Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring in the Desert Garden

When we bought our little vintage adobe house in 2009, the yard was barren. There was a hot strip between the covered porch and the fence, and I was determined to fill it with color. 

It's been a learning experience for a gardener used to the abundant rainfall and loamy, rocky soil of New Hampshire. Here, we have almost no rain at all (maybe 8 inches total in a good year), blazing sun reflected off a south-facing wall, and hard clay soil. Some things work, like these flowering cacti. Some things do NOT work here, like the roses and irises I see blooming luxuriantly in other parts of town. 

Hollyhocks adore our yard and put on an amazing show every year. These older, short ones are just starting to bloom now. Our plants self seed, and I just move the seedlings around a little. My knitting friend, Diane, gave me a little packet of seeds from her plants up on the East Mesa part of town a few years ago, and the rest is history. I have sent my seeds, in turn, to gardening friends in Nevada, Northern California, and Washington state. 

I am hoping for great things from this scrawny-looking tangerine crossvine, just planted a couple of weeks ago. I would love to train it to drape from the porch roof. We'll see.

This brutal-looking plant is the kind of thing that really thrives here. It started from one cactus pad in 2010 and will soon be immense. I just hope we can control it, because you can't go near it to prune without heavy gloves and long-handled tools, and even then it will find a way to get you with its thorns (painful) and tiny glochids (stiff hairs, way more painful and very difficult to get out once they are embedded in your skin). Why do we put up with it? Well, it's here now, and is very beautiful in its way. It has many shades of purple and aqua in those pads, and it will be flowering soon, too. 

I should have taken these photos earlier in the morning. It would have been easier to see what I was doing and the photos might be in focus! The desert bird of paradise (known to us as The Bertie Memorial Tree) on the right and the Texas lilac out of sight just beyond it both provide some much-needed shade just three years after being planted. 

This was such a rookie gardener mistake--I thought that cacti would be slow-growing and planted these too close together. I like the sharp colors, though. 

These hollyhocks around the corner from the other, smaller ones may not look like much right now, but stand back! I'm expecting a wonderful show soon. The plants are at least 6 feet high and still growing taller ever day. They colonized themselves in a partly shady east-facing bed where nothing had grown before. There are some larkspurs down under there somewhere, which will add some more color to all the hollyhock pinks. 

There you have it, my April report for the garden. What's growing (or about to grow) in your garden? 


Sylvia K said...

Your plants look beautiful and the perfect desert garden it is and so colorful! Great captures for the day and thanks so much for sharing them, Clair!! Hope you've had a lovely holiday weekend!

Linda Wildenstein said...

your garden is beautiful. I love your cactus and their gorgeous blooms. If you ever would like some Black Magic Hollyhock seeds just drop me an email and I would be glad to send some along.....they are simply beyond explanation.
Oma Linda

Joyful said...

I think your garden is looking lovely. Hope you are enjoying your Easter weekend.

JC said...

I'm always thrilled to see that you have written a new post.

This time, you have made my day. I love seeing your world.

I just planted some of my pots yesterday. Went to Costco to get Geraniums. Put in Johnny Jump Ups and trailing lobelia around the edges. I'm hoping for quite the color show in a month or so.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Beautiful yard. I have a cactus post ready to put up soon -- and mine are rather pitiful compared to yours.