Plants that survived years of neglect on Alcatraz and are now thriving with renewed attention prove proper plant selection can yield a satisfying landscape even under the most challenging conditions. Among the suitable survivors for foggy, rocky, coastal gardens and low-water use:
Aeonium: These succulents native to Morocco and the Canary Islands need very little water or soil preparation and grow in large rosettes. Aeonium arboreum is dramatically edged in red.
Centranthus ruber: This perennial seems to grow wild all over the Bay Area with little to no fussing at all. It can thrive in crummy soil, in outcroppings and is beautiful when the red is interplayed with mauve. And it has a long bloom.
Limonium: Although not historically found on Alcatraz, it has been introduced with much success as a good plant for The Rock's unique condition. Drought tolerant, it has bold leaves and an architectural bearing in a garden.
Crocosmia: Planted in a group these summer bloomers put on a good show and come in red, yellow and orange. Some of the Alcatraz bulbs have been popping up annually for more than 60 years.
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker): Native to Africa, these tall, sturdy and striking plants survive well in coastal environments. Many have also survived years of neglect in abandoned gardens on the North Coast. They have thick, almost succulent leaf blades and cylindrical flower spikes. Digging Dog Nursery in Albion has a large selection (www.diggingdog.com).