Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs July 2002


It's gone!! One of the more hellacious Junes has finally passed.  But where has it gone?  Probably into a hellacious July!  So the gardening watchword for July is the same as for June.  It's water, water, water those unestablished, newly planted and small trees, shrubs, flowers and veggies.  Until (of if) we have monsoon rains, plants are susceptible to immediate death if you miss a crucial watering.  Of course, it's also possible to overwater certain plants such as Lavender, Texas Sage, Cassias.  Decrease applications to any plants where water doesn't drain into soil.  Many plants will die if left for too long in standing water.  Plants on drip irrigation systems benefit from a periodic deep hose watering to flush out salts that may accumulate around root zones.  Placing organic mulch, straw, leaves etc. over bare soil around root zones will conserve moisture and keep roots cooler.


Roses and other plants will appreciate light applications of all-purpose fertilizer throughout the summer.  To avoid damaging roots during hot weather, it's safest to use only about 1/2 to 1/3 the recommended dose.  The root systems of some plants cannot absorb lots of nutrients when soil temperatures are high and only take up water.

Don't do any heavy pruning that might expose tree or shrub branches to sun as they can easily scorch.  The more leaves the better to protect the plant.  However, being fast growers during the heat, Mesquites may become topheavy and susceptible to blowing over.  Cutting back longer branches and very careful thinning can moderate this problem.  Save twigs and branches for your next barbecue. Some of the weirder ( or more interesting ) plant people among us might actually appreciate the potential character of a blown-over Mesquite or other tree.  If the roots aren't completely pulled out and the tree is alive, do some judicious pruning and leave it to its own devices.  Who knows, years from now you may be the envy of the neighborhood with your unique, "sculptural", angle-trunked tree!  If you start looking around you'll notice that large trees with character are often the results of being partially blown over then left to do their own thing.  Enough with that lollipop look!


Rosemary, coincidentally (?) associated with sun and fire by astrologists, is a Mediterranean native shrub that grows well in our desert climate.  This plant is rife with centuries of folklore.  As the herb of remembrance it was used in weddings (so men could remember to be faithful!), funerals (so the dead wouldn't be forgotten), and placed on ancestors' graves.  Give some to a friend that you want to remember you.  Sprigs placed outside your door would protect the house from thieves, demons and evil spirits.  Nightmares could be kept at bay by placing Rosemary under your pillow.  From antiquity to the present, the herb has been purported to alleviate a myriad of mental and physical ailments including headaches, wounds, sores, digestive problems, sore muscles, gout, baldness, impaired memory, poor circulation, and dandruff to mention a few.  Those suffering from depression may be advised to wrap Rosemary leaves in linen then bind them to their right arm.  Apparently, the left arm is not the right arm.  In addition to its culinary use, Rosemary is used today to scent cosmetics, perfumes, massage oils, etc. 

There are many, many varieties but two basic forms: the upright forms, some of which may get up to 6' tall and the prostrate or trailing forms, which only get a couple of feet tall at most and will spill over walls and pot rims.  The flowers, adored by bees, butterflies and birds, occur in shades of blue, pink or white and are edible.  Rosemary prefers full sun, will grow in very poor soil but must have good drainage.  It requires a moderate amount of water and is a goner if you let it get too dry.  Plants can be kept compact and in desired shapes with regular shearing or trimming of growing tips.  Be careful not to cut back branches beyond the leafy part as new growth will not come out of bare wood.  Save clippings for the culinary uses for which the herb is famous.  However, like most good things, too much Rosemary can be overpowering or even toxic.

If you have a difficult area that needs a vine or rambling groundcover you might try Arizona Grape Ivy (Cissus trifoliata ).  It's a tough native vine that grows fairly rapidly in full sun or shade and climbs by tendrils.  Its fleshy, dark green leaves are usually evergreen but will drop after severe cold.  Underground tubers store water so  it's quite drought tolerant.  Sort of like a real ivy it will climb up and festoon living or dead trees, fences and structures.  Crushed leaves are malodorous and the plant can become invasive.  Shady Way Gardens has some climbing up their large Palo Verde trees.

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Web Comments September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004