Saturday, February 28, 2015

End of Month View: the Dry Corner in February

Berlandiera lyrata
It's time for the End of Month View, and for the first time I am going to feature one section of the garden.  This is the Dry Corner.  It's not very heavily planted yet, and what is there has yet to fill in.  But it is taking shape a little.  This corner will form the entrance/exit into the rest of the yard.

From the garden side...
End of month view meme
and looking in from the yard...
End of month view meme
It is meant to be home to some of the most adamantly desert natives I am growing - things that should not have much supplemental water at all.  This where the acacia (Acacia salicina) is planted (I do love the colour of the bark)...
Acacia salicina, willow acacia
...and some of the succulents, like Senecio "Blue Fingers"...
Senecio "Blue Fingers"
...and now Euphorbia "Firesticks".  Is this the same as "Sticks on Fire"?  I don't know.  If it is, it can sometimes grow to a considerable height.  At present, it's a little, glowing batch of fingertip branches.
Euphorbia "Firesticks"
There is also a tiny Sedum adolphi, with its plump leaves becoming ever more golden in the sunlight.  It was sold as one of those miniscule succulents-as-houseplants that one finds at garden centres.  It went out into the big world and nearly met with immediate demise.  Betty the dog accidentally ran it down - literally planting her foot in the middle of it - as she greeted me because, of course, I was standing there admiring the new plant.  The main stem was undamaged; and I plopped the other remnants back into the soil.  It worked well with a bit broken off the Senecio.  These look all right so far!
Sedum adolphi, golden sedum
Anigozanthos "Bush Ranger" has been very pleased with this location.  It has just been cut back so is only a tuft of flat, dark green leaves at present.

The Tetraneuris is also in this bed.  For a while it had me worried: the leaves have such a dry, leathery texture that I kept thinking they were dying back.   But no, it is producing a mass of little buds though the leaves still feel dry and crinkly to the touch.  Healthy, I think?
Tetraneuris aucalis
At the moment, some of the strongest bloom is coming from Berlandiera lyrata.  I am happy to report that the chocolate scent is distinctly smellable now.  I can only send the picture...  Here you can see the scalloped leaves that form a rosette at the base of the flower stems.
Berlandiera lyrata, chocolate flower
This bed will need a number of other plants to fill it out, but I thought I would begin focusing on it for the End of the Month View with Helen at the Patient Gardener.

I can't leave today's post, however, without showing the first open bloom of Penstemon parryi.  Just opened this morning!
Penstemon parryi

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rogues and Ruffians

When beginning a garden in an unfamiliar region, one of the perils is that of knowing nothing about the local flora... that is, what is a wildflower vs. what is a noxious weed.  Halfway through my first year of gardening in Arizona (and into my second of residence), I've inevitably become acquainted with some very shady characters!

It is all the more difficult to deal with here since one's instinct is to let anything green grow.  It is not a matter of encouraging the lawn grasses to grow thick and rich so they can crowd out the undesirable species.  It is a question of removing a growing plant from... empty dirt, which will either remain empty dirt or else will host another type of weed...

But some plants are worth getting rid of!  The plant below - apparently Malva neglecta, the common mallow weed - is the worst at the moment though, as you can see, it kindly hosted one of my only frost photos earlier this year.  Some of these plants have made it to 4 ft (1.2 m) or more out by the orange tree and are actually impeding access to the tree.  They have made a huge growth spurt in the lovely weather we are having.  I should have removed them earlier; but because of the property layout, it is easy to ignore problems on the west side of the house.  I've certainly ignored these much too long.  I began hacking them away from around the tree the other morning; additional measures will follow soon.
Common mallow, malva neglecta
Many of the other pests remain a good deal smaller.  This plant - as yet unidentified - looks innocuous enough with its little yellow flowers and furry leaves and stems, but the fur on the lower part of those stems becomes quite prickly as the plant matures.  Better remove it before that happens...
Filaree Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium) is an aggresive seeder.  In addition, those seeds have sharp screwtails that work their way into my sister's dog's fur and skin.  Ouch!  Too bad, as it is an attractive plant otherwise, with its tiny lavender flowers and ferny rosettes of leaves (shown here with the rascally mallow encroaching!).
Filaree Storksbill, Erodium cicutarium
Probably the worst villain of the lot is the so-called Sahara Mustard (Brassica tournefortii).  Doing the research for this post, I discovered that this introduced species is spreading aggresively across the wild low desert regions, crowding out native wildflowers en masse.  So perhaps I should be glad that last summer's stand of mustard has been thoroughly smothered by Malva neglecta?  Umph!
Sahara Mustard, Brassica tournefortii
So there are a few of the bad ones...

There are also quite a few delightful plants, large and small, that one could not have growing in a grass lawn, but which can be left to add some desert beauty to the surroundings here.  In addition to the beautiful Dichelostemma capitatum of my last post, here are a few others.

For instance, this tiny plant - perhaps 9 in (23 cm) high - sprouted here and there in the back yard last spring.  Its smoky colour made it virtually unnoticeable unless looked at carefully, but it was a lovely thing in its way.  And it did not seem to produce any prickly seeds or stems, it did not spread aggressively, it died off and drifted away on the wind, and is only now beginning to show again.  ID anyone?  (By this time, I worry that any wild plant I like will prove to be nasty in one way or another!)
Native cactus species are protected by state law in any case, but this baby cholla has a good deal of charm on its own.
Young cholla cactus
On a much larger scale is the globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).  We have a volunteer Sphaeralcea in the front yard; it is loaded with buds at last.  I think it is a bit large for my garden beds; but it certainly is welcome as a wildflower and is, in fact, considered a useful garden plant here as well.  The soft, silvery foliage is attractive though the habit can be downright rangy.  The plants in the nearby wash already have open flowers.
Globemallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua
"And the moral of that is," as the Duchess would say...  The fact is that plants need to be pretty sturdy to live in the desert, but they needn't be nasty!  There are many perfectly nice ones.

Last summer's heavy rains produced a fantastic showing of Desert poppy (Kallstroemia grandiflora).  It would be hard to imagine a more perfect desert wildflower.
Desert poppy, Kallstroemia grandiflora

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wildflower Wednesday: Dichelostemma capitatum

Dichelostemma capitatum, Blue Dicks, wildflower wednesday
They have been blooming in the yard and out of it: slender stems and leaves topped by a cluster of ethereal blooms.  Flowers are a translucent lavender-blue with pale yellow stigma and white stamens.
Dichelostemma capitatum, Blue Dicks
I first noticed the leaves and stems last year.  Being a lover of bulbs and their relatives, I said to myself, "that looks like a bulbous sort of plant..."  I kept an eye on them, but nothing bloomed.  A week or so ago, my sister came to tell me about the little blue flowers she had found...  They are finally in bloom this spring and making up for last year, seemingly!

When I decided to post them this morning for Wildflower Wednesday, I thought I had better try once again to ID them.  Results: Dichelostemma capitatum, commonly called Blue Dicks.  It's a beauty.  Said to grow to around 2 ft (61 cm) tall, those in the yard are somewhat smaller at this point.  Wild populations fluctuate considerably, being strongest after fire or other natural soil disturbance.  The plants fare better with some cultivation and were, in fact, cultivated as a food starch source by native Americans.  (Most of the above information is from Wikepedia, of course!)

As I say, the species thrives where the corms can be spread by soil disturbance.  I strongly suspect that our (very desert) property was 'dozed to make it presentable when it went on the market in 2013.  We have had a number of "disturbed soil" types popping up, for instance the little chinchweed, a friendly face and hard to call a weed though it spread like one last summer...  And now Blue Dicks - most emphatically not a weed but a classy little wildflower!
Dichelostemma capitatum, Blue Dicks
Although the Dichelostemma genus has been bounced around among the Brodiaeas and Tritelias, I believe that D. capitatum remains the correct  name.

I will link this, my first Wildflower Wednesday post with Gail's fifth anniversary for the meme (congratulations, Gail!) at Clay and Limestone.

Happy Wednesday!
Dichelostemma capitatum, Blue Dicks

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Vase: Spring Colours

Osteospermum, Helipterum, Monday Vase meme
It has been a grey, rainy morning here, so what an excellent time for some soft, bright, spring colours in the Monday Vase!  Except that some of the colours come from flowers which close when the weather is dull...

Having said which, you will understand that this morning's vase was fraught a few difficulties.  It is not as well put-together as I would like, but the flowers themselves finally decided a few elements of the design after I got them back into some sunlight so they could open out!

In any case, the colours are happy: soft orange from some new Osteospermums...
Osteospermum, Monday Vase meme from my first few paper daisies (Helipterum) - and no, I did not realize that they would close when the rain came...
Helipterum roseum, Monday Vase meme
...and a cluster of yellow from Tetraneuris aucalis, now starting to bloom in earnest.
Tetraneuris aucalis, Monday Vase meme
Foliage came from a couple sprigs of Genista, which will be blooming itself soon, by the looks of it.

I tried several pots, mostly light-coloured, before settling on my dark, semi-spherical one.  The results look like this...
Helipterum roseum, Monday Vase meme
...and this...
Osteospermum, Monday Vase meme
...and from above, like this.
Monday Vase meme
They were photographed in the front patio after the rain let up and enough sun came out to open the petals.  The weather looks like being off and on, but now there is a little bright colour in the house - as long as the flowers can stay open!  

Celebrating one more Monday Vase meme; do check out Cathy's post at Rambling in the Garden and see what else is happening today!

Happy Monday!
Helipterum, Monday Vase meme

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Silver and Pink

Penstemon parryi buds
Penstemon parryi is on the verge of blooming, but today is Garden Bloggers Foliage Day, and I would like to present the silvery leaves of this lovely plant.

One month ago I included it in my GBFD post, when the leaves were a rich purple.
Penstemon parryi winter foliage
They faded to silver a little later, but they are still beautiful - long and elegant with a light sparkle from some angles.
Penstemon parryi
The plant has many side shoots with buds...
Penstemon parryi
...lots of buds!
Penstemon parryi
This is a species native to Arizona.  As the blooms have come on, I have given it a little more water and fed it lightly.  But it is probably not a plant to be pampered with too much moisture.

If I had realized how refined a plant it could be, I might have placed it further forward in the border!  It does look good where it is, however, near Eremophila "Valentine".  The pink tones combine very nicely (shown here from in back of the border).
Penstemon parryi
Here it is looking down from above.
Penstemon parryi
So I introduce Penstemon parryi for the Garden Bloggers Foliage meme.  Do go check out all the beautiful foliage at Christina's Hesperides Garden.  It's a wonderful chance to take a closer look at one of the most important elements in our plantings.

Not that the buds aren't important!
Penstemon parryi buds
Penstemon parryi buds

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Vase: Far from the Sea

Today's vase must be considered in the light of an experiment.  The idea was one which I'd had over a month ago: combine succulent foliage - particularly Senecio "Blue Fingers" - with a seashell.  The succulents do sometimes have a curious sea-look to their fleshy leaves, and the seashell will hold water.

All very true, but getting the shell to stay put and not roll over necessitated use of unsightly wads of Sculpey, the polymer clay, all round the base of the shell.  (I tried less at first and spilled water over an envelope all ready to send to the accountant.  I've been that way today - brainless!)  I set everything up on a small mirrored square, and it has stayed successfully in place.

So with that explanation, here is the result.
In addition to the Senecio, I added a sizeable clump of Calandrinia grandiflora foliage.  This plant, which was all but gone last December, has made a heartwarming (frightening?) recovery.  This is the greyer, rounder foliage at the narrow end.  And then four Armeria heads, some nearly spent, some new, were slipped in to complete the effect.
And for those of you who are noticing a totally different look to the blog... well, that may be one reason I've been a little flighty today.  With the template I was using, I had been unable to set up for subscription and the text had somehow become jammed at too small a size.  I've been tinkering off and on for weeks but finally decided that perhaps it wasn't all user error.  It might be my choice of template.  In attempting to change things I went through various adventures, from apparently resetting the template to one I detested, to - much worse - finding that it showed only code... no blog at all...

I think it was worse on this end than anywhere else - some of you may know differently!  At any rate, the blog is reconfigured at last, and it has subscription widgets and 16 pt text.  Maybe the text size is a little too large now?  I'd really appreciate feedback!

Despite it all, I did finally manage to create my experimental seashell project to join with Cathy's Monday Vase meme at Rambling in the Garden.  I'm still intrigued with this idea and hope to play with it again sometime.

Happy Monday!