I first posted this article at Helium several years before Glory's Garden was an idea in my head. As it fit with our discussion on zeriscape landscaping, I thought I'd post it here.
The lament of the grass always being greener on the other side is never more applicable than to the gardener who has to prove they possess a green thumb in the arid climate. In dry regions of the globe where water not only doesn’t fall in sufficient quantities from the heavens but is also strictly rationed, gardeners have it pretty tough. These parched folks with their equally parched landscapes need to find plants which can make it without much water.
There are, thankfully, loads of trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials to serve this purpose. But isn’t there something else that can be done, something that can improve this arid condition? Where the soil is baked by the hot sun, dry from no rain and possibly of a sandy, gritty consistency it would be prudent for the gardener to shade the soil to preserve as much moisture as possible with it.
The obvious answer for doing this is the ground cover. Ground covers shade the soil disallowing moisture to evaporate as rapidly. But what are there best ground covers for dry climates? Let us look into that.
Ice Plant ( Delosperma)
This perennial succulent comes in two cultivars. The taller of the two is the 5 inch tall Delosperma Cooperi which is hardy to USDA Zone 7. One plant covers 2 feet square and boasts bright purple flowers throughout summer. Delosperma Nubigenum is considerably hardier to Zone 5 with brilliant yellow, 1 inch blossoms. This one only reaches one inch off the ground but spreading to 3 feet. Both like full sun and good drainage and look wonderful in rockeries or cascading out of hanging baskets and over garden walls.
Queen’s Wreath (Antigonon Leptopus)
Hardy to zone 9, this fast growing deciduous vine works just as well as a ground cover and in warm areas is evergreen. It can grow to 40 feet long with 3-5 inch long, deep green, arrowhead shaped leaves with small sprays of rosy pink flowers about an inch and a half long. Very pretty and airy. Perfect for providing shade under a trellis or to cover a vast amount of ground.
Dwarf Plumbago (Plumbago Larpentae)
Growing 6-12 inches tall this perennial with bronzy-green foliage and tons of tiny half-inch wide,
deep blue flowers spreads quickly in sun or part shade.
Blue Festuca (Festuca Ovina Gluaca).
Tough, quick to spread, tufty powder blue grasslike plants standing 6-10 inches high look like spiky balls in the garden. Loves hot sun, sandy soil and takes sea breezes like a champ. Deer hate them and drought doesn’t bother them a bit. Very unique.
Mediterranean Pinks (Saponaria Ocymoides)
This creeping 6 inches high beauty looks lovely cascading over a rock wall with its hundreds of tiny pink blossoms and semi-evergreen foliage. Vigorous grower, hardy to Zone 4 and drought tolerant. What more do you want? Oh, yes, deer resistant too.
Dwarf Rosemary ( Rosmarinus Prostratus)
Though Rosemary is usually seen growing upright this cultivar creeps along the ground covering an extraordinary 4-8 feet and getting up to 2 feet tall. Dark green foliage makes a great backdrop to the tiny lavender blue flowers that cover it in midsummer. Likes full sun, warm temps and well draining, alkaline soil.
Yellow Stonecrop “Ellacomeanum” (Sedum Kamtschaticum)
2-4 inches high perennial ground cover forms dense mat of bright green fleshy leaves. Come summer yellow star shaped flowers cover the whole thing. Spreads quickly even in poor soil and defies drought.
Dead Nettle (Lamium Maculatum)
One of the only ground covers to do well in dry shade. Grows 4-8 inches tall and forms dense mats with silvery green leaves and purple flowers come midsummer.
These ground covers will liven up the landscape of the driest regions. Now you have a few good choices for that dry garden of yours. Whichever you choose there will be no need for envy since you’ll soon realize you are the one on the other side of the fence with the greener grass. Or is that a greener garden? ;-)