more spring stuff

Greetings and salutations, everyone; once again it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, here to bring you the very latest news from our garden. You may remember me from such wonderful posts as “Caught On Film” and “Baffled Again”, among so many, many others.

Here I am in a characteristic pose.14032901Well, some things have been happening, besides lots of mice running around on the patio. The guy I live with has been taking advantage of the spring-like weather to move some plants around (he says that keeps them from getting too large), and doing a bunch of other stuff that may make more sense to you than it does to me.

Today he moved two small plants of Salvia dorrii which were growing unhappily in the front yard, and planted them in the sand pile. I know this doesn’t look very impressive at all. 14032902According to Hugh N. Mozingo, writing in Shrubs of the Great Basin, Salvia dorrii is not the “purple sage” as in “riders of”; the guy I live never read any Zane Grey anyway. He, that is, the guy I live with, says the sage will be happier growing in sand. Whatever, huh.

And since the guy I live with recently declared that he was taking the garden in a completely new direction (downhill, probably), the last of the tiny green lawn out in the “way back” is being removed. Buffalo grass on the left. 14032909A lot of people say to spray the grass with herbicide and do this and do that, but the guy I live with says scraping up the grass with a spade is “the right way” to do it; then you sow the seed, and cover that with a sprinkling of soil, and then burlap, held down by landscaping pins. Isn’t this attractive? 14032908The pins are there to make the burlap pretty taut, so I don’t trip over it, which is a good thing, and the pins will be removed next year, or later this year. Since the seeds will eventually be watered (though, again, not as much as people say they need to be, because of the burlap), the burlap will rot almost completely after a year.

Oh, he finds the old landscape pins with one of those magnet extender deals they use for car repair, to pick up dropped stuff. He used it a lot back when he worked on cars.

All of this means that the lawn will be brown at this time of year, instead of green. You can see me, here, surveying the brown blue grama lawn. It has some buffalo grass and other native grasses in it, too. The guy I live with says this looks natural, and you know how much I like natural. 14032904Since it’s spring and all, there are a few bulbs blooming. Mostly puschkinias (Puschkinia libanotica, or P. scilloides var. libanotica, or just scilloides, or whatever); he planted a few some years ago, and now has what you might call “more than a few”. 14032910You may notice, in this next picture, a dark hole-looking thing. It is a hole. Dug by a rabbit. The guy I live with says he feels like a creep filling in these rabbit holes, but they’re not allowed to build homes in the garden. The gray straggly thing, Artemisia arbuscula, really isn’t, it just looks that way. And puschkinias. (And no, he says, I don’t capitalize or italicize puschkinia unless I’m referring to the genus Puschkinia.)puschkinias


14032911If you’re thinking “that’s a lot of puschkinias”, you’re probably right. The guy I live with thinks it’s way too many, but they’re obviously quite happy here. There is another species, Puschkinia peshmenii, and a newly-described one, P. kurdica.

Oh, and the pink form of Chionodoxa luciliae. (The blue is out in the front yard .)14032907Well, there you are. This is what’s been happening, mostly.

I’ll leave you with a picture of me in yet another characteristic pose. I like my fort a lot. Especially with the Pottery Barn rug inside. (It’s on top of a piece of carpet…a clean piece of carpet….so it’s pretty cozy. And yes, we know the kitchen floor could use some replacing. That’s very high on the list of the guy I live with’s “priorities to be put off until the end of time”.)14032912


Until next time, then.

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16 Responses to more spring stuff

  1. Susan ITPH says:

    That Salvia dorrii is really sad. Really really sad. I’m glad you moved it. Also, I didn’t know puschkinia were dry land bulbs. That’s what I get for listening to the dutch growers, I guess.

    • paridevita says:

      Very sad indeed. It was growing in clay yuck next to the house. When I dug out the bed initially, ages ago, there were pieces of duct work, old carpet, etc. The roots were still intact within the root ball, even though the plants had been there for about five years. There are happier ones, elsewhere, here. You can see how annoyingly happy the puschkinias are. Peter Sheasby in Bulbous Plants of Turkey and Iran (a dangerous book for people like me, with no will power at all when it comes to bulbs) says “the plants grow in damp, grassy places close to melting snow”, which to me doesn’t mean they need damp, grassy places; they need melting snow. Easily provided here.

  2. My Salvia dorrii also looks sad although it is planted in sandy/silty soil. I think the pocket gophers nibble on it. Speaking of gophers, did your gophers ever bother all your small bulbs, maybe a midnight snack now and then?

    • paridevita says:

      No doubt mice and squirrels consume their share of bulbs. We don’t have gophers here, fortunately. I think container-grown sand plants are extremely difficult to establish without a whole lot of watering. With a couple years’ worth of regular watering, the plants seem to be able to get their roots down to the point where they can collect natural precipitation. It’s a poorly understood aspect of horticulture, probably because hardly anyone does it, and because of the fixation on “drainage” (rather than percolation). Penstemon ambiguus and Abronia fragrans are two species I’ve had a lot of difficulty getting established. Direct-sowed seed of P. ambiguus this year; we’ll see. Forget where this quote originated. “Soil texture is of large importance as it affects both infiltration and the movement of wetting fronts. Fine-textured soils that are high in clay and silt fraction tend to impede infiltration, in which wetting fronts move only very slowly, and surface evaporation after rainfalls can be very high. More-coarse-textured soils rich in sand fractions, as for instance sandy loams, are characterized by high infiltration rates and rapid percolation. For this reason, coarse-textured soils are often better for plant growth. As this is in contrast to soils in mesic areas where fine-textured soils are commonly considered to be superior for plant production, this is called the ‘inverse texture effect’.” About a third of the raised beds here are now just sand and gravel.

      • Your quote mentions “sandy loam” which implies a certain amount of organic matter. Are you planting in pure sand without the organic matter? Is the gravel for a mulch? With the sand on top of your clay soil, does that present a problem or are the beds deep enough not to have to worry about it?
        I spend an inordinate amount of time watering supposedly xeric plants including the S. dorrii, but mostly a few of the penstemons seem to appreciate my efforts. I am trying P. ambiguus from seed this year also along with gopher repellent castor oil granules. The chicken wire baskets didn’t work all that well. Raised beds with a hardware cloth bottom might be the solution. Too bad I don’t have a 17 year old kid to do the work, just a 70 year old body.
        My dog Bailey will eat in her kennel, but not sleep there. Chess looks so comfortable that I guess I will have to buy Pottery Barn sheets.

      • paridevita says:

        The raised beds are pure sand and gravel, no mulch, really, except I do like a mix of pea gravel and 3/4” (1.9cm) or less gravel as a topping. Zero organic matter. (The sand I bought had a weird smell to it and so I added some compost and Yum Yum Mix so that the microbes would eat whatever was causing the smell, but it turned out it was just wet sand picking up a smell; it didn’t have anything on it. The organic matter has mostly disappeared.) The beds are 2 feet (60cm) high, minimum. I try to wash off all the organic gunk clinging to the roots so the plants won’t get the wrong idea. It takes about three years of intense watering otherwise. At least. I think, with organic gunk in the soil, and especially with clay soil, you wind up with a vicious circle of irrigation. Roots don’t grow deep enough, plant needs water, plant gets water, roots don’t grow deep enough. If the roots haven’t left the root ball after five years, as was the case with the salvias out in front, there’s something wrong. Someone told me last year that sharper-edged gravel discourages rodents. I can’t picture a discouraged rodent, but maybe it works.

  3. Chess, all your photos in this post just emit personality. So hard to believe you are not still a puppy, especially in that last fort photo.
    I am beginning at last to appreciate the landscape made by the guy you live with. As evidenced in those two mid-range shots, I can see the design elements, the scale, the texture, the placement. Drifts of puschkinia are so delicate, and I like the pop-up of bulbs. Chionodoxa luciliae is lovely. If heritage roses did not have so strong a hold on my heart, I would have a garden like your guy’s. As it is, natives rule the streetside borders.

    • paridevita says:

      Thanks; I sometimes still feel like a puppy. I go out and lie down in the garden so I can watch the guy I live with do whatever it is he’s doing. I used to do the same thing when my mommy weeded, which she loved doing. She would weed and weed, and I would watch. So technically I know how to weed, but ….. Anyway, the path that you see me standing on, running diagonally through the garden, was made by my Uncle Pooka, who believe that the shortest distance between two points was the shortest distance, not the longest. The guy I live with was irked at first, but after a while, and also long after he passed away, the path was referred to as Pooka’s Shortcut. Most of the paths here were made that way, by us, deciding there was always a better way to go than the way the guy I live with thought things (that is, purebred border collies) should go. Only my buddy Slipper was seriously into 90 degree angles, and he would walk down the path by the cactus garden (the one with the hose on it), then make a left, 90 degrees, and trot down the north path. Rarely ever did he use a diagonal or curving path. Though he did create a Secret Shortcut under the hedge of lilacs so that when we were running after each other he could sneak through and go “Aha!” at me when I was out in the “way back”. The guy I live with thinks the garden isn’t like anyone else’s, which may or may not be a good thing.

      • Vivian Swift says:

        City planners and civil engineers have a name for those kinds of footpaths that are made when people trot off the official walkways and trample their own, usually more efficient or scenic, passages. They’re called “desire paths”. I love it that your garden has desire paths all through it, like ley lines that only you and the guy you live with can decipher. Yes, I’d say that your garden is not like anyone else’s for sure.

      • paridevita says:

        Well, it is a garden designed mostly by purebred border collies, with hardscape by my mommy. (She was the one who built the arbors, with the guy I live with’s help, and laid the flagstone, etc.) “Desire paths” is good. There’s also the one that goes from where the patio table is, straight out to the garden, which my buddy Slipper made, since if there was something that needed barking at out in the field, little time could be wasted. The guy I live with spread rocks on it so it looks artful now. I still use it. The two main “desire paths”, the diagonal ones crossing the lawn (which used to be called “the Great Lawn”, nod to English gardening books), are border collie paths, and after my buddy Slipper died I stopped using them, because it was no fun to, to the point where maybe two years ago you could hardly see them, but last year I started again.

  4. I like the look of the brown grass. And I think you have solved a problem for me, which is when to capitalize plant names, and when not to, although I am still not entirely clear. But I am a little closer to getting it. I think.

    • paridevita says:

      Genus is always capitalized; specific epithet, never. Both are italicized. Families are not. “Penstemon wrightii is in the family Plantaginaceae.” (Back in the last century, and earlier, if a specific epithet referred to a person, it was capitalized, e.g. Penstemon Wrightii, but that’s been discontinued. Lots of books, published before about 1950, employ this form of nomenclature.) The suffix –aceae rhymes with “spacey”, by the way. Generic names are capitalized: “the genus Penstemon.” When a reference is made to a plant, the name appears as an ordinary word. “Look, a penstemon!” The plural of penstemon is penstemons. “Look, a whole bunch of penstemons!”

      I could go on …..

      The brown grass, buffalo grass, blue grama (“grama” is the Spanish for “grass”, so saying “blue grama grass” is redundant; it’s the state grass of both Colorado and New Mexico), and other warm-season native grasses, are green at the base now. Blue grama takes a while to become completely green, but the turf-type buffalo grasses, like ‘Cody’ which is used here, turn green fairly quickly.

  5. petabunn says:

    You are so cute in your fort Chess, my mum just wants to squeeze you with cuddles. Too caught in the fort moment to comment on anything in the garden, except of course you perusing your domain. Just too gorgeous as usual.

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