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Anonymous 07-08-2001 09:01 AM

summer dormancy
I have recently taken over the large native plant garden project at the school where I teach in Santa Monica. Right now most of the plants are dry and brown after a green spring. Do I need to tend to the garden at all during the summer, other than weeding? Or is this the sign of a dormant garden that should be left alone until we seed before Fall rains?</p>

Anonymous 07-10-2001 01:38 PM

Re: summer dormancy
Laurel -

Congratulations on you new role as native plant gardener!

Other than weedeing and collecting seed, the thing to do in a summer dormant, SoCal native garden is prune, where needed.

Some plants can use some gentle shaping, some do better if pruned a bit more severely. Shrubby monkey flowers can stand some fairly heavy pruning at this time of year, for example. Other shrubs, like most Ceanothus, do best with very light pruning of smaller branches. Manzanitas, too, must be pruned with great care.

The shrubby Salvias can take some pruning, with S. leucophylla being able to tolerate heavy pruning into hardwood should that be needed, for some reason. Lupinus albifrons, the silver bush lupine, can be pruned quite a bit, and so can bush poppy, Dendromecon. The most dramatic pruning story of my experience was a senescent, wretched looking chaparral currant, Ribes malvaceum. We figured HARD pruning would either kill it or rejuvenate it. Well, the thing grew all these new branches and looked like a lovely young shrub the following spring.

After all, chaparral plants are fire-dependent, and pruning is a substitute for fire though sometimes a poor one. Toyons will come back from heavy pruning with healthy disease-free leaves, since fire, in the wild, is what helps keep diseases down.

Both shrubs and herbaceous plants like hummingbird sage can leave lots of dead, brown leaves on the ground. In the wild, these provide valuable mulch - the summer-deciduous plants provide their own mulch to protect their roots from the heat and drying effects of the summer sun.

In a garden, though, you need to be aware of any disease problems that might have been present, as fungal diseases can live over in leaf litter. Remove the leaves if you suspect diseases could be lurking there.

Good luck,


Anonymous 07-12-2001 07:17 AM

Re: summer dormancy
It would really help if you had a list of what plants had been planted, and which are which.

Some plants go very obviously summer dormant, like Ribes particularly Fuchia-flowering Gooseberry, while others - Salvias, Manzanita, etc - shouldn't be dead looking at any time.

Most well-established natives should survive the summer with no water, though many will do better with a watering once a month during the summer. The key is knowing what you have Ceanothus and Fremontodendron should get no water if they are estalished for instance. 'Established' is the operative word though. Depending on their growth rate and how long it takes to get their roots down where it's more moist and cool, may take two summers but at least the first summer.

And if anyone planted new plants this spring, and then stopped watering them this summer, that brown color may be a bad sign. If they were planted last fall, they may be hanging in there

Can someone who helped plant the garden make you a list?


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