Jerusalem Flora

golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria)For millennia, Jerusalem has been a magnet to people from all parts of the globe. Perhaps its unique history helps to explain its uncanny horticultural diversity — why just about anything, it seems, can grow in Jerusalem.
I have never been to a city where you could harvest almonds, cherries, oranges and lemons from trees growing no more than a few minutes’ walk from one another. Even after last winter’s heavy Jerusalem snowfall, tropical citrus trees are thriving.
Jerusalem’s winter cold explains the success of cherries and almonds, trees that must have a good winter chill in order to flower and bear fruit.
Locally, you have to go to the Antelope Valley, Leona Valley or to Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead before you can experience winter temperatures cold enough to grow cherries and almonds, and these areas, where it regularly freezes, would not be recommended for planting citrus trees.
Perhaps one of the reasons citrus grows in Jerusalem is because of the many favorable microclimates, based on the city’s architecture, which provides protection for these tropical trees.
Nearly all Jerusalemites live in apartment buildings that are three or four stories tall and closely spaced. The buildings are low enough to let sunlight into each building’s garden plot but tall enough to provide garden shelter on cold nights.
In addition, by law, the facade of every Jerusalem building must be made of stone. Stone does a wonderful job of holding in the warmth of the day until night comes, when this warmth is radiated outwards, to the benefit of adjacent plants. Nights are not so cold when you are surrounded by a buffer of heat-radiating stone.
Golden marguerite
Walking by a vacant lot in Jerusalem recently, I saw a vast expanse of golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria). The more I learn about this plant, the more it seems to be suitable as a lawn alternative — especially in the case of front lawns, which are generally just square patches of green that have no purpose other than to absorb water, fertilizer and lawn mower fumes.
Golden marguerite is a clumping perennial. It may be divided at the roots but it also self-sows so that it constantly will be bringing up new seedlings wherever it is planted. It tolerates poor soil conditions and drought.
Golden marguerite has classic daisy blooms and its foliage is fern textured and finely laced.
You do not have to water golden marguerite during the summer. It grows to a height of 3 feet, but if you want to keep it more compact, you can so by chopping it down as often as you like. Its clumping growth habit ensures that it will grow out in a more horizontal direction when it is vertically constricted.
Golden marguerite blooms nonstop from early spring until summer ends.
A bonus of planting golden marguerite is its excellence as a cut flower for vase arrangements.
Watering plants
Jerusalem plants seem to flower more abundantly than plants I have seen elsewhere. I can’t help thinking that this has something to do with the fact that throughout Jerusalem’s long Mediterranean summer — a doppelganger for the summer in Los Angeles — water never touches the foliage of any plant.
All garden irrigation — and much of agricultural irrigation, too — in Israel is done via drip systems.
It is environmentally obtuse to water dry summer plants in dry summer climates with conventional sprinkler irrigation, in which foliage is doused with sprinkler spray. Such water is anathema to dry climate plants and, reason dictates, such plants’ performance will be adversely affected when leaves get wet during overhead irrigation in warm weather.
My feeling is that a dry-climate plant must expend energy fighting off insect pests as well as pathological fungi and bacteria that are attracted to wet summer foliage. This energy, where foliage is kept dry, is channeled into flower production as opposed to being diverted for pest control.
Italian jasmine
Speaking of warm-weather and drought-tolerant plants, there is no better informal hedge than Italian jasmine (Jasminum humile).
This plant has a fountainesque growth habit, needs no water once established, and flowers with deep yellow blooms in both spring and fall. Flowers have a carnation fragrance.
If Italian jasmine ever seems to be getting out of control or too big for its allotted space, you can hack it down to any height with confidence that it will regrow with renewed vigor. Plants can grow as high as 10 feet with a somewhat larger girth.
Red hot poker
Red hot poker or torch lily (Kniphofia uvaria) is a plant whose flowers, which are encountered in yellow, red, orange or a combination of these colors, always make you stop and take a second look.
Red hot pokers require no attention once established in the garden. A testimony to their robustness is the unfortunate fact that they have become invasive weeds in some Australian locales although this aggressiveness, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet been observed in Southern California.

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