sour grapes

It’s finally spring. Spring is here at last. It’s supposed to snow in a couple of days.

Six dead agaves.  The Agave havardiana on the left sailed through -18 last winter, but this past winter was easily the worst I’ve ever seen in the garden here. Only the little Agave lechuguilla, on the right, is still alive. This doesn’t bother me.


I didn’t like the way this looked when I stared out the living room window. I stare out the window a lot, so I had to look at it a lot. Might have been the feng shui, might just have been the dumb way I planted them. They were (well, they still are) in sand and gravel and all that “drainage” stuff that people who think gardening is all about plumbing talk about. They were also covered with snow for three months, and the Agave polianthifloras in front were mowed down by rabbits who apparently mistake them for artichokes.

When I tug on the centers, the leaves just fall apart.

Not only dead agaves, but dead conifers too.


This is, or was, the ‘Effusa’ juniper; growing happily here for about twenty years, but now entirely and completely dead. I thought it was attractive; it hung over the pool which I’m going to fill with broken pieces of flagstone and then cover with dirt, but the juniper looked too “montane” or something.

I don’t live in the mountains, and I don’t live on the plains, either. (Why do you say “in the mountains” but “on the plains”?) I live just east of the foothills, in an area surrounded by outwash mesas. And suddenly I have all these empty spaces for new plants.

Today there was a crevice garden workshop at Timberline Gardens; I went, and stopped at the workshop for a bit. It looked pretty good, but I rarely do what I’m supposed to (like my dog), so I wandered around the greenhouses.

This opuntia is  attractive. I don’t know if it’s hardy, and even if it is, if I planted it in my new garden it might make the house look like a Mexican restaurant. Not a bad thing in itself, but not quite what I’m after. Besides, opuntias get these sucking bugs which are extremely annoying, and make little holes in the pads. (A capful of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap to a quart of water, sprayed, will do them in. I don’t do that, though.)


Little plants of Cupressus montana, from 11,000 feet on San Pedro Martír in Baja California. This is hardy at DBG. I seriously doubt that even at 11,000 feet it gets all that cold in Baja California. No one ever says “Let’s go skiing in Baja”. Something for the Zone People to contemplate.


My three plants of Cupressus arizonica ‘Compacta’ are completely brown, but not dry; I don’t have very much patience with this behavior but I should have wrapped them with burlap for at least three winters. Arizona cypresses are perfectly hardy here but they need a little time to settle in, and get used to the wind.

The front bed this afternoon. A couple of changes have been made, one not very subtle. I moved Grusonia (Opuntia) clavata, the club cholla, into the new bed from further out in the garden because I didn’t like the way it was looking at me when I stared out the front window. Now I can’t see it. The vicious white spines give me the creeps.

I wasn’t in the mood to spend hundreds of dollars for a trunked Yucca faxoniana which I couldn’t lift anyway, so I settled for a trunkless one. It was the only one there, too. The fact that it will have a trunk eventually, maybe in a hundred years, is good enough for me.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to sour grapes

  1. acantholimon says:

    You know you are a Coloradoan when the words “Now it’s spring” are followed by “snow soon!”–why do we put up with it? I too have lost more this winter than most. Just dismembered a large Daphne retusa that looked great for years. Room for lots of little things now (it was near a path anyway, I tell myself). Succulents of all sorts suffered the most: all my “hardy” Cheiridopsis are dead, most Aloinopsis and so on and so forth. Groan. Alpines look great though (maybe I should stick to these). Love your new dryland bed, Bob: must trump up an excuse to visit!

    • paridevita says:

      It is just a pile of gravel with cactus in it. There is some dirt in there too which I cleverly hide.
      The thing that irks me is that I tell people it never rains in the winter here and then it rains. Twice. It did that winter of 99-00 too, just once, and never went below zero here, but wiped out an Agave havardiana that had sailed through the -27 of 1991.
      Almost every broadleaf evergreen lost all its leaves, though maybe I have the “deciduous form” of each of these.
      Where else do they forecast 80 degrees with snow later that night? (Never the other way around, I notice.)

  2. Diana says:

    Your AZ cypress that are brown but not dry…does that mean still alive? I planted an AZ cypress in October, the wrong time for sure, and it is brown now, too. I’d like to think it’s alive, but I don’t want to delude myself.

    • paridevita says:

      That’s a good question. If they’re brown and dry, well, that’s pretty much that. Brown and soft, they may grow out of it, especially if we have a spring like 1995, where it snowed every day until the middle of May (but didn’t stick), and then it rained every day until the middle of June.
      Newly planted cypresses are ultra sensitive to proper hydration before they go into winter; I often don’t give them the water they need, but if they start growing lots of roots to match the above-ground growth, they take off. Cypresses don’t form resting buds in winter like many other conifers; they just stop growing.
      Some gardeners in Denver have never had any trouble with any form of AZ cypress; others have never had any luck.

  3. Desert Dweller says:

    I remember those days…Denver spring = snow, in between desert and KS/OK weather! The cypress is now illegal in the city of Abq, but they are declining in drought. But some reseed here in the foothills. Hope all your plants make it; it was one rough winter from the central high plains to the intermountain and Calif.

    (that Yucca faxoniana looks like it needs more room…can it be moved 3′ from the wall?)

    • paridevita says:

      The yucca does need more room. It isn’t going to get it, and will just have to do what I want it to. Anyway, ten years from now it will still be that size.
      Spring in Denver …..70 degrees one day, and you get all excited, then it snows. In fact it’s almost 70 today and they’re talking snow for Monday.

Comments are closed.