Archive | August 2013

Spanish Broom

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Spanish broom makes a nice addition to any yard, but works well in a xeriscape-style landscape. Once established, they do take less water than other flowering bushes, but from my experience, more water or rain in the Spring contributes to a thicker cover of blooms. Mine blooms anywhere from April to June for about two weeks, and the rest of the year is a nice dark green. The best thing about Spanish broom, however, is the lovely scent of those flowers, and the computer does not allow me to share that with you.

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About the only drawback I can think of with this plant is that it will get very large, so put it where it has plenty of space to grow, or be prepared to prune it about every other year. On the other hand, if you let it grow too big, the branches get heavy and it splits in the middle and loses it pretty ball shape. So keeping it pruned and shaped on a fairly regular basis keeps it looking its best, even if it has room to get huge.

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According to Dr. Curtis Smith of the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service in Albuquerque, the best time to prune is during the dormant season and to do what’s called rejuvenation pruning. Remove the old stems at ground level. My Spanish broom is probably ten years old, and we have pruned it twice by just cutting it back all over about one to two feet from the ground, so we have missed our window for the rejuvenation pruning, as it now has such a thick mass of branches at the base. Dr. Smith would disapprove of how we cut it back because he says if you prune partially, the stem will produce a cluster of new branches near the pruned end, making a broom-like growth. Mine may do that, but it also comes out from the base of the branches at ground level. The plant is very forgiving, so  prune in whatever fashion works for you, but I would prune from time to time!

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And come Spring, enjoy the wonderful aroma as well as the burst of yellow flowers.

 

Information gather from this site: http://aces.nmsu.edu/ces/yard/2005/101505.html

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Stinky Flowers

I was on my way home from Austin in November of 2011 with a back seat full of treasures and trinkets bought during the trip. The sun was shining, and it was a lovely day for traveling. But as I covered the miles home, I began to notice that an unpleasant smell was moving along with me. I decided I must have run over an unfortunate road kill and somehow collected a piece of it under the car. By the time I needed a bathroom break at Sweetwater, I decided the whole dead animal must be stuck under the car or on the tires.

I took care of business and came back to the car determined to locate the origin of the offending odor. Finding nothing on or under the car, in desperation I opened the back door to see if a sick animal had climbed in for a free ride, and Eureka! Mystery solved.

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One of the treasures I was taking home was a huernia or stapeliad, I wasn’t sure which since it wasn’t labeled, that had six nice buds ready to open. It was a nice sunny day, remember, and the buds responded to the sun, even in the floorboard of the back seat, and had opened as I drove. Deep maroon, the blooms were, with hairs and that tell-tale smell, which are two of the characteristics of stapeliads. Huernia and stapeliad are related-family Apocynaceae, subfamily Asclepiadaceae and come from areas in southern Africa. Both plants are similar, blooms are five-pointed with interesting patterns on them. And they both carry that lovely scent, but to smell the huernias in my collection I have to have my nose right up next to them. These flowers weren’t bashful at all about sharing their aroma with the world.

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When I got home and moved the plant into the greenhouse, I had a trail of flies following me like bats flying out of the cave in search of mosquitoes. My husband was aghast that I would even bother to put it in the greenhouse to keep. But of course I did.

The flowers were interesting and lasted several days before folding up and withering away. The plant is doing well. It has yet to bloom again. But if it does, I will know this time that no little animal died in the greenhouse. 

Bombax Tree Update

The last time you saw the bombax tree (“The Bombax Tree, AKA The Shaving Brush Tree,” May 31, 2013), it had bloomed and had very few leaves. Well, time has passed, rain has come, and the tree looks considerably different. So I thought that you needed to see that it does, if fact, make a nice tree and makes shade. So here it is:

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And from the other side.

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Makes a nice tree, huh? At some point I will have to prune it back to get it into the barn for the winter. But I will worry about that later. Right now I will just enjoy watching it grow.

Succulents Instead of Annuals

I have been so frustrated with the drought that this year I decided to use succulents in some places where I might have put annuals. The wind, coupled with the lack of moisture, has made it hard the last few years for bedding plants to make a showing in my yard, which  has an abundance of drying wind, so the switch to succulents made sense. The very thing that makes these plants succulents, their fleshy leaves, ability to retain water, sun-loving, makes them perfect candidates to stand up to the  arid, dry, windy, hot conditions. I used primarily ice plant (delosperma), sansevieria, artemisia, dew plant, sedums,  purslane-portulaca grandiflora and others this year, although there are many others you might try.

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Ice plant comes in several colors and a variety of sizes, but it is all pretty. In warmer climates it will come back after the winter. In our climate, sometimes it does, sometimes not. It is usually recommended that you cut back on water as cold weather approaches, but I have not seen that it makes much difference with mine. But maybe that is because it is usually drier than most places here and the cutting back of water just sort of takes care of itself. If you are concerned about losing yours over the winter, take a cutting to root so you will have a start in the spring.

 

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I forgot to take a close-up of the dew plant, but it is the one in the center. As you can see, it has filled its pot and blooms red. It is also available in yellow. It is not cold-hardy in my zone, zone 6. The yellow and magenta ice plant are in the other two.

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Sedums grow a little slower than ice plant, but make a stunning hanging basket. The senecio on the right, string of pearls, is also impressive. It needs a bit  more water.

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This pot is a mixture of sedum and cotyledon.

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The autumn joy, just as the name indicates, flowers later in the summer, closer to autumn. It comes is lavender and pink and perhaps other colors I have not seen. This one is growing its buds now for later flowering.

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I’ll admit , I have no idea what this is! It was not marked when I bought it and have not been able to find on the on Internet yet. But it is interesting with its zig-zag growth. It takes a bit more water and a little filtered sun.

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I bought a start of this plant at Sul Ross State University in Alpine in 2003 and it makes an interesting plant. It is a curcurbitaceae zerosicyos and has curling tendrils that latch on to anything close.

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This purslane portulaca grandiflora is one I saved from last year, and it has done beautifully this year. I love the neon magenta blooms.

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This ice plant is out in the big cactus bed and  has come back year after year.

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I used artemisia powis castle in one of the three big pots to add variety of color and texture. It should come back if watered some during the winter. The sansevieria tricolor I used for height and variety of texture in the pot with the yellow ice plant. The sansevieria is not cold hardy, so be prepared.

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Hoya has color when exposed to the sun. Kolanchoe grandifloria makes a nice statement as well. These two are not cold-hardy. But then, neither are most traditional bedding plants.

The list is endless if you would like to try succulents  in place of the annual bedding plants and even some perennials, which I find succumb to the drying wind and the need for water every single day, which can be a problem if your summer is full of trips and being away from the yard for days at a time.  It is a bit late this year to try them, although you could get specimens started now and winter them inside and be ready for instant color and greenery in the spring after the first frost.

Start looking and be amazed at what you will find.