As soon as I pulled out the extravagant sweet peas, the Blue Lake pole beans were happy to take over that planting box, sharing with basil. The other box is empty, and I don’t seem to have time even to think about what to do with it — so, I guess nothing until next month. But I picked enough basil to make a batch of pesto, and now am starting to enjoy the beans.
Flowers are everywhere, too. The white echinacea and the Delta Sunflowers in the front garden are my favorites. Those sunflowers are amazing – For years I’d been seeing them wave their bright blooms in the hot winds of California’s Central Valley, on zero summer water. Even last week I took some pictures as I was on my way home from the mountains, showing how they love to volunteer and reseed themselves in temperatures over 100°.
Landscape Lady suggested that I consider them for the way they bloom over the whole season, last fall when I was talking about sunflowers in the front, and she offered to share some of the plants that make babies year after year at her own place. She gave me five, and all five quickly revived from transplanting and started growing like the weeds that they are at heart.
They naturally look a lot nicer here where they get a little moisture to their roots.
I’ve been gadding about too much to be an attentive gardener — that’s where it pays off to have this relatively low-maintenance kind of space that produces so much beauty to welcome me home in a new way every time I return.
Xerophytes are plants that are xerophilous, which means they have special features that enable them to survive in very dry environments. One of my favorite xerophytes is the Bristlecone Pine, which I wrote about some years ago, calling them Gnarly Patriarchs.
Some of the plants in my home landscape are considered to be xerophilous, though to maintain a xeriscape such as I have it is not necessary to have nothing but xerophytes. A xeriscape, in addition to featuring drought-tolerant plants, uses deep mulches and other means of conserving water besides those that are built into the plants themselves.
In a patch by my driveway, enclosed on all sides by concrete, Mexican Evening Primrose blooms and thrives all summer with a little water once a month or so. It thrives so well that such an enclosed space as it lives in here is usually the best spot for this plant, unless you are okay with it taking over the whole garden.
The picture at right is of warrigal or New Zealand Spinach, an edible green, growing alongside a yellow mystery flower [since discovered to be toadflax], both of which I consider quite xerophilous, as they lived in my back yard for months last summer with no water, and never so much as wilted.
That root xeros comes from the Greek, for dry. My current project is to incorporate more of these unthirsty friends into a plan for my front yard, and I hope to have them planted by the fall.
This morning I helped make Communion bread at church. The only picture I took this time was of the big bowl of dough before it was turned out and divided among us four bakers. It was just so symmetrically bulbous and gaseous.
When I came home I noticed the lovely rose, as I had noticed yesterday, too, and I thought I really must take a picture of it. But I forgot, and was eating my lunch when rain began to fall! It was only a few drops, and it didn’t spoil the roses. I went out even while it was still coming down and captured two roses. This may be the last season for that rosebush – I don’t know that tea roses fit into my xeriscapic visions. (Just so you know, xeriscapic is not a legitimate word, but what form of the word could I use for the idea of “visions of xeriscape?”)
Many more pretty and colorful flowers are blooming in the garden right now, though I must say I’m mostly noticing the unkempt parts. It’s less than a week now until the pool will be broken into pieces that will be dumped into its own hole. I had to call the mosquito control man to come and spray that little swamp at the bottom that the electric pump couldn’t extract.
Because I’ve had to move pots and firewood and steppingstones and all manner of things out of the way, the yard front and back is in great disarray in addition to being drought-stricken.
I’ve decided not to keep some plants, after I watered them for weeks with water from the pool; miniature roses in pots are also not waterwise gardening. But it feels like euthanizing old pets merely because they’re too much trouble. All of this upheaval is unsettling.
The ornamental/cherry plum tree you can see sticking up purplish next to the house in the pool picture will be removed shortly after the pool, and the pine tree thinned out and shaped. My shady part of the garden will not be so shady anymore.
The wisteria is telling me she has no idea that there even is a drought. And she keeps me busy cutting off those wild stems that weave in the breeze. If you don’t recognize her, she is the green frizzy mop on the arbor next to the purplish plum.
In the house, I can hardly believe it, this orchid is still blooming, a condolence/memorial gift from March. When I came home from the mountains one branch had wilted and dried, but after I watered it it revived completely. I’m sure I’ve posted its picture here before, but I can’t help sharing again, it’s so wonderful. I would like to be like that orchid.
On the table by the orchid is a little Jubilee tomato from my front yard. Those tomato plants do not like where they are planted, not one bit. The fruit is almost all small, tough, and/or tasteless. I now regret that day of tomato-hole digging, as I don’t really need any tomatoes at this time of my life anyway, but I did learn some things from the experience.
This week is lots of cookie-baking at church for our food festival in September, and also the the bright and blessing Feast of the Transfiguration. I’ve had house guests of the easiest sort coming and going, and a couple of them who I hope will stay a few weeks as they are on an errand of mercy. They are taking me out for dinner this evening, and I think I will end this mélange on that cheerful note.
This map shows how severe our current drought is, affecting half the nation. The darker areas are the worst, named “Exceptional Drought,” and my part of California is down a notch from that, at “Extreme Drought.” You can see this and four other instructive maps more clearly here: Five Maps of America’s Massive Drought.
We began several months ago in our household to collect water in buckets in the shower, to use for flushing the toilets. We are also letting our lawn die. I didn’t want a lawn anyway; I’d rather have flowers like these below, which I snapped at the library this morning.
They are Matilija Poppies (Romneya), and if you have a big space they can be a good fit – so dramatic and graceful. I tried them once but didn’t really have room. They prefer dry soil.
I don’t remember what these fun blue flowers are, but they were also decorating the parking lot at the library, obviously part of a planned xeriscape. [Thanks to Jeannette for enlightening me in a comment below.]
Over the years we Glads have emphasized drought-tolerant ornamentals in our landscaping and have collected quite a few. Sweet alyssum and Lamb’s Ears are always ready to sprout up and fill spots where thirstier plants languish, so much so that we are constantly cutting them back so that other less invasive plants like this salvia and California poppies can also thrive. California poppies grow all over the bare golden-brown hills in the summer, where where not a drop of rain falls.
As I went looking through my pictures for examples of plants that are good choices for the arid West, I discovered more than I remembered, like aloes, rosemary and lavender.
Even the ground morning glory that grew beneath the manzanita for years required little water. The orange-topped succulent is an Aloe Saponaria.
In the front yard my favorite of these plants that thrive in drought is the pink Mexican Evening Primrose. In the middle of summer it doesn’t need water more than once a month, and it never stops blooming from spring through fall.
And in the back, the prize goes to the Mexican Bush Sage (do you notice a theme here?). It likewise has its long spikes of purple for half the year, and makes me happy by the hummingbirds that love to visit it and that I can watch through the window.
I don’t know what lesson to take from all this beauty. So I guess I’ll just take the beauty. And pray for that sake of all the plants that next winter will bring lots of rain.