Sunday, April 16, 2017

Cactus Convert

As a child, when I first fell in love with plants and gardens, I had little interest in cacti. I recall visiting one of my father's brothers and being given an opuntia with those 'lovely' little fuzzy spots! To keep it upright in the car, my father placed it inside one of my rubber boots for travel. I soon discovered that those little velvety patches were comprised of hundreds of tiny barbed spines - hence the common name prickly pear! Since then I have had a healthy respect for cacti!  Despite this long-term loathing, over recent years, I have reluctantly changed my mind. The vivid colored flowers, despite being so transient, lasting only a day or two at the most, have won me over! This year I seem to have noticed far more wonderful specimens than ever before. Here are a few that I've captured recently, the first pictures of Californian natives.

Cholla - Cylindropuntia fulgida - a common desert cactus which seems to have a variable flower color as you'll see from the next picture

Engelmann's hedgehog cactus photographed in Joshua Tree state park
Red hedgehog cactus - Echinocereus coccineus, a native but seen in a roadside garden.

Opuntia basilaris - beavertail cactus
And now some cultivated ones, mostly growing and flowering in my own yard. See - I'm a real cactus convert!

Echinocereus reichenbachii ssp - can't read rest of label!

This and the next three are all Echinopsis 'Torch Hybrids' bought from Lowes last year. There were three plants one one potful had two different colored plants, so I separated them and planted all four which are thriving.

Devil's Tongue Barrel Cactus - Ferocactus latispinus - a recent purchase I couldn't resist!

This and the next are I think more forms of the beavertail cactus, genus Opuntia but I'm sure sure of the exact name.

Opuntia basillaris 'Baby Rita'

Opuntia macrocentra - I think? Given to me by Jim whose plant died but mine is thriving!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Desert Safari

Just paid a pilgrimage to Anza Borrego state park  which extends to over 600,000 acres. It is framed by rugged mountains and includes the quaint small town of Borrego Springs which seems to be the epicenter for those searching out wildflowers.  

Having driven through some quite bleak barren landscape for many miles, it seemed amazing to quite suddenly drive into an area lush with flowers. This year, the heavy winter rains followed by warm weather has resulted in the desert bursting into life with shrubs, annuals and cacti blooming everywhere. In the 10 years I have been coming here I have never seen spring flowers anything like this. Although I've seen a few of most species in the past I have never seen quite the sheets of color like this year. I have also never seen groves of flowering ocotilla as far as the eye can see. I have also have just seen desert lilies for the first time. This bulbous plant, although resembling a lily is more closely related to desert agaves. 
Desert marigold

Ocotillas and desert dandelion

desert chicory

Beaver-tail cactus


Dune evening primrose

Desert Lily

Red barrel cactus

Sand verbena

White lined sphinx moth caterpillar

All around the town there are also many amazing metal sculptures by the artist Ricardo Breceda. there are over 130 huge works of art, many of which are creatures that roamed the desert millions of years ago

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Gardener's winter dormancy over,

Its been a cool and wet winter here in Palm Springs with several days of constant rain which is good, as its finally alleviated the severe drought. I've always been a lazy fair-weather gardener and so I've rather neglected my own small garden over the winter months. Dormancy is my excuse! Now that its warming up and things are starting to grow, I've no more excuses left for inactivity! Despite the poor sandy soil, plants do grow well here and several have needed pruning. With only the normal trash service here, pruning and waste disposal has to take place over a period of weeks but now most of it is done. A few pictures to show progress and interest at the moment. 

Dermatophyllum secundiflorum,  the Texas mountain laurel has flowered again this spring. I do hope it doesn't attract the caterpillars that devastate it.

The Echinopsis bought from Lowes last year look set to give us another spectacular display this year. 

Petunias have done well - I just love these cheery plants and it still seems strange that we plant them here for winter color. 

Gelsemium sempervirens

Grevillea 'Ned Kelly'

My Bougainvillea 'Purple Queen' sulked the whole winter after fall pruning and I thought I had lost it but finally its sprung back into life. 

The firecracker plant will probably have to go - its straggly and doesn't flower well. I think there is an improved form that has a better habit and I'd like to find one. 

Senna artemesioides flowers well at this time of the year but sadly does not repeat its performance.

Euphorbia millii has flowered almost continuously since I bought it a couple of years ago. Its been transplanted twice but seems to like it here.

Tagetes lemmonii is a pretty little plant with wonderful aromatic foliage, apparently used in the perfume industry. 

In a simple attempt to grow our own, we planted herbs in the fall and this is the result. Plenty of parsley and mint (but there are no new potatoes or green peas here and lamb costs a fortune). Chives and thyme are smothered and the basil shriveled over the cooler months. 

The biggest annoyance in recent weeks has been the front yard. Readers might remember that we changed over the small ribbon of grass that bordered the road to desert planting. In the process I removed the pop-up sprinklers and retro-fitted small manifolds leading to micro bore piping and drippers. Despite several efforts, I have been unable to get this to operate leak free. An ongoing frustration!