After I planted the ocotillo this afternoon (I got it on sale and it was the last one), my neighbor walked up and said, “That looks dead.”
Well, it isn’t dead, but if you think about it, a plant that already looks dead even when it’s alive has a lot going for it. When Calvin Coolidge died, Dorothy Parker said, “How could they tell?” The ocotillo is like that. If it makes it through the winter, fine; if it doesn’t, well, that’s fine too.
I suppose if I lived in a hot desert I’d grow nothing but plants that looked dead half the year. (An ocotillo can look dead for a very long time. I grew a dead one for years.) I have a dwindling collection of such plants, pachypodiums, commiphoras, burseras, etc., that look dead most of the time, growing in the upstairs bedroom. Sometimes they do die and I don’t notice it for years; I keep watering them in the winter or spring, and eventually it dawns on me that the plant has passed on. Or I just keep watering them, wondering why there are no signs of life.
Gardening doesn’t get any better than this.