Well, I don't know whether we'll have that much fun. In fact, this will be the kind of straightforward post I almost never write. I apologize if it's long and dull, but I'm hoping you'll be kind enough to bear with me and offer me your suggestions. (Apologies also to those of you who aren't into this much gardening nitty-gritty. We will return to our regularly scheduled program on Sunday.) I'm still thinking through plans for the garden and beginning to put some of them in practice, but I thought I'd run them past you before I reach the point of no return so you can warn me if I'm doing something insane before I've actually done it.
The Conditions—earling morning to mid-day sun for four to six hours, depending on the location. The most open light is right in the center, with dappled shade along the periphery beneath the three small trees and full shade between the two largest bushes on the left. Seriously alkaline soil with fair drainage and no nutrients; mixed clay, sand, and decomposed granite. An average of eight inches of moisture per year. USDA hardiness zone 7, AHS heat zone 8.
- Interesting in all four seasons. I'll be out on the patio every weekend morning all winter, so I don't want too many of the kinds of perennials that fade away to nothing, or that look gorgeous for three weeks a year and then have nothing further to say for themselves.
- Not very thirsty. Plants that might look better with additional water, but that can survive on just rainfall are ideal.
- Friendly to wildlife and able to withstand the neighbors' cats.
- Easy to create and maintain. I'm really not saying the following because I want sympathy or anything—I really kind of don't—but because it's a critical factor that has to be taken into account. This year my CFS/ME has worsened; even just this summer I've lost about another 10% functionality. Literally the only fun, non-sedentary activities left in my life are occasional, vacation-day trips to the outdoors, and gardening. If the downward trend continues, they will have to go as well. I'm not planning on that happening, but because I love being out in the garden so much, I want to make sure that I can continue enjoying it no matter what. I'd like to set the stage for it to run itself a little more if need be without losing its general shape or fizzling altogether. With my current energy levels, any changes I make will be piecemeal—a few small things here and there. It will take me a couple of months to do what a healthy person can do in a weekend. All to say, the easier the better.
|There are actually two young sand cherries along the sides, growing slowly in part sun. I've unearthed the soaker hoses from the mulch so I know where to plant; I currently run them once a week but would like to cut that use at least in half.|
|A view the other direction, showing the general shape of the funkiest desert olive tree.|
The central bed will be more of a "bowl of sunshine" out in the open, with short-grass prairie type plants (also from seed). Blue grama grass will be the primary planting, with rough menodora, long-flowered gilly (an annual), and more flax, all of which are 12-18" tall (according to my books). (An experimental milkweed is already growing there, and as it's doing well, it may as well stay and make some more of itself.)
I do have vines planted, but they're still either in their sleeping or creeping years; hopefully next summer they'll begin to leap and cover the walls in earnest.
The Concerns—I'm hoping the prolific re-seeders will help the garden be more self-sustaining, but I might end up making too much work for myself with extra weeding. When sturdy, native, drought-tolerant, indestructible grasses with six-foot deep roots start coming up between the bricks in the path, I might really regret this. An alternative might be to continue planting a tapestry of groundcovers of different heights and textures. Also, what I'm hoping will be kind of an unbuttoned, easily natural look might just end up being a mess. Thoughts? Warning bells?
Blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis)
Sand lovegrass (Eragrostis trichodes) (This doesn't get to 5' in NM—the seed heads top out at more like 2', and they're all air.)
Silky threadgrass (Nassella tenuissima)
Angelita daisies (Hymenoxys acaulis)
Blue flax (Linum lewisii)
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Long-flowered gilly (Ipomopsis longiflora)
Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea)
Rough menodora (Menodora scabra)
Scarlet globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea)
The Note of Thanks—
I really do appreciate your help on this.