Do you want a waterwise plant to underscore a path transition or accent a small space? I call them punctuation hedges, and my three favorites are Prostanthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata,’ Westringia ‘Wynyabbie Gem,’ and Rhaphiolepis umbellata ‘Minor.’ Climate and soil qualities in their native regions of Australia or Japan make these tough plants good choices here in California and other dry areas too.
Prostanthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata’ – Variegated Mint Bush
This evergreen shrub of the Lamiaceae (Mints) family has eye-catching creamy variegation, purple flowers, and a subtle minty fragrance. Listed as sun or part shade, our 2 in midday sun are thirstier than 5 nearby in filtered sun. If wilted from dryness, the delicate foliage recovers after water is added.
Professional landscape designers who recently toured our garden were taken by this specimen’s beauty. We prune the 3 in shade by our garage doors twice a year and let our others grow to be 6’ tall and 4’ wide.
Westringia ‘Wynyabbie Gem’ – Coast Rosemary
Another Lamiaceae, this hybrid between coastal W. fruticosa and inland-growing W. eremicola can handle sun or light shade. With clusters of lilac-pink flowers in spring, ours demarcate the entrance garden. Those in sun grew wider than ones in shade, so we trimmed the fat half and widened the narrow with 2 more. After 3 years they are 5′ high and 3′ wide.
This hedge creates an alluring “hide and reveal” effect for this garden that opens to the pool area beyond. We like it so much that we added another nearby during our lawn removal #4 project. As standalone shrubs in another bed, though, we found it ordinary rather than distinctive.
Rhaphiolepis umbellata ‘Minor’ – Dwarf Yeddo Hawthorn
This compact broadleaf evergreen shrub of the Rosaceae (Roses) family has glossy dark green leaves with coppery new growth and white flowers in spring. Listed as full sun, ours distinguish a lightly-shaded path. Although slower-growing, in 3 years they tripled in size to a healthy 3’ tall by 18” wide.
This gorgeous plant just became a star in our knot garden too. After continual unexplained losses of 21 of 96 Myrsine africana since our January 2015 lawn removal there, I took a page from Pack it in when plants die and replaced them with this proven performer.