Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs September 2004
THE TALE OF THE DESERT ROSE AND THE QUEEN

September

BE OPTIMISTIC!  Cooler weather is just around the corner!  Forget about those other years that have remained beastly hot way into October!  This year will be different! You'll see!

But regardless of the weather, September is a good planting month for any trees and shrubs - just keep them well watered until temperatures do actually drop.  September is usually too early to plant winter annuals even though everyone is usually itching to get some color back in the yard.  Fertilize Citrus and other trees and shrubs this month.

The Desert Rose

We've acquired a nice selection of Adeniums sometimes known as the Desert Rose.  Although succulent collectors are familiar with these interesting African plants, you won't find one on just any patio.  These members of the Oleander family have beautiful flowers set off by sparsely leaved, succulent branches.  Because there are different species and hybrids of Adeniums, they vary in flower colors(pinks, reds, bicolors, white), flowering times, leaf form and stem form.  Some are small shrubs and some are more treelike, but all have fleshy stems and roots that store water.  All make great container plants for a lightly shaded area.  However, if you want one of these conversation pieces to be a permanent member of your family, you'll have to observe certain rules.  One is to use a very fast draining potting mix and water thoroughly and often during spring and hot summer months.  Another and more important rule is to keep them dry during the cold winter months.  When temperatures get below the 60's Adeniums become quite cranky if their feet are wet and will rebel by turning to mush.  When the leaves start to yellow and drop in the fall they are telling you that they do not want to be watered.  Also, they are very uncomfortable with temperatures below the 50's.  Sooo...if you want to keep that prized plant alive be prepared to move it to a warm but bright area when temperatures drop, and DON'T WATER IT!  We are speaking from personal experience.  "Oh you poor things" we thought when the leaves started yellowing and dropping in the fall.  "You must be thirsty!....WRONG!!  Our misplaced kindness was rewarded later as the plants collapsed into a heap of rotten stems.  When in doubt, don't water.  Better a thirsty Adenium than a rotten one.

The Queen

 

Another plant we have available is the legendary Arizona Queen of the Night(Peniocereus greggii).  Instead of being legendary because there are so many of them or that they are so obvious like the Saguaro, this cactus is legendary because you only see one if it is in flower or fruit.  Most of the time, its deadish looking gray stems are practically invisible among the branches of desert shrubs.  But suddenly on an evening in June they reveal themselves at dusk.  Slowly unfolding, the large white flowers release a delicious perfume that wafts through the night air. by morning they've collapsed and the plant goes into hiding again until the red fruits appear.  These don't last long either as they are quickly spotted and scarfed up by birds. 

Another legendary feature of the Queen of the Night is the huge, unseen tuber that supports the spindly stems.  This water storing tuber looks like a giant turnip and enables the plant to endure long periods of drought.  Supposedly it is edible.  If you want your very own Queen we have teeny ones as well as ones with good sized tubers.  They are comfortable planted in the ground under a tree or shrub and will survive there with minimal or even no supplemental water.  Or they can be grown in a container with the large tuber partially exposed for that unusual effect.

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Web Comments george@mswn.com October 10, 2004