Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs MAY 2003
LISIANTHUS & THE UNPRINTABLES

MAY

May is probably the last of the fairly comfortable gardening months for awhile so plant those plants now!  Remember that any plant you put in the ground from now through fall will have to be watered constantly or it will be toast.  If you must have summer annuals, you'll find that Vinca can best stand the heat but has a nasty perchant for root rot during the more humid months.  As for Lisianthus, we prefer the taller growing varieties to the dwarf ones which get pretty raunchy during the heat.  Trimming off the spent flowers at the top of the plant will stimulate new flowers along the sides.  Lisianthus make long lasting cut flowers and can be dried as well.

Here are a couple of plants that, depending on your own palate, can be a bane or a boon to your plant palette.  One is Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca), a large shrub to small tree with medium sized leaves and yellow tubular flowers.  This South American native has made itself quite at home here in the southwest.  It can survive on very little water but will become quite lush and fast growing in moist areas and can get up to 30 ft. tall.  One popped up in the nursery last year and is about 10 ft. tall already.  The evergreen leaves are supposedly poisonous but the yellow flowers are a hummer magnet.  Some people consider this a weed tree because it reseeds profusely with just a bit of moisture, while others of us are grateful for anything that can live in your yards!

The other bane or boon plant is Funastrum heterophyllum known as Milkweed Vine and a lot of other unprintable names.  It is the skunky smelling vine that you see or that you have rambling over fences, Cactus, and other plants etc. in very inhospitable environments.  Covering a naked chain link fence in full sun and concrete soil is a piece of cake for this native vine.  Its creamy flower clusters and fruit pods are quite attractive and lure lots of insects and butterflies.  In fact we've observed a couple of spiny lizards camped high up in a vine covered shrub, ready to sample from the smorgasbord of visitors.  Teeming-with-Life Vine might be an apt printable name for this sometimes maligned plant.  The bane part of this vine is the fact that if one comes up where you don't want it you have to dig it out immediately or you'll have the stinky thing and its visitors forever.  Once one has gotten a foothold it is nearly impossible to eradicate as it is impervious to any herbicide and has very tenacious roots.  Typical of all Milkweeds, the parachuted seeds are spread far and wide on the wind and will land and germinate in many places unwanted by you. The Papagos reputedly ate the fruits and made chewing gum from the sap. UGH!  Anyway, if you want to purchase a Milkweed Vine of your very own, we have no idea where to find one.  But feel free to avail yourself of any seed pods (not ripe yet) from the fence at Shady Way.

May is the traditional month to fertilize established Citrus.  It's probably best not to fertilize newly installed plants at this time as root burning may result.  May, to your dismay, is also the month for lots of little green fruits to drop off.  Especially frustrating are Navel Oranges.  We all love them and want one in our yard, but they don't love us.  When the heat and dry winds kick in during early summer they rebel by casting off lots of immature fruits, leaving you with few or none to enjoy next winter.  Other varieties of oranges such as Valencias, Arizona Sweets and Trovita give much better yields in the low desert.

We are pleased with the False Queen Anne's Lace or Bishop Weed (Ammi majus) that we planted last fall in front of the nursery.  This is not the same plant that grows along roads back east but produces similar lovely, lacey heads for fresh and dried arrangements.  We also threw out some seed near the road where the soil is typically horrible and where they were pretty much neglected.  These little plants are producing mini heads at just a few inches tall while the others were several feet tall before blooming.  Somehow these and other plants know to take care of reproductive business quickly when in a trying environment.  The ones that have lots of food and water spend their time enjoying the good life, getting full and fat, before considering reproduction.  Oops...!  No social commentary intended!

For a print friendly Adobe PDF File

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