Miles Daprato and Rain Butler installing drip irrigation at Aqua Free garden site
Miles Daprato and Rain Butler installing drip irrigation at the AquaFree garden site along Garrod Drive in the west end of the Arboretum.

AquaFree Demonstration Garden Coming Soon!

This fall, our Learning by Leading™ (LxL) Sustainable Horticulture apprentices will be planting an "AquaFree Demonstration Garden" thanks to a grant the team received from The Green Initiative Fund — a student-fee-supported program, hosted by the Office of Sustainability, offering students the opportunity to develop and launch innovative sustainability projects on campus.

The project, located on a prominent site in the west end of the Arboretum along Garrod Drive near the Arboretum Teaching Nursery, will utilize drought-tolerant plant species from California, the American Southwest, Australia and other dry climates. The purpose of these plantings will be to demonstrate and test the plants by growing them under three different, very-low-water irrigation regimes — including zero — to show which plants are capable of withstanding the increasingly hot and arid environment that is projected for the Central Valley as the climate changes. 

Last winter and spring, the LxL Sustainable Horticulture students designed the garden, assembled a low-water plant list and installed a sub-surface irrigation system (see photo above).  This fall, student apprentices and staff will transform the bare site into drought-tolerant, eye-catching garden that they hope will inspire others to plant similar, highly sustainable gardens. 

Empty plot of land next to a coral.
This empty plot of land, located in front of the Large Animal Blood Donor Facility, will be transformed into the AquaFree Demonstration Garden. 

All of the new plantings will receive irrigation during their first summer of establishment. The real test will begin the following summer when one plot will get no further irrigation and the other two will get low and very low supplemental watering. The plants that succeed in this project have the potential to be incredibly useful for implementing sustainable landscaping in the Davis region and other dry parts of California. 

This will be the first publicly accessible garden on campus that showcases plantings with no supplemental irrigation. The outcomes from this experimental garden will help future-proof campus landscapes from impending droughts while enhancing the UC Davis experience for students, faculty, staff and visitors alike!

Demo Garden Plant List

Scientific name Common name Description
Epilobium canum 'Everett's Choice' Everett's Choice California fuchsia This California native plant thrives in dry, sunny gardens. Hummingbirds love its red trumpet blooms in late summer.
Teucrium chamaedrys wall germander This tidy evergreen perennial stays short while making showy dark pink flowers that attract bees in Summer.
Triteleia laxa Ithuriel's spear This California native plant has showy purple flowers in six-pointed star shapes on naked stems in spring and summer. It can get up to 2 ft tall x 6 in wide. 
x Mangave 'Silver Fox'    
Salvia 'Bee's Bliss' Bee's Bliss sage This low growing, spreading shrub produces long, violet-blue flowers in early spring, attracting many bees with its pollen and fragrance. 
Agave 'Blue Glow' Blue Glow agave  
Agave celsii 'Nova' blue fox tail agave A rosette forming succulent that can grow up to 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide. It flowers only once after 10 plus years, a rare display of multiple pale yellow flowers. It is a fast growing plant that likes full sun and a well-drained soil. 
Ballota pseudodictamnus Grecian horehound This drought-tolerant shrub native to Turkey can get to 2 feet high and grows under full sun with small wooly leaves and blooms in the summer, producing small white flowers. 
Bulbine frutescens Cape balsam This spreading succulent can be tall when it blooms and makes bright yellow flowers in spring that bees love. It is known for its lush green color and ability to crawl and spread over barren ground.
Epilobium canum 'Uvas Canyon' Uvas Canyon California fuchsia A Uvas Canyon variation of the California fuchsia, this herb produces bright red flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies in late summer and early fall
Lavandula stoechas 'Otto Quast' Otto Quast Spanish lavender An evergreen perennial that can grow 3ft by 3ft in stature. It has showy maroon-purple flowers that bloom Spring/Summer, attracting butterflies and bees. It is drought-tolerant and fragrant. 
Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita B.O.P.’ Santa Margarita foothill penstemon This tidy waist high California native plant makes masses of vivid violet-blue flowers in late spring that bees and hummingbirds love.
Salvia officinalis 'Compacta' dwarf garden sage This perennial shrub grows just over a foot tall and is commonly used as sage in cooking. It blooms violet blue flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds in spring.
Salvia rosmarinus 'Mozart' Ed Carman's rosemary Commonly used as a cooking herb, this Mediterranean shrub can grow up to 6 feet in height and width, and produces blue flowers in summer.
x Mangave 'Mission to Mars'    
Artemisia 'Powis Castle' Powis Castle artemisia A beautiful drought tolerant woody perennial valued for its finely dissected, aromatic, silver-gray foliage. It typically grows in a shrubby mound that gets as high as your knees.
Agave ovatifolia whale's tongue agave Named after its giant succulent leaves, the whale tongue agave is a solitary succulent that grows from knee to waist high with a rounded rosette of short wide gray leaves. When this plant flowers it forms a 10-14 ft tall spike with greenish-yellow flowers.
Agave vilmoriniana octopus agave This Mexican agave is less spiny than other agaves and resembles an octopus with its curved, smooth leaves. Grows to 3 feet tall by 5 feet wide.
Ceanothus griseus horizontalis ‘Yankee Point’ Yankee Point Carmel creeper A 3' tall 10' wide shrub, this ubiquitous ceanothus variety maintains dark green foliage throughout the year, and explodes with violet flowers in the winter and spring. 
Elymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince' Canyon Prince wild ryegrass Growing up to 3 feet in height and width, this Californian grass produces gray-green leaves and blooms with wheat-colored flowers in summer.
Grevillea 'Gilded Dragon' Gilded Dragon grevillea This low-lying Australian native blooms in the fall and spring with gray feathery leaves and intricate red flowers that attract nectar-feeding birds. Though not tall, it can spread out rather wide.
Hardenbergia violacea ‘Mini Haha’ Mini Haha dwarf lilac vine This Australia-native shrub grows up to 3 feet high and 5 feet wide, with long linear leaves and purple flowers that bloom in spring and winter.
Limoniastrum monopetalum shrubby statice This tall shrub can grow up to 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide, with blossoms of bunches of small, lavender flowers in the spring.
Salvia dolomitica South African sage Originating in South Africa, this sage shows a striking color contrast between its dark red flower bracts and light pink flowers that bloom from spring into summer. It can reach a maximum size of 6 feet wide by 6 feet tall. 
Sideritis oroteneriffae Canary Island white sage This drought-tolerant plant thrives in the Mediterranean climate of Davis. It has showy silver green leaves with fuzzy texture. It can grow up to 5 ft tall and 4 ft wide. 
Muhlenbergia dubia pine muhly This fine, medium-sized grass thrives in dry, sunny gardens. Its symmetrical 4 feet dome shape looks tidy year round.
Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn' Vine Hill manzanita This evergreen shrub grows up to 10 feet in height and width and produces shiny leaves and clusters of light-pink bulb-shaped flowers that bloom in winter and spring.
Ceanothus maritimus ‘Valley Violet’ Valley Violet maritime ceanothus This evergreen shrub thrives in full sun and boasts blooms of small pink, blue, or white flowers in mid to late spring. It can get up to 5 feet in height and 8 feet across. 
Eremophila nivea silky eremophila A rare shrub native to Australia, this plant can get shoulder height tall and has a distinctive silvery appearance. It likes full sun and a well-drained soil, and it blooms during Fall/Winter, displaying either blue, purple or violet flowers. 
Eriogonum arborescens Santa Cruz Island buckwheat This drought-tolerant evergreen shrub reaches 5 feet in height, with rosie pink blooms in early spring and summer that age into red-brown seed heads by fall. 
Hesperaloe parviflora coral yucca This tough desert plant is a tidy plant that grows in a 2 foot circle. It loves full sun and makes distinguishable tall stalks of coral red flowers in summer that attract hummingbirds.
Leucadendron salignum 'Winter Red' Winter Red conebush Native to South Africa, this hardy evergreen shrub is heat and drought tolerant. In the spring, cream and red-toned flowers add to its composition. Can get waist high and 6 feet across!
Teucrium fruticans 'Azureum' Azureum bush germander This chest high hardy evergreen shrub develops its distinctive lavender flowers and green-gray leaves with silver hairs in winter to early spring. 
Trichostema lanatum woolly blue curls Native to dry chaparral, this 5 ft tall and wide shrub is known for its fragrant foliage and violet blooms that attract native pollinators in spring and fall. 
Berberis fremontii    
Fremontodendron ‘Ken Taylor’ Ken Taylor flannel bush This mounding evergreen shrub boasts large, arching stems and cup-shaped, golden orange flowers that bloom from mid-spring through summer. By adulthood, it becomes a rather large shrub.

Leucophyllum x Heavenly Cloud

Maireana sedifolia pearl bluebush This Australia-native shrub typically grows up to 3 feet in height and width, with succulent white leaves and small pink or tan flowers.
Nolina nelsonii blue nolina This Mexican native, low-growing succulent thrives in extreme drought and cold weather. Look for a 4 by 4 feet grass that has white or yellow bloom stalks in Spring. 
Salvia brandegeei 'Pacific Blue' Pacific Blue Santa Rosa Island sage Native to the Channel Islands of California, this sage develops long spikes of blue and purple flowers that attract bees in the early spring. It can reach a maximum size of 6 feet wide by 6 feet tall.
Bupleurum fruticosum    
Rhamnus californica ‘Eve Case’ California coffeeberry This hardy evergreen shrub is native to California and can grow to over 6 feet in height and width if given ample space. Preferring areas with light shade, it boasts green-yellow flowers and black berries when in bloom. 
Rhamnus californica ‘Leatherleaf’ Leatherleaf coffeeberry This California native evergreen shrub has tiny flowers that attract beneficial insects and birds in spring. Grows to 6 ft tall x 6 ft wide. 
Cercis occidentalis Western redbud A shrub or small tree up to 20 ft tall, redbud is a native favorite for its extravagant pink floral displays in early spring, and attractive architecture in fall and winter. 
Heteromeles arbutifolia toyon This 8-10 ft tall and wide native and drought tolerant shrub goes from bee-attracting white blooms in summer to bunches of bird-attracting red berries in winter. 
Dermatophyllum secundiflorum Texas mountain laurel Hailing from Texas, this small tree is known for its dense dark green leaves and clusters of lavender flowers that bloom in spring.

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