At our DC on Tour event Oct. 6 at Plant World, Norm Schilling — "Desert Bloom" commentator and owner of Schilling Horticulture Group — proved to be, as usual, an indefatigable whirlwind of insight and enthusiasm as he dropped knowledge on fall gardening, waxed Thoreau-esque about his favorite plants, and whipped out his shears like a six-shooter to deliver a pruning demo. He was such a whirlwind, in fact, that a lot of folks asked afterwards for a full list of his most beloved shrubs, flowers and groundcover to give your yard some eye-rocking pop — or just a touch of color and softness.
Ever going above and beyond the call of duty, Norm gave us this list — and his trademark inspired riffs.
Prostrate Germander - Teucrium chamaedrys “prostratum”
A small-leaved and rich green groundcover, this wonderful, versatile plant can take full sun or a lot of shade. It is adaptable to different amounts of water, from desert to quite moist. This plant adds softness to harsh landscapes, and looks wonderful growing around larger succulents such as Agaves, especially those with bluish or silvery coloration. It blooms in the spring with dainty purple flowers, but the true beauty of this plant is in the wonderful texture and color of the foliage.
Sierra Gold Dalea - Dalea capitata “Sierra Gold”
This bluish-green groundcover has tiny leaves and loves lots of sun. A true desert plant, it thrives on infrequent irrigation once established. Cute and interestingly shaped yellow flowers with a splash of red appear in spring and fall and rise about 2 inches above the foliage. This plant also adds softness to harsh landscapes, and looks wonderful growing around larger succulents such as Agaves, especially those with bluish or silvery coloration.
Blue Yucca - Yucca rigida
This bold succulent has extremely blue leaves that have a thin yellow margin all around the edge of each leaf. When the sun hits the leaves, the yellow rim lights up like a neon ribbon, giving this plant a special striking effect in the landscape. It is very drought tolerant and loves sun. It is slow-growing, but can eventually reach very large sizes of 10 feet plus in height and width.
Sierra Bouquet Texas Ranger - Leucophyllum pruinosum “Sierra Bouquet”
This plant is one of the larger of the Texas Rangers and reaches 6-8 feet tall and wide. Its dark purple flowers are extremely fragrant. It is very drought tolerant, loves sun and is very accepting of most soils.
Cup-leaf Sage - Leucophyllum zygophyllum “Cimarron”
This is the smallest of the Texas Rangers, reaching only 3 feet tall and wide. It has bluish-purple flowers borne against very silvery foliage. The leaves are cup-shaped and very ornamental. It needs quite a lot of sun.
Lynn’s Legacy Texas Ranger - Leucophyllum langmaniae “Lynn’s Legacy”
This Texas Ranger is known for its heavy and frequent blooms, in which the plant almost gets completely covered in light lavender flowers. When not covered in blooms the foliage is an attractive sage-green color. Medium-sized to about 5 feet tall and wide, this plant loves sun, will take some shade and is very drought tolerant.
Twisted Myrtle - Myrtus communis “Boetica”
An evergreen shrub with exotic form that works very well as a screening plant or grown next to a wall. This shrub-tree will eventually reach 10-15 feet tall but will not threaten footings or foundations with its root system. Quite drought tolerant once established, it has exotic twisting form to its branches. It prefers at least a half day of sun.
Japanese Garden Juniper - Juniperus procumbens “Nana”
This traditional plant is a bit temperamental in Southern Nevada, but once established can be quite tough and carefree. Its undulating, evergreen foliage is a very rich, dark green. It prefers protection from afternoon sun and likes improved soils.
Blue Bells - Eremophila hygrophana
The purple-blue flowers of this small plant are known to attract hummingbirds. Its gray foliage serves as a good contrast to richer green plants and its small size fits well in most gardens. It needs sun and prefers good drainage.
Powis Castle Wormwood - Artemisia arborescens “Powis Castle”
This silvery plant has finely pided foliage that adds a soft silver glow to the landscape. It reaches about 2 feet tall and will spread to much wider — but don’t worry: If the plant overgrows its space, it can be cut back hard in the early spring, around February. If planted in too much shade, it becomes rangy.
Gopher Spurge - Euphorbia rigida
This drought-tolerant succulent blooms with chartreuse flowers on blue-gray foliage in early spring, as early as late January. The flowers are striking in color set against the grayish foliage, especially when the sun strikes them. Cut all the old stems off after blooming is finished, but be sure to protect skin and eyes, because the milky sap can be very irritating or even cause damage.
Brakelights Red Yucca – Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Perpa’
This variety stays smaller at only 2 feet tall and wide, and has much more intensely red flowers than the normal Red Yucca. Just like the larger variety, it is very drought-tolerant, blooms for a long time, and the flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds.
Coral Fountain – Rusellia equisetiformis
This stunning perennial reaches about 2-3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. The foliage is a very bright green and shoots upward, then cascades downward, giving this plant beautiful form as well as color. The flower show consists of thousands of tubular coral-colored blossoms that bloom heavily in spring, taper off in summer and re-emerge in autumn, giving an 8 month floral display that hummingbirds love! This plant is a little cold sensitive, and a cold winter can damage foliage. When damaged by cold, the plant usually recovers quickly the following spring.