Friday, April 4, 2014

Desert Survivors with The Happy Ladies Club

Miss Vicki organized a trip to Desert Survivors last week.  The Happy Ladies Club Gardening Group is a fluid bunch; those who were regulars have disappeared and new members have joined and I've been absent for much too long.  I forgot how inspiring it is to be surrounded by others who share a passion; the plants looked much different after hearing how they grew in this one's front yard, in that one's courtyard, in a pot by another's poolside. After three hours of garden gossip, I was energized.... and so was my credit card.  Shopping for plants is the gardener's joy and abyss... there is really no reason to stop, it seems, since everything looks so luscious. 

I was good - I bought only this leopard succulent... whose name escapes me.  
But, I'm getting ahead of the story.
Desert Survivors is a human service organization with a botanic twist.
Set on 3.8 acres at the base of A Mountain
it carries 550 species of native plants.
There are five professional nursery staffers and a slew of developmentally disabled worker bees.
That's the beauty of Desert Survivors - both the plants and the workers are trying to establish a foothold in the world around them.  Just as native plants, insects, and animals coexist, so do the disabled staffers.  They dig and carry and plant and tend and interact with the shoppers as we wander from row
to row.
Can you see how tempting it was?
Aren't you proud of the restraint I showed?
The nursery prides itself on learning to cultivate native, oddball plants.  Arizona, according to our docent, is the third most biodiverse state in the USofA, following Texas and California.  Desert Survivor staff collect seeds from local yards while trying to stay out of collecting in the wild.  Removing five pounds of seeds from the wild removes five pounds of bird and animal food from the area; that rankles the sensitivities of the staff.  So, they beg seeds from friends and neighbors, leaving the desert to thrive on its own.
Due to overwhelming unpopularity, they are phasing out the water pond plants
There was only this one barrel of specimens from which to choose.
There were lots of cacti
and trees of all sizes and shapes.
We stood under their shade as our docent regaled us with facts. 
There are lots of minerals but they are bound up in the soil.  They are not accessible to the plants.  Our soil has a very high ph; the high salt content of the water makes it even more so.
Rain is also acidic, and lightning in the air changes the ph temporarily.  The iron and minerals are then available to the plants.  I'm not sure how this works, but I chose to believe him.
As always, there were things he told us with which the Master Gardeners disagree: Don't fertilize for the first three months after planting; let the plant settle in VS Fertilize upon planting to stimulate root growth.  I suppose I could plant the same species in two similar holes and do my own experiment to see which works better in my yard, but I'm not that motivated.  For me, it depends on whether or not I have fertilizer available when I'm digging the holes.
It's not scientific, but it works for me.
There were rock gardens created by the client/staff

and although Peggy was willing to pay more than they were worth, they were not for sale.
These bee houses were, though. 
Since I already have a hive in my saguaro, I let others bring them home.
Instead, I wandered and fondled and took my one pot with three plants home with me.
I know I'll be back for more.

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