Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
August, 2007
Regional Report

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A pollinator visits a pale pink Habranthus flower.

Monsoon Miscellany

Monsoon rains, humidity, and winds trigger changes in the Southwestern landscape. Some, such as broken tree limbs and dusty foliage, benefit from the gardener's immediate attention. Other scenarios require nothing from us, except perhaps a bit of admiration in the case of late-summer ephemerals. They provide a serendipitous surprise, erupting with a flash of color, quickly completing their life cycle during favorable conditions.

Summer Bloomers
One of my monsoon garden favorites is the well-named rain lily (Zephyranthes). Flowering in reponse to rain, the low-growing white or pink flowers spread like weeds for me (where the rabbits don't munch their succulent foliage to the ground, that is), although yellow bloomers have always been less vigorous. As a matter of fact, I can't recall seeing any yellow in the last couple years, so it may be time to replant them.

Habranthus is another bulb with similar flat, strappy leaves and pretty trumpet-shaped flowers. I tucked the somewhat pricey bulbs I purchased in a large container, out of rabbit reach, and they have bloomed three years in a row.

If you've previously grown devil's claw in the landscape, it's a good bet you'll find seedlings in the vicinity. These native plants self-sow prolifically and thumb their noses at heat and unimproved soil. Traditional basketweavers harvest the dry, claw-shaped seedpods for their strong fibers.

Desert windstorms leave dusty foliage in their wake, and dusty foliage offers prime real estate for mites. Mites are teensy eight-legged creatures, difficult to see without a magnifying glass. It's usually easier to spot the fine webbing they create, or the rusty color that's a telltale sign of a mite population in residence. Hose off dusty plants early in the morning before sun hits the foliage. If morning isn't doable, wait until sun is gone later in the day, but still allow time for foliage to air dry before nightfall. Wet, humid foliage provides a conducive environment for fungal diseases.

Finally, a reader asked for an update on Tiny the Quail. I am sad to report that the Gambel's quail family departed from my backyard while I was out of town so I'm not sure what happened to the five youngsters. My animal-watching housesitter says she observed a male with babies poking around in the front yard shrubbery on several occasions. When I returned, I spied a male with teenagers near the front sidewalk, but since there are other quail families that roam the neighborhood, it's impossible to tell who's who at this point. If I was more technology-minded (and even more quail co-dependent than previously described), I guess I could have set up cameras on the back wall to monitor their comings and goings!

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