Q. My quest is to reduce watering, but I like a lawn and we have a medium sized dog. I see mini clover has a good root system, takes up about half the water of grass, and is resistant to dog urine. My question is, does the miniclover resist some modest dog activities such as chasing a ball? Also, some people install a very hard ground cover that does not need to be mowed. Is there one you would recommend? –Glenn Hodding, Long Beach
White clover, including the miniclover variety, makes a wonderful lawn substitute and holds up well, or recovers well, from moderate dog traffic. It’s also the perfect time of year, now that the temperatures are cooling, to plant clover. There is no need to remove your existing lawn or the remaining patches of your old lawn; you can simply overseed the lawn on it.
Like clover, kikuyugrass is also resistant to dog urine and even more resistant to drought. As for aesthetics, mini clover is more appealing due to its dark green foliage which is only half the size of a regular clover. Yet kikuyugrass is virtually indestructible. Yes, it will look better if it is watered two or even three times a week, but it will grow satisfactorily with just one weekly soaking. And even if you couldn’t water it at all for several weeks, it would bounce back when watered again. Occasionally you will see kikuyugrass available in turf form, but you may need to grow it from seed. Seeding should be done while it is still warm as it is a tropical grass and experiences some dormancy in winter, depending on how cold it is.
Alas, what makes kikuyugrass so durable is also its biggest criticism, namely its sturdy rope runners which are notorious for overgrowing adjacent flower beds, so you’ll need to be vigilant to keep it in its place. Incidentally, if you have a friend with kikuyu grass or see it growing in an abandoned field or vacant lot, you may want to cut some pieces for propagation purposes. Fill containers with regular soil and plant kikuyugrass runners in them or, alternatively, dig them directly into the ground where you want your lawn to grow. It should be mentioned that kikuyugrass is quickly becoming a golf course turf of choice due to its drought tolerance.
Speaking of the hard ground cover you’re looking for, if your garden gets partial sun, Asian jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) is very suitable. It is sufficiently water-efficient and resistant to dog trampling, standing about a foot tall. It is not a true jasmine but, like the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), its cousin, it handles some amount of shade quite well and does best in half a day of direct sun. The leaves of Asian jasmine are half the size of star jasmine, and although Asian jasmine has small, fragrant flowers, they are usually not very noticeable.
The Asian jasmine forms a very tight mat so that no water can escape from the soil in which it grows. This is also true for Vinca minor, which is even more shade tolerant – or maybe I should say shade needy – than Asiatic jasmine and is less than a foot tall. The beautiful diamond-shaped foliage of these two ground covers are similar in size and appearance and both would offer a solution to the problem of what to plant in full sun or shade, while requiring minimal irrigation, no more. once or twice a week. , when fully established. Neither is bothered by dog urine and Vinca minor can even accept some foot traffic.
To make your flower beds dog-friendly, select scruffy species where your dog can feel at home without causing damage. In this regard, the first category of plants that comes to mind is ornamental grasses. The dogs will forage there with pleasure and, with the older ones, will find shade. You don’t have to sacrifice color when selecting grasses, as many blues, reds, and golds, and variegated types, in addition to greens, are available. You can find dozens of species and cultivars of ornamental grasses at smgrowers.com
Other plants that are not harmed by dogs and non-toxic to them include: roses, rosemary, thyme, coreopsis, hibiscus, rose of Saron (Hibiscus syriacus), mahonia, liriope, ice plant, coral bells (Heuchera spp.), and red poker (Kniphofia spp.)
California native of the week: California white sage (Salvia apiana). This plant is a bee magnet, as its species name apiana (apis means bee in Latin) clearly indicates. If I had to use one word to describe this plant, it would be “amazing”. Each whorl of silvery-white leaves with opulent, aromatic tentacles is unlike anything seen in nature except, perhaps, in a sea anemone. The length of its flower stalks, reaching up to five feet, exceeds the height of young plants which eventually reach up to five feet tall and wide. Its unusual white flowers deserve close inspection and they too are fragrant. The seeds, stems and leaves have long been incorporated into the diet of native Pacific Coast tribes and the seeds are also used medicinally.
I remembered white sage when I received a communication from Elizabeth Wallace. She informed me that the Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society, as part of their “A Sage in Every Garden” campaign, will be offering 2,000 white sage plants in four-inch containers. The campaign will be officially launched at the chapter meeting on November 9, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Norman P. Murray Community Center in Mission Viejo. The 2,000 white sage specimens, free to Orange County homeowners, will be distributed at Roger’s Gardens Retail Nursery in Corona del Mar starting next month.
If you have any dog-friendly plants or dog-friendly gardening tips that you would like others to know, please let me know.
In the meantime, everyone is welcome to send comments, questions or photos to [email protected].