Cambrian: Opinion

Working with Mother Nature to bring green back to Cambria

When you ask people their favorite color they seldom say, “Green.” That’s because green doesn’t get noticed like 

“riotous red” or “perky pink.” Green is a neutral color, neither warm nor cold, a background color that allows flashy colors to stand out. Healthy soil produces green leaves. When leaves turn yellow, the soil may lack nitrogen, magnesium or water. Green tells us there is an abundance of sunlight, moisture and minerals for plant vigor.

Cambrians have enjoyed living in a green environment over the years. They are fond of the color on the visible light spectrum that is somewhere between blue and yellow, the colors of sun and water. Chlorophyll, the chemical in plants that converts sunlight into energy, is responsible for the green color. For gardeners, green represents growth, renewal and relaxation.

This has been a tough year for gardeners. Much of our nurturing, soothing green color has disappeared. The brilliant hues of summer and fall seem abrasive. Are vibrant hues essential in a garden pallet or are various shades of green enough to satisfy a gardener’s appetite for color?

In a time of drought, striving to add green to your garden may sound absurd. But a few well-placed shrubs may provide enough to satisfy the “need for green” without straining the water supply. The Pittosporum tenuifolium shrubs surrounding our deck have survived without supplemental water for years. Mapleleaf viburnum and snowball viburnum are drought-

tolerant and produce white clusters of flowers in the spring and leaves of green throughout the summer.

When adding green to your garden, consider textures from dull to shiny. Vary plants in shapes and sizes. Plant a matte spiky agave next to a viburnum 

tinus. The contrast is lovely. Ferns in shady places can bring different shades of green, texture and height to a darker area of your garden.

I’ve sworn I’d never plant juniper again after removing 40 year-old shrubs in our previous home. But creeping juniper is different, growing only a few inches high and 10 feet wide, it 

creates an almost “lawn-like” mat. I could never convert to a monochromatic green garden without splashes of color, but will work with Mother Nature to do what I can to bring green back to Cambria.

Tip of the month

The term “drought-tolerant” means the plant is able to survive during prolonged periods of dry weather. Here are a few steps you can take to help prepare your shrubs for periods of little or no water:

1. Amend your soil with an organic soil conditioner, such as compost, peat moss or composted manure. Amendments will improve its structure and increase its ability to retain moisture.

2. Plant at the proper time of year. On the Central Coast, we plant in the mild temperatures of October, before the November rains begin. This reduces water requirements and allows root development before spring growth.

3. Water shrubs consistently for the first three to four weeks after they are planted. Water deeply once or twice during the first summer. Deep watering will encourage a deep root system, providing a better chance of surviving prolonged periods without water.

4. Apply mulch 2-3 inches deep once a year to nourish and keeps roots moist.

Lee Oliphant’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at