I have a wonderful treat for you! This week’s blog post is from Dr. Jacqueline Soule.
Chances are that her name sounds familiar and that is because she is a noted plant expert and well-known author of several books on desert gardening.
Jacqueline grew up in Tucson and currently resides there where she enjoys growing low-maintenance plants that add beauty, which thrive in the desert.
I am fortunate to call Jacqueline my friend and we are both part of SWGardening.com I am excited to share with you her post on Germander.
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by Jacqueline A. Soule, Ph.D.
Special for AZ Plant Lady, 03 2020
Germander is a gorgeously green low-water ground cover that grows well in Arizona, is great for pollinators, and happens to be usable as a culinary herb.
Greeting from another desert garden this week – that of garden writer Jacqueline Soule, who lives in Tucson (Gardening With Soule – in the Land of El Sol). Noelle has graciously shared her space this week to allow me to introduce you to one herb for your landscaping.
Germander Has a Long History
This handsome herb was brought to the mission gardens of Arizona in 1698 by Father Kino. Germanders are native to the rocky hillsides of Greece and Turkey, where they get rain only in the winter. This means they tolerate dry and hot conditions well!
Which One to Use?
There are around 100 species of germander! The one most commonly used in landscaping is the wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys). This species has tiny, bright green, rounded leaves. The creeping germander is the same species, but has been selected over time to be a low ground cover (Teucrium chamaedrys var. prostratum). Both of these are available at many local nurseries (but not big box stores).
For landscaping, germander offers a gorgeous bright, forest-green. I confess, I prefer this color in general over the blue-green of rosemary. Even in poor soil and with little water, germander grows to form a dark green carpet, about 2 feet around per plant, the creeping germander a bare 4 to 6 inches tall.
Germaders grow well in alkaline (unamended) desert soil, in full sun to part shade situations. Reflected summer light is tad too much for them, so not under picture windows.
Both germander and rosemary have many oil glands in their leaves and are fragrant plants. But then there are the flowers! Germander flowers are far more fragrant than rosemary. Germander blooms are almost honey-scented, like sweet alyssum. Like rosemary, germander are bee pollinated, by both European honey bees and by our native Arizona solitary bees, with occasional butterfly visitors.
Use In Your Landscape
Both rosemary and germander can be used in roasting potatoes or to add flavor to meat dishes. I use either herb to scrub down the grill prior to cooking – depends on which needs pruning. In ancient Greece, hunters would field dress their meat with germander, often found growing wild in the hills. (It may have anti-microbial properties.) Germander abounds on Greek hillsides because the strong oils render it unpalatable to wildlife. I won’t promise it is rabbit proof, but those “wascally wabbits” don’t bother mine.
Herbs that can be used to create a beautiful, low-water-using, edible, Southwest landscape are numerous. Learn more in this webinar offered March 25, 2020 by the Herb Society of America – only $5 and you don’t have to drive anywhere! Or in April, drive to Carefree, where Jacqueline will speak about “Gardening for Fragrance” on April 18 2020.
Want to learn more from Jacqueline? Check out two of her most popular books – Arizona, Nevada & New Mexico Month-by-Month Gardening and Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening.
Did you know that you can have plants blooming in your landscape every month of the year? In the desert garden, this is definitely true!
One of the most popular programs that I teach at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is ‘Flowering All Year’. During the presentation, I teach students how to incorporate plants in their gardens so they can enjoy colorful blooms all year long.
Sadly, many desert dwellers miss this opportunity. Drive down a typical neighborhood street in winter, and you will have a hard time finding plants in bloom except for colorful annual flowers. As you’ll note, the focus in our gardens is typically on plants that flower through the warm season.
So, how can we change that? It’s quite simple – add plants that will flower in winter. Believe it or not, there are quite a few plants that fit the bill.
I invite you to come along with me on a virtual tour of the plants I showed to the students in the class as we walked through the garden in mid-February.
*Before we embark on our walk, I have a confession to make. Usually, I arrive early before my classes to see what’s in bloom so I can plan our route. But, my daughter’s bus arrived late that morning, so I was running a bit late. As a result, I didn’t know what we would see. Thankfully, there was plenty to see.
Plants for Cool-Season Color:
The vibrant, blooms of Purple Lilac Vine never disappoint. Blooms appear in mid-winter, adding a welcome relief to colorless winter landscapes. Here it is planted in a tall raised bed and allowed to trail downward. In my garden, it grows up against a wall with a trellis for support.
Several perennials and small shrubs do best in the desert garden when planted in filtered sunlight. Desert trees like Ironwood, Mesquite, and Palo Verde are excellent choices for producing filtered sunlight. Mexican Honeysuckle doesn’t do well in full sun. As a result, it thrives under the shade of this Ironwood tree. I love the texture contrast in this bed next to the Whale’s Tongue Agave.
Desert Marigold is a short-lived perennial that resembles a wildflower. Yellow flowers appear throughout the year on this short-lived perennial. I like to use them in wildflower gardens or natural desert landscapes because this yellow bloomer will self-seed.
Shrubs, vines, and perennials aren’t the only plants that add winter color in the landscape. Colorful stems of the succulent Firesticks add a splash of orange all year. I am a fan of the use of blue pots in the garden, and here, it adds a powerful color contrast with the orange.
Lush green foliage decorated with orange/red blooms is on display all year long with this Australian native. Several types of Eremophilas add cool-season color to the landscape, and this one deserves more attention. There must be a blank space in my garden for one…
Blue Bells is arguably one of my most favorite plants. It resembles a compact Texas Sage (Leucophyllum spp.) but doesn’t grow as large AND blooms throughout the year. For best results, plant in full sun, but well-drained soil is a must.
My favorite choice for winter color is Valentine Bush. Red/fuschia blooms begin to appear in January and last into April. For maximum color impact, use them in groups of 3 – 5. They are low maintenance – prune back to 1/2 their size in mid-April after flowering. No other pruning is required.
Winter into spring is a busy time for Aloes, and many species do well in the desert garden. Most require filtered sunlight to do their best, but ‘Blue Elf’ Aloe does well in both full sun and bright shade.
People from colder climates are often surprised to note that rosemary flowers. In the desert, we are fortunate that we get to enjoy their blue flowers from winter through spring – the bees like them too!
Toward the entrance to the garden, I was delighted to see Shrubby Germander. A star in my own garden, this shrub has flowered all winter long and will continue to do so into spring. The blooms are a lovely periwinkle color.
As our walk was wrapping up, the bright red blooms of a Chuparosa shrub caught our eye. A hummingbird was busily drinking as much nectar as he could. I like to use this shrub in landscapes with a natural theme as it has a sprawling growth habit. It flowers through winter into spring and an important nectar source for hummingbirds.
Of course, blooming plants aren’t the only way to add color to the garden. Garden art can play a vital part in adding interest. The Desert Botanical Garden is host to a traveling art exhibit with various animals made from recycled plastic. This group of meerkats greets visitors to the garden.
I hope that you enjoy this virtual tour of winter color in the garden and will add some to your own.
What plants do you have that flower in winter?