Desert Companion
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JULY 2014
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Take 5
July 7, 14, 21 and 28, 8p. The Las Vegas comedy show featuring both short and long form improv from some of the valley’s most experienced...   
July 2, 16 and 30, 8p. Love improv but want to do more than just watch? In this show, the audience is part of the action. $10. The Sci Fi Center,...   
Through Aug. 1; artist reception July 10, 6-8p. A group exhibition by the fine arts students of CSN, featuring new works that make use of a variety...   
  Dc on Tour

Some of Norm Schilling's favorite plants...

Prostrate Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys "prostratum"): This dependable groundcover is the single plant I seem to recommend more than any other. Its rich green, little scalloped leaves are closely set to each other and create a dense, rich green carpet that seems to especially stand out against bold, bluish plants like agaves. It grows to three to four feet in spread and can take full sun to fairly dense sage. It even takes some of the deeper shade in my garden, but grows less dense. It's fine with our soil and quite drought-tolerant, but seems to do okay when it gets more water. It blooms in the spring with purple flower spikes, but the real beauty is in its soft ground-cover green (which spills between boulders with awesome show!)

Toothless Desert Spoon or Toothless Sotol (Dasylirion quadrangulatum or D. longissimum): This tough desert plant is grows to a four-foot plant, appearing as a perfectly symmetrical ornamental grass with its long slender leaves arrayed in a starburst. Its bold form makes it a stunning accent plant as well as looking great in large pots. The leaf-tips end in a point, but the leaves are flexible and bend away when touched. It can take full sun to partial shade, requires very little water, and is completely cold hearty.

Globe Mallow (Spharalcea ambigua): The orange-flowered S. ambigua is our native species, but Plant World had other species or varieties as well, one with a rich-rose colored flower and another light pink. I couldn't help myself and brought a couple of the unusually colored ones home! They'll join the native Globe Mallow that's happy to have moved back into my yard from the vacant lot across the street ... and I'm happy to have them. All are quite drought-tolerant, especially our native beauty. Spring bloomers with loads of cups shaped flowers, they'll handle cold and are happy in full sun to partial shade. Most grow to about three to four feet in height and spread. Prune them back in winter if you like, or leave them alone with a few dead twigs while you spend more time admiring rather than working the garden.

Madam Galen Trumpet Creeper (Campsis x tagliabuana "Madam Galen"): This vigorous vine that blooms its heart out for six months with lots of stunning clusters of large, red-orange trumpet flowers is one of the true show-stoppers of my garden. From late April through October, the flower gives a wonderful tropical feel while attracting many visits from the hummingbirds. I've used it to decorate the front, west-facing edge of a patio cover where it hangs like curtains, giving me shade from the afternoon sun. It also decorates one of my tall palms, a floral skirt grown 20 feet up and around the trunk! It's deciduous, so its summertime beauty disappears in winter and I considerate a moderate water-user, not a desert plant, though it seems fine with our soils. Like most moderate water users, it seems to prefer organic (wood-chip) mulch. Reputed to be somewhat invasive with suckers from roots (I've had one sprig appear in 6 years), you might want to keep it in an enclosed bed. Prune off banana-looking seed pods (they're cool!) when they brown and before they open, or you'll end up with more Madam Galen then you wanted!

Pomegranate (Punica granatum): Want success in growing fruit in Southern Nevada? Try a pomegranate tree! Pomegranates are one of the easiest fruits to produce here, for this little tree seems to like our soils along with our hot sun. It bears bright red flowers in a deep red cup in spring, then creates lots of fruit that ripens from green to red as weather cools, looking like Christmas ornaments hung throughout. It follows that with a glorious, bright yellow fall color that can radiate when the sun shines on it, and then drops her leaves. Many different varieties exist, from dwarves that flower only, to larger beings that can span 20 feet or more. The form can also be magnificent, with new growth usually being upright, but then developing branches that arch down, often weighted by heavy fruit. I recommend growing it as a multi-trunk, with anywhere from three to seven stems, and then remain diligent in completely removing any other shoots that arise from the base from then on. Like all fruit trees, it prefers organic mulch. It's more drought-tolerant than most other fruit trees, but it still needs deep, wide watering two to three times a week in summer.

Parry's or Artichoke Agave (Agave parryi v. truncata): This is a smaller, bold accent plant that grows slowly to a spread of two to two-and-a-half feet. It creates a rosette of stiff, blue-gray leaves that radiate out like the petals of an artichoke, hence the name. Leaves end at sharp terminal spines that often soft-curve, and teeth are present along the margins as well, so plant it far enough away from walkways! Its life span in cultivation varies from 10-25 years and dies after it produces its one 10-15 foot flower stalk! It's very drought-tolerant and will actually grow slower and live longer with less water. Because of its blue color, it looks great contrasted against rich green plants (see Germander, above). Vegetative offsets (pups) will often grow out the face of a rock wall when the parent plant is located above. Pups are also easily removed and planted elsewhere. It's cold-hearty and can take full sun to partial shade. The one problem is its susceptibility to a weevil that eats and rots its roots ... so treat preventively in March or April with a soil drench of systemic insecticide.


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