UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County

Water-Efficient Landscape Gardens in February

Home » Fair Oaks Horticulture Center » WEL Gardens » February in the WEL

The WEL is normally open to the public seven days a week, wheelchair accessible and features natives, commonly available perennials, trees, shrubs, and plants from other Mediterranean climates that do well with less water during our long, hot, dry summers and tolerate our chilly, damp Sacramento County winters.  Most plants are labeled and many are UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars. The landscape demonstrates how home gardeners can be smart about using the water we have to create beautiful landscapes. (For more information see Gardening with Limited Water.)  At this time, the garden is temporarily closed.


Especially lovely now are the the winter blooming Grevillea lanigera 'Coastal Gem' (a low growing evergreen spreading shrub from Australia), early blooming narcissus, and cloaking scarlet oak leaves (the scarlet oak leaves drop only when pushed off by young spring leaves).

In the native garden, evergreen manzanita, ceanothus, toyon, and pigeon point coyote bush shrubs are especially attractive (another reason to plant natives...they shine in the winter!). Other evergreen winter charmers are early blooming rosemary and bush germander (Teucrium fruitcans, a UC Davis All-Star).  See pictures and cultural information about these and other plants that look especially lovely during this season on the winter plant list.

Winter pruning, especially ornamental grasses, will be our primary task this month. Withered grasses should be cut down to 4 to 6 inches above ground before they start vigorous spring growth. Download more information on caring for ornamental grasses (PDF 88KB, new window). Many salvias, including the UC Davis All-Star autumn sages, need to be reduced by at least a third.  Daylillies will be divided, and barberry, santolina, plumbago and verbena shaped up. Get more cultural tips on caring for trees, shrubs and woody perennials.

Other winter tasks include removing early germinating weeds such as bedstraw, annual grasses and cut-leaf geranium, and renewing the organic mulch to depths of 4 to 6 inches. Find more information on mulches.  

The WEL gardens feature natives, commonly available perennials, trees and shrubs, and plants from other Mediterranean climates that do well with less water during our long, hot, dry summers and tolerate our chilly, damp Sacramento County winters. Most plants are labeled and many are UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars.

Pathways, patios, raised planters, drip irrigation, a dry creek bed and permeable pavement demonstrate water wise, sustainable alternatives for gardeners who are considering replacing or reducing their lawns.


Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’
Vine Hill Manzanita

This durable, California native, UC Davis Arboretum All-Star, upright shrub with handsome red bark, glossy leaves and winter blooming delicate pink blossoms does well in our native demonstration garden. It accepts a wide variety of soils, handles pruning, can be grown in part shade, requires little summer water, and attracts hummingbirds and beneficial insects. Can grow 6 to 8 feet high by 6 to 8 feet wide.

Ceanothus Valley Violet

Ceanothus maritimus 'Valley Violet'
Valley Violet Ceanothus

The UC Davis Arboretum calls this low growing California native evergreen shrub “the best small ceanothus for central valley gardens”. A showstopper in winter gardens with spectacular clusters of dark-violet flowers from February to early spring that attract beneficial insects and butterflies, ‘Valley Violet' is a good choice as a groundcover for sunny and partially shady areas.  Once established (which may take 2 to 3 years), it requires very little water and pruning. Tolerant of many soil types, it also is wind resistant, and  heat  and cold tolerant.

Although we have several plants throughout the garden, it is especially lovely at the top of the perennial pathway near the scarlet oak on the edge of our native garden area (where it gets very little summer water).

UC Davis Arboretum All-Star.


Grevillea lanigera 'Coastal Gem'

Blooming as early as December and through winter into spring this low growing (1 foot tall by 4 feet wide), evergreen spreading shrub from Australia is extremely drought tolerant. It is also deer resistant. Sometimes known as “woolly” grevillea due to its soft, gray green leaves, it makes a good border, rock garden or ground cover plant. We have it planted on a slope (to improve drainage) at the entrance of our perennial path. Preferring full sun and neutral to slightly acidic fertile well drained soil, it can also handle some light shade in our climate.


Narcissus 'Early Sensation'
Rijnveld's Early Sensation

Rijnveld's Early Sensation is an early blooming daffodil that naturalizes and returns year after year as early as late December to brighten the winter garden. Narcissus and daffodils are one of the most cost effective, pest free, long term perennial plants available to most gardeners.

Many narcissus and daffodil varieties grow well and naturalize in the Sacramento area because our winter chills meet their growth requirements. However, when shopping for bulbs it is a good practice to make sure the variety is a selection for our climate, otherwise the bulbs may need to chilled and treated as an annual.  Daffodils should be planted in full sun or at least in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. They should be planted three times the height of the bulb and will survive with very little summer water as they multiply each year.


Quercus coccinea
Scarlet Oak

With brilliant golden scarlet fall foliage intensified by cool autumn nights that doesn’t drop until pushed off by new growth in the spring (a trait called marcescence) the scarlet oak is a favorite fall and winter accent plant. This attractive oak is native to the central and eastern United States where it is commonly found on sandy and gravelly upland ridges, slopes and occasionally on poorly drained soils. Growing to 80 feet tall to 50 feet wide from a youthful pyramidal shape to a mature broadly oval open crown it has been widely planted in urban areas of California as a street, parkway and lawn shade tree. Tolerant of a wide variety of soils it prefers well drained, acidic soil and is susceptible to mistletoe infestations. It is included in the Sacramento Tree Foundation's Shady Eighty - a guide for choosing the best tree for your yard.

For more information about growing oaks in the urban landscape, refer to UCANR publication 3518, Oaks in the Urban Landscape Selection, Care and Preservation, a 265-page book published in 2011 by the University of California.


Ribes aureum var. gracillimum
California Golden Currant

Bright green foliage and cheerful yellow clustering 1 to 1½ inch blossoms adorn this winter blooming, summer-deciduous native currant and UC Davis Arboretum All-Star. Sprawling up to 10 feet tall, the shrub naturally occurs on slopes below 2500 feet primarily in Southern California. The flowers and subsequent translucent yellow, orange, red and black berries attract birds, butterflies and beneficial insects. Preferring well drained soil, and suitable for planting under native oaks, it does well with some partial shade and light summer watering. Golden current spreads readily via rhizomes, layering stems and seedlings started from bird droppings and some pruning is needed to control the plant’s outreaching habit. It looks lovely as a companion to the concurrently blooming blue ceanothus. 

UC Davis Arboretum All-Star.


Salvia rosmarinus ‘Tuscan Blue’  (was Rosmarinus officinalis)

When the conversation drifts to edible landscaping, how can you not lavish love on Rosemary ‘Tuscan Blue’? Tough, drought tolerant, and a dazzling, evergreen, ‘Tuscan Blue’ doubles as one of the best culinary herbs.   ‘Tuscan Blue’ is a versatile choice for the garden with its upright growth and showy, lavender-blue flowers.

It can be used as a foundation planting, a hedge, a screen, in containers or mixed borders, as a stand-alone stunner, a rock garden star and is a favorite for topiaries. It’s deer resistant and attracts butterflies, bees and birds. Blooms appear in spring, linger into summer and sporadic blooming can break out the remainder of the year. Growth is taller than its spread – 5 to 6 feet tall, if you allow it, and 3 to 5 feet in width – but it is easily shape-pruned. Prune after the main bloom period. Plant in full-sun and well-drained soil. If soil conditions aren’t conducive to ‘Tuscan Blue,’ plant in a large container. Water regularly the first year, until established. In winter, ‘Tuscan Blue’ can survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees. Common companion plantings include roses, Russian sage, thyme, yarrow, catmint and salvias.

teucrium fruticans

Teucrium fruticans
Bush Germander

This UC Davis Arboretum All-Star shrub starts blooming in January just in time to attract early foraging bees and other pollinators on warm days. Extremely durable, disease free and drought tolerant, this western Mediterranean small shrub with gray green leaves and a long fall/winter/spring blooming season can be pruned as a low hedge or used as an accent plant. The lovely purple/lavender blossoms attract many beneficials.

It is blooming now in our common variety garden.

4145 Branch Center Road, Sacramento, CA 95827       Master Gardener Phone:  916.876.5338             Fax:  916.875.6233

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