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Teague on Gardening: Tap these sites to learn about drought-tolerant gardens

Cactus and California poppies grow in the backyard of Ruth Saludes’ Fresno home. Ruth’s drought-tolerant garden provides blooms all year long and encourages habitat for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects.
Cactus and California poppies grow in the backyard of Ruth Saludes’ Fresno home. Ruth’s drought-tolerant garden provides blooms all year long and encourages habitat for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects. Fresno Bee Staff Photo

Drought-tolerant landscapes aren’t just for extremists or eccentrics anymore. The reality that ours is a hot, very dry climate has been made quite clear these last four drought years. We have no guarantees that future rainfall amounts will ever sustain the lush, thirsty green lawns and landscapes we’re accustomed to.

Every gardener must become better educated on which plants and trees are suitable for our arid climate and reconsider the look or style of their gardens.

Fortunately, we have great local resources for information on choosing and planting drought-tolerant plants and trees. The Fresno County Master Gardeners have compiled tree shopping lists of trees suitable for planting in our zones (zones 8 and 9 in the Central Valley and zone 7 in the foothills) with water requirements for each tree; the lists are downloadable from their website. The site also offers drought tips online and schedules of adult education classes that cover a wide range of gardening subjects including installing drought-tolerant landscapes.

Many big box garden centers stock drought-tolerant plants. Labels don’t always give good information on water requirements or planting zones. Sunset’s “Western Book” lists water and sun/shade needs for every plant. If labels and staff can’t give you enough information before you buy, check the Sunset book.

Our local nurseries have really jumped on the drought-tolerant plant bandwagon and staff have become experts on the subject. Visit your local nurseries just to see the huge selections available and to ask questions.

The owners of Intermountain Nursery in Prather, 30443 Auberry Road, have specialized for many years in offering native and drought-tolerant plants that are well-suited to both Valley and foothill planting zones. It is well worth a drive to see the drought-tolerant/California native gardenscape that they’ve created.

DK publishing, and Rodale publishing are two of the best garden book publishers. Don’t hesitate to visit used book stores in your search for in-depth information on drought-tolerant plants and landscapes. Several of my standby resource books are now out of print, but available used for greatly reduced prices.

The California Plant Society, Sequoia chapter ’s website is a primary resource. The chapter’s members are dedicated volunteers who make tremendous efforts to preserve our native California plants and to educate the public.

The Fresno Cactus and Succulent Society is another very active organization that promotes interest in species that can thrive in our climate. Both groups have regular meetings, plant sales and informative online newsletters.

Note: The Clovis Botanical Garden is a demonstration garden focusing entirely on drought-tolerant and native plants and water management. It is partnering with the California Native Plant Society, Sequoia Chapter, for a fall Water Wise Plant Sale and Fair 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17. Admission is free.

Water-wise plants propagated at the CBG or brought in from local nurseries will be on sale, and exhibitors will include the Fresno and Clovis water departments. Vendors, food trucks, a gift shop and a gardening book nook will tempt you as you explore the garden.

Send your plant questions to Elinor Teague at etgrow@comcast.net or features@fresnobee.com (“plants” in the subject line).

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