Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs April 2004


     It's roasting already.  The hottest March on record has definitely shortened our enjoyment of spring.  Many winter annuals such as Petunia, Pansy, Stock, Alyssum, etc. which would ordinarily be glorious through April began to shut down with the high temperatures and hot winds.  The weather of late has given us plant people fits.  Mid October saw temperatures in the mid 100's.  Then what seemed like just a few days of nice fall weather gave way to winter and a nasty late December freeze.  Now after what seemed like just a couple of days of spring we're into the hot summer.  But who knows? Maybe June, July and August will be cool and rainy!

    Those of you with Globe Mallow will notice that those bright flowers have faded and are developing into firm green fruits.  This is the time to cut back the stalks, which will encourage another round of blooms and keep the plant more compact.  Penstemons will also be forming fruits which should be left on the plant if you want them to reseed.  Generally the only Penstemon that will rebloom is the Red Firecracker Penstemon (P. eatonii).  The spectacular pink flowered Parry's Penstemon (P. parryi) is pretty much a one shot deal in the spring.



    A rewarding group of plants for the cactus enthusiast are the Hedgehogs (Echinocereus sp).  At low elevations in the southwestern deserts the Strawberry Hedgehog reigns.  These 1 ft. tall clumping cactus really make themselves known during spring.  Their large magenta flowers are bursts of glory in what some might consider an otherwise blah desert.  The flowers later develop into the juicy red fruits that belie their name.  In higher elevations and in mountainous areas, the Claret Cup Hedgehog reigns.  In can form massive clumps with hundreds of stems and sports red to orange flowers.  Both these types make great landscape or container specimens.  Probably one of the best known and sought after Hedgehogs is the Rainbow Hedgehog (E. rigidissimus) with its dense red spines.  Unfortunately this famous cactus is infamous for its penchant for death in cultivation in the ground or in pots.  Very few people have had these plants survive for a great length of time.  But at least when they go they just kind of dry up leaving you with a colorful little mummy.  The great part is, as we all know, that mummies can last for centuries if kept dry.  Some of us have had mummies for years and never known the difference.  It's a good thing!


    Cactus collectors are fond of the Echinocereus because they come in a variety of body shapes and sizes, flower colors and spine sizes and arrangements.  What determines if a cactus is in the Hedgehog group?  For those of you interested in technicalities, it is the fact that new stems erupt right out of the skin of the old stem instead of out of the area with the spine cluster(areole) as in other cactus.  Also most of the stigmas (the female part in the middle of the flower) are green.


    Another plant for the native plant buff to go along with the Crossosoma you got last month is one we've had personal experience with and know is one tough cookie.  It is a small evergreen shrub to about 2' high and 3' wide with silvery leaves and  creamy flower clusters in spring and summer.  Once established it can probably survive with little or possibly no supplemental water.  And folks this is it - believe it or not - it likes caliche!  No plant or person planting a plant ever likes caliche.  So what is this wondrous plant?  It is Mariola (Parthenium incanum) a plant related to the Guayule or Mexican  Rubber Plant whose sap contains small amounts of rubber.


    Overwatering native plants such as Globe Mallow, Brittle Bush, Bursage, Penstemons, Desert Milkweed, Golden Eye, etc. will make them floppy and ugly.  These plants are best watered deeply but not too often.  Water needs are determined by how fast a soil drains, temperatures and wind conditions.

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Web Comments September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004