Now is the time to get ready for spring planting in the Santa Ynez Valley. Mid-March to Mid-April is the best time to plant natives and other Mediterranean species. We do stand by the old valley adage for vegetables, “Pay your taxes, plant your garden.”
LAWN LIKE ALTERNATIVES
Agrostis palens/ San Diego Bent Grass. This was thought to be the best substitute a few years ago. Unfortunately, it does poorly in hot, dry areas, especially slopes. However, it does fare well in shade. It looks best with mowing once a month.
Buchloe datyloides/Buffalo Grass UC Verde. This variety of Buffalo Grass has gained popularity because it will remain green throughout the winter in warmer climates [unlike the straight species which turns brown in colder weather]. With the exception of the hilltops of the eastern end of the valley, our winter weather is too cold for this grass to remain evergreen. However, it is tough and probably the most truly drought tolerant variety.
Carex varieties. Carex is actually a sedge not a grass but can behave as a meadow or lawn. Difficult to establish from seed but can be planted from plugs. One of the best for the valley.
Water Management. It is just as easy to overwater Achillea as it is to drown fescue!
Other Lawn Like Alternative Resources
Joan Bolton – Wordpress: A New Lawn Alternative
Las Pilitas Nursery (Shade groundcovers and lawn substitutes)
COLD HARDY SUCCULENTS
It is somewhat challenging to find succulents that can withstand the temperature swings of the Santa Ynez Valley. The following have done well but there are so many introductions don’t forget to check into local nurseries.
If You Have Room
Agave americana/Century Plant; there are some good variegated ones as well
Agave weberi; a good valley substitute for the form of Agave attentuata
For Special Accents and Growing in Pots
Agave ‘Blue Flame’ and ‘Blue Glow;’ should do well except in the coldest canyons
Agave parryi; sharp tips but beautiful form
Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’
Sedum seboldii ‘October Daphne’
Most sedums are fairly frost proof; stay away from senecios
Classic Hens and Chick Forms
Echeveria varieties; too many to name but fairly frost tolerant
Sempervivum arachnoideum and most varieties are extremely cold tolerant
PLANTS THAT WORK WELL WITH SUCCULENTS
Aloe ‘Blue Elf;’ a small scale succulent that works well in massing and blooms in late winter or early spring
Dasyrilion longissimum; a great accent plant that is ‘user friendly’ – it does need lots of room.
Dasyrilion wheeleri; a good accent for ‘blue’ dry gardens. A good transition plant with grasses.
Dyckia and Puya; ‘otherworldly’ and lots of fun. Some people think they are a bit scary but unusual leaf color and bloom. For the adventuresome only!
Furcraea; a large accent for bold gardens.
Hesperaloe; a good accent with beautiful blooms for very dry gardens