If you find yourself in the parking lot of the West Columbia entrance, be sure to take a stroll along a path of river rocks through the Dry Garden. Built in 2002, the Dry Garden contains a wide array of plants that can tolerate extended periods with very little water.
These plants are indicative of what you would find in desert to semi-desert regions. They are adapted to hot summers with little or no rainfall each year. Many of these plants are succulents, meaning they have thick leaves that store water. Others perform very well in a milder environment, but can adapt to the harshness of the desert.
This type of landscaping is sometimes called "xeriscape" (from the Greek word xeri meaning dry or needing little water). For this type of garden, it is best to use plants that thrive naturally without too much help. Grey-leaved plants do well, as do fleshy plants (those that naturally retain a lot of moisture)
|Agave 'Century Plant'|
A member of the amaryllis family, the century plant takes many years to flower--though not a century. It blooms only once in its life. The blooming spike is so large and grows so fast that it consumes all the plant's energy, and the plant dies within six months of flowering. The flower stalk can reach up to 30-feet high. The century plant provided Native Americans with a source of soap, food, fiber, medicine, and weapons. Its sap is still used today in Mexico to produce tequila. The Dry Garden at Riverbanks contains several different species of Agave.
|Opuntia 'Prickly Pear'|
These cacti have flat, fleshy pads that look like large leaves. The pads are actually modified branches or stems that serve several functions, such as water storage, photosynthesis, and flower production. The fruits of most prickly pears are edible. The pads are also cooked and eaten as a vegetable called "nopalito". They produce yellow, red, or purple flowers and can be found in all of the deserts of the American Southwest and Mexico.
|Kniphofia 'Red Hot Poker Plant'|
These perennials are grown for their beautiful poker-like flower spikes. They can be found growing in the wild in South Africa. Heights range from 2-5 feet. They have narrow, strappy leaves that may be blue-green or medium green. They are heat and drought tolerant, so they have found their place in the desert-like conditions of a dry garden. Their flowers range in color from yellow to deep red, sometimes exhibiting several colors on one flower spike.
This plant is heat and drought hardy, but it will thrive in a more temperate garden as well. This tree yucca will grow 10-15' tall and has rigid steely blue leaves up to 3' long. It forms a nice symmetrical clump that adds structure to the garden. It forms 2-3' spikes of white flowers in the summer and makes a bold dramatic statement either singly or in clusters.
|Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm'|
This compact bushy perennial flowers all summer and into early fall. It produces a profusion of 5-inch wide golden-yellow flowers with black centers. The dark green foliage is a nice contrast to the bright flowers. It is very drought tolerant and attracts butterflies and other insects to the garden. It grows 24-30" tall.