A few months ago I was invited down the office of the Metropolitan Water District to meet a number of people involved in their BeWaterWise.com project to help reduce water usage in California. As part of their efforts, they focus on providing plant alternatives to water hungry lawns. Over the next several weeks, I will be highlighting some of their garden alternatives as part of this series. For more information on these plants and other water conservation ideas and programs, vist BeWaterWise.com. Follow the MWD on Twitter at BeWaterWiseH2O — Douglas
This native Californian has blue-gray leaves, which offset clusters of pink to white urn-shaped flowers. The flowers bloom in late winter to early spring and are followed by berrylike red or brown fruits that attract birds. Known for its crooked branches of dark purple/brown bark, this variety is a tall shrub that can spread up to 15 feet tall and 20 feet wide. There are many different varieties of manzanita; all are evergreen, take full sun or light shade and require little to moderate water. — BeWaterWise.com
Arctostaphylos glauca is a large shrub varying in size from one to well over six meters in height. Individuals growing in desert regions tend to be shorter than those on the coast. Leaves are light gray-green, somewhat waxy, oval in shape to nearly round, and smooth or toothed along the edges. They are up to five centimeters long and four wide and grow on short petioles about a centimeter long.
The inflorescence holds hanging clusters of narrow urn-shaped white flowers. The edible fruit is a round or egg-shaped drupe 12 to 15 millimeters wide. It is light red in color and has a thick pulp covered in a tough, sticky coat. The fruit contains three to six nutlets fused into a single mass. The shrub reproduces by seed and by layering. Seeds require exposure to fire before they can germinate.
It is a long-lived species, reaching 100 years of age or more, though it does not begin to fruit until it is around 20 years old. The shrub is allelopathic, inhibiting the growth of other plants in its understory when rain leaches toxic arbutin and phenolic acids from its foliage.– Wikipedia
More information on Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana) :
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Another in what I classify as the “alien” plants that grow here in Southern California. They do look so other-worldly, exotic and fascinating. We see a lot of strelitzia in the landscapes here in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, including a “giant” form that grows to the size of a tree.
The species S. nicolai is the largest in the genus, reaching 10 m tall, with stately white and blue flowers; the other species typically reach 2 to 3.5 m tall, except S. caudata which is a tree of a typically smaller size than S. nicolai. The leaves are large, 30–200 cm long and 10–80 cm broad, similar to a banana leaf in appearance but with a longer petiole, and arranged strictly in two ranks to form a fan-like crown of evergreen foliage. The flowers are produced in a horizontal inflorescence emerging from a stout spathe. They are pollinated by sunbirds, which use the spathe as a perch when visiting the flowers. The weight of the bird when standing on the spathe opens it to release the pollen onto the bird’s feet, which is then deposited on the next flower it visits. – Wikipedia
More information on Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia):