By Scott Calhoun
Late fall is when I kick off my boots, take a look at my garden and ask: What worked, what didn’t, and what will I do about it? Below is my garden recap for 2012, which may help other Southwest desert gardeners.
Generally, desert gardens are not known for their spring bulb displays. People don’t think we can grow a wide variety of bulbs. But there are some really good ones—such as the dwarf iris (Iris reticulata), featured above, that I planted in my garden last fall.
For low desert areas, look for bulbs that are good up to at least USDA Zone 9. Some others that fit that description include species tulips, particularly Tulipa culisiana. You can also try winter-growing South African bulbs, such as Lachenalia and Moraea, in pots. This fall I’m adding more bulbs of all types.
Along with bulbs, spring-flowering wildflowers sow by seed in fall. As with bulbs they are among the first plants to bloom in the spring. I appreciate their unfussy nature and how they help knit together the blank spaces between plants in desert gardens.
Succulents surrounded by bumper crops
I love growing agaves and cacti, but what I’ve done this year is surround them with low-growing flowering plants I call “bumper crops.” These ground dwellers complement the sculptural form of the succulents. In the photo, octopus agave contrasts with Mexican evening primrose.
Barrel cactus for summer color
Often showing their stuff in July and August, barrel cacti are excellent for producing a surprisingly colorful flower crown during the sultry summer months. This year I want more of them!
Bring houseplants outdoors
In many desert cities you can bring your houseplants outside for many months of the year. Plants that include Sansevieria love shade and are great for under porches. Ditto for Gasteria species. In Tucson I’m vowing to fill my patio with these next spring. I can keep them out for nearly nine months of the year.
What have you done this last year in your garden that you will love to have more of in 2013?