Friday, September 23, 2016

Wallowing in horticultural self-pity!

A couple of days ago we had a whole day of steady rain, the first rainfall for months. Very welcome as it settles the dust and washes everything clean. And this is what it looks like but behind the pretty picture is a sad tale of horticultural failure this summer.

When I was working I used to say plants were no problem but it was people and the weather that gave me challenges and problems. Well this summer in Palm Springs has certainly been challenging for gardeners and I blame it mainly on the weather! I have shied away from talking about my own garden for weeks as its been a rather sorry tale of losses and failures. Earlier in the summer it was persistent strong winds for weeks that shredded foliage and although the winds have now dropped, it is still breezy here. Its been an exceedingly hot summer with temperatures persistently  above 110F with one notable day when it rose to 122F, resulting in widespread scorch to many plants throughout the area. Added to this I have had snout nosed weevil that has attacked some of the Agaves and mealy aphid that's popped up here and there just for fun!

root system totally eaten away by the weevil
So lets give the roll call! The plumerias have been kept in shade and have thrived to the point of growing enormous with lush green leaves but only three flowered with single flower spikes - are they worth the space, effort and water. At the moment they are on parole - they may go! My Beaucarneia struggled in the wind and lost its growing point which shows no signs of regenerating. Its now a sorry specimen so will have to go. (Its gone!) My three year old Strelitzia has produced no more than a single flower this year - no idea why! The plant in our last yard sometimes had 20-30 blooms at a time! That may go too!

My nice established Agave  'Medio picta'  was obviously too attractive to the weevils and was the first to succumb. Two others have followed although I'm now drenching with a systemic. Several cacti have died. The one common factor seems to be Rebutias which don't seem to like the extreme heat. One Opuntia, amazingly has died too.

Scorched euphorbia and skeletons of dead succulents

Dead agave!

My attempts at summer color have struggled. Out of the three original pots of Catharanthus, Madagascar Periwinkle, only one has thrived. These do normally love the heat but mine suffered soon after planting from wind damage.  A later planting of the new double one has survived but they are poor creatures!  Out of my mixed pot of bedding, the purple leaved sweet potato has thrived and the a pink flowered bedding plant whose name eludes me, is still alive. All the rest have died or been smothered by over-exuberant purple leaves. A pot of yellow celosia has survived but is distinctly boring! I have had mixed results with the blue flowered Alyogyne over the years. My first attempt was planted in a border, thrived and flowered like crazy but died mid summer. Last year's version was left in a pot and performed similarly. This year's is still alive but has given virtually no flowers all summer and provided a haven for mealy aphid. Not sure why I struggle with these but they are so exquisite when they do flower.

So disappointing

Hardly a summer display
So its been a sorry tale of failure. We do however have a new challenge. Over the two past drought summers, the small patch of grass in our front yard has died completely and we have approached our landlords to be allowed to replant this with desert planting - maybe that will be more successful!