The garden after our summer vacation

Whenever I get back from vacation, I usually have a hard time getting back into the swing of things. It was no different this year. In fact it was worse, probably because I’d had such a great time on Hawaii (aka the Big Island).

The one thing I do look forward to after a trip is seeing what has changed in the garden. We were gone for two weeks, which isn’t very long in the grand scheme of things but still long enough to make a difference. For example, when we left, the cosmos you see in the next two photos (a volunteer that came up from seed) was a foot tall and had no flower buds at all. I was astonished to find this:



It’s much too large for this space, but since it’s an annual, I’ll keep it around while it’s still blooming.

Let’s look at some other recent developments in the garden:


The agave-leaved sea holly (Eryngium agavifolium) that started out as a 4-inch plant last fall has turned into a monster…


…swallowing up this poor Agave montana (you can barely see it under the leaves). As much as I like the foliage of the eryngium, it’s much too large for this spot and will come out in the fall.


The Desert Museum palo verde (Parkinsonia ‘Desert Museum’) in the strip between our house and our neighbor’s has also exploded in size…


…but that’s a welcome development.


I can’t wait for it to get even bigger and provide much-needed shade.


Growing steadily in the same planting bed: Agave ovatifolia ‘Frosty Blue’


Its neighbor, this Aloe cryptopoda, is sending up a flower spike—very unusual considering it’s supposed to flower in the winter.


This White Sands claret cup cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus ‘White Sands’) has clearly not gotten enough water lately. Apparently it was quite hot while we were gone. With some additional water, it should be upright again soon.

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The Blue Eyed Susan passionflower vine (Passiflora × ‘Blue Eyed Susan’) next to the front porch is half dead, probably from too little water and too much sun.


Not a big loss since it was getting unruly anyway (and only produced a single flower here and there instead of the profusion I was counting on). I cut it way back.


I continue to be impressed with the bamboos in front of the house (Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’, Bambusa oldhamii, Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’). They’re getting much less water than in previous years but are doing just fine.


I think it’s finally time to remove what’s left of the towers of jewels (Echium wildpretii)!


Sad: We had to severely trim back the gauras and grasses along the sidewalk because somebody had turned us into the police and we had a notice of violation for “overgrown weeds” that “may constitute a public nuisance” (!) waiting for us when we got back from Hawaii.


This Aloe cameronii had been a beautiful shade of red in the spring; now it’s all green. So much for reports that it is intense sun that turns it red. I think it’s low temperatures more than anything else.

The next set of photos is of the desert garden bed along the street (behind the fence is the back yard). Considering that the plantings here are just four months (!) old, the amount of growth is astounding. Check out these earlier posts for comparison. This bed is on drip irrigation, which runs only once a week for 30 minutes.

In March I scattered a small package of “dry land” seed mix on the left side of the bed, mostly because I had it on hand. I didn’t expect much, so I’m doubly pleased with the flowers that did come up. They might be common, like the bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea cyanus) below, but they still add a measure of cheerfulness to this xeric planting scheme.




One of my favorite shrubs here is this brittlebush (Encelia farinosa). I think it’s getting too much water because the leaves are larger than they should be. I want it to stay compact, with small leaves, so I’ll have to find a way to keep it drier. Admittedly, that’s a strange problem to have. Usually it’s the other way around.


The Aloe ferox next to it has put on some bulk…


…but not as much as Aloe ‘Hercules’ has:


No surprise here since ‘Hercules’ has a reputation for being a very fast grower.


But the speed champ in this bed is Parkinsonia ‘Sonoran Emerald’. This palo verde hybrid was well below the top of the 6-foot fence when we planted it on March 15 (see here). Look at it now!




The yellow bird of paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) has proven to be a speedy grower as well:


And it has been blooming on and off all spring and summer:


But lest you think all is honky-dory, take a look at this:



Like last summer, and every summer, I’m battling mealy bugs. They love succulents with tight rosettes, like these echeverias. I immediately sprayed them with a mixture of rubbing alcohol and diluted Dr Bronner’s castile soap, but I need to be extra vigilant to keep them from spreading.

Welcome back to reality!


  1. Oh how annoying to receive such a notice when you get back home from your holiday! Some people eh! Nevermind, at least the garden is largely doing fine and achieved so much growth this year. Impressed with the Aloe Hercules, up there on my Wishlist!

    1. I wish I could have found a small 'Hercules' for you. All the ones I've come across have been 5 gallon and up.

  2. That is all looking great and filling out nicely. mealy bugs are a right pain and constant battle. I must admit to getting tough and just binning plants that have them now in the hope of getting rid of them at least in my greenhouse collection.

    1. Yeah, I'm getting to that point. I threw out three cacti last weekend because they were just too far gone (i.e. too disfigured by mealybugs).

  3. I know that feeling of getting back to your garden and reality. While there is plenty of good there's always a little bad mixed in to, such is gardening. As for that nuisance notice you're in good company, as you probably know that's how The Outlaw Gardener got his blog name.

    1. I had no idea that The Outlaw Gardener is based on Peter being cited. Gotta ask him for more details the next time I see him!

  4. Seeing the garden after time away is always fun -- see what's bigger, what's in trouble, what's been eaten by deer and woodchucks. Two weeks is a long time in garden terms, and you certainly had some nice surprises!


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