DIG THIS! SLO Landscape Strategies

Protea In The Water-Wise California Garden

Named after the legendary sea god, Proteus, who could changed his shape at will, the family of Proteas has a surprising diversity of form, flower, and foliage across the different species. From the trees, such as Grevilleas, to the shrubby Leucadendrons and the ground-covering Banksias, there is a Protea for every purpose in the garden, and it’s easy to see why they’re one of our favorite landscape ingredientsA Gardens by Gabriel protea pincushion collection

Their flowers are exotic looking and come in a warm spectrum of colors and extra-terrestrial forms. In fact, Proteaceae are cultivated commercially as cut flowers because of their striking forms and propensity to last for weeks to months in a vase.

All of the protea tribe appreciate well-drained soil and cool temperatures, so they grow to perfection on the fog-kissed dunes of the coast. They require minimal maintenance, and don’t want much water once established. If you’re looking for a few eye-catching plants to light up your garden in the winter time, the protea family is not to be missed!

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How To Be A Weekend Water Warrior

The record-breaking drought California experienced reminds us of how dependent we are on the natural world and its resources. Whether you’ve had your garden in the ground for years or you’re in the market for a new one, it’s never too late to dust off your conservation boots and save water. As we move into our Central Coast summer and reflect on winters gone by, consider these easy water-saving/money-saving ideas:

 

  1. Add water recycling like a “laundry to landscape” greywater system.

Laundry is a fact of life, you might as well recoup some of the resources you’re expending. (We can’t help you get your time waiting for the dryer to buzz back unfortunately!)

A line of talk cuts through a mulched back yard, identifying where the downspouted rainwater will be directed

Caution: Downspout rainwater harvesting in progress!

2. Add a rainwater catchment like downspouts channeling seasonal rains directly into the soil where plants can use it.

It may seem like a moot point since the water is already falling from the sky, but any water that’s rushing down the street would be better used sinking into the ground. Large-scale rainwater catchment via cisterns is great, but the low-fi version of routing it into the soil in French drains is also beneficial (and easier on both the wallet and calendar).

3. Keep up on your mulching; don’t let bare lot syndrome happen to you!

Exposed earth contributes to water run-off during our rainy winter months and also erodes your soil. A healthy mulch layer slows rainfall as it reaches the earth; sinks it into the ground at a rate the earth can handle; and spreads it throughout the area, replenishing groundwater reserves. A triple win!

By mimicking natural cycles, sinking water into the ground, and reestablishing aquifers and groundwater saturation we can take advantage of this drought’s silver lining: To learn from patterns that create scarcity and change our habits to create abundance.

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