ELLEN’S PICKS: Dramatic and drought-tolerant plants

Ellen Zagory, director of public horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, is always on the lookout for plants that thrive in our region and serve multiple purposes.  The plants featured in this article will all be available at the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum plant sale THIS SATURDAY along with hundreds of other attractive, low-water, easy-care, region-appropriate plants.

“On campus we have fairly heavy soil and water that’s high in bicarbonates and boron, so I always think…if it grows well here, it will do even better elsewhere,” says Zagory.

“In light of limited water supplies and rising water prices we need to think even harder about plants that can survive with low or very low quantities of water, but they can still be pretty,” explains Zagory. ”You’d never know these were drought-tolerant considering the seasonal impact and drama they provide!”


Photo of foothill penstemon, Penstemon 'Margarita BOP'

Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’, foothill penstemon

The amazing Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’, foothill penstemon,  is reaching perfection making mats of  stunning purple and pink at some of the major intersections on campus.  Combined with orange California poppies it’s a real eye catcher!  Thrives on every two weeks water and makes a nice low mat that  will grow especially well on slopes or rocky areas.



Photo of Chilopsis linearis, desert willow

Chilopsis linearis, desert willow (small tree in the middle)

Chilopsis linearis, desert willow, is a small tree with delicate narrow leaves and large beautiful pink or lavender flowers.  Loved by hummingbirds it can be pruned to enhance its picturesque shape while requiring little water once established.





Photo of Solly heterophylla, Australian bluebells

Solly heterophylla, Australian bluebells

Solly heterophylla, Australian bluebells, is an evergreen twining perennial that produces adorable clusters of “bell” flowers commonly blue but sometimes also seen in pink or white varieties.  Extremely tough it grows in sun or shade and can be trained up given support to cover a fence or wall (needs support) or grown as a small shrub.







Photo of Solidago californica 'Cascade Creek', Cascade Creek goldenrod

Solidago californica ‘Cascade Creek’, Cascade Creek goldenrod

Solidago californica ‘Cascade Creek’, Cascade Creek goldenrod is a superior form of this native discovered by master plantsman Roger Raiche.  The flower heads are large and compact and do not flop like other types.  Perfect for habitat gardeners in low and very low water conditions it will attract a variety of creatures like native butterflies and other pollinators to the garden in summer and fall.







Photo of Calamagrostis Karl Foerster

Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster

Calamagrostis  x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’  for ornamental grass enthusiasts this variety is a workhorse in the garden.  A strong vertical element for behind lower growing rounded forms, the large tufts of  green foliage sent up tall spikes of flowers that morph from shimmering masses in spring to stately  six-foot tall golden vertical dried seed heads in fall.







Photo of Iris 'Canyon Snow'

Iris ‘Canyon Snow’ (while flowers in the foreground)

Iris ‘Canyon Snow’ is a hybrid native California iris that puts on an amazing show of large white flowers in April.  Of all the PCH (or Pacific Coast Hybrid) iris that we have tried this one is the most vigorous and adaptable to varying conditions.  It grows in sun or part shade although too much shade will reduce its bloom.  Can be propagated by division when the new roots emerge as temperatures drop at the beginning of autumn.


We hope you find these plant ideas helpful, and look forward to seeing you are our plant sale THIS SATURDAY!

10 reasons to support the Arboretum and Public Garden on May 6th during our area’s one-day challenge to raise funds!


The Sacramento Region Community Foundation, Placer Community Foundation, and Yolo Community Foundation, and regional partners are working with GiveLocalNow.org to  organize the region’s first BIG Day of Giving.  This 24-hour giving challenge, benefiting the non-profit community, will happen May 6th  12:00am midnight to 11:59pm.  The goal is to inspire and unite our community in supporting hundreds of local nonprofits.

10 Reasons to give to the Arboretum on Tuesday, May 6:

  1. You love the Arboretum!
  2. You never have to pay to get in! We’re  community-supported, free, and open 24/7.  This is your chance to say thank you and give back!
  3. Your gift helps us create and sustain our public learning landscapes and amazing free family programs.
  4. The Arboretum inspires people about plants and helps everyone discover the beauty of sustainable gardening.
  5. The University provides critical support but a large portion of our annual funding comes from the community from people just like you.
  6. Your gift will be historic! This is the first regional BIG Day of Giving!
  7. Your gift will inspire and unite our community in supporting hundreds of local nonprofits.
  8. Your donation will be boosted by a pro-rated match. The more contributions we receive, the higher the matching percentage will be.
  9. We will thank you profusely via all of our social media outlets!
  10. The next time you enjoy yourself in the Arboretum a warm feeling of pride will wash over you!

How can I give?  Will my gift be matched?

What else can I do to help?

Please STAY IN TOUCH with us and SHARE this event with your friends through your social media networks!

Care to help in another way? Let us know!

Thank you for your generosity!

The Davis Enterprise: One-day challenge looks to raise funds for area nonprofits


Students offer edibles at public plant sales


Photo of edible landscaping intern Andy Codd tending to the edibles that will be offered for sale at the spring public plant sales.

Andy Codd, one of the Arboretum and Public Garden’s edible landscaping interns, tends to the edibles that will be offered for sale at our spring public plant sales. Please note: This photo was taken weeks ago! The edible starts are much, much larger now and ready to be transplanted into your home gardens! All proceeds go to support the edible landscaping internship program.


Andy Codd (seen above) will be selling his tomato, pepper, and herb starts at the Arboretum’s spring public plant sales. Proceeds of the sales will directly benefit the Edible Landscaping Internship program. Purchases will enable students to buy books, tools, irrigation, and other supplies to help them launch their projects.

Please be sure to come by and support their efforts at our April and May sales!
CASH or CHECKS only accepted at their stand just outside the Arboretum Teaching Nursery.

EDIBLE INVENTORY for April 5 public sale

LEARN MORE about these talented edible landscaping interns below.

Edible Landscaping Interns at the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden

Inspired by student-initiated edible garden projects like the “Salad Bowl Garden” outside the Plant and Environmental Sciences building, the Arboretum and Public Garden launched a new year-long edible landscaping internship—one of the Arboretum and Public Garden’s many “Learning by Leading” opportunities.

This internship seeks to provide students with leadership opportunities that involve developing and maintaining edible landscaping projects throughout campus. The key to the program’s success is empowering student interns with horticultural and leadership skills. Training includes topics such as composting, propagation, planting, transplanting, garden design, permaculture techniques, strategic planning and visioning, budget development and tracking, marketing, and team dynamics. Armed with this unique range of skills, these students are going to be developing edible garden project sites that operate both independently and as part of a larger network of edible gardens throughout campus and as part of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.

In addition to the “Salad Bowl Garden,” project sites include the Domes, the Experimental College’s Community Gardens, the Good Life Garden, the Tri-Coops, and the Student Health & Wellness Center. Andy Codd’s project (see photo above) is devoted solely to propagating the annual vegetable starts and edible perennials that his fellow interns’ plans require.



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