Gaze Upon Gazania

salmon pink gazania

salmon pink gazania

Q: What multicolored ground cover would you recommend for a small 10-by-12-foot area in a front yard? There is a short wall for the ground cover to cascade over, plenty of sun and an adjacent grassy area.
– Andre P. Baptiste
Santa Clarita
A: The many varieties of gazania will provide the ground cover you seek. There are yellow, orange, reddish bronze, pale magenta, and white gazanias. There are gazanias with green leaves and gazanias with gray leaves. Designing with these colors should give you the variation you seek, and one variety or another should be in bloom at any given moment of the year, even if the most brilliant color display will take place from fall until spring.
You should know that there are two kinds of gazanias: clumping and trailing. For a relatively small space such as you describe you should probably plant the clumping types since the trailing gazanias, which are hard to find in any color except yellow, would quickly overrun the area.
Be aware that gazanias are South African plants that appreciate wet winters and dry summers. What this means is that you should be careful to resist the temptation of watering too much when the weather gets hot.
You mention that your ground-cover area is adjacent to grass. If you are installing sprinklers, you must be sure to have the ground-cover area and the lawn grass area on separate sprinkler circuits, controlled by separate valves. In Santa Clarita, you will have to water your grass every day during the summer, while the gazanias require much less frequent watering. If you have lawn and gazanias on the same circuit, you will either water the gazania too much or the lawn too little.
To protect the health of gazania or any other Mediterranean climate plant, you should not water more than twice a month during the summer. The water applied should soak deeply into the ground and never be sprayed haphazardly over the top where coverage is uneven. To soak an area before runoff occurs, utilize slow-moving rotary sprinklers (more appropriate for large areas) or drip irrigation (in small areas such as the one you describe) as opposed to conventional spray heads.
The phytophthora fungus that decimates dry-climate plants is activated in wet soil during warm weather. Gazanias will persist in the garden for many years when summer water is sparse. All too often, however, gazanias are watered several times a week in warm weather, leading to their premature demise from fungus infestation. This fungus does not appear as mushrooms growing above ground. Phytophthora works invisibly as overwatered gazania simply starts dying out patch by patch.
There is an alternative for creating a colorful ground cover area without worrying about year-round flowers. This alternative choice emphasizes foliage as opposed to flower color. Consider “Sunset Gold” Coleonema and “Crimson Pygmy” Berberis.
The yellow foliage of the Coleonema, otherwise known as diosma or breath of heaven, contrasts nicely with the burgundy leaves of the Berberis, commonly known as Japanese barberry. Although these plants are compact shrubs, they will be as low maintenance and as water thrifty as most ground covers. For a contrast in shiny green, plant the succulent, noninvasive Sedum confusum in between the diosma and the barberry.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Regarding winter bloomers, both birds of paradise and kaffir lilies are best known for their orange flowers. However, yellow ‘Kirstenbosch Gold’ birds of paradise and golden ‘Solomne’ kaffir lily (Clivia miniata aurea) hybrids are available in the trade and may be special-ordered from nurseries. There is also a dwarf bird of paradise that is slow growing but, according to many reports, worth the wait.
Plant the low-growing bloomers such as purple Limonium perezii and pink Bergenia crassifolia, both of which are flowering now, under standard birds of paradise for effective color contrast in your garden.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.