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By Marianne Taylor 

The latest summer heat wave has not only wore me out, it’s clearly worn out my numerous perennials and succulents throughout my entire garden and has left behind singed leaf litter in its wake.

As I assess my plant damage this week, I realize I have helpful options to cure the various bald spots throughout my garden. I also have the opportunity to prepare for the rest of the summer and fall as well as any more heat waves we may have in the coming months.

There can be a huge cost to do a major garden fix, especially if the latest heat wave has destroyed your annuals, perennials, shrubs, container plants and vegetable gardens as it did to my garden. You may have entertaining plans for this summer and now have to add new plants to your “to do” list.

I was inspired to write this article because I’m navigating what I have to do myself. I’m on a deadline to spruce up my gardens before I host a party for the local garden club this September.

The good news is I know the costs I will incur in the next few weeks will not be wasted and will benefit and add to my overall natural garden while increasing pollinators habitats and preserving water in the future.

Don’t fret. I have some solutions to share whether your garden is large like mine or you have a small patio garden.

My good friend Mike Evans, co-owner of Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano, has shared with me many plants that can be planted now in the heat and give you summer and fall bloom.

Tree of Life Nursery carries a vast array of California native plants as well as natives from the low elevation of the Sonoran Deserts of Baja California, Arizona and Northern Mexico. These regional natives truly adapt to extreme heat beautifully and sync with our landscapes. They support the delicate ecosystem while collaborating with beneficial insects.

Mike said Sonoran Desert plants thrive in those regions because of an interesting climatic phenomenon known as “bimodal rainy season.” Unlike our plants on the cool continental coast, he said, Sonoran plants get their rain in both winter and summer. They will bloom accordingly.

“The gentle winter rains cross over from the Pacific; we know all about those,” Mike said. “But those unique summer rains march in from the direction of the tropics, often in the form of violent thunderstorms. The vegetation responds in kind with an intense show, the desert bloom.”

In addition, Mike offers hope in the garden.

“This bit of plant ecology works in the favor of the California gardeners who don’t mind providing a little summer irrigation to their southwestern gardens. The plants reply with colorful blooms during the hot months, thus providing an extended welcome to butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators,” he said. “When used in and among California natives, southwest plants will brighten any garden with beautiful color spring through summer and well into fall.”

Well-drained soil will also improve the vitality of these plants. For more information visit Check out their list of free upcoming weekend classes and workshops.

Here is a list of 10 colorful California native or desert plants that are available now at the nursery to install:

  • Artemisia tridentata  (Great Basin Sagebrush)
  • Calliandra californica (Baja Fairy Duster)
  • Calylophus hartwegii  (Sundrops)
  • Chilopsis linearis (Desert Willow)
  • Gambelia Gran Canon  (Baja Snapdragon)
  • Sphaeralcea ambigua (Apricot Mallow)
  • Sphaeralcea ‘La Luna’  (La Luna desert mallow)
  • Solanum hindsianum (Mariola)
  • Tecoma stans (Yellow Bells)
  • Verbena lilacina (Lilac verbena)

Another option instead of adding plants to the scorched garden areas is adding a 3-inch layer of wood chip or mulch throughout your garden.

Mulch or wood chip will freshen up the gardens and creates a tidy curbside effect while protecting plants from constant summer and fall heat.

The 3-inch layer will absorb the moisture from watering, replenishing the plant with hydration. Using either product will last a minimum of two years or more in the garden, saving you money in the long run.

For smaller patio homes, refresh areas along the sidewalk or curb with a drought tolerant ground cover. Although not a native plant, I prefer to work with sedum ground covers for smaller spaces. Check with Plant Depot of San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point Nursery, Shore Nursery of San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano’s Armstrong Gardens for their selections of colorful summer ground covers and sedums.

This is a great time to take advantage of any of these nurseries’ summer sales for fall colorful annuals and perennials for your containers.

It’s possible to have instant curbside appeal for any size garden. Visit a local nursery this weekend and see what you discover. Be sure to garden responsibly. Wear a hat, sunscreen and hydrate often.






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