My four-year-old granddaughter sat for a good half hour the other morning completely mesmerized by a caterpillar climbing up a branch. She squealed in delight each time it inched its way up the branch, forming an arch, then straightening out. She declared that green was her favorite color and asked if she could keep it “forever.”
I have to admit it -- I wasn’t quite so entranced with the giant tomato hornworm crawling up my heirloom tomato plant, but her fascination and pure joy did strike a chord with me. We all need to be a bit more appreciative of the insect populations that surround us, not just the monarch butterflies and golden honeybees, but all insects -- even the tomato hornworms in our lives. The stark reality is without insects, the planet will cease to exist as we know it.
If you’re like me, there are always holes to fill in the garden -- a bare spot here that needs to be filled or a suffering plant that needs to be put out of its misery and replaced. In the past, I tended to pop in annuals for their cheerful bursts of color. This year, after seeing the impacts of a region coping with a long-term drought, my goals for my garden have changed. Instead of being seduced by water-guzzling beauties, I am going to search for plants that give me water-wise beauty and sustainability.
In the best of times, keeping a summer garden fresh and appealing is a challenge. This year, with half of the lower forty-eight states experiencing unusual heat patterns and moderate to severe drought, the challenges are even greater. There are, however, environmentally friendly ways to keep your garden blooming throughout the dog days of summer.
One of the first places to begin implementing water-wise techniques is your lawn. Ironically, , watering your lawn is an important way to conserve water. An irrigation system, when designed and installed by well-trained, knowledgeable technicians, can save the client time, effort and money all the while protecting an extremely valuable natural resource.
I added some Hens and Chicks to my succulent garden today. Pulling back an inch of gravel mulch, I nestled their roots into the soil underneath and then immediately watered them in. The whole time I worked though, my mind kept heading back to the desert, seeing the tiny Clustered Pincushion and the massive Saguaro cacti rising out of the bone dry landscape of sand and rock. On one hand, it is almost inconceivable to me that any plant life can exist at all in that harsh environment, but on the other hand, the old adage of Right Plant in the Right Place rings true.
After spending some time in the middle of that starkly beautiful wilderness though, I not only started to appreciate what I was looking at, but realized that the landscape of the desert has much to teach the rest of us in this time of rapidly changing climate. While parts of our country are being drenched by non-stop onslaughts of rain, almost half of the continental United States (46.5%) is suffering from years of on-going drought conditions. Many aquifers across the country are nearly depleted and will need years of consistent surface moisture to be replenished. According to the U.S. government’s Drought Monitor, 93 million people and 78 million acres of our crops are experiencing the effects of water shortages. Taking cues from the desert landscape, we can learn to manage our water consumption and still have stunning landscapes.
If I were a soil scientist (and that does take a huge stretch of your imagination), I would be presenting you with a list showing the taxonomy of 12 different soils, all having totally unfamiliar and unpronounceable names. Each soil group would be determined by one or two major characteristics. The descriptions of the 12 would point out everything from their common characteristics and minute differences to their percentage in the world’s total land surface. It’s interesting information but a little overwhelming to retain for common gardening knowledge.
If the term RAIN GARDEN brings an image of a weedy bog teeming with scores of mosquitoes and other unpleasant flying insects to your mind, then it’s time to update and edit that picture!