While visiting the garden of one of my favorite clients yesterday I was really pleased with how it looked in the middle of February. When designing, one of my priorities is to create a garden that looks good throughout the year. Luckily, living in Northern California’s zone 9, this is a very attainable goal. However, so many clients think I’m exaggerating and doubt that it’ll really look good in January and February.
Even though we get temperatures that dip into the low thirties (sometimes even into the twenties) and we get zero rainfall in the summer, it’s still possible to create a garden with year round beauty – even in February. The key is to include native and mediterranean plants that have adapted to our climate.
During my visit, I counted no less than five hummingbirds flitting around her garden, among dozens of other pollinators braving the chilly temperatures while they sipped nectar. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve planted for years – won’t you consider adding a few to your garden?Nandinas come in many different sizes, ranging from a towering 6-foot upright shrub to a diminutive 2-foot mound. All are evergreen, and several varieties even have leaves that turn brilliant shades of red in colder temperatures.
The red berries start covering these shrubs in early November, lasting throughout the spring (and are always a mainstay in my holiday decorating!) Grevilleas are some of my very favorite plants to include in my designs as they’re not only evergreen but they bloom off and on throughout the entire year (as long as our temps don’t dip too low).
Some of my favorites are the towering 6-foot Grevillea ‘Robin Gordon’, mid-size ’Superb’ (shown above) and the sprawling groundcover ‘Mt. Tamboritha (shown to the left).
This happy little Salvia chiapensis (from Annie’s Annuals) never seems to stop blooming! It’s brilliant magenta flowers seem to attract every butterfly and hummingbird within 100-feet.California’s native Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’ is one of the few penstemons I use in my designs. It tends to behave much better than the hybrids commonly sold in nurseries. It stays a tidy 3×3, whereas many of the hybrids want to sprawl much larger and tend to look gangly by mid-summer.Another California native that’s one of my mainstays is the many different varieties of Manzanita.
There are many varieties (and sizes) of Manzanita, all with evergreen leaves, beautiful mahogany-colored stems and profise tiny bell-shaped pink flowers that begin to appear in early spring. This, too, is an important source of nectar for hummingbirds.This California Buckwheat, again from Annie’s Annuals, blooms heaviest in the summer but still provides raspberry-colored flowers in the heart of winter.
And a bonus? It gently re-seeds, and if you’re lucky you’ll end up with a stunning drift of these treasures. This sprawling Euphorbia is one of the very first in it’s family to bloom, and is stunning when draping down a stone wall. Beginning in January, the shocking chartreuse color, backed by the blue flowers of the rosemary add many weeks of color to the garden.
A warning, though – the sap of the euphorbia’s stem can be a skin irritant to many people. I have many varieties of euphorbias in my garden and have never been bothered by the sap. HOWEVER, I think this variety is especially potent as it did give me a blister on my skin a few months ago.One of my very favorite family of shrubs are the Phlomis. This variety is Phlomis lanata, and blooms every single day of the year. Honest!
It has smaller than typical leaves, and tops out at about 3×3. A really lovely evergreen shrub to add to your garden.And last, but not least, is our native Ceanothus. There’s many varieties available, in every size imaginable, and I personally don’t think a garden is complete without one! The flower colors range from white, to light blue, to deep cobalt and last for several weeks.
For those of you who live in similar climates, I hope this has inspired you to add a few of these to your garden this year so you, too, can enjoy flowers year-round!
And if you’d like to see more of this garden, click here. Enjoy!