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The Xeric Zone > Foundations :: A Gardener's Journal




A Gardener's Journal

David Cristiani

April 1890

Greetings, gentle person. Another spring day unfolds after last night's soft rain. It recharged all of the classic, scented plants that decorate our garden, surrounding the screened porch. The robins are resounding through the greenery of the birch grove, while the rhododendrons grace us with their blooms. The dew on the bowling green is so exquisite this time of day. The grander the lawn and flower borders, the better…



That paraphrase is based on so many works about those longing to live in a different time; certainly for a different place, where rain and fertile soils are abundant. Perhaps it is like your dream, but the southwest has something else to say! The reality of the southwestern high deserts is refreshingly different and more relaxed from that of back east; it might sound a little more like this:



April 2001

Howdy, compadre! A spring day has dawned over the nearby hills. Last night, the wind and dust stopped blowing, and the temperature really dropped. Not to worry, though, since the blazing sun has risen once again, to tighten its grip more each day. The next few weeks will undoubtedly bring the last few plants into leaf, just in time for the heat. It might be interrupted by occasional spells of our summer monsoon, bringing humidity and flash flooding; certainly in time for the firecrackers to rivet the air.


Before that happens, though, we must enjoy the lovely sound of the roadrunner. Their calls taunt reptiles and house cats within range. Did I mention reptiles? Rattlers and lizards of every kind love emerging from their winter rest during our warm days, and as it gets a little too hot, they spend the afternoons under any boulder that suits their fancy, along with scorpions and centipedes. And we mustn’t forget the regal cat. While your highness is sleeping the day away inside, his or her larger relatives are also sleeping…and dreaming of a productive evening hunt. Be watchful near those junipers and oaks…a puma’s tail can really blend in.


A true westerner, though, has awe and respect for those things; not fear. When you rise and shine before work, step outside and enjoy the coolness with a strong cup of joe. Nights and mornings are the rare times where the wind isn’t blowing this time of year. One might see a hummingbird enjoy the brilliant flowers of penstemon, agave, hesperaloe…and yes, the cardinal red flowers of a hedgehog cactus. This prickly plant's golden spines really glisten when backlit by a sunrise, and that may be one of the only things that glisten during this arid time of the year. Perhaps the cool purple of verbena presents itself nearby, mocking the dry decomposed granite we call soil. You are best to enjoy it, or else the white flowers of desert willow will signal that the heat is on.


When you return home at day's end, take a load off. Grab a cool drink and relax on your patio in the afternoon warmth, with the rustling sounds of bright green, freshly emerged mesquite leaves, or the pungent scents of sand sage or mariola. The more desert plants in your garden, the better! Especially if some of those plants have spines…an oasis in the high desert is delightfully different from Virginia. One can never have enough prickly pear and yucca in their garden.



I hope you have enjoyed this rather true parody. Like me, you may see the futility of battling reality for a waterlogged Victorian life from the past. If you agree that the song of the desert is different, but just as sweet as the Commonwealth's, then call the Quercus Group! We can help create your own timeless setting for the real southwest.




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