Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs JUNE 2003
The Don Juan Persuasion


Although June seems to be coming in like a dragon, the hot weather is a good time to plant Palms, Mesquites, Palo Verdes, Acacias, Birds-of-Paradise, Texas Sage, Cassias, Yellow Bells, Fairy Dusters, Bougainvillea, Lantana, Ruellia etc.  Just be sure to keep newly planted plants wet constantly.  Avoid too much fertilizing during extremely hot weather.  Pepper and Tomato plants will need shading from the full sun.  Peppers will still set fruit, but Tomatoes generally stop fruiting during summer months and begin looking pretty bad.  You can nurse them through the summer or pull them out and start fresh plants in the fall.  Cactus, Agaves, Yuccas and clustering type Aloes will need regular watering to avoid yellowing and possible death.  Tree Aloes are a bit tricky and will probably do best with less frequent but deep watering.

Ode to a Green Fountain Grass

Alas, I'm such a cool grass!
But for a lass, I'm really quite crass
For I spread offspring
afar and amass
Oh what a shame, I can't remain tame!

Of course the ladies among us might consider Green Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) a Don Juan.  Either way this grass is very seductive but has a cheating heart and does not remain at home.  It entices the innocent gardener with its graceful  symmetry and pretty seed heads, then stealthily reseeds itself anywhere there's a bit of moisture.  Once established it is very tough and very difficult to remove.  Because this African grass is so invasive it is capable of displacing native vegetation and has therefore earned its way onto many noxious weed lists.  Unlike Green Fountain Grass (and most other grasses) Red Fountain Grass is the black sheep of the family, being very prudish in its reproductive habits.  Even though it produces graceful seed heads the seeds themselves are not viable, so no unwanted juniors pop up anywhere.  If Red Fountain Grass is not trimmed back regularly it can get pretty ugly, even becoming an eyesore.  One grass we especially like is Purple Three Awn (Aristida purpurea).  The clumps are fine textured and get about 2 ft. tall; the new seed heads have a reddish hue then become straw colored.   This grass makes an interesting addition to any desert landscape, especially around boulders and with wildflowers.  Although it's definitely of the Don Juan persuasion, its reseeding propensities are a nuisance issue rather than a moral issue since it's actually native to our area.  In fact, Purple Three Awn is a common grass along roadways.

If you have Cassias in your yard and they have seed pods forming, now its the time to trim them off to avoid reseeding and that messy look later on.  Also  Globe Mallow can be kept more acceptable looking through the summer with just a little water and some light trimming. These native plants, if well established, are very drought tolerant and without supplemental water will go into a dormant state where they look quite dead.  Too much water on the other hand will make them too big and rangy.

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Web Comments September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004