Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Front yard desert bed June 2014 update

This post continues the coverage of our front yard desert garden project.

It’s been 3½ months since since we removed the Pittosporum tobira hedge next to the house and built a mounded “desert bed.” This is what it looked like right after we’d put in the plants on March 16, 2014:

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March 16, 2014

And the same view now in the third week of June:

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June 20, 2014

Let’s take a closer look. Some plants, above all else the perennials and the shrubs, have put on a tremendous amount of growth—more so than I ever expected. Being slower growers by nature, the agaves and aloes will need another season or two before you’ll see noticeable progress.

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The three Gaura lindheimeri ‘Snow Fountain’ have exploded. Here is one of them.

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And the same view in the opposite direction. The Agave macroacantha I bought at the UC Botanical Garden has settled in nicely and is actively growing, judging both by the number of new leaves and a new offset I recently spotted.

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In March I scattered a package of “dry land” seed mix in this corner of the bed, and the cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) you see in the front is one of a half dozen plants that have come up.

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The brittle bush (Encelia farinosa) next to the Aloe ferox has doubled in size, and the Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Compacta’) to the right of it isn’t far behind.

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I wish I had measured the Aloe ‘Hercules’ when I planted it—a major oversight. It has a reputation as a very fast grower. I think it has gotten taller but I don’t know for sure.

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Aloe ‘Hercules’

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Aloe ‘Hercules’

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The award for the growth champion goes to our ‘Sonoran Emerald’ palo verde (Parkinsonia ‘Sonoran Emerald’). It bloomed like crazy and has almost doubled in size since I planted it. That’s quite a feat!

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‘Sonoran Emerald’ palo verde (Parkinsonia ‘Sonoran Emerald’)

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‘Sonoran Emerald’ palo verde (Parkinsonia ‘Sonoran Emerald’)

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‘Sonoran Emerald’ palo verde (Parkinsonia ‘Sonoran Emerald’)

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The newest addition to this bed is Aloe ‘Erik the Red’. It replaced a small Aloe marlothii that I moved elsewhere. ‘Erik the Red’ is a complex hybrid that will grow to 6-8 ft. tall by 2-3 ft. wide. In the winter it produces blood-red inflorescences. I’m hoping that with a half dozen medium-to-large winter-blooming aloes (Aloe ‘Erik the Red’, Aloe ferox, and three Aloe ‘Moonglow’) this bed will be attractive even at the least exciting time of year.

There have been a few casualties. A couple of the the seed-grown sundrops (Calylophus hartwegii) fried in the sun. The other four are fine. Some of small agave seedlings are barely hanging on or may already be past the point of no return (Agave deserti var. simplex, Agave cerulata ssp. nelsonii, Agave zebra). It’s too early to tell whether they will pull through.

RELATED POSTS:

Front yard desert garden index

13 comments:

  1. Wow everything looks fantastic! Makes me want to get started on my grass project!

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    1. Candy, if I were you, I'd wait until October. It's hard for plants to get established in the heat of summer. I'd love to give you some tips when the time comes--not to mention some plants I'm holding for you.

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  2. Looking good Gerhard, and most of them seems to relish the free root run you've given them. They like right at home too to their location.

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    1. Free root run iis what we all want, isn't it? If I were a potted plant, I'd go nuts as soon as I'm out of jail, as it were.

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  3. Looking great. I find it strange that the agave macroacantha has settled so quickly as for me they really slow and hate repotting. Maybe it is a heat thing.

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    1. I think it's the heat. The Agave macroacantha was a "deaccessioned" plant from UC Botanical Garden, mature but bareroot. By the time I planted it, it had no viable roots and some of the lower leaves had started to shrivel. But it appears that it has rerooted successfully--and then some.

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  4. All the hard work is paying off for you Gerhard. Love all u r selections.

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    1. Thank you, Laura. Some of the selections were a bit experimental--you know how much I love to learn new things.

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  5. You've got photos of the 'Hercules' in front of a measuring stick already: the fence! you should be able to do some comparisons using that.

    Looking great!

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    1. I should make marks on the fence, like you'd do on a door jamb to mark the height of your kids as they're growing up :-)

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  6. Looking amazing! Really want to try Gaura and Texas Ranger here in Vallejo on my SW exposure overlooking the water. What soil mix did you use for the mound? I need help getting it right for a large dry bed I am putting in. I have heard mix 1/4 my clay soil with 1/4 American Soil and Stone clodbreaker together with 50% red lava rock 1/8 inch. Any ideas? Thanks

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    1. Thanks! Gaura and Texas ranger will thrive in Vallejo. Heck, your climate is verging on dreamy--still a bit of valley heat plus heavy marine influence.

      I'd never heard of Clodbreaker but it sounds like a fantastic amendment. And 50% red lava rock is perfect. I recently talked to Ernesto Sandoval of the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory, and he swears by "lava rock dust," basically the smallest pieces you can find. 1/8" sounds ideal.

      If I had known about how good "lava rock dust" is, that's what I would have used as well. Instead, this is what I went with. I wanted enough drainage but still sufficient water retention for the summer. It's worked out great; I'm keeping my fingers crossed the soil won't stay too wet in the winter.

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  7. Record the growth of 'Hercules' only if you are fearless.

    It all looks fabulous.

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