The unusually wet winter season in the Coachella Valley hasn’t solved all of our drought issues, as despite the abundance of rain, the hydrologic issues from California’s years-long drought will take years to recover. It’s due to this fact – and the recognition that California generally is perennially in a state of drought -- that the governor has determined that the stringent irrigation requirements implemented over the last few years will remain in place. In a sense, this is GREAT news, in that the beautiful drought tolerant aesthetic most Southern Californians are learning to appreciate in their landscaping is as relevant as ever.
The hard truth is that California will always be short of water. Many entities compete for our fickle supply of water: Agriculture and food production use 80% of our water; but this scale of water use in California is not sustainable. We are pumping groundwater at a faster rate than it can be replenished. As a result, groundwater levels in much of the state, including the once-vast reserves beneath the Central Valley, have been declining for nearly a century. Our recent wet winter will not reverse the long-term decline of water in California. The sobering news is that resolving our issue of drought doesn’t solve our problem of groundwater sustainability.
What can we do to be a part of the solution? For starters, the water efficient design and landscaping implemented to mitigate water shortages in Southern California are no less important in sustainability efforts. Choosing drought tolerant plants, which can be as beautiful as they are practical, is a wise decision for homeowners, HOAs, apartment complexes, recreation areas, etc. For a great list of drought tolerant plants, please see our past blogs about bulletproof plants: http://www.rgapd.com/blog/item/3-bulletproof-plants, http://www.rgapd.com/blog/item/10-bulletproof-plants-summer-2016-edition.
Another helpful resource is the Coachella Valley Water District’s website. They have many links and articles on water use restrictions, reporting water waste and water conservation. http://www.cvwd.org/31/Conservation
With temperatures rising in the Coachella Valley, it can be hard to believe any plants are able to survive in this weather. There is a type of plant we call “bulletproof” that not only survives, but thrives in this climate. These plants require less maintenance, and importantly in the drought we’re experiencing, are hardy and don’t require much water. Last summer, we gave a list of some we like. Here is this year’s edition of our selection of bulletproof plants!
Agave Americana, Agave
Caesalpinia pulcherrima, Desert Red Bird of Paradise
Lantana camara, Lantana
Yucca recurvifolia, Weeping Yucca
Fouquiera splendens, Ocotillo
Despite most of the attention being on golf course, country clubs and housing communities, many other landscaping features have just as urgent a need for water efficiency. Last year, Governor Brown implemented requirements for cemeteries, golf courses, and campuses to make significant cuts in water usage. There has been no shortage of national media attention on water waste with golf courses, but very little about the expansive lawn areas in cemeteries. People who are visiting deceased loved ones are very sensitive to lawns going brown, so that is a real concern for cemeteries who are being asked to cut back on their water use.
Our latest project, with Desert Memorial Park Cemetery, is a direct response to these concerns. We are installing a drought tolerant landscape for a new section of the cemetery. With our water efficient approach to traditional cemetery design, our architectural plans for the landscaping of the cemetery’s 5-acre project include addressing the practical function of the space as well as meeting the needs of funeral services and visits from loved ones. With its new water efficient area, Desert Memorial Park Cemetery can be an example to other cemeteries when it comes to their future expansion plans.
In the hot desert climate, there are certain requirements a plant needs in order to thrive. We call these plants “bulletproof” due to their hardiness and ability to flourish in arid conditions, particularly during times of drought. Bulletproofing your landscaping has many benefits. Not only will you use much less water, as these plants have adapted to the local environment and are less thirsty, but you will spend less time maintaining them and still have a vibrant, beautiful garden. Often when people think of hardy, desert-friendly plants, they think of cacti or succulents. And those plants are great. However, there are many other bulletproof desert landscapes that are well-designed and use a large variety of other attractive plants. Here are examples of a few we like:
Calliandra californica – Red Fairy Duster
The Red Fairy Duster is an evergreen, woody shrub whose flowers appear in early summer and feature clusters of red stamens. While the Fairy Duster is cold tolerant to temperatures below freezing, it is most successful in full sun. This hardy plants only needs 10 inches of water a year and adds a vivid pop of color to your landscaping.
Aloe barbarensis – Medical Aloe
Aloe is a highly recognizable plant, both for its decorative and medicinal purposes. Aloe plants are well-suited for the desert, as they are intolerant of very heavy frost and snow and survive in areas of low natural rainfall. They are relatively resistant to most pests and do best in bright, sunny conditions. Their sturdiness and vibrant green color make them an attractive and durable addition to your xeriscaping.
Eremophila hygrophana – Blue Bells
This beautiful shrub blooms throughout the year and thrives in hot temperatures. As Blue Bells grow at a slow rate and top out at about 3 feet tall and wide, they tend to require little to no pruning. As an added bonus, they attract local hummingbirds to their purple-hued flowers.
Dasylirion wheeleri – Desert Spoon
Despite sounding like a utensil, the Desert Spoon is in fact an evergreen shrub that is highly valued in drought tolerant landscaping, as it is drought and frost tolerant and needs no care once established. These plants can grow to be quite large – up to six feet – so their landscaping should be planned accordingly.
Eremophila – Valentine Bush
Bulletproof plants can be colorful too! The Valentine plant, so named for its flowers that bloom around Valentine’s Day, has beautiful red blossoms that open to reveal hot-pink centers. This plant is extremely low-maintenance and thrives in the hot, arid weather typical of the Coachella Valley.
These are simply examples of five bulletproof plants that work great in drought landscaping. RGA’s experts can identify which ones work best for your property and which ones aren’t as hardy as others. Call us to assess your particular landscaping needs or to learn more about what bulletproof plants are best for your site.