Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Refurbishing the Garden for Fall

While the rest of you are bundling up and preparing the beds for winter, gardeners here in the desert Southwest are enjoying the second of our six-week-planting seasons.  Don't put them in too soon - the tender roots will fry when the temps hit triple digits.  Don't wait too long - those same roots need to become acclimated before they get too cold.  Now is the Goldilocks moment - it's just right.

And so, off I went to the bi-annual plant sale at Tohono Chul.  I passed on the members only pre-sale on Wednesday; I'm not wasting my energy waiting in a long line.  There was nothing I absolutely had to have; I was browsing, albeit with intention.

I am tired of annuals that refuse to bloom.  I am bored with the choices I've been making. I shopped with an eye towards plants rather than seedlings.  My hope is that they survive the winter and are able to be placed in the ground next spring, all the while gracing my containers with a reusable specimen. 

I'm still stuck on my California gardens, where if a plant didn't work in the moister, shadier courtyard I could scoop it up and deposit it in a sunnier spot beside the lawn.  I rarely shopped for new plants; I had plenty to do moving around those which were already in the ground.  Here in Arizona, I'm finding that things are either happy or they are not.  Transplantation is for more moderate climes, it seems.  Those that don't work just don't work.

It makes gardening a more expensive and more depressing hobby. Still, there are the rewards of "the right plant in the right place" as these zinnias prove.
G'ma always said that the way to avoid mold on zinnias was not to plant them.  Clearly, she'd never gardened in the desert.  This pot was planted to provide yellow and blue color for the wedding last month. I was fully prepared to remove it and replace it with something in a more wintry palette... but the thing keeps putting out new blossoms, it's easy to remove the dried underbrush, and there's not a speck of mold to be found.  It lives.  Who am I to question?

This one, on the other side of the patio, was designed to compliment the rose which, in keeping with the theme of this post, has also re-emerged on that side of the house.
I raised the lower branches off the ground before the festivities, and was startled to find that the plant had self-seeded. I am growing zinnias in the unimproved soil around the (well-watered) container. 

Mother Nature reminds me beautifully and often that she is really in charge - these volunteers are healthier than some of the specimens I've purposely planted beside them.

These healthy pots meant that my need was reduced considerably.
This was a problem, since there was lots to buy.
With good signage, borrow-able wagons, and lots of volunteers in green aprons to answer the unanswerable (will it live in my yard?) this is an easy place to lose an afternoon.
Sometimes you get lucky, and the head horticulturalist is available for a private consultation amidst the sage.
Sometimes you get even luckier and prove the signs right - these particular plants do attract butterflies.  
 Can you see the green one drinking from the salvia?
The check-out process was streamlined and the wagons rolled through the shed in a steady stream.
 That's not my cart.
I wasn't that ambitious.
With Elizibeth's help, I managed to get the daisy into the center of the remaining petunias.
 The salvia is somewhat askew, but I am hopeful that photo-tropism will work its magic and the blossoms will veer to the sunshine, over there to the right of the container.
The daisy should spread and fill in the front.
That's the plan, anyway.
 Returning un-used in-case-of-rain-let's-cover-the-tables-plastic-drop-cloths at Home Depot put me right in front of the amaryllis bulbs.  Having learned over the years that now is the time to start them if you want to see big blooms for the holidays, I snatched up three of them. 
I'm trying them outside this year, in soil that is obviously hospitable.... just look at those three green sprouts (there's a teeny one in the upper right corner) which arose without prompting this weekend. 
  I'm not sure what kind of bulbs they are, but they made me smile.
And that's the point. 


  1. I wish I was a gardener. I'm sooo do not have a green thumb. Hubby deals with the outside of the house. Thank goodness! He does have a green thumb and got it from his dad. He loves gardening.

    We actually have a community garden here at my office. It's amazing how well it does. We have some great gardeners here.

    Thanks for all the pixs. They are lovely.

    Megan xxx

  2. Because our desert garden has to get by with drip waterers and a caretaker who doesn't always notice when something went wrong, I aim for xeroscape plants which aren't quite as showy but they generally survive the freezes and the occasional rabbit eating through a waterer. The big frustration the last few years is having the bougainvillea freeze back as I love them in the patio area, but our place is a bit higher and it has had them freeze back the last two years and one year we lost two old ones totally with a combo of wind and cold. I do love desert plants though :)


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