Updated Nifty 50 is a water-wise gardener's dream plant list
What to grow, especially in an era of global warming and water rationing. That’s a question many gardeners wrestle with as they make landscape changes that will trim their water usage – and bills.
The answer? Start with the Nifty 50, a list of drought-tolerant plants that thrive in San Diego’s Mediterranean-style climate. It was compiled by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in 2001 and updated in 2006 by the staff at the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College.
Last year, it was revised again, this time by a group of San Diego plant experts brought together by the Water Conservation Garden’s executive director Marty Eberhardt and its horticulture manager Paul Redeker
“It was a good list that we felt could be made even better,” says Redeker. “It reflects a lot of experience with plants and gardening here. We think it will be useful to home gardeners as well as contractors and homeowner associations.”
In addition to Eberhardt and Redeker, committee members Dave Erhlinger, director of horticulture at the San Diego Botanic Garden (www.SDBgarden.org); Suzie Wiest, general manager of Miramar Wholesale Nursery (www.miramarnurseries.com); Walter Andersen Jr. of Walter Andersen Nurseries in Point Loma and Poway (www.walterandersens.com) and Nan Sterman, horticulturist, author and former Master Gardener (www.plantsoup.com).
Plants that the group considered were held to a high standard. All had to be attractive in the landscape, non-invasive, generally available at retail nurseries, long-term performers in the garden, scaled for residential landscapes and drought-tolerant when established.
In addition, the advisory group strove to include specific species when large plant families like sages, California lilac or penstemon were listed. “For some genuses, it’s fine to generalize,” Redeker says. “But in other cases it just wasn’t helpful. When you go into a nursery, you may see a dozen sages or penstemons. We wanted to help gardeners make an informed choice.”
The updated list, which ranges from groundcovers to trees, could be used to create a garden that is not only waterwise, but also beautiful, Sterman added.
Illustrated brochures with the list are available at the Water Conservation Garden and on its website, www.thegarden.org. (Click on Gardening Resources and scroll down to Plant Lists.) In addition, all of the Nifty 50 plants are displayed and labeled at the five-acre demonstration garden. The list also is posted on the San Diego County Water Authority website, www.sdcwa.org.
Here are eight great plants selected by Redeker from the new additions to the Nifty 50 list.
Master Gardener Mary James is a freelance garden writer and executive editor of California Garden, the 101-year-old magazine of the San Diego Floral Association.
- 2017 - Master Gardener Association of San Diego County
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