Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs May 2004

     As the summer watering season approaches, people begin seriously thinking about drought tolerant plants for their gardens.  Be aware though that anything planted now will require regular watering through the summer and fall, even the most drought tolerant of plants.  And yes, even cactus and succulents need water in the summer to maintain their health.  One shrub that can eventually exist on Nature's water is the Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), now showing off its fuzzy white fruits in its desert home.  Another group of plants that need little supplemental water after establishment are the Nolinas What can we say about them?  Are they naughty? nice? nasty? notable? ... It depends on your preferences.  Basically Nolinas are fairly large grassy looking plants that exist as clumps or as tree like forms.  They lend a nice variety to any landscape with larger cacti, trees and shrubs and are excellent accent plants for your pool area, since they don't make naughty messes with their leaves and flowers. The clumpy kind may not appeal to the person that likes a manicured look, as the older leaves and leaf tips become brown and dry.  The most notable of the clumping Nolinas is the native Bear Grass or Sacahuista (Nolina microcarpa) Occurring throughout Arizona on hillsides above about 3000', this plant is famous for its use in Indian basket making.  It is also used commercially to make brooms Bear Grass sports stalks several feet tall with creamy flowers during early summer.  Texas Bear Grass (Nolina texana) is a similar but smaller growing species with a flower stalk that does not extend much beyond the leaves.  Leaf edges of all species inflict nasty cuts.

     Several species of Nolina form trunks after many years.  Desert Nolina (Nolina bigelovii) occurs naturally in western Arizona and resembles a Yucca in appearance.  Quite a few of the tree form Nolinas are native to Mexico and with lots (and we mean Lots!) of time become imposing landscape specimens with arching leaves and fat trunks.  Anyone with a large one of these in their yard would have a valuable plant indeed!  Blue Nolina (Nolina nelsonii) grows slightly faster than some of the other species eventually getting a trunk 10-12' tall with a round head of stiff bluish leaves.  Mexican Tree Bear Grass (Nolina matapensis) grows to over 20' tall and develops branches with heads of grassy leaves.  Regular summer watering will somewhat speed up the growth of these pokey plants.  Large specimens are not often available, so if you want one for future generations to enjoy or are extremely patient (and young too!) you'll have to settle for small plants.  We have to say, however, that small plants look pretty nondescript and that most people, including us, can't tell them apart.

     One well known plant that some consider a
Nolina is the Bottle or Ponytail Palm (Nolina or Beaucarnea recurvata)How could you not want one of these interesting and versatile plants?  If you're a fat base admirer this is the plant for you!  A common houseplant everywhere the Bottle Palm makes a wonderful patio plant here.  It can even be grown outside in full sun but looks more lush with some shade.  Young plants exhibit the small bulb that with age becomes a most fantastic broad base.  Older plants may develop multiple branches.  Nolina stricta is another less common Bottle Palm that has stiffer, shorter leaves and a fissured base.  Both of these plants can remain unscathed in the same container for years, even when bases completely fill the pot.  They can endure periods of dry soil without death, but grow best with fairly regular soakings.

 The folks at the Lost Dutchman Travel Trailer Resort sure have a pretty garden at their east entrance on Plaza south of Superstition Blvd.  All winter they had a show of blooming winter annuals.  Hollyhocks and Irises are blooming now.  Take a look!


     We've got a new Fairy Duster called Sierra Starr.  This shrub, introduced by Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, is a real eye catcher.  It is a hybrid between the native pink flowered and Mexican red flowered Fairy Duster and combines the best features of both.  Its bright red flowers attract hummingbirds as well as people!  It grows moderately fast to several feet tall, remains fairly dense, has some blooms most of the year and loves full sun and heat.  What a deal.

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Web Comments September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004