Wednesday, November 11, 2015

UC Davis parking lot plantings done right

On Sunday I took advantage of a break in the rain (“showers” would be more correct) to check out the fall color at the UC Davis Arboretum. That particular mission wasn’t particularly successful (we’re still a few weeks away from the ginkgos turning their brilliant yellow), but in one of those moments where you glimpse something interesting in your rear-view mirror, I ended up in the new parking lot for Putah Creek Lodge. This area didn’t exist two years ago. Now it’s a fairly large lot that serves both Putah Creek Lodge and the UC Davis Teaching Nursery where the UC Davis Arboretum plant sales are held.

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Blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) and California fuchsia (Epilobium canum)

My initial reaction was one of cursory interest; the yellows and reds I saw from the car were from the ornamental grasses and California fuchsias. But after I got out and walked around, I became more and more excited. This was no cookie-cutter public landscaping. It actually had a purpose behind it, a plan, a concept. All of the plants were either native to California or climate-appropriate, i.e. native to a region similar to ours. I find it tremendously exciting when a large organization like UC Davis puts its money where its mouth is.

While I didn’t recognize some plants in the Putah Creek parking lot, most of them are on the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars list, “100 tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum, are easy to grow, don’t need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden.”

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California fuchsia (Epilobium canum)

Bear in mind that these plantings are young and need time to fill in. But there’s tremendous potential here, and I look forward to seeing what this area will look like in a year, or two.

While I wish that they used more succulents in this planting scheme, I cannot help but applaud them for their choices: all appropriate for our climate, all water-wise, and most of them attractive,

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Pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia)

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California fuchsia (Epilobium canum)

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Click the photo above to read more about this project

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Pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia) and California fuchsia (Epilobium canum)

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Blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) and blanket flower (Gaillardia sp.)

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Blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) and germander sage (Salvia chamaedryoides)

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Dew drop (Calylophus berlandieri)

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Gaura lindheimeri and Epilobium canum

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Epilobium canum and Calylophus berlandieri

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Calylophus berlandieri and Salvia chamaedryoides

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Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)

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Blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis)

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Bouteloua gracilis and Gaura lindheimeri

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Agave americana ssp. protoamericana ‘Lemon Lime’ and Gaura lindheimeri

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Agave americana ssp. protoamericana ‘Lemon Lime’ and Bouteloua gracilis

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Bouteloua gracilis

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Stipa gigantea

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Red buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens), a Southern California native

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Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo)

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Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) behind pine muhly (Muhlenbergia dubia)

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Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) and valley oak (Quercus lobatus)

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Valley oak (Quercus lobatus)

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Snowy River Wattle (Acacia boormanii)

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Sign about the imporance of bioswales

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Example of a bioswale

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Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn

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This lone Agave americana looks completely lost. While it will form a clump over time, I still question the decision to plant it here. There are many more agave species and cultivars that are far more garden-worthy than Agave americana. It’s apparent that whoever created the planting scheme for this area knew a lot about climate-appropriate perennials but chose not to pay more attention to succulents. That, in my opinion, is a gross oversight since many succulents thrive in our climate.

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Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

14 comments:

  1. I agree - they did a great job. And your post is a good reminder for me to go back and take another look at UC Davis's all-star list. I love the Bouteloua gracilis and may try it even though Sunset puts me outside its range.

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    1. I think Bouteloua gracilis would grow just fine where you are!

      I will definitely get a few for our front-lawn conversion. I was looking at Stipa ichu and Poa cita but they both get too tall. Bouteloua gracilis would be perfect.

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  2. Really nice, even though they're light on succulents. I'm looking forward to seeing how it matures, and I'm sure you'll keep us posted. :)

    That grass in the last image looks more like little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium to me.

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    1. The UC Davis Arboretum plant sales are light on succulents, too. And yet, they had Agave attenuata at their last sale - a species that gets damaged at 32°F and is completely unsuited for our climate. Go figure!

      Schizachyrium scoparium, yes, that's it! Thank you for the ID.

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  3. Agave americana ssp. protoamericana ‘Lemon Lime’...so sexy!

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    1. I had a 'Lemon Lime'. Can't remember what happened to it. Maybe it's still on the rack in the backyard, LOL. I'd be happy to send it your way!

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    2. Well when you're coming this way in the spring if you still feel that way please do!

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  4. Replies
    1. It made me happy to see that, for once, a great deal of creativity was expended on a public project. I wish other public entities would do the same.

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  5. Loved how they used that tawny Salvia greggii with the golden grasses instead of a bright red or purple one in the photo with the bike rack. Nothing interrupts that wash of gold/peach/salmon color. Really beautiful.

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    1. Yes! It's a yellow-flowering Salvia greggii cultivar.There are several now.

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  6. Nice, sort of. Having seen now how fast the grasses grew and filled in at the Huntington's new entrance garden--grasses make a big impact fast. The Agave americana--maybe they just didn't have any non-weedy ones available? The Gaura and Epilobium have many virtues but they look awful after a while. Much will depend on proper maintenance--hopefully nothing gets buzzed into cubes. Hooray for the Valley Oaks. How magnificent they could be, eventually.

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    1. Since students were involved in this project, I'm hoping that the upkeep of this area is part of the curriculum in some department (horticulture? landscape design?).

      There are many valley oaks on campus already (obviously predating the university), and I'm glad they're adding more. I was also excited to see several acacias.

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  7. Well done, UC Davis! I agree, great potential. Love the oaks, and I'm on a deer grass kick right now -- love it, wish I could grow it here, but I'm afraid I don't have the space. (Same reason I passed on a little A. ovatifolia 'Vanzie' at the nursery yesterday, and now I'm having serious second thoughts...)

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