The Dry Garden: Hummers and snapdragons

Posted on | April 30, 2010 | 2 Comments

Channel Islands native Galvezia speciosa amounts to a year-round hummingbird feeder on a negligible water budget. Cal Poly Pomona landscape architect Bob Perry recommends the hybrid 'Firecracker' (above) as being compact and therefore suitable to many gardens. Photo: Bob Perry / Land Design Publishing

If you are considering a hummingbird feeder, try buying a plant instead of a bottle.

For what seems like a year-round fountain of nectar, make that plant a bush snapdragon. Galvezia speciosa, as this Channel Island native is more properly known, flowers four out of four seasons and 365 days a year. Its bright red tubular blossoms clearly evolved with hummingbirds as pollinators, and the birds will stake out your garden the instant the plant goes in the ground.

They are very hard to kill; Galvezia’s only weakness is susceptibility to freezing. Other than that, they can be used throughout most of Southern California. The bright green foliage takes salt air with equanimity, but it thrives inland (where it will thank you for some shade). Galvezia will also happily abide clay. Add to that, its water requirements are so minimal that in all but the hottest inland situations you could probably get away without watering it.

Not that you’d want to be quite so mean; outside its island range, Galvezia appreciates occasional summer water.

To keep reading about Galvezia speciosa in this week’s “The Dry Garden” in the Los Angeles Times, click here.


2 Responses to “The Dry Garden: Hummers and snapdragons”

  1. Adan Ortega
    April 30th, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    Do you and/or any readers know who currently carries Galvezia speciosa…. and if it is okay to plant it now or if it is best to wait until Fall?

  2. EmilyGreen
    April 30th, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

    All native nurseries will have it, but since you are in OC, it’s worth ringing Rogers Gardens or the nearest quality general nursery. If they’re worth their sign out front, they’ll have it. I found them at Marina del Rey Nursery in Venice, which is doing a better job every year increasing its drought tolerant stock.

    Yes, you can plant it now, though it’s not ideal. You’ll need to water it through the first summer. I know this because I did it! Other native plants that are strongly summer dormant and very sensitive to root rot from the lethal combination of water and heat, including ceanothus, sage, oaks and manzanitas, should never be planted in the summer. Galvezia gets some summer moisture as a result of being a coastal plant and you can tell from the foliage that it’s profoundly different from the chaparral community that does not, as a rule, do well with summer water in all but the driest times.

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