In the sparkling beaches into the craggy mountaintops, Northern California’s magnificent scenery and activities beckon summer vacationers. Those same places also vividly display the region’s wildly contrasting plant ponds which make gardening so varied and so interesting.
While you’re traveling, keep your eyes open for planting ideas you can use in your home. I’ve collected a few for you below, in the foggy California shore into the steamy shore to the trendy, high Sierra.
Try this at home if you stay in Carmel. The weathered Monterey cypress trees you see on the Monterey Peninsula are beautifully scenic but debatable in their home turf. The trees used to be implanted throughout California as superfast viewing plants, but diseases caught up with them — similar to what happened with fellow beach-loving, overplanted Monterey pines. If you reside in Carmel or some similarly lucky beach city, Monterey cypress is for you. Otherwise, probably not. There arealso, however, varieties of Monterey cypress said to perform better in inland areas, such as compact ‘Wilma Goldcrest’.
Common name: Monterey cypress
Botanical name: Cupressus macrocarpa
USDA zones: 7 to 10 (find your zone)
water necessity: Light; needs small irrigation once established
Light requirement: Total sun
Mature size: 40 feet tall; narrow when young and spreads age
Growing tips: Watch for signs of canker fungus: foliage turning yellow and then brown, then falling off. Remove any contaminated plants.
Even beyond the beach, Pride of Madeira may work for you. With its oversize vibrant blue blossoms in spring and summer, Pride of Madeira is difficult to miss near the beach, but it’s also rather easy to grow somewhat inland. It’s a big, tall tree with grey, felty leaves. Use it for bold looks from the background or in a semiwild setting. Caution: It may spread by seeds in circumstances.
Common name: Pride of Madeira
Botanical name: Echium fastuosum
USDA zones: 9 to 11
Water necessity: Light
moderate requirement: Complete sun
Mature size: 6 feet tall or more and up to 10 feet wide
Growing tips: Prune back the branch tips for bushier growth. Cut off dried blossoms to restrain reseeding.
Read more about Pride of Madeira
Ready for a challenge? Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, once an area of windswept sand dunes, is now a showcase of plants from all over the world. Few are more eye catching than nodding pincushion, one of several proteas out of South Africa. Proteas are notoriously difficult to grow, which explains their high cost as cut blooms. They’re worth a try if you are able to provide what they need: perfectly drained soil and the ideal climate — aquatic, not too hot.
Common name: Nodding pincushion
Botanical name: Leucospermum cordifolium
USDA zone: 9
water necessity: Moderate
moderate requirement: Total sun
Mature size: 4 ft tall and wide
Growing tips: Needs perfect drainage. It grows best near the shore, on a slope with fast drainage. There’s an art and a science to developing this and other proteas; read up on them here.
Produce a fast tropical look. Australian tree fern, which also thrives in Golden Gate Park, is easier to grow, up and down the country, than a protea like Leucospermum. It offers a quick tropical look, especially planted in a small grove of three. It’ll grow tall and palm-like in favorable locations. In warmer climates plant it in the shade of tall trees.
Common name: Australian tree fern
Botanical name: Cyathea cooperi
USDA zones: 10 into 11
water necessity: Moderate or more
Light requirement: Partial colour at least, except at the trendiest coastal climates
Mature size: Up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide
Increasing tips: It needs colour and frost protection from the immediate coast. Be certain the planting soil is full of organic matter.
Locate the ancient California look. Around the old mission of San Juan Bautista, that dates back to 1797, this young vignette joins the sorts of crops commonly utilized by early settlers in our warm inland areas. Mission plantings had to be practical and drought resistant — sounds just like now, do not you think?
The simple, grey look is also one we appreciate today — also worth emulating in your backyard. The little tree is a young olive. The ground cover is gazania. In the background are an agave (a succulent) and also an opuntia (a cactus), both of which that will grow into a substantial size.
What about redwoods? Cuddly when young (the ones in this photo were implanted just a couple of years before), redwoods grow into towering giants. The tallest tree on earth is 379 ft, in Redwood National Park, on the far northern shore of California. Redwoods also make great landscape trees in the ideal situation — as screens or desktop plants. Make sure you keep in mind their entire size.
Common name: Redwood
Botanical name: Sequoia sempervirens
USDA zones: 8 to 9
Water necessity: Moderate or more
moderate condition: Full sun (light shade is OK)
Mature size: 70 feet tall or more and up to 30 feet wide
Growing tips: Start with 15-gallon or larger nursery plants if you’re in a big hurry. Dig a huge planting hole, at least 6 inches wider and deeper than the root ball, and also incorporate plenty of soil amendments.
Take inspiration in the forest. From the redwood forest, look at what grows under the trees for floor cover inspiration. Redwood sorrel is a fairly, clover-like perennial for shady places, especially in cooler coastal environments. Its leaves are a bright green, along with the spring flowers are white or pink. Naturally, it is great under redwoods, but it also does nicely beneath other tall trees or shade makers.
Common name: Redwood sorrel
Botanical name: Oxalis oregana
USDA zones: 7 to 9
Water necessity: moderate or more
moderate requirement: Partial shade
Mature size: Up to 1 foot tall; spreads widely by creeping rhizomes
Growing tips: make certain the soil is full of organic matter. Cut back to the floor to renew growth. Redwood sorrel can become invasive in beneficial situations.
These love the valley heat. The long, hot summers of the Central Valley create luscious peaches, plums and melons — and magnificent trees. In August from tree-rich cities like Sacramento, few plants stand out over crape myrtle, with its clusters of blossoms like big scoops of richly coloured gelato. Crape myrtle also has vivid autumn colour and even looks great leafless in winter. It is an excellent small tree for a patio or backyard, or perhaps for the street.
Common name: Crape myrtle
Botanical name: Lagerstroemia indica
USDA zones: 7 to 9
Water necessity: Moderate
Light condition: Total sun
Mature size: Up to 25 feet tall and wide; pruning retains it much smaller
Growing tip: In cool coastal climates, mold frequently strikes the foliage and blossoms. It is ideal to avoid planting this tree if you become aware of similar harm in your town.
More about developing crape myrtle
Capture the look of Tahoe. With an elevation of 6,225 feet in the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe’s natural plant palette is limited to the hardy lands of cold winters and developing seasons sometimes measured in weeks. But look around in midsummer and you’ll see wildflowers, lush grasses, white-trunked aspen — using a background of deep green forest, glistening granite and grey sage.
If you would like to capture the Sierra look in your home, think about substitute plants: white birch instead of aspen, lavender instead of sage, creeping juniper instead of walnut. Keep things simple and elemental: one clump of grass in front of a boulder, a few wildflowers scattered beneath a conifer.
This Sierra wildflower grows in the flatland. Foothill penstemon is one striking Sierra wildflower that thrives at lower elevations. In midsummer you are able to view it blooming in Tahoe in addition to in Davis at the Sacramento Valley. It is a perennial with rich, deep blue flowers, plus it is great mixed with other wildflowers, like the wispy red gilia shown here. Look for the exceptional variety ‘Margarita BOP’, together with sky-blue blossoms that fade to purple.
Common name: Foothill penstemon
Botanical name: Penstemon heterophyllus
USDA zones: 6 to 10
water necessity: moderate to medium
moderate requirement: Complete sun
Elderly size: Up to 2 feet tall and equally wide
Growing tips: Plant it in fast-draining soil. Don’t expect more than a couple of years out of it.
What Else to Do in August in Your California Garden
Assist summer blossoms and vegetable finish strong. Keep blossoms coming by pinching off faded flowers of annuals such as marigolds and zinnias. Pick skillet and beans until they get overly big. Never allow the soil dry out. Fertilize monthly or every two weeks using a flower or vegetable meals. As shown, stake top-heavy tomato crops.
Fertilize warm-season lawns. Grasses like Bermuda, zoysia and St. Augustine need monthly feeding through early autumn. No need to feed cool-season grasses like bluegrass until the warm weather allows up. Mow cool-season grasses on the rocky side to give extra shade for roots.
Save moisture with mulch. If you haven’t already, lay down mulch around flowers, trees and shrubs. Use 2 or 3 inches of organic matter or lavender.
Get a head start on fall planting. If you’re feeling ambitious, prepare your beds for autumn planting. Dig at least 10 to 12 inches deep and mix in a 2- to 3-inch coating of organic matter, such as ground bark.
Add last-minute summertime color. Search for annuals and perennials already prospering in 4-inch and larger pots. These faithfully have a long bloom season beforehand: asters, marigolds, petunias, zinnias and other warmth fans.
Pamper roses. To keep blossoms coming well into autumn, cut off cherry blossoms; fertilize and water your roses deeply following each bloom cycle.
Pay special attention to container crops. They seem to dry out instantly as this season. Examine the soil moisture daily. Perhaps you require a drip system with emitters to every plant?
Show us your California backyard! We’d really like to see your photographs in the Comments.