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Hot Gardens Newsletter:  April 2005

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The Natural Butterfly Garden.  The heavy rains we experienced this winter have given way to a gorgeous seas of flowers in our Southwestern deserts. 

The most amazing and rare bloom is at the southern end of Death Valley where acres and acres of flowers are accompanied by millions of Painted Lady butterflies.  And these butterflies seems to be everywhere across Arizona, Nevada, Utah -- even as far away as southern California beach towns.  The Painted Lady butterflies are, in fact, found on every continent, but this year there are an abundance of them.  (If you are reading this in late April, unfortunately, the wildflower bloom in Death Valley will be over.)   For more about gardens for butterflies and bees, go here.

Add color to your garden in late winter.

aloe arborsenscens in bloom South African aloes in bloom at the Los Angeles Arboretum.  In late winter when most of the Arboretum was drab these hardy plants put on an astonishing and gorgeous show.  This giant aloe is the Aloe arborenscens.

 

spire aloes in bloom

Spire aloes in bloom in February in the Los Angeles Arboretum.  


Hardenbergia Lilac vine Another plant that blooms in late winter are the intensely purple flowers of the Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia) . We also think of them as early signs of spring.

Washed Out.  The winter rain washed away the damaging salts which accumulate naturally in our poor soil.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that the drenching rains also washed away many nutrients.  You may need to increase the frequency with which you fertilize your garden.  Please note:  do not increase the amount of fertilizer you use at any one time, just fertilize a little more often. 

Watch for signs that your plants are suffering from "malnutrition".  In particular, if you notice that the leaves are turning yellow while the veins stay green (a condition known as chlorosis), you may need to use a fertilizer with micronutrients such as iron and sulphur.  Ask your local nursery or garden center for recommendations.  Adding organic amendments to your flower beds will also help restore vital plant nutrients.

feathery cassia in bloom

Oh Those Beautiful Aussies.  The brilliant yellow blooming shrubs you are seeing everywhere are the Australian-native Feathery Cassias (Cassia artemisioides or Senna artemisioides -- botanists don't agree about the latin name!)  They bloom early, are drought-tolerant, and look great massed along a garden wall as a low, open gray-green hedge, reaching only 3 to 5 feet tall.  And they are virtually carefree -- just plant them and ignore them.  

Invisible Texan.  Another plant that goes largely unnoticed until it blooms in Spring is the Mescal Bean tree or Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora).  This native of Texas, New Mexico and northern Mexico bursts forth with purple or lavender wisteria-like blossoms at this time of year.   Often trimmed to a tree-like shape, it grows very slowly to 20 feet tall.  The downside: its brilliant red seed pods are poisonous so pick them up and dispose of them safely.

texas mountain laurel in bloom

The Mescal Bean tree tolerates drought, poor soil, wind, cold, heat and keeps on looking great and green year 'round.  In Spring it has lovely wisteria-like blooms.


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