By Sharon Lovejoy
I learned many of my gardening techniques and plant combos from great landscape designers and architects such as Gertrude Jekyll, Beatrix Farrand and William Robinson. You can't go wrong with their design sense and style, but here in California you sure can go wrong with their choice of plants.
Although we can grow nearly everything, we need to focus on plants that live in harmony with our wet winters (we hope) and springs; the long, dry summers; and sometimes-rainless autumns.
Nothing has more perfectly adapted to our growing conditions than native California flora. I use our natives lavishly, both for base plantings of subtle grays and blue-greens, and as dramatic verticals in unexpected places. Sprinkled throughout the natives I incorporate the colorful and fragrant plant palettes of Mexico, South America, the Mediterranean region, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Ahhh, only in California!
I depend on salvia, with blooms of white, pink and red; and cascades of purple catmint (nepeta) to delineate many of my pathways. Sinuous curves of lavender; manzanita, with cinnamon brown bark and tiny lantern flowers; explosions of flashy California poppies; eriogonum; and an array of aeonium rosettes mixed with 'Autumn Joy' sedum provide both texture and color.
Yuccas, with their needlelike spikes and brilliant blossoms, make eye-catching and unexpected exclamation marks. Banks of Matilija poppies, with plate-size blooms of fried-egg flowers, and fragrant-leaf cistus provide a backdrop to the smaller plants.