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

Water-Efficient Landscape Gardens in May

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

The WEL gardens at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center are open to the public seven days a week from sunrise to sunset for self-guided tours.

Wheelchair accessible, the gardens feature 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.)

WEL May big

Click here for resources about gardening with limited water.

May is the time to stop by and smell our roses, enjoy our spring blooming perennials, flowering cool season grasses and more. Lavenders and salvias with names like Hot Lips, Lipstick, Blaze, Sparkle, Bees Bliss and Whirly Blue are top May choices for pollinating bees and hoverflies. Lady beetles are popping up everywhere.  Our three water-efficient rose shrubs, ‘Mutabilis’ (the butterfly rose), ‘Perle d’Or’ and ‘White Pearl in the Red Dragons Mouth’ are in peak bloom along with the Santa Barbara daisy, lambs ears and more. Other garden showstoppers include the many penstemon varieties along the pathway, flowering brodiaea bulbs and the coral yucca in the entrance raised bed. See the Spring plant list for information on several of our favorite plants.
Garden tasks this month include weeding out annual weeds such as bedstraw, cut leaf geranium, bur clover and oxalis before they set seed, controlling bindweed, and pulling up oak and other tree sprouts.  We will also be deadheading the euphorbias and Jupiter’s beard; they are beautiful, but they also reseed readily. (The UC IPM Weed Gallery is a good guide to identifying and controlling weeds.) Our lavender plants will be cut back one-third after they complete their bloom to control their shape and encourage growth and re-bloom. We will also be on the lookout for garden pests and diseases. (A good resource for flower problems is the UC Integrated Pest Management website.) 
In addition to the plants, 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.
WEL May Carpenteria CA

Carpenteria californica 'Elizabeth'
Elizabeth bush anemone

Carpenteria californica is a beautiful ornamental shrub, displaying lush, white, sweetly scented blooms over several spring and summer months. In fact, it’s hard to believe that it's not an exotic tropical plant rather than a California native that grows wild in a small range in the Sierra. It prefers partial shade and good drainage so we planted it on a slope above the dry creek bed. The Carpenteria in our WEL native garden is especially lovely this spring.

UC Davis Arboretum All-Star.

WEL May Santa Barbara daisy

Erigeron karvinskianus
Santa Barbara daisy

These low growing, quickly spreading, adaptable perennials (native to Mexico) are covered with cheerful, long lasting, pink tinged small daisy shaped flowers which start blooming in spring. If sheared back, they rapidly rebloom.  They may aggressively spread, but are easily removed. They do best in well drained, sunny locations but will accept some shade and require little water. (In the photo they are paired with Salvia nemorosa,  another long blooming, drought tolerant perennial with spiking 2 foot lavender flower stalks.)

WEL May buckwheat-Pat-2

Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum
American River sulphur flower

This native of Northern California mountain areas adapts well to our climate and soil.  It grows as a mounding small semi-evergreen subshrub 1 1/2 feet tall to 3 feet wide.  The bright yellow pom-pom like spring blossoms dry to a long lasting sulfur colored seed head. It can tolerate some shade and prefers good drainage.

Douglas iris

Iris douglasiana
Iris Pacific Coast hybrid

Pacific Coast hybrid irises are the descendants of years of hybridizing (by plant breeders since the 1920s) using the wild iris, Iris douglasiana, found primarily along the coast from southwestern Oregon south to Santa Barbara. Many of these hybrids grow well with little maintenance in well drained soil, with low summer water and shade from the hot afternoon summer sun.

The white "Canyon Snow' is a UC Davis Arboretum All-Star.

WEL May Spanish lavender
Lavandula stoechas 'Otto Quast'
Spanish lavender
This showy, shrubby lavender, thrives in our sunny, dry climate. A favorite of bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects, it starts blooming in early spring.
WEL May Perle d'or larger

Rosa 'Perle d'Or'
Golden pearl polyantha rose

This relatively thornless, evergreen, polyantha rose shrub does very well in Sacramento gardens.  Once established it blooms nearly year round and is very drought tolerant. While it can grow quite large, it can be pruned in the winter to shape. 

UC Davis Arboretum All-Star.

WEL May Mutabilis larger
Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'
The Butterfly rose,  Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis', is a large shrub rose that's a  UC Davis Arboretum All-Star for good reason. First noted by European botanists in 1896, it likely originated in China. It blooms nearly year round and attracts bees and other beneficial insects. It does well with less water, and tolerates our soils. This rose can tolerate some shade, but it does not do well in windy sites. Blooms begin as scarlet buds and mutate progressively into light yellow, pink, then crimson blossoms (that some have likened to butterflies).  New canes are deep red, complementing the flowers and the lush foliage. Nearly maintenance free, Mutabilis can be pruned in winter to keep the plant more compact.

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

Webmaster Email: mgsacramento@ucanr.edu