Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs November 2003
THE MIGHTY EUPHORBS

NOVEMBER

What a brutal October!  Definitely one for the memory books with the seemingly endless 100+ degree days.  The unseasonable heat discouraged most people from planting winter veggies, herbs and flowers and rightly so.  The high soil temperatures that are fine for establishing trees and shrubs sound the death knell for the more delicate annuals.  Whiteflies, the ever present fall pest, had a real heyday in October but should become less bothersome with the cooler temperatures.  So we think it is finally cool enough to get that winter garden going!  Of course, weather being what it is, we’ll probably be madly rushing around covering for frost and wondering what happened to fall.  Be aware too that the poor, parched critters are still hungry and thirsty and waiting in the wings for you to supply them with lush greens.  Why not do your gardening in containers?  This is something that is very difficult and frustrating to do during summer months in the desert, since you must become a slave to the watering hose to keep things alive in the heat.  From now on watering containers won’t be such a chore and you can keep plants out of rabbit reach.  For some real ‘eye-candy’ plant some Bright Lights Swiss Chard in a colorful ceramic pot.  It will look too good to eat!

For you folks or friends of folks with tastes leaning toward the exotic we have a selection of Euphorbias for your perusal.  So what are they anyway?  They are a very large and diverse family of plants that occurs worldwide and has a large array of forms.  They can be small leafy mats to huge towering plants that look just like a Cactus.  The Poinsettia is a member of this family.  People are often confused about the difference between a Cactus and the succulent Euphorbias.  Generally Euphorbias have milky juice, small somewhat insignificant flowers and small, hard capsules for fruits.  Cactus (except for some Mammillarias) have clear sap, mostly showy flowers and small to large fleshy fruits.  Also the sharp spines of a Cactus arise from a fuzzy cushion-like structure, while those of a Euphorbia arise directly from the skin.  All Cactus are native to the new world whereas the major proportion of succulent Euphorbias are from Africa.  They look like Cactus because they evolved in a similar arid environment.

Euphorbias make unique container specimens for your patio, but they do require lots of light and possibly full sun to exhibit their best form.  Most like to be soaked then allowed to dry out before given another watering.  Frequency varies with temperature and growing rates.  Just as with Cactus you can miss a few waterings and not have a corpse on your hands.  A whole world of wonder exists among the smaller growing Euphorbias.  These are a delight to any collector of plant oddities.  Some have thickened fleshy roots that when exposed give your plant an ancient bonsai look.  Others look like basketballs or like something that crawled out of the sea.  One under used landscape plant is Morocco Mound (Euphorbia resinifera which is frost hardy, will take full sun and very little water.  It slowly forms large cushion –like mounds.  A couple of drawbacks to Euphorbias are their milky sap which can be toxic and irritating to the skin and especially eyes (wear goggles or glasses when working with them) and the fact that many are frost tender.  If in doubt about hardiness cover them if frost is imminent.

With the arrival of the cool days and downright cold nights of November, it's time to reduce the amount of water you're giving your established plants.  This will help prepare your plants for winter as well as reduce that annoyingly high water bill!

Believe it or not the lowly and oft shunned DESERT BROOM (Baccharis sarothroides) is irresistible to masses of butterflies during its fall blooming period.  The male plants do not produce the invasive crop of seeds, and we observed hordes of butterflies enjoying their nectar.

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