor

An Oak Bay Police officer handed out five tickets for “fail to obey stop sign” and two tickets for using a cell phone while driving, all within two hours at King George Terrace on Jan. 11. (Oak Bay Police Twitter)
Man confronts unmasked group at Oak Bay Marina

Oak Bay police issue plenty of tickets in short King George Terrace visit

Construction in Oak Bay is nearly all focused on rebuilding new single-family homes and without secondary suites. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay nears regulation of secondary suites

Preliminary report hints there’s no preferred option

A 45-metre tall call tower is proposed for Westhills Stadium. (Black Press Media file photo)
New cell tower proposed for Westhills Stadium in Langford

Tower will increase capacity in congested network: staff report

Victoria Police Department vehicles outside the headquarters building. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bastion Square attack leaves victim with life-altering injuries

Victoria police looking for witnesses, information

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Heather Lucier, a pastor at Kelowna Harvest Fellowship, speaks to an RCMP officer outside of Harvest Ministries on Sunday, Jan. 10. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna church fined 2nd time for violating public health order

Harvest Ministries in Kelowna has previously said they will fight the tickets in court

Mount Arrowsmith. Three skiers were rescued from the south side of the mountain on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021 with one woman taken to hospital in Comox. (Nancy Randall photo)
Injured skier among three rescued in the dark from Mount Arrowsmith

‘It was a very bad, very precarious spot to be able to locate them’

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

Submitted photo of Town Park C Block apartment fire.
Apartment fire in Port Hardy forces residents to jump from building

‘Multiple people were transported to the hospital with injuries from falling’

sdf
2nd in-school violence incident in Mission, B.C, ends in arrest

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

BC Emergency Health Services has deployed the Major Incident Response Team (MIRRT) as COVID-19 positive cases rise in the Williams Lake region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.’s rapid response paramedics deployed to Williams Lake as COVID-19 cases climb

BC Emergency Health Services has sent a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to the lakecity

Most Read