Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs February 2004
BANES, ICE PLANTS & THE LILAC VINE

FEBRUARY

At last!  We've been blessed with a bit of much needed rain, and although it's come a little late for a good desert wildflower display you can bet there'll be a good display of grasses and weeds.  Looking lush and innocent now, these green carpets become great seedy rascals when mature.  With that in mind you'll find it much easier to eliminate them when they're small.  One weedy seeder we actually recommend planting, though, is the native Fleabane (Erigeron divergens).  You might wonder why a plant would have a name like that.  Is it a bane to fleas?  What is a bane anyway? Well, says Webster, a general bane is "something that ruins or spoils" as in he (or possibly she!) is the bane of my existence."  When applied to a plant, however, it implies a poisonous one.  Thus there's Henbane, Wolfbane, Baneberry, Dogbane, Cowbane, even a Children's Bane.  But sorry, we carry only FleabaneThese plants are actually a widespread group related to Asters, and in olden times the smoke from burning plants was purported to kill fleas and other insects.  Our natives are dandy wildflowers that become a sea of little white daisies and really spiffy up that desert landscape.  Plant one or two plants now and they will reseed themselves with just a little extra moisture.  Butterflies like them too!

ICE PLANTS

Now is a good time to plant Ice Plants.  Native to Africa, these succulent-leaved plants make tough, drought tolerant, spring blooming groundcovers.  They also make great hanging baskets and drape beautifully out of pots.  Use them around the bases of potted cacti  and succulents to lushen up the effect.  Especially desirable are the Gray Leaf or Red Flowered Ice Plant (Malephora crocea) with deep red to bronze flowers, and the Rocky Point Ice Plant (Malephora lutea) with yellow flowers.  These two have long blooming periods.  Drosanthemum makes a brilliant pink flower display in spring and spreads to make a fairly dense groundcover.  Red Spike Ice Plant (Cephalophyllum sp.) forms only small slumps of finger-like leaves and blooms only in spring with bright rose flowers.  Unfortunately we feel it's only fair to mention a rather uncomfortable drawback to Ice Plant use.  Our feathered friends that we love so much become our feathered enemies around a nice juicy patch of Ice Plants.  In some cases, especially last summer, they will almost pick them to death searching for water.  It's been suggested that putting water out for the birds will keep them from massacring your plants.

LILAC VINE

Looking for that tough vine that looks slightly lush through the summer?  Try Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violacea).  This Australian native is unrelated to our familiar Lilac, but it does sport an array of dangling purple flowers in late winter and spring.  It needs support for its twining stems and will form a dense leafy mass over walls and on patio roofs.  It has no thorns and it is fairly pest free.  Moderate water through the hottest months will keep it looking best.  As with most plants, it prefers good drainage.

VEGGIES NOW

Traditional gardening things to do in February include but are not limited to: plant Tomato plants, feed established Citrus and Roses, plant Artichoke plants, plant all kinds of trees and shrubs, sow seed of Beets, Bok Choy, Carrots, Collards, Mustard Greens, Peas, Radishes, Spinach, Turnips, divide Chives and MInts

Did you know that giving too much nitrogen fertilizer to your
Citrus trees will make fruits have extremely thick skin?

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Web Comments george@mswn.com September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004