Back in the Valley of the Sun. Arizona is where I truly learned to garden. It can be a harsh environment; summers in Phoenix can be brutal. Some of my friends refer to summertime as gardening winter. Plants look stress, stuff dies, and it’s not fun being outside. There’s no relief from the elements even in the early morning or at night. Sounds like fun, eh? Seriously, I don’t mind it because it’s also one of the most rewarding places to garden. The trick is becoming one with the desert and leave behind the gardening experience gained in other USDA hardiness zones. As Yoda counseled Luke—you must unlearn what you have learned.
I arrived back in Phoenix about six weeks ago and moved into a house about 2 weeks ago. I have an unusual approach to feeling at home: 1) Internet and wireless, 2) yard) 3) house with furniture.
This is a yard unlike any other I have known. With the exception of the palms in the pool area, there are five living plants in my very large back yard. 95% of it is dirt or abused and neglected Bermuda grass. Now, I have to say that one of the plants is a hedge of bottlebrush, so technically more than one plant but practically speaking, it’s a single entity. This yard has experienced a lot of death in the last several months. My goal is to have a desert-friendly garden, one that can withstand the future inevitable neglect that is common with a rental house. I am also doing everything on a serious budget so I had to get creative in acquiring plant material.
I posted an ad on the local Freecycle group looking for plant cuttings and offshoots. Freecycle is an online community made up of community-based groups that allow people to give and ask for a variety of items, all for free. We’ve given away an eclectic mix of things over the years via Freecycle—I am always amazed at the materials that circulate through the freeconomy via Freecycle.
Luckily there are a lot of generous gardeners on the local group and I now have cuttings of offsets of aloe, yucca, agaves, bougainvillea and several varieties of cactus. A fellow gardener was replacing some 5 gallon-sized plants and also gave me several cuttings and a lot of clay pots. Another gardening friend has promised me more plants and cuttings and a third fellow gardener with a knack for growing totem pole cactus has offered me coveted cuttings of this unusual, thornless columnar cactus.
So the dirt expanse is being transformed. Photos to follow. Let me get furniture moved in first.