Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fall Gardening in the Desert Southwest

We had lots of rain this monsoon.  I turned off the irrigation; it seemed redundant.  And then, it wasn't.  The rains stopped and I forgot to turn it back on and now the containers which are on the main system are looking quite raggedy.

I'm embarrassed.  I'm not taking pictures.

The well-established plants in the front and the back yards are quite happy.  They are drying out, acclimating themselves to the cooler, drier autumn.  Though the temperatures are still in the triple digits, it's not that hot.  Oxymoronic?  Not really.  Just very hard to describe.

The gardening guides in the glossy magazines designed to entice tourists to return again and again tell me to prune the dead canes of my roses and to replant my containers.  They use phrases like rip out and replace.  That makes it easier to deal with the detritus which was once zinnias.

I'll go to the nursery and see what looks beautiful.  I'll prune before I purchase, and I'll plant as soon as I come home with the newbies.  I'm learning that the desert gardener is given no quarter; there is no room for error when the conditions are extreme.  Leaving the tender seedlings in their plastic cups results in dessicated roots and crumbly soil.  From the garden center to my containers in one afternoon - that is my goal.

I'm considering the notion of cacti and succulents.  They won't need replacing as often as annuals. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.  I like to deadhead and primp and prop up and admire the changes.  Cacti and succulents are so slow.

I though I would look through my gardening books for inspiration, but as I was wending my way across the library I remembered that I have resources right here on my desktop. Brenda Starr and I went to the Cactus and Succulent Society's Annual Plant Sale last winter.  I photographed that which caught my eye.  Let's look at the specimens together, shall we?

There was greenery

which is always surprising to those who think of our landscape as austere and spiky.
Never fear; spiky is certainly available. 
So is exceptionally odd, like this green stalk growing out of what looks like cement,
or this vaguely sexual thing, 
or this lovely little green thing growing out of a rock.
The rock is the exposed root ball, I think. 
Plants with viruses are highly prized.
It's a virus that makes this usually smoother specimen get so crinkly..
and pricey....
this one goes for $200. 
You can create your own gardens
 or buy one in an attractive planter for $30.
It's an attractive alternative to tending more delicate flora. 
I'm just not sure it will be as much fun.


  1. Due to our terrible drought that really has no end in sight, people here are taking out their yards and putting in succulents and rocks. Or just letting their yard die. People in one part of the county can no longer water outdoors at all due to the wells running dry. Our aquifer has been depleted also. Many people cannot afford to drill an new well and even those who can are finding that there is no water.


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