Need Suggestions for Rocky Area

Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9bApril 5, 2013

I may try this in the Landscape forum, but this is in Southern California, and some there just don't know what we face.

We purchased this neglected, rocky hillside property (1.4 acres) in late January. This section is at the end of the driveway and faces East.

Obviously we need to clean up the crumbling granite, paint the wrought iron, and find something beautiful to replace the weeds.

What are these weeds? I can "round them up," but what should I replace them with? Irrigation and voles and gophers are plentiful! This area seems like we probably couldn't put a gopher basket in because things are growing out of cracks in rocks!!

On the top of this area is a small concrete patio, and we removed a large Liquid Amber and are fighting suckers coming from it's roots on a daily basis, but we'll win. In it's place will go a fig tree in a large gopher basket for protection until it settles in.

Your suggestions will be welcome!!


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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

Wow, that's going to be a challenge for you! But congrats, you have a native/xeric gardener's paradise there. I would plant native Penstemons in that area (P. eatonii, P. pinnifolius, P. heterophyllus), Agastaches (A. rupestris, A. aurantiaca), and Salvias (S. Gregii, S. pachyphylla, S. apiana.) It would plant those in massed groupings, and plant clumping grasses such as deer grass throughout. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 1:57PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Thanks for all those great suggestions!

I looked them all up in my Sunset Western Garden book, and now my first big job is to figure out where to buy them.

The second big job is to figure out how to jam them into the cracks in the rocks!


    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 2:45PM
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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

You could probably find those pretty easily at different nurseries here in California. There are many nurseries in Southern California that carry native plants.

Also an online source that I have found is high country gardens. They sell online and ship your plants at a reasonable price. However, I always find shopping online to be more expensive than buying plants locally. Best of luck!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 2:59PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23


Don't know where you are but watch out for rattlers. They love the rocks/gophers combination.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 1:38AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Agaves? I don't like the look of the Agave! Grew one for years, so I could harvest the agave nectar, but the thing never bloomed. It got so big, we ripped it out along with it's 5 pups!

I think I'm not a cactus person.

So CA native, fully aware of rattlers! Saw a gopher snake the other day, and told him to go get some gophers! We do have king snakes too, and they love to eat those rattlers.

Gopher snakes have the same coloring as rattlers, sans the diamond head and rattles, but many are killed mistakenly. Sad. They are really good guys!


    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 11:21AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

There are some 200 different species of Agaves, plus hybrids. Some are only a few inches across at maturity. You may have had A. americana, which is a nasty thug. Agaves are not cacti, by the way.

But De gustibus non est disputandum. :)

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 7:43PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I had the kind that produces Tequila. Blue Agave. I'll try other smaller. See what the nursery carries.

Just for info, we saw 3 king snakes yesterday. One 3+ footer, one 2+ feet, and a 10" one. We watched where they hide. One under the deck, one in the cracks of the rocks, and the other just slithered away.

I welcome the King snake. Hope they get really fat and big eating rattlers.


This post was edited by desertdance on Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 10:45

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 12:25PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

What a spectacular side yard and view. I envy you.
I would collect seeds from Turkey mullein from the wild, and grow that and annual CA poppies and lupines there. I like the rocks by themselves.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 9:45PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

King snakes are the good guys! Enjoy!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 4:13PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

can you send some of those snakes my way? I have some gophers for them to eat.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 5:48PM
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I have had some gopher problems but they seem to stay away from the rosemary. Rosemary is pretty drought tolerant as well.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 5:48PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

With all of those nice hard surfaces, you have 2 things...

1) A nice water catchment system. I would first want to identify the runoff pattern before planting anything. It may be obvious just from looking, or you may try spraying with a sprinkler to see what happens. Digging some mini-swales or catchment basins may enable you to plant something, such as a fruit tree that would normally be unproductive without irrigation. Most people underestimate the power of rain catchment. Look at the middle east, where people haven't screwed it up, there are abundant oases that thrive on limited rainfall running off of rocks on higher ground.

2) Thermal Mass - if you have something that is marginally cold hardy in your area, you can create a microclimate that will stretch your climate zone. Rocks will soak up heat during the day and re-radiate at night when there is danger of frost. Sepp Holzer grows citrus in the Austrian Alps using this & other techniques.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 11:33PM
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I agree with Hosenemesis, it's beautiful as is. Mother Nature's design. I also agree with the CA poppies or other natives. You'd only have to put seeds out once; they would resprout every year.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:40AM
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What a striking, classic California desert landscape, Suzi. I agree with other posters who suggested that less is probably more. You don't want to be trooping out there among the snakes too often to do maintenance. If it's not too far from you, you may want to think about paying a visit to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, which also has a nursery selling native plants on site. (There are, of course, plenty of other local nurseries that specialize in drought tolerant plantings.) My only other suggestion would be that, when you paint your wrought iron, consider using a much darker color--I would suggest charcoal or black. You'll find that unlike the white, which stands out, it will recede into the background so you can better appreciate your view.


Here is a link that might be useful: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 11:00AM
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