Transitioning to Summer

Diana Blueberry hybrid dianthus
     Our family is just back from 10 days of vacationing in our home state of Virginia.  How green it was!  How delightful it was to see rain and hear so many songbirds.  I miss all that now that we are living in the desert.  While gone, changes occurred in both my vegetable and flower gardens.

     As we move into the triple-digit heat of summer here, my vegetable garden is all but done.  The lettuces are gone, as well as the spinach, carrots and radishes.  I still have some red chard hanging on.  My one pepper plant never recovered from being wind burned.  It died while I was away.  I have 2 tomato plants left, but one is not looking good.  We've had 40 mile-per-hour winds for two days, which has damaged the plant beyond recovery, I fear.
White Wedding zinnia

     Out of the row of blue dianthus seeds I planted in the flower garden, one plant emerged and blossomed while I was away.  The white wedding zinnias bloomed while I was gone, as well as the hybrid mixed zinnias.  The pansies and petunias are almost all gone, and soon the strawflowers and gazania will die off in the daily triple-digit heat.  Next weekend I will buy the few summer flowering plants that can survive the heat and start digging them in.

Beauty hybrid mixed zinnias
     As I took a walk around the yard a day after returning, I noticed that the orange tree had 7 small, green oranges on it, and the red grapefruit tree had 26 green grapefruit!  So it looks like we will have some citrus.  The lime tree had no fruit that I could find.  It sustained the most damage from the freezes this past winter, but all of its branches have new green leaves.

red grapefruit

Crickets in the Garden, Scorpions in the House

Diatomaceous earth
     The crickets have been chirping away in the flower garden for about six weeks now.  I don't mind the chirping.  It is a sound of summer to me.  But we live in a known scorpion area, and crickets are the favorite food of scorpions.  So the scorpions come running to my flower garden for their next meal.  And then they wander into my house.  I don't want them in either place.  We had two scorpions in the house last year, and one already this year.  I'm really fearful of them.  They frighten me. They can make themselves thinner than a credit card and slip through tiny cracks.  They can crawl into the house on plumbing pipe, or out of A/C vents.  

     The crickets had to go.  My husband dragged out the bag of diatomaceous earth and spread it in the garden to kill the crickets.  Diatomaceous earth, which looks like talcum powder, is the microscopic, fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of algae that has sharp edges that cut any crawling insect body, causing loss of body fluids and dehydration.  It is supposed to work on roaches, ants. silverfish and other crawling insects.  It is organic and non-toxic to humans and animals, but you shouldn't breathe the dust or get it into your eyes.  It is said to work on scorpions, but in reality, it doesn't work for me.  We put it down at all the doors, but that doesn't stop them from getting in the house in so many other ways that you can't cover with diatomaceous earth.  They say chickens eat scorpions.  A lot of the nearby farms have chickens.  Maybe that's why they congregate in our yard.

Dwarf (?) Zinnia
     On a more cheerful note, the cosmos, dwarf zinnia and marigold seeds I planted have all come up and are blooming.  The dwarf zinnia are only supposed to be six inches high, but mine are almost eleven inches.   The vinca I planted last summer apparently made it through the freezes and has returned. 

     I was walking through the garden section at Lowe's two weeks ago just looking, getting ideas for what to plant in my garden for summer.  Of course, I ended up walking out with a plant.  I bought a beautiful Blue Marguerite daisy which I have never grown before.  I don't know whether it will bloom all summer in our triple digit heat, but I thought I could use some more blue in the garden.  We'll see.

Boy O' Boy Marigolds


Blue Marguerite Daisy

A Flower for Mom


Red Moss Rose
     Happy Mother's Day to all mothers.  My thoughts are of my Mom as this Mother's Day approaches.  She passed away two years ago, and I miss her terribly.  My Mother was really gone four years before she died.  She had Alzheimer's, and remembered very little.

     Remember the seedling surprise of My April 28th post?  Memories of my Mom unexpectedly turn up in my thoughts just like this flower turned up in my garden..

     The seedling turned out to be a red moss rose from, I presume, the one moss rose that was on the other side of the garden that was pulled out last fall.  My Mom loved the color red.  So I am dedicating this red moss rose to her this Mother's Day.  A flower I thought was gone, but was just in another place.

Beer, Bell and Oil Bushes

Hopseed fruits
     As the blossoms on the bush morning glories fade away in the increasing heat, several other bushes and plants in my yard are now flowering.  In my backyard I have several Hop bushes or Hopseed bushes as they are also callled.  I had never heard of these bushes before I moved to the desert.  I looked them up and learned they are native to Australia and New Zealand.  Mine are bright green, but there is a purple leaf variety also.  They are evergreen, drought tolerant and can grow to 12 feet.  They produce papery-winged fruits, and  I  learned that the seeds have been used as a substitute for hops in brewing beer, hence the name.

Hopseed bush

     Another bush that graces my yard in several locations is the commonly called Yellow Bells or trumpet bush.  I had never heard of these bushes either.  They bloom spring till frost with tubular yellow blossoms and can grow 8 to 12 feet.There is also a variety callled Orange Bells with orange blossoms.  Evidently they grow in Texas, New Mexico and Florida too.  They are frost deciduous, and all of them lost all their leaves in the freezes we had last winter.  They all grew new green leaves and are flowering.

Yellow Bells bush
Yellow Bells blossom

Finally, a bush I have heard of.  I have two Jojoba bushes in my side yard.  You have probably heard of Jojoba oil, the liquid wax obtained from the seeds of this shrub.  I had never actually seen a Jojoba bush till I moved here.  The leaves are thick, leathery and blue-green.  They are evergreen, can grow to 15 feet and live for 200 years.  They grow in California, northern Mexico, Israel and Australia.  The female flowers are small, greenish-yellow, and form hard, acorn-like seeds from which the oil is obtained.

Jojoba bush

Jojoba flower

Boomin' Blooming

Red Yucca
     So many bushes and plants are blooming in my yard.  It seems that April is the major bloom month here in the desert.  Most of the bushes and plants I've never had before, but I have heard of them.  Red Yucca is entirely new to me with its long spikes bearing red flowers.  I have learned it is not a true yucca and is native to southwest Texas.  It's a real standout when planted en masse.  I have this in the front yard along with  dwarf pink Oleander bushes.  The Oleanders are green all year and bloom till fall.

Red Yucca blossoms
 In the back yard there are two varieties of Lantana scattered through out the yard.  One is called New Gold; the other is an orange colored one called Radiation.  All of them were damaged by the freezes we had this past winter, and they lost all their leaves and flowers.  Most came back and are in full bloom now.

I don't know the variety of the Pittosporum bushes that line the back of the house, but they remain green all year, and the flowers which just appeared have no fragrance.  There are other plants and bushes in the yard.  There will be photos of those in the next post.

Dwarf Pink Oleander blossoms

New Gold Lantana

Radiation Lantana
Pittosporum bushes
Pittosporum blossoms