Garden Guy: The Garden Guy Appreciates His Plants for Dry Summer Days

Monday, June 19, 2023

Top the list: the Rock Rose
By Bruce Bennett

Even for a garden designer, there's no such thing as a ‘maintenance-free’ yard and the beginning of the summer season will find this Garden Guy watering his west-facing front yard. 

I enjoy this early morning task because the air is cool, the birds provide a joyful chorus and, even during the later ‘Dog Days of Summer’ I usually only need to irrigate once a month. 

“How’s that possible? you ask. It’s simple; choose the right plants. Look for beauty as well as toughness, drought-tolerance and little-to- no-pruning. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the choice summer candidates that can hold their own and will brighten-up my yard this summer……

On the top of my list this year is the simple rockrose. This particular one, Cistus ‘Mickie, has the added interest of large, white crepe-paper-like flowers in spring. But, it’s the golden variegated foliage that provides the colorful punch throughout the year. Back it with a purple barberry for a great color combination. 

Don’t believe the 2’ x 3’ size noted on the plant tags. Mine have been in for six years and are about 4’ x 5’ and gorgeous for the four seasons of the year. Other great cistus include ‘Purpurea,’ ‘Sunset’, the dwarf Skanbergii and ‘Snow Fire.’

There's a reason you see Barberries in many corporate landscaping vignettes. 

They are extremely low maintenance, yet can still stun with seasonal colors ranging from purple to orange to gold. 

It’s ideal for foundation plantings or hedges. 

Depending on the cultivar, these deciduous plants can grow from one- to seven-feet tall. 

They may need the occasional pruning, but not much. 

My favorites include ‘Rose Glow’ (shown), ‘Crimson Pygmy’ (a dwarf) ‘Orange Rocket’ (columnar), and ‘Sunjoy’ (golden).

Nandina ‘Fire Power.’
For a smaller-than-usual evergreen shrub, I’d vote for Nandina ‘Fire Power.’ 

At about 2’ x 2’, this is among the smallest varieties in this family of shrubs. 

Yes, its common name is ‘Heavenly Bamboo,’ but, it is not a bamboo (the reason it is so heavenly). 

The new bamboo-shaped leaves emerge a nice chartreuse shade and, as the weather cools in autumn, they can turn a full-on fire engine red and remain that way throughout the winter months. 

It’s a great spot of color in the midst of our gray winter blahs.

Fescue 'Elijah Blue'
I particularly like Fescue ‘Elijah Blue.’ 

The color of this perennial tells you right up front that it is accustomed to heat and sunshine. 

Its gray leaves evolved to handle harsh sun. 

Depending on the fescue cultivar, the blades of this grass can range from gray to a powder-blue and you can rely on the color holding throughout the year.

Plant heights can range from 9” to 18” tall, with the seed heads floating at up to three-feet tall. 

Similar favorites include ‘Boulder Blue’ and the larger ‘Blue Oat Grass.’

Coreopsis aka 'Tickseed'
Coreopsis. Also known as ‘Tickseed,’ this native of the Great Plains is a perennial bloomer (although there are some annual varieties) which will provide you with a nice color spot from early summer through autumn. 

In tones like yellow, orange, pink, purple and red, Coreopsis make nice cut flowers that can be enjoyed in home flower arrangements.

It’s an easy grower, tolerates most any soil condition and pollinators love it. 

Favorites include ‘Moonbeam’ (shown), ‘Zagreb’ and ‘Blushing Pink.’

To me, at least, it makes sense that I should treat myself as well as I treat my landscape and that includes simply enjoying the warm, sunny days of summer. 

Garden Guy Bruce Bennett
By doing some initial research prior to purchasing and planting, I can ensure that the right plants have been added to the garden and I’m spending more time enjoying the beauty of the landscape and less time maintaining it. Happy gardening all!

Gardening columnist, Bruce Bennett, is a WSU Master Gardener, lecturer and Seattle-area garden designer. 

If you have questions concerning this article, have a gardening question or two to ask concerning your home landscape or want to suggest a topic for a future column, contact Bruce at


Post a Comment

We encourage the thoughtful sharing of information and ideas. We expect comments to be civil and respectful, with no personal attacks or offensive language. We reserve the right to delete any comment.
Facebook: Shoreline Area News
Twitter: @ShorelineArea
Daily Email edition (don't forget to respond to the email)

  © Blogger template The Professional Template II by 2009

Back to TOP