Steele: Plants for an easy-care, sunny, water-wise garden

For the next few weeks I am going to write about my favourite water-wise plant combinations suitable for specific growing conditions.

Cushion spurge adds vivid

Today’s collection is for full sun. Once plants are established (one to two years) they will require a deep watering once or twice during a long, dry summer. If the soil is fast-draining and sandy, they may need a bit more. All are easy to grow, and easy to divide, making it inexpensive to expand gardens after the first year or two.

With the addition of spring bulbs (purchased and planted in fall), this collection will provide colour from spring to frost.

Euphorbia polychroma (cushion spurge) is a vivid, deep yellow mound lasting about a month from mid April.

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (catmint) grows eighteen inches high and two feet wide. Spikes of blue flowers last from May to July and then repeat at the end of summer. For a tidier look, early bloom may be cut back once finished,.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ (yarrow) has attractive, silvery foliage and a soft yellow bloom in May and June. If dead-headed, it will bloom again late summer.To dead-head a perennial, cut the finished flower stem down to the next flower bud or into the lower mass of foliage so it hides the cut stem.

Salvia ‘Caradonna’ has spikes of deep blue flowers on purple stems making it an attractive contrast with the yarrow. It blooms at a similar time and will repeat if dead-headed. It also looks good planted with Coreopsis ‘Golden Gain’ or Coreopsis Zagreb’. They are covered in deep yellow blooms from June to late September. Their feathery bright green foliage adds interesting contrast to the garden before it begins flowering.

Gaillardia ‘Burgundy’ (blanket flower) adds a splash of deep red emphasising the blues and yellows of the other plants. It blooms from June to frost if dead-headed periodically.

With the exception of Coreopsis, all the above perennials are good cut flowers.

Blue Oat grass adds a foliage contrast and silvery-blue colour which persists through winter.

It is especially nice to pair the grass with Sedum Autumn Joy, which looks like an eighteen inch, round, bluish-green, succulent shrub until it bursts into deep pink bloom in August. Blooms age to red then rust by October.

Although the tops are killed by frost, the sedum, and yarrow provide interesting winter effects.

This collection feeds many different pollinators and butterflies throughout the season.

Full details and photos of these plants, and many more, can be found at Check for the full Latin name to ensure you are buying the plants recommended.

To learn more, consider taking my ‘Introduction to Xeriscape’ class. Details are on the website.OXA’s Xeriscape Plant Sale is on May 2 in the unH2O Xeriscape Garden. We are in need of plastic venetian blinds to cut up for plant labels. If you have some to donate please call 250-762-6018 or contact me through the website email.