We are blessed, those of us who call Southern California home. If you, like many Angelenos, have come from somewhere else, you can be especially appreciative of what you’re now missing: enduring cold, high humidity, torrential rains, and sundry other lifestyle-cramping weather events. Here in the land of eternal spring we enjoy a climate so temperate and an insect fauna so innocuous that we may luxuriate in a life of al fresco all year long. Whether it’s cocktails and canapés on the veranda in mid-November or barbecue and beer on the deck in late February: Sí se puede.
The scientific explanation for this is the Pacific Ocean, our terrain, and a phenomenon called the Eastern Pacific High––a force that begins far offshore and is hundreds of miles across. It is this Eastern Pacific High that keeps us cool while the rest of the country swelters in heat or freezes in cold. It’s also a zone free of extreme events like summer hailstones, winter sleet, seasons of hurricanes and tornados, and myriad other unpleasantnesses.
Still, as grand as our geography and climes are, things ain’t what they used to be. There is a downside. Short of some unforeseen miracle, from now on it will be a fact of life that our water consumption will be forever regulated.
Still, even though the era of sprawling lawns, tropical gardens, and everblooming flora may be behind us, that doesn’t mean we need return to the land’s erstwhile native chaparral either. A mixture of drought tolerant plants, including California natives, can create remarkably beautiful and lush results.
One possibility is the meadow: garden designs that utilize ornamental grasses, a wide variety of salvias, sedums, penstemons, agastaches, ceonothuses, among others. These plants can be as colorful as their thirstier cousins and stunning in their floral diversity.
In addition, California native plants help support local ecology as well as birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects. Natives also tend to be low maintenance, requiring less fertilizer, pruning, and pesticides. If the natives don’t suit your landscape concept there are also many other low-water plants available in the Mediterranean palette.
Other alternatives to consider are plants in the agave, aloe, yucca, succulent, and even cactus families.
These plants also tend to be hardy and do well in a variety of soils as long as it drains well. As seen above, succulents can come in a wide variety of colors and many produce flowers through part of the year, usually winter.
Companion plants with succulents should be low water perennials and annuals. Agaves can make great focal points. Also dramatic can be large aloe, euphorbia, and columnar cactus.
Still, even as life becomes drier, we are immensely blessed. There is no better place to live.