Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 2012

Plant natives. Native trees, shrubs and perennials perform best when planted in warm soil, during the monsoon rains so now is a great time to plant them. They are genetically programed to grow and thrive during this season. When choosing natives keep in mind that they are not all drought tolerant or even low water plants. Some are native along waterways and need moderate water and some are understory plants that require either more water or some shade or both. Remember that drought tolerant plants are only drought tolerant once established and will need regular watering for at least a year or until they have developed an adequate root system. Plant natives from containers as you would any other container grown landscape plant, digging a hole twice as wide and 1 1/2 times as deep as the container and amending the soil with compost. You need to create a transition area from the good soil in the pot to the reality of our local soil. Do not try to dig up or move plants that are growing in their natural habitat. These are very deep rooted and will usually die when their roots are cut off. Not only will you have wasted your time and effort but you will have depleted a native species.

The natives we have in stock right now are:
Trees; Sycamore (Platanus wrightii) and Berrinda Ash (Fraxinus velutina 'Berrinda')
Shrubs; Three-leaf Sumac (Rhus trilobata), Golden Currant (Ribes aureum),  Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) the yellow one that is actually cold hardy and has naturalized here, and New Mexico Olive (Forestiera neomexicana)
Perennials; Many varieties of Penstemon, Blue Flax (Linum perenne), California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Hyssop (Agastache) and Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera)

We also have a wide variety of flowering landscape plants that are not native but are very drought tolerant.

FERTILIZE ANNUAL FLOWERS AND VEGETABLES. Annuals use a lot of nutrients since they only live one season while producing flowers and fruit. Adding compost and manure to your beds and fresh potting soil to your pots is a must if you  want to get your plants off to a good start but they will need fertilizing throughout the growing season to ensure an abundance of flowers and a bountiful harvest of yummy veggies. If you prefer to use organic fertilizers, Yum Yum Mix, Chickity Doo Doo, Fox Farm Happy Frog and Big Bloom are all well balanced. Fox Farm Grow Big and Tiger Bloom contain earthworm castings and bat guano along with a low dose of nitrates and phosphates. The pots we planted outside of Aunt Judy's Attic are planted in Uni-Gro and have been fed Tiger Bloom on a regular basis. Soft Rock Phosphate, Bat Guano and Bone Meal are forms of phosphorus and can be added to improve root production, blooming and fruiting. Blood Meal, Fish Emulsion and Alfalfa Meal supply nitrogen for green leafy growth and Seaweed Extract is full of trace minerals and potassium for overall plant vigor and disease resistance. Be aware that prolonged use of chemical fertilizers such as Miracle Gro kill the beneficial microorganisms in your soil and produce weak growth that insects and disease find very inviting. Here is a link to an article that explains other harmful effects of chemical fertilizers Harmful Effects of Mircale Gro. Whatever you choose to fertilize with, make sure you follow package directions carefully and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Grasses. Ornamental grasses can be used in containers, in a native landscape, as a screen or to add texture to a perennial bed. Some grasses are deciduous and some are evergreen and the leaves can be green, red, blue or variegated. Many produce beautiful flower plumes and seedheads. Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) is technically a giant grass that can reach a height of 6-10' with its culms growing to 2'' wide. It runs and can make a good screen by planting it in a trench that has been amended with compost and composted manure. It is cold hardy to 0 degrees and tolerates drought. Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus') grows to 5-7' tall and wide with narrow, green, upright leaves producing silvery blooms in August. The leaves then turn from an orange-red-copper fall color to tan in winter. It is a zone 5 plant (hardy to -10 to -20F) that should be cut back in spring just as the new growth starts. Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster') will grow each year to 3-4' then bloom in summer and sport tan-golden seedheads in late summer. It is also very cold hardy and should be cut back in spring.  Mexican Feather Grass (Nasella tenuissima aka Stipa) is the most drought tolerant grass we have. It will grow to 18-24'' tall and 2' wide and reseeds freely. The green thread-like foliage has red hues in summer and fall and the feathery seedheads are white and sway with any little breeze. Blue Lyme Grass (Elymus arenarius 'Glaucus') is a clumping grass that has gray-blue leaves and will reach a height of 2'. It would do well planted on a bank to help hold soil. It is evergreen, will take sun or shade and is hardy to 30 degrees below zero. Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea) has variegated white and green leaves with hints of red. It gets 2-3' tall and wide, is hardy to -30 and can be planted in the shade. Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca) forms a small, silvery blue mound 10'' tall. It has buff colored seedheads in summer and should be deadheaded to improve foliage growth. It tolerates our poor, dry soil and looks good planted in mass. Twisted Arrows (Juncus spiralis) is an evergreen clumping grass that prefers a moist somewhat shaded spot. It grows well in a pot or even a pond. It has corkscrew-like green leaves and grows to 2' by 1'. Two grasses that a great in pots are Purple Fountain Grass and Fireworks. Neither of these Pennisetums are cold hardy for our area but make a beautiful show throughout the summer and fall. This is a helpful list of the best grasses for our area; I am sure you can find a one or several that is right for your landscape. Grasses add grace, drama, and beauty to any yard while being easy to live with and are underused in the area so be a person with vision and lead the way in your neighborhood.
Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'


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