Tag Archives: Xeric plants

Holy Jurassic Suburban Jungle Batman…

Okay so technically I should have referenced the Carboniferous Period, but somehow I can’t imagine Robin saying “Carboniferous Period”. Anyway, I’m back!

We had a lovely holiday. We were away for a week taking in some of the sites of the Texas panhandle (yes there are some) and the high desert mountains of New Mexico. I’m in love with New Mexico, I completely understand why they call it “The Land of Enchantment”, and I’m convinced that (as long as you stay away from the chains) you can’t get a bad meal there… but I’m skipping ahead of myself.

We began our trip by heading to Canyon, Texas to visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States, with a fascinating history. According to the Handbook of Texas Online:

“The Spanish name Palo Duro means “hardwood” and refers to the hardwood shrubs and trees found in the canyon. Palo Duro Canyon was carved into the eastern Caprock escarpment of the High Plains … by the headwaters of the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and by attendant weathering. The head of the canyon lies fifteen miles southeast of Amarillo in Randall County, and the canyon extends sixty miles southeast through Armstrong County and into Briscoe County. It reaches depths of 800 feet from rim to floor (approximately 3,500 feet to 2,400 feet above sea level) and average widths of more than six miles. The steep sides of Palo Duro Canyon consist of bright, banded layers of orange, red, brown, yellow, grey, maroon, and white rocks that represent four different geologic periods and a time span of more than 240 million years …  Adding to the canyon’s scenic grandeur are numerous pinnacles, buttes, and mesas, each protected by a cap of erosion-resistant sandstone or other rock. The natural vegetation of the canyon consists of a variety of grasses and other xerophytic vegetation such as prickly pear, yucca, mesquite, and juniper. Cottonwood, willow, and salt cedar grow along the banks of Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.

Because of the availability of wood, water, game, edible wild plants, raw materials for weapons and tools, and shelter from harsh winter winds, Palo Duro Canyon was a favorite camp site for both prehistoric peoples and later Indian tribes. The first known inhabitants, who date from the period between 10,000 and 5,000 B.C. were big-game hunters of now-extinct giant bison and mammoths …

The first Europeans to see Palo Duro Canyon were probably the members of the Coronado expedition, who may have camped and rested there in the late spring of 1541 while searching for Quivira and the treasures it reputedly contained. The region was occupied at that time by bands of pre-horse-culture Apache Indians who depended heavily on buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter. In the eighteenth century, after the Plains Indians had acquired horses, the canyon became a major campground of the Comanches and Kiowas. Traders from New Mexico called Comancheros frequently came to Palo Duro to trade with the Indians. The first Anglo-Americans to explore Palo Duro Canyon were members of Capt. Randolph B. Marcy‘s 1852 expedition in search of the sources of the Red River … In 1876 a group of army engineers, teamsters, and civilian draftsman was in the area to explore the headwaters of the Red River and conduct a topographic and scientific survey … That same year, Charles Goodnight drove a herd of cattle into Palo Duro Canyon to begin the first commercial ranch in the Panhandle, the JA.

Although the canyon remained the domain of the cattlemen for the next half century, it also became a popular picnicking and camping place for residents in the surrounding area. In 1933 the state of Texas purchased land in the upper canyon to establish Palo Duro Canyon State Scenic Park. Initial improvements, including construction of a road to the floor of the canyon, were made by the Civilian Conservation Corps under the direction of the National Park Service.”

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon

Pod People in Palo Duro Canyon

Unfortunately we didn’t get to experience as much of the park as we would have liked because the April Fool’s Day temps in the canyon were 90+o (F) and there was a bike race on that made walking the nice, shaded river trail we found a little too exciting (I just can’t move out of the way that fast!). None of that will dissuade us from another visit though, plus I got a great little ethnobotany book while I was there.

After our canyon visit we spent a couple of days soaking our weary selves in the snowy New Mexican mountains before heading off to Santa Fe.

Near Ojo Caliente Hot Springs (New Mexico)

I won’t bore you with gushing on about how much I loved Santa Fe. Suffice it to say it was exactly what we needed. Especially since it apparently rained a bit and then got warm and sunny while we were gone, and this is the garden (err, jungle) I came back to.

I swear there is a veggie garden in there somewhere

I think it’s fair to say “I’m in the weeds”. And I’m not even showing you my lower growing beds (primarily because I need to excavate from under building debris that has been “stored” on them before I can call them growing beds again). Oh well, no rest for the wicked and more fodder for the blog (pun intended but you’ll have to wait for the next post to see why). If you don’t hear from me in a couple of days please send out the search party.

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Cha-ching, Cha-ching

Seriously folks, it’s time for an intervention! I spent so much time out in the garden weeding, planting, and bumping seedlings into bigger pots over the past couple of days that I completely forgot I had paying work to do! And then the “I need more plants” bug bit and, well, I ordered MORE plants. For those of you who are still in the “I think I’d like a little garden” frame of mind, let this be a warning that “a little garden” is a gateway drug to full-blown gardening obsession and this is an example of your brain (and dwindling pocket-book) on gardening.

Plants are all so pretty though…here is some of what I got. These plants are all known to work in my local climate and soil conditions; the pictures represent examples of the types of plants I got but not necessarily the variety. The pictures link to a site called “my garden insider“, “a website dedicated to providing gardeners with information and inspiration on the activity of gardening.” I hope they inspire you.

Happy gardening!

You’re hot then you’re cold, you’re yes then you’re no… plant hardiness zones vs. heat zones

The other day I posted a link to the USDA’s new plant hardiness zones. Although a composite of a number of factors, the zones are generally referenced to determine the minimum temperature at which a plant is likely to remain viable. While these zones are a useful starting point, for growers like me (for whom heat can be a much more limiting factor than cold) they offer quite limited information as to which plants are likely to thrive year-on-year.

To elaborate, I live in zone 8a, now if you look at the hardiness zone maps you will see that zone 8 ranges from the Pacific Northwest to North Carolina to most of the United Kingdom to China to parts of southern Africa. Now when I think of the Pacific Northwest I think of temperate rainforests, moss and lots of ferns; when I think of North Carolina I think of sultry summers, mixed deciduous forests and lush lawns; and when I think of North Central Texas I think of remnant prairie, remnant cross timbers and blazing hot and dry summers (I’m wanting to walk into a freezer just thinking about it!). Obviously, while knowing the minimum temperatures my perennials need to overwinter is useful I’m far more interested in the amount of heat, drought and just downright abuse they can tolerate.

Fortunately, the American Horticultural Society has recognized the limits of the USDA’s plant hardiness zones and developed a complementary set of heat zone maps. As you can see from the AHS’s article, there are still other factors (such as average annual and seasonal precipitation, soil pH and composition, etc.) that must be taken into account when choosing plants, but by taking both hardiness and heat zones into consideration when choosing what to plant we improve the odds of having a thriving landscape (and ultimately making better use of both our natural and personal resources); because even though the saying goes “you’re not a real gardener until you’ve killed hundreds of plants” when it comes down to it I’d really like to pick plants that at least stand chance of making it before I kill them.

These are a few of my favorite things… seed catalogs

If you’re old enough (and American) you may remember pouring over the Sears and/or JCPenny’s annual wish book, dog earring its pages and wondering which of its many delights Santa would leave under the tree. Well it’s the same for gardeners.

At this time of year we gardeners (at least for those of us in parts of the northern hemisphere) anxiously awaiting the arrival of various seed catalogs (otherwise known as garden porn) and wonder what marvels they’ll offer to delight and intrigue us; but there are seed suppliers and then there are seed suppliers. The following are some of my favorite places to source seeds and plants (this is by no means an exhaustive list); the majority of these suppliers are heirloom and/or organic suppliers and small businesses. (Please note that I’m not opposed to the use of non-GMO hybrid seed, there are some fantastic hybrid plants out there. I just happen to like playing with heirlooms, sometimes even seeing what hybrids I can come up with.)

Now before you dive in I must warn you that, the seed habit can get a bit expensive (especially if you are like me and just have to try new things every year). However, don’t despair if you are on a limited budget because I plan to do a follow-up post on more frugal ways of acquiring plant stock (seed swaps, plant swaps, garden clubs, etc.). S0 for now enjoy browsing through the catalogs and let your imagination run wild.

(Companies in bold are companies that I have bought items from and would do so again).

D. Landreth Seed Company
The Oldest Seed House in America, est. 1784, with more than 900 Heirloom Seed varieties, roots, onion, shallot, garlic sets, tubers, Heirloom flower bulbs more than 50 Dahlia varieties plus Classic Garden tools and equipment. Their mission is  to provide quality seeds to our customers. They are committed to buying American, employing American and keeping our local economy as their main focus. They  are non-GMO and most of their seeds are open-pollinated. All seeds are hybrid. A few of their seeds are F1 Hybrids which means they do not breed true. In particular, our Black Pearl Hot Pepper and the Fairytale eggplant. Just about everything else is open pollinated and heirloom.

Seed Savers Exchange
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. Since 1975, their members have been passing on our garden heritage by collecting and distributing thousands of samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange offers more than 700 varieties of vegetable, flower, herb, grain and cover crop seeds. They emphasize varieties that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, although gardeners and farmers from all over the country grow our seeds and I look to them for plant varieties that will do well in extreme heat. They specialize in heirloom seeds and primarily offer open-pollinated (non-hybrid) seeds.

High Country Gardens
Beautiful Plants for the waterwise garden.

Abundant Life Seeds
Abundant Life Seeds have been protecting the genetic diversity of rare and endangered food crops since 1975. Their goal is to offer true-to-type open pollinated varieties grown using only certified organic or biodynamic farming methods.

Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply
Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply originated in 1976 on tiny Peaceful Valley Road in Nevada City, California. They are dedicated to preserving the environment by providing  cost-effective, state-of-the-art, organic growing supplies and the information and tools needed to apply them. They strive to provide growers at every level, from home gardeners to commercial farmers, with great service, low prices and the best selection of quality products available.

Trees of Antiquity
Heirloom fruit trees for your home. Their heirloom and traditional fruit trees exist thanks in great part to the home gardeners who continue to explore beyond the store shelves in search of a treasured trait that has eluded many of our supermarket aisles. They encourage everyone to maintain this search and share in the revival of these relics from the past. It’s a unique experience to bite into a fruit that explodes with a complexity of sweetness chased with a dash of tartness.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Baker Creek carries one of the largest selections of seeds from the 19th century, including many Asian and European varieties. The company has grown to offer 1300 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs—the largest selection of heirloom varieties in the U.S.A. The company has become a tool to promote and preserve our agricultural and culinary heritage. All of their seed is non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented.

Raintree Nursery
Raintree selects fruit varieties for flavor and ease of growing with over 800 cultivars for the American Gardener, shipped directly to your home since 1972! They have a great selection of unusual varieties for the permaculturalist.

Botanical Interests
Botanical Interests’ goal is to inspire and educate the gardener in you so that you can create beautiful and prolific gardens. They offer:

Over 500 high-quality varieties
Many heirloom seed varieties
A large selection of USDA Certified Organic seed varieties
Guaranteed – the germination rate of every variety is tested before we package it
All our seed is untreated
No GMOs – we enthusiastically signed the SAFE SEED PLEDGE: We do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants

High Mowing Organic Seeds
High Mowing Organic Seeds is committed to providing the highest quality, 100% organic seed to growers. When you buy organic seed, you have the assurance that the seed was grown without synthetic chemicals and you are supporting farms and companies that are committed to organic agriculture with your purchase.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
They are an employee-owned company and one of the first signers of the “Safe Seed Pledge”. They may not be solely organic or heirloom, but these two aspects go a long way with me.

Territorial Seed Company
Territorial Seed Company specializes in seeds, live plants, flower bulbs, tools, and garden supplies and is another signator to the “Safe Seed Pledge”.
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A late breaking entry from my friend Theresa who reminded me of the following group. I have not done business with them, but she has and says she would again.

Native Seeds/ SEARCH
Native Seeds/SEARCH conserves, distributes and documents the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seeds, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico. They promote the use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by gathering, safeguarding, and distributing their seeds to farming and gardening communities. Native Seeds/SEARCH is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Tucson, Arizona.