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Southwestern Sustainable Farmscaping: Planting for Home Livestock

 
The right plants can provide needed cover for livestock, repel insects, and serve as forage.
Everywhere across the American Southwest, folks are raising chickens, milking goats, horses, and grazing their own cattle. The rural way of life is evolving towards animal care and organic gardening. Dependence on livestock is creeping into the suburbs, too, where clean, efficient animal keeping is bumping up against the traditional backyard. […]

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The Dos and Don’ts of Hand Watering

Don’t get water on plant leaves in hot, direct sunlight. The droplets can act as magnifying glasses and damage leaf tissues.
Successful gardening always comes back to the basics: soil, sun, oxygen, plants, and, most of all, water.  Hand watering is the key to everything in the garden world out West.  Get it right and your garden goes crazy.  Blow it and plants languish.  Water facilitates […]

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Pool Planting Tips from Hollywood’s Heyday

A Palm Springs mid-century modern was restored for climate change using artificial turf and some agaves. (Image by Maureen Gilmer)
In Hollywood’s heyday, stars drove from Los Angeles to the desert resort of Palm Springs to party and tan in the quiet comfort of desert living.  The swimming pool came of age here as the focus of every landscape where its year-around usability became integral to […]

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Desert Gold Poppy: Create a Superbloom in Your Backyard

Desert poppies stay low on windy hilltops.
In the wave of Superbloom in California, a rare wildflower is making a massive appearance.  Desert gold poppy (Eschscholzia glyptosperma) is a smaller cousin of the famous California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) because it grows only in the desert. Virtually every aspect of the plant is dwarfed, a natural mechanism for greater efficiency in a very harsh, dry climate.
This year […]

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Garden Shrines: Dedicate Your Own Hallowed Ground


The pagans of Europe were the first to establish the notion of hallowed ground, an outdoor place set apart as holy.  Druid priests designated the very oldest oak in the ancient forest as an oracle, particularly when spring was close by. The priest would listen to the voices of the spirits in the gurgling of the spring and the whispers of the oak leaves, which […]

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Transformative Grasses: Anchoring Gardens and Soils

 
This hardy fountain grass is in full summer bloom, releasing pollen in the breeze. (Photo by Maureen Gilmer)
Over the past year, California has experienced drought, wildfires, floods, mudslides, and extreme cold.  The rest of the Southwest has seen the same crazy extremes and has experienced high-damage potential within a short time span.  Everyone will have some rethinking to do, whether making structural repairs or just […]

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Quasi Bonsai: Manageable Bonsai Beauty

(Image by Maureen Gilmer)
The price of neglecting to water your bonsai in midsummer even for a day will have to be paid in a withered plant.  You might as well plough the field and forget the seed as commit such negligence.  –Norio Kobayashi, Japan 1951
The little-known secret of true Japanese bonsai trees is that they are watered every day.  Not a single sunrise passes without […]

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Western Invasive Plants: Battling Ultimate Survivors

Star thistle is one of the worst of all western weeds.
The empire of plants is expansionist and certainly colonial. Immigrant plants are designed by nature to be incredibly self-sustaining through droughts, floods, and wildfires in their place of nativity, and beyond.  They must be able to survive Earth-shattering asteroids and volcanoes without becoming extinct.  The most competitive immigrants are from droughty climates where it takes hardcore […]

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Ponytail Palm: Beautiful Flesh Indoors or Out

This ponytail palm at the San Diego Zoo demonstrates how graceful they become.
Many believe Dr. Seuss’ Truffula Tree was inspired by a curious cypress in a San Diego park.  But maybe this isn’t true at all.  Maybe it’s San Diego’s epic ponytail palms that were the real inspiration for the Lorax story.  These are botanically known as Beaucarnea (“beautiful flesh” in Latin), a name that refers […]

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Bottle Gourds: Growing Ancient History


The calabash or bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) has been valued worldwide since ancient times and believed to be one of the oldest plant introductions into the Americas. Early botanical research has long attributed the origins of American bottle gourds to Africa, believing specimens floated across the Atlantic to reach the New World, though some studies tell a different story. Regardless of their path of arrival, […]

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