Give It a Rest (Dormancy)


native maintenance: let’s show our sleeping friends the door

August 1, 2017. By FormLA Maintenance Team: While some of LA’s native starlets seem to perform year round without rest, others need their beauty sleep. Just as the party really heats up in August and September, they tap out. We know what you are thinking, but there is truly no need to worry. You haven’t offended them! They like your party – they behave like that in the wild too.
As the hosts of your garden’s party of natives, we feel it is our job to help the Sleeping Beauties exit gracefully. Normally, we don’t like to gossip, but this we think you have every right to know. Here is who will be leaving and how we help.

Put Them to Bed: White Sage, Deer Grass, Some IdealMow Meadows

Some of the grasses that form IdealMow meadows will need to be put to bed, even grounded for an extended period. This means your lush meadow may look more like a traditional lawn for some portion of fall and again in early spring.
IdealMow Meadow
White sages and Deer Grasses also benefit from an autumn nap. Taking them to the ground will spark a spring rebound. Each year, their second wind will become stronger.

Send Them to the Chaise: Cleveland Sage, Buckwheats, Lilac Verbena

A few other favorites can and will stick around – but they won’t be the life of the party. Cleveland Sage (Salvia Clevelandii), Lilac Verbena (Verbena lilacina) and the Buckwheat sisters (Eriogonum grande rubescens,Eriogonum umbellatum, Eriogonum fasciculatum polifolium, and yes even Eriogonum latifolium) will operate at 30-50 percent of their full-tilt selves. Rather than stealing the show, they will become background foliage. (Eriogonum arborescens is an exception – she’s a late bloomer with holding power with cream flowers that turn to a charming rust as rain approaches).
Rather than watch our friends wilt, we cut them back to a level appropriate to the energy they have to give. This deep prune will help ensure they maintain a form appropriate to your design and keep your indoor vases full of native blooms.
As a result, you may come to appreciate our leading ladies in a while new light. Instead of focusing on Buckwheat’s perky pom-poms, for example, you may notice the serenity in the silver underside of her foliage.

Attend to Other Guests: Let Late Bloomers Be the Life of the Party

All this may seem harsh. Trust us, it is a kindness! We’ve been through this enough to know that if we have the generosity of spirit to usher some of our favorites out the door, they’ll return to us full of life when we extend the next invitation.
This favor to our favorites is a generosity to others as well. As if on cue, you’ll notice some floral friends you thought were wallflowers emerge as the life of the party in late summer and early fall. If your enquiring mind wants to know whose star is rising, check out who is Blooming Now in August and how we design for dormancy.

More Information

We discussed dormancy and autumn maintenance during Theodore Payne Foundation’s innovative 2021 Native Plant Garden Tour.