Saturday garden chores

Sometimes you do one big thing in your garden that has an immediate and dramatic impact, like installing a water feature or plopping down a giant rock. But that doesn’t happen all that often. Most of the time it’s many little things that contribute to the overall result. Chores fall in that category. Each one individually may not be much, but it all adds up.

For me, a typical weekend of gardening consists of a variety of seemingly unrelated tasks. Some are dictated by the weather or the season, others are the result of what I feel like doing that day. I often bumble about from one thing to the other, with no aim other than to be outside and have fun in the garden.

Today was a day just like that. I didn’t really know what I wanted  to accomplish when I started out, but at the end of the day I felt satisfied with what I had gotten done.

The first order of business was doing some pruning on our Washington Navel orange tree. It’s a dwarf tree, more than 15 years old now, and we’re trying hard to keep it compact so we can reach the fruit. I removed a couple of larger branches that had begun to creep towards the cordylines (lower left in the following photo) and I picked all the oranges that had fallen. We try to be diligent about picking all the fruit, but some always drops and starts to rot.


I need to do a bit more shaping on the top of the tree, but I do it in baby steps rather than taking off too much at a time.

I then cleaned up the callas that had sustained some damage in January. A few more weeks of warm temperatures, they’ll look perfect.

Callas along the north side of the house.

Just the other day I commented on this Vinca minor ‘Illumination’ starting bloom. I bought it a few weeks ago but hadn’t decided where to put it. I ended up planting it near our Borinda papyrifera, a clumping mountain bamboo with beautiful bluish culms. There are lamium and sweet woodruff in that area already, and I think this vinca will complement them nicely. Some readers have expressed concern about it become invasive, so I’ll keep a close eye on it.

Still lots of room to roam for this Vinca minor ‘Illumination’

On our recent trip to Southern California I saw several purple prickly pears (Opuntia santa-rita) in people’s yards. None of the nurseries we stopped at had them for sale, but luckily I was able to find a source on the Internet, My order arrived just the other day, and I’m very happy with the purple coloring!

The plant was bare root, wrapped in a brown paper bag. In the first photo, you can clearly see the roots sprouting from the bottom and the sides of the pad from which it was propagated. I potted it up using the bag method I described last week, and I’m happy to report I didn’t get pricked by a single glochid.

110305_santa_rita_roots 110305_santa_rita_potted

After reading a few books by Tucson landscape designer and garden writer Scott Calhoun I had been wanting to mulch my succulents with small rocks so I decided to make a quick run to the home improvement store. I picked up two kinds of rocks, one called Southwest Cobble and the other California Gold, and I trial-mulched a few cacti. I must say I like the results.

Purple prickly pear (Opuntia santa-rita) with California Gold
Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) with Southwest Cobble

I then remembered then I had collected some rocks on our Southern California trip (something I do on most trips) and placed a few in the succulent bowls I planted last month. Something was missing in some of them, and I think the rocks did the trick.


I can’t wait for the rainy season to end so I can uncover my succulent table and properly display my budding collection of prickly plants!


  1. Gerhard, do you recall all the low growing green all over the west end of the big hill in front of the house? That is all Vinca minor! Not sure how it spreads but it does very well in the expansion department!

  2. That purple prickly pear is just aching for some googly eyes and some rabbit whiskers. I know you like that sort of thing.

  3. Nice work Gerhard! Totally agree with your first paragraph, little things may not make a massive impact on their own, but it all adds up!!


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