A Xeriscape Garden

The Xeriscape Garden
in Springfield, Missouri's, Phelps Grove Park is one of the most beautiful gardens in the Ozarks--and certainly one of the most educational.
      The word "Xeriscape" (from the Greek xeri, meaning "dry," and scape, meaning "garden") was coined during a 1987 Denver drought. The term first meant a dry, drought-tolerant garden but now has come to mean a garden that groups plants by water needs.
     The Xeriscape Garden in Springfield has three distinct areas of water use: high, moderate, and low, each clearly marked for visitors with a sign that also lists plants that thrive in that particular zone. The Prickly Pear (Opuntia vulgaris) at left, for example, bears striking flowers in early June and thrives in the garden's collection lowest water use plants.

     This truly remarkable garden is a joint project of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, Springfield City Utilities, and the Master Gardeners of Southwest Missouri, who continue to maintain and improve it.

Xeriscape Zone 1


A MASTER STROKE by Master Gardeners--adding large, clear signs identifying the three Xeriscape Garden zones by beds and plants--has proved an invaluable help to gardeners. Just think; now you can not only see in this garden a huge number of beautiful plants that thrive in the Ozarks, you can also get their names and water requirements. Talk about saving time and energy ....

Xeriscape Zone 2


ZONE 2 XERISCAPE plants are ideal for those who want beauty with relatively little maintenance.

Xeriscape Zone 3


ZONE 3 XERISCAPE plants are real prizes for gardeners who want minimal maintenance--and ideal for our region's moderate drought conditions, as well.

Good Labels
Nearly all Xeriscape Garden plants are clearly labeled for visitors, as exemplified by this Ice Plant (Deleosperma cooperii).
Ice Plant gets its name from transparent flakes that cover its cylindrical leaves that look very much like ice. A succulent, it grows to 3 inches tall and spreads to 24 or more inches and is an appealing ground cover. From June to September it produces an abundance of bright purple flowers. It is not reliably winter-hardy in the Ozarks.

Bloom Times and Plant Features

Noting the bloom time and physical characteristics of Xeriscape Garden plants can help enormously in planning and designing gardens. These gorgeous blue-violet iris, for example, are at their peak in early May.


Barbara St. Clair, shown on her way to plant spring-blooming bulbs, oversees and manages the garden. At the time of this photo she was also serving as the president of the Master Gardeners of Greene County, Missouri.

Barbara Digs In

Managing the Xeriscape Garden isn't exactly a desk job, and Barbara isn't just fooling around. Here she gets down to the real hardscrabble work of making the Garden even more beautiful.

Dana Does It Too

Dana Allyn is one of several Master Gardeners who help keep the Xeriscape Garden in beautiful shape. Here she's shoveling rich black mulch to be hauled and spread throughout the garden.

Pat Weighs In, Too

Here, Master Gardener Pat Schwartz takes over the shoveling while Dana spreads the mulch.


Jim Hawkins, also a Master Gardener, has a long and highly appreciated history of working tirelessly to keep the Xeriscape Garden in superb condition. Here he's shown making sure the Garden's rose arbor is in good shape for the coming season.

Spring in the Garden

The entrance to the Xeriscape Garden turns especially cheery with its early spring daffodils in blossom.

Cherry Plum
cherry-plum-jpg.jpgSpring comes early in the Xeriscape Garden. This beautiful Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) reached full bloom on April 9th. One of the Ozarks' earliest-flowering trees, it also bears edible fruit that, depending on species, may be sour or sweet with good flavor and makes good jams or even be eaten right off the tree--if you can beat the Cedar Waxwings to them. Many cultivars are available. Those with reddish foliage are the most popular. Cherry Plum can be grown as a shrub or a tree.

Jonquils & Angelina Sedum

Also brightening the early spring Garden are these tiny jonquils, growing amidst 'Angelina' sedum (Sedum reprustre 'Angelina'), which is a wonder of a  succulent for its great color and texture all through the year--even in the coldest winters.

"A Canary in the Mine"
pasque-flower-jpg.jpgBarbara St. Clair says this early spring bloomer, Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), is "a canary in the mine" for letting folks know if the Garden's bed for growing the driest plants is dry enough. If the soil is too moist, she says, it'll develop crown rot and die. Pasque Flower is the state flower of South Dakota and it has a history--the purple flowers were once used to dye Easter eggs and it was also used as a medicine. Warning: The plant is now said to be extremely toxic and not to be consumed in any form.

Variegated Iris

For our money, one of the prettiest sights in early spring is the emerging of the Variegated Sweet Iris (Iris pallida 'Variegata'). The elegantly striped leaves are gorgeous, of course, and the flower, though not unattractive, suffers by comparison, being a rather pallid lavender. This beautiful plant needs at least a half-day's sun and well-drained soil. and can reach 3 feet tall.

The Gazebo

Among the Garden's many amenities is its beautiful gazebo, a perfect place to sit and relax.

White Tulips

In spring, the Xeriscape Garden displays a wealth of colorful early flowers, many of which are grown from bulbs donated to the Master Gardeners, as were these beautiful white tulips.

Black Tulips

What could be more striking in the early spring garden than these coal-black tulips. They were unlabeled when we photographed them, but we think they're almost certainly the the variety 'Queen of Night'.

Fancy White Tulips

We decided to call these White Tulips "fancy" because they have beautiful pointed petals. We've no clue to the varietal name, but we quite like them.

Cherry Profusion Zinnias
cherry-profusion-zinnias-jpg.jpgProfusion Zinnias have won gardeners and landscapers nationwide for their season-long bloom, gorgeous color, vigor, versatility, and drought, heat, and disease resistance. Of the five colors in the series these are Cherry Profusion Zinnias. Others are Profusion White, Orange, Fire, and Apricot. The Cherry we think strike a dramatic note. The plants grow to 13 inches tall and 2 feet wide, and are absolutely perfect as edging in borders, as mass landscape plantings, or in containers. Note: Butterflies and bees love 'em, too.

Apricot Profusion Zinnias

The Apricot Profusion Zinnia also strikes a unique note in gardens and landscapes by virtue of its uniquely subtle coloration.

An Heirloom Rose?
The identity of this rose, which once stood 7 feet tall in the Garden, is a mystery. Some said it was an old heirloom rose that was present on the site when the Xeriscape Garden was first created in 1992. It's been removed now and replaced with other plants, but we're keeping its image here in its memory, as its fragrance was unbelievably beautiful. (We hope it found a good home.)

A 'Feisty' Miniature Rose
The 'Feisty' miniature rose (Rosa 'Feisty') is a real winner in the garden. Beautifully compact at 20 inches tall, it bears an abundance of many-petaled medium-red blooms in clusters of three to seven flowers per stem. The blossoms are 2 3/4 inches wide, velvety with an apple fragrance, and resemble hybrid tea blooms. Bonus: It's perfect for training as a standard.

Flowers from Fairyland?
The May parade of Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is one of the prettiest displays in any Ozarks garden. Foxglove do beautifully in our region and bring an old-fashioned flavor wherever they are planted. They're biennials, producing long stems and basal leaves the first year and an abundance of flowers the second year. They like rich soil and full sun or dappled shade. Some newer varieties can grow to 6 feet tall.

A Closer Look

The pristine white petals and delicate burgundy spots of this Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea alba, have endeared it to gardeners since the 18th Century.
Fun fact: Foxglove's genus name, Digitalis, comes from the folk myth that fairies wear the long, tubular flowers on their fingers, or digits. Note: Also pictured here are yellow and pale pink iris.

Doublefile Viburnum
doublefile-viburnum-jpg.jpgOne of the Garden's most imposing denizens is this beautiful Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum tomentosum). Deciduous and native to Arkansas, it can grow to 15 feet tall and 18 feet wide. In April and May it bears beautiful pristine-white clusters of flowers in a most unusual "doublefile" configuration--the name referring to its double rows of flowers on each stem. The shrub also produces bright red fruit that birds love and in autumn the leaves turn a highly attractive burgundy to purplish red. In sum, Doublefile Viburnum is a marvel of a plant and virtually spectacular in any garden or landscape.

Doublefile Viburnum Up Close

A closer look at the Doublefile Viburnum's flowers clearly shows the double rows.

Burkwood's Broom
The unusually graceful plant in the foreground is Burkwood's Broom (Cytisus x Dallimorei 'Burkwoodii'), which once won the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from England's Royal Botanical Society. The plant grows to 3 feet tall the first year and eventually to 5 feet or more. This is the way it appears in November.

The Broom in Bloom

In May Burkwood's Broom bears a profusion of lovely crimson flowers edged with yellow.

Spectacular Poppies
This brilliant red Oriental Poppy
(Papaver orientale) is most likely the variety 'Turkenlouis', a treasure for its spectacular color and beautifully fringed petals. Oriental poppies are reliable perennials that grow to 3 feet tall and in the Ozarks blossom in May and June. They like sun but will also bloom in part shade.

Shirley Poppies
The name 'Shirley Poppy' commonly applies to cultivars of the Papaver rhoeas species, and this orange strain is especially colorful. Annuals, they come into full bloom in late April and early May, growing in full sun as tall as 3 feet and 15 inches wide. Standouts in the garden, they also make supberb cut flowers.

Arkansas Bluestar
arkansas-bluestar-jpg.jpgArkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii) is a lovely perennial shrub that bears clusters of tiny, very light blue star-shaped flowers at the ends of its stems. An Arkansas native, it grows to 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide and does well in sun or partial shade. The feathery, light green foliage is quite attractive and turns golden yellow in autumn. Be patient with this plant, as it tends to look spindly the first year but glorious the second. Note: Arkansas Bluestar was named The 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.

Slender Deutzia
Slender Deutzia (Deutzia gracilis) is a literal marvel for its spectacular sprays of fragrant white flowers, its graceful, arching habit, and fine, delicate texture. It grows to 3 feet tall and as wide and likes fertile soil and full sun, but also does well with partial shade. Blooming profusely in May and for many weeks to follow, the shrub is a wonder especially in the garden border, as shown below.

The Slender Deutzia Border
This photo--which we could easily call "Curb Appeal."--shows Slender Deutzia to its best advantage as a garden border plant. Note: This beautiful shrub blooms on new wood, so cutting back the arching stems after they bloom assures a brilliant display the following spring.

Variegated Yellow Loosestrife
Green-and-cream leaves and season-long bright yellow flowers make Variegated Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata 'Alexander') a superb accent plant in any garden. Introduced in 1990, it's slower-growing than most loosestrife and produces a clump 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide. Many gardeners consider it worth growing for its foliage alone. A new variety, 'Golden Alexander', has the same yellow flowers but green-and-cream-yellow leaves.

Variegated Porcelain Vine
Variegated Porcelain Vine (Ampelopsis brevipednuculata 'Elegans') is a perennial vine often described as "spectacular." Named for the unique porcelain-like finish of its berries, it grows vigorously in any well-drained soil to 25 feet tall and climbs by tendrils.With leaves of medium green splashed with white. The vine bears creamy white flowers in midsummer and the berries in the fall.Berries change color from lavender to turquoise to blue to black, with several colors appearing at once in a single cluster. Its variegation is best in part shade, but fruiting is best in full sun.

Variegated Solomon's Seal

An especially pleasing plant for shade gardens is this variety of Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum falcatum 'Variegatum'. Growing to 2 feet tall, it also spreads nicely in the garden. The name "Solomon's Seal," incidentally, refers to a scar on the rhizome of some species that looks like two overlapped triangles, the seal of King Solomon of the Bible.

'Globemaster' Allium

The 'Globemaster' Allium is a most striking plant in the garden with its slim stems and showy spherical flower heads. Easy to grow, it likes full sun and dry to medium-moist soil. It can grow to 2 1/2 feet tall from a clump as wide as 1 1/2 feet. Alliums are members of the onion family and commonly called Ornamental Onion. They comes in several colors, bloom in May, naturalize easily, and the flowers attract butterflies.

White Peonies
Peonies, which bloom in May or June, are a huge favorite among gardeners around the world for their lush, large flowers and shiny green foliage. The good news is, they grow nowhere any more beautifully than in the Ozarks region of the United States. Thriving in full sun and soil rich with organic matter, they are long-lived perennials and spread prolifically. We're unsure of the varietal name of these whites, but will try to find out. Note: Records of peony cultivation date back as early as 1,000 BC.

Pink Peonies

These Pink Peonies make a beautiful counterpoint to the white ones. We especially like the double blossoms and the paler centers. 

Single Peonies

Peonies are classified into five types based on flower form: single, semi-double, double, Japanese, and anemones. While double forms are the most popular, the single-flowered Peonies provide a refreshing note of diversity. They also tend to stay upright even when very wet, unlike the double forms. This variety is most likely the popular 'Krinkled White'.

Balloon Flower
The Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is so named because its unopened buds look remarkably like miniature 2-3-inch hot air balloons. The buds open into lovely star-shaped flowers. This whimsical perennial needs well-drained soil and thrives in full sun to partial shade. It can grow to 3 feet tall with a similar spread. Hybrids can be found with white, pink, and  blue flowers. Other common names are Bellflower and Chinese Bellflower. 

Crimson Scabious
crimson-scabious.jpgCrimson Scabious (Knautia macedonia), sometimes called Field Scabious, features unusual 1-2-inch-wide pincushiony flowers often described as claret or burgundy in color. Praised as a superb border plant, its open foliage gives it a see-through quality that many gardeners love. It likes full sun or partial shade and grows to 4 feet tall and as wide. Perennial in the Ozarks, it blooms from summer into early winter. Bonus: it's also very attractive to butterflies.


Noting the bloom time and physical characteristics of Xeriscape Garden plants can help enormously in planning and designing home gardens. These gorgeous blue-violet iris, for example, are at their peak in early May.


These hollyhocks in early June brought an old-fashioned air to the Xeriscape Garden. Though the leaves were plagued by leafminers, the flowers were still so lovely that no one seemed to mind.

A Closer View

This closer view of the Hollyhocks reveals a little more of their charm.

Black-Eyed Susan
Many flowering plants, and especially those in the Rudbeckia species, go by the name "Black-Eyed Susan." The most acclaimed, however, is this variety--'Goldsturm' (Redbuckia fulgida var. sullivantii), which in 1999 was named the Perennial Plant of the Year. This extremely hardy plant grows to 30 inches tall by 24 inches wide and bears brilliant yellow, black-centered flowers all season long, making it an especially commanding presence in landscapes and gardens in the late fall. 

Japanese Anemone
Imagine a perennial shrub 3-4 feet tall and as wide filled with these beautiful white blossoms. Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida) is a singular presence in the garden, thanks to its rich green foliage and profusion of flowers from late summer through fall. It likes part shade, regular watering, and well-drained soil. This variety is most likely 'Whirlwind,' long a garden favorite.

A Subtler Torch Lily
This Kniphofia uvaria maxima is much more subtly colored than its cousin, Kniphofia alcazar, whose vivid red-orange-yellow flower indeed resembles a flaming torch. Redder varieties also are often called Red Hot Poker or Poker Plant. Of South African origin, Kniphofia are perennial in most climate zones. They like full sun and can take drought but prefer plentiful water in summer. Some varieties reach 5 feet, and all do beautifully in the Ozarks.

Purple Coneflower
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) gets its common name from the conical form and spiny texture of its center. The species name Echinacea is Latin for "hedgehog." This vigorous wildflower's color, uniquely graceful blossoms, and 3-5-foot height make it very striking in the garden. In addition, as the presence of this Monarch might testify, butterflies love it.

'Little Magnus' Coneflower

The 'Little Magnus' Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'Little Magnus') is a gem of a plant for gardeners who want the robust beauty of a coneflower in smaller spaces. This dwarf variety grows to only 18-24 inches tall, but the flowers are still large. A vigorous grower, it loves full sun and does beautifully in average soil.

'Flying Saucer' Morning Glory
Vivid blue-and-white swirls make the 'Flying Saucer' Morning Glory a singularly lovely flower. Given full sun, average soil, and good drainage, the vine grows vigorously and quickly to 12-15 feet long and blooms right up till frost. Like most morning glories, it's ideal for trellises, arbors, fences, poles, and other upright structures, and can be beautiful cascading from hanging baskets as well.

Happily, Gallardia, also known as Blanket Flower and Indian Blanket, is one of the most easily grown yet also most colorful perennials to be found in Ozarks gardens. This is Gaillardia x grandiflora, which can grow as tall as 36 inches and as wide as 24 inches. It does well in drier conditions, blooms profusely from early summer to frost, and its flowers are beautiful cut or dried.

Gaillardias Close Up, and a Friend

We had to add this closer view of the Gaillardias because of the bumblebee nestled in one of the blossoms.

'Summer's Kiss' Gaillardia

The new 'Summer's Kiss' Gaillardia (Gaillardia grandiflorum 'Summer's Kiss') is as beguiling as its name. It features soft-apricot flowers with a gold-orange blush, grows 18 inches tall by 24 inches and loves full sun. It does beautifully in the Ozarks and if deadheaded blooms all season.  

'Amber Wheels' Gaillardia

'Amber Wheels' Gaillardia (Gaillardia aristata 'Amber Wheels) is a larger Gaillardia plant with beautiful, extra-large yellow flowers with a reddish amber eye and fringed petals. A perennial, it likes full sun and grows to 30-36 inches tall and 18 inches wide. It blooms profusely from late spring to fall and the flowers attract butterflies.

Two More Beautiful Gaillardias

"Dazzling" would be a fair word for this planting of two varieties of Gaillardia grandiflora. The red one is 'Burgundy,' which grows to 24 inches tall, takes dry soil, and blooms prolifically through fall. The smaller, multicolored 'Baby Cole' grows to 8 inches tall and 12 inches wide, making it a perfect size for rock gardens.

'Coral Reef' Monarda
Commonly known as Bee Balm, plants in the Monarda family are noted for sweetly fragrant flowers that are wildly attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. 'Coral Reef' Monarda (Monarda didyma x 'Coral Reef') adds bright coral color to the garden and grows to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. In moist soils it spreads quickly; with average watering, growth is more restrained.

These two Cleome (Cleome hasslerana), commonly known as Spider Flower, are intriguing presences in the Xeriscape Garden. Native to South America, Cleome's open, airy flower heads can be as large as 8 inches wide on stems as tall as 6 feet. New hybrids feature violet, cherry, pink, and white flowers. Extremely attractive to hummingbirds, the plant is also superb for cut flowers.

Cleome Up Close

A closer look at the Cleome above reveals more the unique "spidery" configuration of the flower. (Cleome hasslerana).

A Beautiful Background

The Xeriscape Garden is also a wonderful setting for photos, as this family has discovered.

Japanese Kerria
kerria-japonica-jpg.jpgNo plant we know brings more cheer to shady gardens than Japanese Kerria (Kerria Japonica), a mounding shrub with bright yellow flowers and bright green foliage and stems. Several cultivars are available, but the species is the one to get. In the Ozarks it blooms all season long. It likes as much shade as possible, as the flowers fade in the sun. Easy to grow, in good, well drained soil it can reach 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Common names include Japanese Rose, Japanese Yellow Rose, and Easter Rose. As you can see, it's extra-lovely alongside blue flowers such as these columbines. 

'Everest White' Hibiscus

This pure-white hibiscus with a crimson eye is 'Everest White', an outstanding variety of Hibiscus moscheutos. An herbaceous perennial, it needs full sun and grows 3-4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. A superb accent plant, it blooms from July through September.

'Luna Red' Hibiscus

The spectacular 'Luna Red' Hibiscus combines huge 7-8-inch claret-colored flowers with a smaller, more compact plant. It grows 2-3 feet tall and as wide, making it ideal for containers as well as in the garden. It tolerates heat, cold, and drought and also attracts butterflies.

'100 Degrees' Hibiscus
Flowers of the palest pink and a neat crimson center make this Hibiscus an extremely engaging plant in the garden. We're pretty sure it's the '100 Degrees' Hibiscus, an extremely vigorous grower that can reach 4 feet tall or taller, loves full sun, and tolerates 100-degree-plus temperatures. The flowers are truly huge, measuring about 9 inches across. 

A Rose-Colored Hibiscus

For the life of us, we can't find the precise identity of this beautiful rose-colored Hibiscus, but we include it because we love the splayed petals and warm rose color and thought you might, too. If you know the varietal name of this marvelous plant, please tell us so we can share it with everyone.

'Elizabeth' Campanula

'Elizabeth' Campanula (Campanula takesimana 'Elizabeth') is an upright perennial with attractive finer-textured foliage and unusual hanging, tubular, pale pink flowers. It likes full sun to part shade and does well in average, well-drained soil. It grows in a clump and can spread aggressively if not controlled. Like all campanulas, it does best where nighttime temperatures are not consistently above 70 degrees. The common name for Campanula is Bellflower.

'Oriental Limelight' Artemisia

'Oriental Limelight' Artemisia ((Artemisia vulgaris 'Oriental Limelight') is a very striking fragrant, variegated plant that grows quickly into an upright, bushy clump 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. In late summer it bears very small brown flowers. Easy to grow, it thrives in virtually all soils and is an excellent accent plant in any garden. Note: It also works beautifully in containers.

'Little Lemon' Goldenrod

'Little Lemon' Goldenrod ((Solidago hybrida 'Dansolitlem') is a wonder of a plant--a very small, compact goldenrod with beautiful soft, yellow flowers. This easy-to-grow perennial is both heat- and drought-tolerant, prefers full sun, and thrives in average soils. It grows to 14 inches tall and 18 inches wide, making it ideal at the front of the garden border, as an edger, or in containers.

Castor Bean

The Castor Bean (Ricinus communis), also called Castor Oil Plant, is a most dramatic plant in the garden for its enormous, glossy leaves as much as 18 inches in diameter. Unfortunately its seeds are highly toxic. This specimen has now been removed from the garden. And yes, the seeds are also the source of castor oil, which, with the toxin removed, is still used by some as a laxative.

'Sunshine Daydream' False Sunflower

'Sunshine Daydream' False Sunflower (Helianthus x multiflorus 'Sunshine Daydream') is a real winner for summer Ozarks gardens. This marvel of a plant can grow as tall as 6 feet and as wide as 4 feet and in July and August is literally covered with very bright, fully double flowers. Give it full sun and moist but well-drained average soil, and stand back for a real display. 

A Unique Phlox

This summer-blooming phlox, Phlox paniculata 'Nora Leigh,' is unique for its cream-and-green variegated leaves. Its flowers are the palest pink with a dark pink eye. It's so striking that it's been called "The phlox that rocks" and "The brazen hussy of the garden." 'Nora Leigh' grows to 3 feet tall and its variegated leaves make it a strong accent plant even when not in bloom.

A Special Dahlia
a-very-very-special-dahlia.jpgHappy Single Dahlias are single-flowered dahlias developed in the Netherlands and famed worldwide for their exceptional beauty. All have striking purple-black foliage and colorful flowers with dark centers and are dramatic additions to any garden, landscape, or containers. This one, Happy Single Party, or HS Party, has bright yellow flowers. Other flower colors in the series are red, peach, rose, orange, white, and pink. HS dahlias thrive in full or partial sun, grow to 30 inches tall by 24 inches wide, and bloom from spring to frost. Hardy down to 15 degrees, in the Ozarks they're best treated as annuals. To save the tubers over winter they should be dug before the first frost, allowed to dry, then packed in peat moss and stored in a dark, cool place. Note: To see another beautiful HS Series Dahlia, click here.

Purple Poppy Mallow

This vividly colorful perennial wildflower, Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata), thrives in the wild from southern Canada to northern Mexico. Forming clumps up to 3 feet wide and 6-12-inches tall, it's absolutely loaded with tiny (1-inch or so), cup-shaped blossoms. It's drought-tolerant, likes full sun, and reseeds freely in the garden.

White Jupiter's Beard
white-jupiter-s-beard.jpgShowy clouds of white star-shaped flowers make White Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber 'Albus') especially engaging in the garden. A reliable perennial, it grows quickly to 3 feet tall with a spread up to 2 feet. It likes full sun but will grow in part shade and prefers moist, well-drained soil but can do well even in poor soils. A good cut flower that blooms all summer if deadheaded. Many gardeners consider it an ideal companion to roses.

'Bright Edge' Yucca
bright-edge-yucca.jpgYuccas are the lowest-maintenance plants we know, and this one, 'Bright Edge' Yucca (Yucca filamentosa 'Bright Edge') is a winner on every count. In fact, we can't recommend it too highly for any garden or landscape. Its beautiful swordlike green leaves with golden edges keep their color all year -round, even in the heaviest snows. White flowers appear in summer. It grows to 3 feet tall and 1 1/2-2 feet tall, is disease resistant, tolerates heat and drought, and thrives in any soil. The common name is Adam's Needle. 

A weed to some, Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is also a gorgeous wildflower. It's a stately presence in the wild, towering to 6 feet or more with velvety leaves and long, bright-yellow flower spikes. Over 40 common names include Velvet Dock, Candlewick, Torchwort, and Big Taper. The latter refers to the practice of dipping stalks in tallow and using them as funeral torches, common in ancient Greece.

Spotted Dead Nettle
spotted-deadnettle-jpg.jpgSpotted Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum) is a superb ground cover for partial shade and full shade areas. It grows quickly into a thick mat of glossy, silvery green leaves and from late spring to midsummer bears an abundance of bright purple flower spikes. It grows in a wide range of soils and with enough moisture can reach 6-12 inches tall and 1-2 feet wide. It will take some sun, but with too much sun the leaves will scorch.

Grasses, Too
grasses%2C_too_jpg.jpgThe Xeriscape Garden displays some beautiful ornamental grasses as well as its flowers and shrubs. Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum), shown here, is an extremely graceful plant that grows to 3 feet tall and bears airy flower panicles often tinged with purple. One common name, Purple Fountain Grass, now more often refers to newer varieties such as Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum', which actually has purple stems. A deciduous perennial, Fountain Grass is easily propagated by division and is an outstanding accent plant in any garden.

Maiden Grass
maiden-grass-jpg.jpgMaiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis) is one of the most versatile and attractive ornamental grasses. It grows 3-6 feet tall with a graceful fountain-like shape with flowers in August and September. In winter it turns a beautiful almond color until spring, when it should be cut to the ground. Easily divided, if cut into thirds each portion will grow to a full-size plant. It likes full sun but does well with partial sun or shade.    

Purple Fountain Grass

One of the loveliest of the ornamental grasses, Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') must be treated as an annual in the Ozarks. Its beautiful arching habit, dark burgundy color, and "wooly" flowers make it a highlight in any garden or landscape. It grows 3-5 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide, likes full sun to part shade and medium moisture, and requires little maintenance.

Purple Fountain Grass Up Close

This closer look at Purple Fountain Grass reveals more of the texture and coloration of the beautiful flower heads. 

Pink Muhly Grass
As you can see, Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is nothing less than spectacular for late-season garden color, this curbside specimen being photographed in October. Growing to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, it displays its profusion of flowers in a beautiful, fountainlike, cascading habit. Highly tolerant of drought, heat, and humidity, likes full sun and thrives in the Ozarks.

Feather Grass

The name "Feather Grass" applies to some 300 grasses in the plant genus Stipa that are known for their featherlike flower spikes. Only a few are grown as ornamental grasses. We don't know the species name of this one, as it was unlabeled, but we like it.

Mexican Feather Grass

A great many gardeners think this one of the most engaging of all ornamental grasses. Mexican Feather Grass (formerly in the Stipa genus, now classified as Nassella tenuissima) has delicate, light green leaves and fine, airy flower heads that flow with the gentlest of breezes. Easy to grow, it can form clumps 24 inches tall and as wide, 30 inches tall when in flower. 


This Black Swallowtail appeared on the garden's verbena in mid-September.

'Rising Sun' Redbud
One of the newest residents of the Xeriscape Garden is the much-admired 'Rising Sun' Redbud
(Cercis canadensis 'The Rising Sun' 'JN2' 21,451), here photographed in late September. It boasts rose-orchid flowers and brilliantly colored foliage. The blossoms appear before leaves that turn apricot-color and pass through shades of orange, gold, yellow, and finally a rich golden-orange in fall. It likes sun or light shade and can grow 8-12 feet tall and 12 feet wide.

A Lush Autumn

The Xeriscape Garden is so well planned and maintained that even in October it's still lush and beautiful. Here Jim, surrounded by exceptionally healthy, vigorous plants, checks his handiwork.

Purple Dome Asters

No plant brings more spectacular color to the garden in late summer and fall than the Purple Dome Aster (Novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'). A low-maintenance perennial, it likes full sun and good well-drained soil and grows to 18-24 inches tall and 2-3 feet wide. Birds and bees love this flower, whose common species name is New England Aster.

Monarch and Asters

Monarchs and Asters rank high on the list of good things in the autumn Xeriscape Garden.

Mums and Sage

Another imaginative curbside planting in the Xeriscape Garden, these orange mums clustered with blue sage make a most engaging entryway.

Japanese Beauty Berry
Clusters of perfectly round, rich-purple berries make Japanese Beauty Berry (Callicarpa japonica) a true visual treat in fall, winter, and spring. They normally show peak color from November through January, but linger into early spring. A deciduous shrub that can reach 8 feet tall, it also has attractive yellow-green foliage and bears lilac-colored flowers later in spring, making it a marvel in the landscape.


When most of our garden plants are coming to rest or actually dormant, others bring vivid color to our late autumn and winter landscapes. The plant known as Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina (Nandina domestica), and its red berries brighten the scene wherever they are found.

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