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Seasonal Color in the Garden
Displaying Color Year-round in the Garden
The ACWD Demonstration Garden was designed as a showplace for color and texture as well as for drought tolerance.

The California native plants in this garden are naturally programmed to bloom soon after the beginning of the California wet season. Since rain usually begins in November or December, native plants will begin blooming in January, and extend through approximately May or June (spring), so that the native plant has enough energy to set seed prior to the most dry months of August, September, and October. Mid to late summer color in this garden is produced by plants which are mostly not native to California, but are drought tolerant in California's climate. 

Fall and winter interest in the garden is created with fruits, decorative grass plumes, dried flower heads and several kinds of berries.

The earliest spring flower in this garden is the white blossom of the California horse chestnut tree, Aesculus californica, sometimes blooming in the rain in January and February. After this comes a riot of spring color, including the blue and whites of the Ceanothus, and the bright splashes of gold, white and red of the poppies. The poppies have naturalized in the Dry Creek, and move around a little each spring, adding further interest to the garden. The trees of the garden provide additional spring color, including the pink flower of the native redbud tree, Cercis occidentalis.

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In June, July, August, and September, much of the garden color is produced by Mediterranean and Australian species, whose natural cycles are slightly different from the California native plant cycles. Examples of this are the spectacular purple spikes of the pride of Madeira, Echium fastnosum, the robust blue and white globes of the Agapanthus, and Mexican evening primrose, Oenothera berlandieri.

Two late summer bloomers of special interest in this garden are Zauschneria californica, which boasts a small orange trumpet-like flower, and Salvia ulignosa, a tall sage with light blue flowers. This 5 foot tall plant, perfect for a back corner, attracts hummingbirds.

Of special interest are those hearty plants which are drought tolerant and bloom over an extended period of time. Two examples in the garden are sea lavender, Limonium perezii, and catmint, Nepeta faassenii. Sea lavender blooms for 8 to 9 months of the year and the blossoms maintain their purple hue even when older flowers dry on the stalk. Catmint has an initial mound of light blue blossoms in June, then reblooms into October, especially if the plant has been trimmed back.

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Fall color in the garden can be found in the leaves of both trees and shrubs. The Chinese pistache tree, Pistacia chinensis, boasts spectacular orange-red leaves in the impressive, in fact, that no other tree in California can match it.

The garden contains two varieties of dwarf heavenly bamboo, which also have a good fall color. Nandina domestica, variety harbour dwarf, has reddish leaves in the late fall and winter, while variety Nana compacta has leaves which turn a deeper purple. These dwarf bamboos maintain full color all winter, until new spring growth comes in.

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Winter interest in the garden is designed to be a combination of seed pods, berries, dry twigs and plant textures. The ornamental grasses of the garden offer seed plumes which last through the winter months, and blow gracefully in the wind. Cotoneaster damerii, variety coral beauty, provides bright red berries in the winter months. The branches of Howard McMinn manzanita, Arctostaphylos densiflora, are burgundy colored and sculptured, and are particularly noticeable in the winter months.

Additionally, the prostrate juniper, Juniperus horizontalis, emerald spreader, and prostrate acacia, Acacia redolens, both drought tolerant spreading ground covers, give the garden lush cushions of green in the winter months when many of the perennials are dormant and leafless. Although these plants are non-blooming, or have very small, insignificant blooms, they become winter highlights when the garden might otherwise appear drab.

In summary, this garden, although very drought tolerant, has sequential color, with flowers blooming and/or leaf color interest for almost twelve months of the year. Color can be found in the flowers or leaves of bulbs, perennial plants, herbs, shrubs, vines and trees.

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