Articles for the Month of March 2009

In Search of the Desert Lily

As we left California on our way to Arizona our path took us within range of the Desert Lily Sanctuary near Desert Center along the I-10 interstate highway.  The Bureau of Land Management maintains this 2,040 acre section of desert not far from Joshua Tree National Monument specifically to protect the Desert Lily (hesperocallis undulata).  Since the Desert Lilies can lie dormant without blooming for several years we thought it was worth a try to see if we could spot one.  We gave it about 45 minutes of wandering in the desert and saw a number of wildflowers, but alas the Desert Lily was not among them.

 

Desert Chicory (rafinesquia neomexicana)

Desert Chicory (rafinesquia neomexicana)

 

Desert Dandelion (malacothrix glabrata)

Desert Dandelion (malacothrix glabrata)

 

Brittlebush (Encilia farinosa)

Brittlebush (Encilia farinosa)

 

Blue Phacelia (Phacelia distans)

Blue Phacelia (Phacelia distans)

 

Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa)

Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa)

But it may be that the best patch of wildflowers that we saw for the day was along the highway in Arizona.  Hard not to love California Poppies wherever they are.

 

California Poppies

California Poppies

California Dreaming

 

Camellia from my Mother's garden

Camellia from my Mother's garden

We found ourselves transported from the recently snow-covered East to Southern California this week.  Despite the fact that Maryland temperatures immediately soared as soon as we left and temperatures here were actually lower than the East, the plants in Southern California showed all the benefits of weeks of warm weather.  

Rosemary in the front yard

Rosemary in the front yard

My mother’s Camellias were in full bloom and the dwarf Citrus by the back fence were heavy with fruit.  The Rosemary in the front yard was huge by Maryland standards.

Besides visiting with family we took the opportunity to do a little gardening.  Years ago the nut grass in the raised bed just about drove my folks to pave it over.  My solution was to plant pots of plants and run drip irrigation only to the pots.  This basic approach has worked.  During the dry hot summers the nut grass gets very limited water and the pots thrive in the way that all plants thrive in this climate.  The only hooker is that the drip irrigation lines break occasionally and plants die really quickly without regular water here.

Raised bed of potted plants at Shadybend

Raised bed of potted plants at Shadybend

Tangerines overflowing

Tangerines overflowing

We added a New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax) for foliage interest, a very pretty little Sweet Pea Bush (polygala dalmaisiana) that I had never seen before, a Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’, a Tuscan Rosemary, a Spanish Lavender, three cute little Calendulas, and another Citrus (Algerian Clementine).  It’s always interesting to see how these plants succeed or fail under the drip irrigation and lots of sun…

Sweet Pea Shrub (Polygala daimaisiana)

Sweet Pea Shrub (Polygala daimaisiana)

Despite It All

 

Snow Shadows in the Front Yard

Snow Shadows in the Front Yard

On Monday, like much of the East Coast, we had 5 inches of snow followed by some of the coldest temperatures of the winter.  Despite it all when things started to melt I found that the plants are like an oncoming locomotive.  Spring flowering just will not be stopped.  The crocus just shrugged off the snow and kept on blooming.

 

Crocus species

Crocus species

I even found that the roses are beginning to emerge

 

Rose Leaf emerging

Rose Leaf emerging

And in the woods the Tulipa Sylvestris that I planted last fall are one of the first emerging bulbs.

 

Tulipa sylvestris

Tulipa sylvestris

Two items that I’ve been keeping an eye on are the two littel Adonis plants that I planted in the middle of a cold spell.  It looks like I’ve missed the flower on the strongest looking plant but I think I spy green on even the one that looked like a goner.

 

Adonis #1

Adonis #1

Note the flower stalk leaning over but the leaf looks healthy and there is new growth at the base.  I was sure that its partner was stillborn but …

 

Adonis #2

Adonis #2

The keen-eyed observer can see a small amount of green at the base of the second Adonis (I hope anyway)…:)

Shirl’s Desert Island

In January Shirl posted a challenge to other garden bloggers to come up with the three plants they would take with them to a desert island.  I found the resulting plants that were proposed extending my horizons for interesting and desirable plants.  So I began to take notes on plants to add to my shopping list (it’s a list with no boundaries and a couple of lifetimes of gardening).  Pretty soon I was writing down all the plants and visiting all the sites of those who contributed.  I’m not sure what I expected — whether everyone would have something different or whether the same plants would show up on everyone’s list.  As it turns out, it was a little of both.  

Here’s the results for the favorites, with pictures from our own garden, on this crowded but beautiful island —

 

Charles Darwin Rose (twelve different Roses chosen)

Rosa 'Charles Darwin'

There were Twelve Roses chosen including ‘Morden Sunrise’ ‘Disneyland’‘Fisherman’s Friend’ ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ ‘Hansa’ and ‘Stanwell Perpetual’.  And that was not counting two species Roses, Rosa Rugosa ‘Snow Pavement’ and Rosa rubiginosa.  

 

Echinacea

Echinacea

It might surprise some people that Echinacea is the number 2 most popular plant on the island with six votes.  I think it’s the interaction with the bees and the butterflies that closes the deal for these distinctive perennials.

 

Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender)

Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender)

And speaking of the bees, they just love lavender.  Islanders go for them too with a total of five votes citing their fragrance and form.  The next three were tied with four votes apiece —

 

Shirley Poppy

Shirley Poppy

Poppies of all sorts were cited — I think people generally had trouble choosing specific ones because they are all so appealing.

 

Rudbeckia hirta

Rudbeckia hirta

Black-eyed Susans are wonderfully common and some folks (me included) have discounted them because they are so widespread.  But I am becoming a fan.

 

Weeping Willow (image from Wikipedia)

Weeping Willow (image from Wikipedia)

And lastly, the only one we can’t illustrate from our hill (yet) is the Weeping Willow (Salix x Sepulcralis).  This is also the only tree to be so common on the island…

If you are interested in the full set of plants on the island I’ll post a list here.  The flip side of looking at the most popular plants on the island is looking the most unusual plants that were imported.  It’s those that I need to add to our shopping list for the coming years.  While the list might be useful for reference, I encourage you to take the time to visit all the sites that contributed to Shirl’s challenge.  It was interesting just exploring all those gardens.

And of course the final question is what got left off the boat going out to the island — and that’s a long list of beautiful plants, for example

Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'

Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'

 

Gallardia 'Oranges & Lemons'

Gallardia 'Oranges & Lemons'

 

Tree Peony

Tree Peony