For months I’ve wanted to start this series, “Hot Colors, Dry Garden” so consider this the first installment.   And what better way to start out than with a pair of mind blowing images taken just a few weeks ago in my front garden?

Hot Colors, Dry Garden is an invitation to people who are afraid that low water gardens are brown, drab gardens.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Check out the colors and textures in these scenes.

It takes some planning and lots of trial-and-error to create moments like these.  It also takes some willingness to challenge your biases.  Long ago, I swore I would never plant a Bougainvillea. They are in my “way too overused” category and frankly, I’m sick of them.

But then,  one  caught my eye.  ‘Orange Ice’ is a smaller boug with cream and green variegated leaves and the most amazing colored bracts (they’re not really petals) in coral pink, blush orange.  The color glows in the sunlight.

Will it look the same next year?  Only time will tell!

'Orange Ice' Bougainvillea, Agave bracteosa, Agave guiengola, Senecio mandraliscae, and hunnemannia fumariifolia - a heavenly combination!

'Orange Ice' Bougainvillea, Agave bracteosa, Senecio mandraliscae, and Hunnemannia fumariifolia - a heavenly combination!

Main plants:

  • Bougainvillea ‘Orange Ice’ with variegated leaves and pink flowers blush orange
  • Agave bracteosa, a small, solitary agave with twisty, turny blades
  • Senecio mandraliscae also called blue chalk fingers for obvious reasons
  • Calylophus, a low growing shrublet with yellow flowers that fills in the empty spaces
  • Hunnemannia fumariifolia, Mexican tulip poppy, also with yellow flowers and creeping perennial stems that pop up here and there.
  • An  Aloe whose name has been lost to time
  • Palo verde ‘Desert Museum,’ the best of the palo verdes
  • Schinus molle, the cursed California pepper tree that is neither Californian, nor pepper.  I’d never plant it again but I admit to loving it!

Here’s a detail

A bit closer view shows the touches of bronze from Aeonium 'Zwartkopf' and one of the bronze leaved cordylines

A bit closer view shows the touches of bronze from Aeonium 'Zwartkopf' and one of the bronze leaved cordylines


  1. Cory on August 7, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Thanks for this nice article Nan

    • Nan on August 8, 2010 at 12:01 am

      Thank you!

  2. Hervey Evans on August 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Very nice! I love the idea of the garden as canvas.

    • Nan on August 8, 2010 at 12:01 am

      Its just like painting, only the colors are alive and change shapes over time.

      have you tried it?

  3. sharon lovejoy on August 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Mouth watering.


    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  4. Jennifer Beaver on September 15, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Thanks, Nan — Just about to plant my drought-tolerant front lawn and am having major panic attacks.

    • Nan on September 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

      HI Jennifer – no need to panic. It will be the best thing you ever did! If you have questions, call me on the Watersmart Pipeline 866 962-7021 next Thursday afternoon or any Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon after that!