Is a drought in our future? Based on the forecasts and the weather we've experienced lately, the answer may well be yes.
Because we can't change the weather, the next best thing is to figure out how to deal with what may lie ahead. Our dry weather, coupled with plant loss from the freezing temperatures in December, gives us an opportunity to review which landscape plants are the best bets for new or replacement plantings.
Dryness and heat are not news for Rogue Valley residents. In fact, that's why many of us love this climate — maybe not for the daytime heat but, ah, those cool nights are wonderful for sleeping.
Whether you rely on well water or city water, there could be shortages of that life-giving liquid. Wells, of course, may run dry because of a lower water table, but a low snow pack may spell trouble for municipal water supplies, too.
If you have traveled outside our valley, you surely have noticed differences in the plants that grow naturally in other parts of the country. The lesson we can learn there is to look first at what plants are native to our region.
Some drought-tolerant deciduous trees include Chinese pistache, crape myrtle, hawthorn, goldenrain and linden. For evergeens, eucalyptus, laurel (bay), most pines and most cedars. Evergreen shrubs might include ceanothus (wild lilac), hop bush and manzanita, with rugosa rose, lavender and aralia adding interest.
The list doesn't end there. Daffodils, bearded iris and the hardy amaryllis known as belladonna lily, or "naked lady," do not want much water. The same can be said of yarrow, ice plant, artemisia, coreopsis and evening primrose. Need more? Add annual lobelia, penstemon, fountain grass, sedum, yucca, wisteria and zinnia grandiflora, and your flower bed will look beautiful without much water needed. And don't forget the herb garden, with drought-tolerant rosemary, thyme and many of the sages, including salvia.
Another suggestion for dry times is to increase your shade garden, if you can, as plants in the shade use less water than those exposed to full sun.
For more suggestions about dealing with drought, I recommend "Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley: Ornamental Trees and Shrubs," written by local Master Gardeners. It is available at most local garden stores and at the Jackson County Extension office. Sunset's "Western Garden Book" is also a good reference, especially the later editions.
Coming up: Grape pruning for the backyard gardener will be taught by Chris Hubert of Oregon Vineyard Supply from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road in Central Point. The class will cover how, when and where to prune, and solutions to common problems, concluding with an outdoor demonstration, so come dressed for the weather. Cost is $15. Call 541-776-7371 to sign up.
Terry Helfrich, professional orchardist, will teach about fruit tree pruning from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Extension Center. Helfrich will emphasize fruit trees in the home garden. The class includes an outdoor demonstration, so dress for the weather. Cost is $15. Call 541-776-7371 to register.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.