Answer: What a sad state of affairs! If you already know where you'd like to place your plants, you can simply choose your favorites from the following suggestions. If you need some ideas for creating your flower beds, you can visit the Monrovia nursery web site and click on a few of their theme gardens (www.monrovia.com). The plant suggestions can be specific for your growing zone if you fill in the questionaire.
As for preparing the soil, start by removing all vegetation and then spreading 4-5 inches of organic matter (such as compost) over the bed and then digging it in to a depth of 8-10". Level the soil and then plant. Adding organic matter will loosen the soil and help it retain moisture - both things your new plants will love.
Here are some plants to consider:
Callistemon citrinus, LEMON BOTTLEBRUSH; Bright red flowers on large shrub attract hummingbirds
Cistus (several), ROCKROSE; Many leaf colors, textures, flower colors. Needs good drainage
Dodonaea viscosa, HOPSEED BUSH; Willowy purple leaves and pretty seed pods on large upright shrub
Eleagnus pungens, SILVERBERRY; Tough shrub for barrier hedge. Look for variegated types.
Euryops pectinatus, EURYOPS; Yellow daisylike flowers yearlong on bright green shrub
Lantana hybrids; Lots of flower colors available. Aromatic. Needs full sun
Juniperus (most); Popular conifers come in many forms. Watch for mites, may be subject to root rot
Myrtus communis, TRUE MYRTLE; Neat hedge/screen w shiny green leaves, white flowers.
Nandina domestica, HEAVENLY BAMBOO; Finely divided leaves create airy look. Winter foliage color and berries
Pittosporum tobira; Basic landscape shrubbery; variegated/dwarf forms available
Plumbago auriculata, CAPE PLUMBAGO; Fluffy mound of bright green leaves, white/blue flower clusters
Prunus ilicifolia, HOLLYLEAF CHERRY; Makes good clipped hedge with rich green hollylike foliage, berries
Punica granatum, POMEGRANATE; Showy orange flowers on deciduous shrub. Some varieties bear fruit.
Rhaphiolepis indica, INDIA HAWTHORN; Common landscape shrub. Many varieties and flower colors; tolerant of wide range of growing conditions
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