Sunday, February 17, 2013

Back to Blighty

It seems just a few weeks ago that we sailed into New York on the Queen Mary 2 after a wonderful Atlantic crossing. Actually it's a full six months ago and once again, after a peaceful winter here in Palm Springs, I have to go back to the UK and leave behind my partner Philip, our new home and fledgling garden.  It means a huge change, different country, pounds instead of dollars, from hot to cold weather, Fahrenheit to Celsius, driving on the other side of the road, trying to pick up with old friendships and activities, remembering to ask for petrol and not gas and a myriad of other adjustments. The first few days will be a real shock but I'll soon settle in and be telling you about UK gardens again.

Typical sunrise here in Palm Springs - I shall miss this!

Now although there are only a few plants here as yet, it would be nice for them to still be alive next October, so I've installed a simple irrigation system. Amazingly for just $25 (about £17) I was able to buy a battery operated irrigation controller that connects to the hose outlet. This amazing little device has two zones, so theoretically I could have a dry watering regime and a wetter one. Each zone can be controlled with the watering time and the number of watering periods each day. There is also a manual setting for checking its all working and  a rain delay that can be set to stop the irrigation for a day or so if its not needed after rainfall.

Bargain irrigation controller

I've run a 50ft length of plastic tubing, buried under the gravel, from which small 1/4" pipes feed small sprinklers and bubblers that supply about 1 litre per minute. I've a series of pots set up on this, mainly with bougainvilleas and I've also connected our newly planted citrus trees. Our only fear is that the batteries will run out without Philip noticing and the system will go dry. A day without irrigation in the desert can cause serious scorch.

The banana is finding it rather too windy here. Bougainvilleas pruned and regrowing
My tiny citrus orchard - am I ambitious? Will we ever be here long enough to get fruit?

Typical mini sprinklers - less than a couple of dollars each

I also had a few other odds and ends of plants. A big clump of Nephrolepis, the ladder fern has been divided and planted in the shady area near our front door where there is irrigation from the front garden. Philip calls this area the porte cochere but that's rather Hyacinth Bucket! Its  a shady alleyway!

Ladder ferns in their new shady home and a rather burn't up Furcraea - two chances - live or die!

There was a gap so I popped down to Lowes and bought plant of Philodendron 'Zanadu' which should survive the deep shade. Quick job - irrigation already there - so I thought! I'd just planted it when the irrigation actually cut in but this particular dripper wasn't operating so I attempted to adjust. The tiny head came off in my hand and a jet of water emitted like the fountains of Bellagio, hitting the ceiling above the walkway at high pressure. I rushed to the control box, tried to open with wet hands and nearly pulled the box off the wall. After shouting to Philip for assistance, we stemmed the flow!  Back to Lowes for irrigation spares but the particular part we wanted wasn't in stock, so home again to soak the original in lime descaler. Who said it was a quick easy job? It is now finally working.

Philadendron 'Zanadu'

Finally a plant of Agave stricta was given a new home in the desert bed at the front of our house. A spare irrigation dripper indicated a plant had died and this fitted the gap just nicely.

Agave stricta - should love it here

Incidentally some of you may recall the the albino Bougainvillea that I blogged about some weeks ago. Well after a few frosts and the windy January days here, they are largely leafless but this has revealed a curious phenomenon. The stems which had the albino leaves are a bright orange compared to the others which are dull greenish brown. Orange is also the colour of the flowers.

Albino shoots - amazingly strong growing

Same shoots leafless and cut back - see the orange bark colourings
Albino shoots with flowers and surprisingly the young wood was colourless

So I have to say 'Goodbye' to Philip and return the the UK to avoid violating my Visa. We live in hope that one day, before I am too old and decrepit, that the law will change, I'll be able to get a permanent visa and make this my permanent home. Things are moving and just this week the state senate in Illinois approved the first stage of a  same sex marriage bill which will make it the 10th state that allows gay marriage. There are also various cases set to be heard by the Supreme Court, relating to the Defense of Marriage Act which may well alter the situation. Anyway enough politics!

Tomorrow I am off to do the Palm Springs Modern Garden Tour (see last years gardens) which is one event amongst many organized as part of Modernism Week,  held each year to celebrate Mid century Modern architecture. I'll tell you all about it when I next blog but by then, I'll probably be shivering in my house in the UK!


  1. Your new garden is shaping up nicely Ian! Hopefully there won't be any 'battery problems' with the newly installed irrigation.

    It shouldn't be too bad here now, with the show and garden season coming up ahead. We all just have to hope the weather will be much much nicer this time!

    1. I shouldn't have reported quite so quickly - the whole system is dripping and leaking this morning! Grrr!

  2. I hope the irrigation system works out! My parents would love Modernism Week; after renovating a mid-century modern split level in Michigan a few years back they have become quite the modernism enthusiasts and have been meaning to make it to Palm Springs for a while.

    Meanwhile, my boyfriend and I are hoping for the overturn of DOMA as well. He is a Malaysian citizen, and while he will hopefully be able to return to the US for work at the end of the year, marriage and immigration reform would be a much more reliable way out of our current extreme long-distance situation.

    1. Do persuade your parents to come - its a great week with so many events although not cheap.

      Sounds as if the situation is as tricky for you and your boyfriend as it is for us. I find these last few days before I have to leave for six months very stressful. Good luck!