Friday, March 12, 2010

Late Winter in the Desert Southwest

The rain finally stopped and the wind has died down and I just spent a very pleasant while strolling my yard with my camera.  The morning paper had an article about rattlesnakes this week, but since the temperatures are comfortably ensconced in the 50's there's no real worry, even at 3 in the afternoon.  In May, I'll be a lot more cautious.  Today, though, was perfect, and I have to share it with you.

Remember the weeds I decided were flowers?  Ernie and his guys were here to do the heavy lifting and carting and raking and blowing and pruning and weeding, and they started before I'd returned from the gym.  In a panic, I tore into the driveway, screaming "NO NO NO" as I saw them bent over in the courtyard.  Once out of the car,  I realized that they were smiling and, once I stopped hyperventilating and was able to speak, I saw that they had carefully protected each and every one of the might-be-weeds-but-are-soon-to-be-flowers plants.  I love working with Ernie for many reasons, but his intuitive sense of what ought to happen in the garden is my favorite piece of his wonderfulness.

Here's what he saved:

Each flower has many more buds lurking underneath

just waiting to transform the courtyard into a blue carpeted wonderland.  I'm experimenting with one or two other sets of leaves; if they become beautiful additions to the yard they will rate photos themselves.  For now, they are on the cusp of being sprayed with RoundUp....

The Prickly Pear cacti are also starting to bud out.

The blooms form on the edges of the pads, and they're stunning even before the flowers arrive:

They are also very tasty... witness the raw stump of a bud which was turned to dinner by a hungry ground squirrel (on the right edge of this photograph).

Somewhat less tasty, but no less dangerous to the ungloved hand, the bougainvilla profits every year from a severe pruning.  Here's what it looks like today:

I will keep you posted on its rapid growth.  By May, it should be covering the wall.  This without irrigation, fertilizer or much attention at all.  Bougainvilla is definitely "the right plant in the right place" for my southern exposures.

The only thing that's fully in bloom is the Euphorbia rigida (Gopher Plant).

Once again, with no irrigation and no chicken wire protection its natural defenses make it the hardiest piece of my landscaping.  It is also one of the most interesting.  Take a look at the complexity of this flower:

The Sunset Western Garden Book tells me that this is cluster of yellow flowers at the end of a fleshy stem.  To me, there's also one giant flower comprised of lots (I count 10 here)of little flowers.  I'm seeing a pistil in the center, with an orange stigma and there were stamen-like filaments and anthers in the small unfolding clusters.  Can I have a trans-sexual plant?  Yes, I know that there are self-pollinators, but on-line and on-bookshelf exploration has revealed no secrets.  Is there a reader out there who can shed light on the situation? 

And just so you don't worry that I was lonely out there, I did have supervision


  1. Our posts today are an example of great minds running in like channels. Pixels! Plants! Wish I could help you with your transgender posy, but I'm in appreciation mode today instead of investigational mode. Ernie sounds like a jewel.

  2. Dear Readers - check out Mature Landscaping at for some REAL springtime flora.


  3. OK, all you West Coasters - now I'm jealous!

  4. Yes, Meg, but you will have bulbs blooming this summer while I am watching my garden bake to a dessicated relic of its former glory. In this case, the grass really is greener on your side of the fence ;-)


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