The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Even More Easy To Grow Plants


We should stop and wonder why food plants and flowers flourish in every kind of weather, climate, and soil. That can only come from God's Creation, engineering, and expert management. When plants fail on us, the first questions should be about favorable conditions for that plant.
Bees are known for sleeping overnight in the Chaste Tree.

For example, I had a Chaste Tree bush looking worse and worse, even though I was dragging rainwater to it. Finally, since another example was doing well, I read about the care and feeding of the Chaste Tree (more of a woody bush). Put the name of the plant in Google. That alone will provide some good post about raising that plant. Or to narrow it down, add "raising" to the search.

I only made three mistakes out of three for Chaste Tree:

  1. Never water the plant.
  2. Put it in full sun.
  3. Prune it. The plant is very tolerant of any kind of trimming.

I took it out of the shady Wild Garden and dug it into the sunniest spot. Next I trimmed every single drooping branch. Finally, I refused to give it water. "No water for you - you back-stabbing Chaste Tree." The plant revived, sprouted leaves, and thrived.

We often have the wrong solution for the target of our earnest work.

A Moline classmate thought Chaste Tree was a great plant. The plant is considered herbal, and famous for hosting bees.

Tree hollows attract some creatures.
Photo by Ann Geddes.


The Cold Food Plants
Many food plants would rather be cold: they are often at their best after a frost. I stunned people in Many-snowta (the original name of the state) when I planted spinach in the fall, covered it with leaves once we had hard frosts, and raked away leave in the early spring, with a little snow still on the ground. I read it was possible, and that worked during one of the worst winters ever. The spinach was bug free and fantastic. Spinach loves the cold and abhors heat. Spinach grown in warm weather is truly dreadful.

Kale is even hardier than spinach. I dug down through snow in Midland and found fresh, green kale for my wife to enjoy, years before baby kale became a hot item.

Other cold plants are the cabbage family and carrots.

That is why the cold loving fall bulbs (hardy bulbs) are not the best choice for a southern state.

The humanoid Saguaro cactus grows only in the Sonoran desert,
intolerant of cold,
like the snowbirds who flock there in winter.


Desert Valley Plants
The best plants to grow in a desert valley like Phoenix are those that adore heat and sun, tolerating almost no rain. Naturally, cacti flourished in spite of total neglect, although the famous Desert Botanical Garden did have volunteers watering their prize specimens.

I tried and failed with a number of plants. Tomatoes love the sun, and I grew some. They had to be planted very early lest the summer catch up with them and wilt them with blazing heat. Bee Balms were d.o.a. The plant company probably laughed when they saw that zip code.

Several plants that survived my care and flourished were - Borage, Zinnia, and Scarlet Runner Beans. Zinnias are called the desert rose. All three needed plenty of watering, which also encouraged incredible growth of nasty weeds. Dry landscaping works best in Phoenix.

Scientific types like to tell us that the desert plants evolved to adapt to heat and the lack of rain. Coincidentally, all the desert creatures co-evolved so they could flourish with the help of desert plants.

The rose Chrysler Imperial outlast the car.
This rose is more tolerant of shade.


Shade versus Sun
Having a lot of shade in Springdale - far too many trees - increased my interest in shade plants and tree-pruning. That combination opened up the property for roses, hostas, butterfly plants, and berries.

The roses get the eastern sun, a great combination of light in the cool of the day.

 Hostas flourish in shade and grow
slender flowers that hummingbirds love.


The butterfly garden, which gets an early application of buckwheat seeds, is the sunniest place, southern exposure with plenty of heat radiating from the home's block construction.

The shadiest shade is on the west side of the house, where Hosta (loved by hummingbirds) and Wild Strawberries grow.

The semi-shade is fine for berries, various low-growing bushes, and the big Butterfly Bushes.

 Butterflies show up for the Butterfly Bush,
a big, and sweet-smelling plant.
Frequent watering gives it maximum height.

I knew my Butterfly Bushes in the Wild Garden are limited by dry spells, so I water them often. The White Profusion variety grows near our bedroom window, so it benefits from

  • Extra rain streaming off the roof.
  • The rain-barrel used just for watering the bush.
  • The dirty birdbath water dumped  on the base of the plant.

Mulching the entire area gives the large plant healthy growth and a good place for birds to wait for their turn at the feeders.

Berries populate like bunnies in the right conditions.