Monday, September 20, 2010


There are a few things that I started in the garden last year--some successful, some not--for which I think an epilogue would be appropriate. So in no particular order, here they are. (Oh, and I apologize in advance for some of the lousy photos. My regular camera is on the fritz and some of the updates were taken with my iPhone.)

Milky spore
Guess what, Virginia? It works.

This bare spot is evidence of the June beetle larvae at work on my prairie lawn, and that white spot is a dab of milky spore before it is watered in:

The bare spots were spreading like gangbusters across the lawn, but in one season the milky spore has stopped the onslaught. The skimpy patches are only about half-filled in but the lawn looks better. Here are a couple of pics after an 8 inch rain we had this summer:

It doesn't look as good right now; we've had a dry spell and it is starting to go dormant because I can't bring myself to water a lawn. Perennial grasses go dormant naturally, and though I'm not okay with bare spots caused by grubs, I'm okay with a lawn that is resting.

Container plantings
I thought I'd experiment with these this year because I always think they are so lovely. However, the truth is that I just can't bring myself to water ornamental plants in the heat of the summer. Sorry, it just goes against my grain, knowing what I know about water and the southwest (see above, in re: watering lawns. Here are the results:

The plants that did all right even without supplemental watering were all succulents. I should get a clue from that.

This is not to say that plants not in containers can't survive well without supplemental watering west of the 100th meridian:
(I adore those seed flags on the blue grama) 

And this, a rosemary, watered in for a couple of weeks in the spring and then completely forgotten for the rest of the summer:

Transplanting the desert willow
I felt certain that this was not enough of a root ball when we transplanted a favorite tree from the backyard to the front:

And sure enough, March came, then April, then May...and nothing at all leafed out on it. I had pretty much decided that it was dead and had resigned myself to digging it up and replacing it--a thought that filled me with dismay, since I knew how much nurseries charged for a desert willow that size. But it was so danged hot out that every time I thought about having to get out the shovel, my stomach would turn. So I put it off. And life went on.

Then one day in July I was pulling the car into the drive, and this is what I saw:

There's a life lesson somewhere in that last update.


  1. To all things their season... That desert willow was smart enough to grow roots before even trying to put out any leaves. Root first, and then when you've got yourself established, let the world know you're alive and happy!

  2. It's hard to just wait and see. People around here got all upset after last winter's unusually hard freezes and threw out a bunch of plants that would have likely recovered. Glad your desert willow made it. I like that tree.

  3. I like your decision not to water the lawn or ornamental plants in containers. Personally I have a rather-too-damp garden, and though we WILL install a drain, we just have to face that our garden will never cater to plants that can't tolerate a permanently damp soil.

    You try out what works and what doesn't, and then you do more of what works and stop doing what doesn't, right?

  4. Succulents are brilliant in pots if you don't want to water - and I think their colours show to advantage when they are grouped together. I have a couple of shrubs that believe in looking dead before quietly putting out leaves just as I am giving up on them - gets me every year!

  5. When I was a public works inspector for a local municipality here in Texas one of my responsiblites inculuded the installation of landscaping.
    The city decided that they would practice minimal or natural landscaping. Consquently Desert Willows were a choice of bushes they would install in the medians.
    With a two year warranty on the bushes the first year I was sure I was going to have to get the contractor out to replace them for they sure look like they were dying. But the city's arborist told me be paitent and sure enough they came back and now 7 years later are really quite beautiful if I say so myself.

  6. Elizabeth--I like it, too!

    Soren--that's always been my philosophy. :-)

    EG--I am definitely going to try succulents next year.

    David--What a great story!

  7. Containers, I so get your feelings. I do water mine, but if I lived in Texas where it rains much, much less, no containers I think. As for watering the grass, yup, understand that too. Yet, I have a small fescue lawn I water a bit every week. However, the freakin' Bermuda (not native) just goes dormant until it rains again. I think it just hides and spreads its roots deeper as it waits.

    On the willow, I have dug so many things I wish I had just left alone. I now tell myself, "Patience grasshopper." :)


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