Friday, March 25, 2011

The Little Perennial Garden

    Sometimes things just work out. For years we imagined a desert perennial bed in the front of the house. At first it was supposed to be a elliptical thing and we installed irrigation lines to help it along. These first steps were modesty successful, but somehow it just never took off. The penstemon (Penstemon parryi) were fine, but everything else seemed to just take against the idea. The remainders of that initial effort are few, but exemplary: the astounding Menodora longiflora that flowers repeatedly throughout the hottest part of the summer, the rampant black dalea (Dalea frutescens) that has gone through numerous prunings and companions, and all of it is still backed up by a gorgeous pair of red fairyduster (Calliandra californica) that have been here almost as long as we have.
    For the next round, we shifted to less needy plants and the irrigation system was left to become an archaeologic relic underground. The palo blanco (Acacia willardiana) grew beautifully and so did a few agaves, particularly A. victoriae-reginae and A. titanota (that splendid one known as Felipe Otero). But all in all it was a vague mess.
    Ultimately, we built a short wall. It was an instant improvement, settling the area, making it look real and important. Someday we hoped would become a nice place to sit.
    A couple of years later Gary wrestled the remains of other projects, broken concrete and slabs of flagstone, into a charming, irregular patio that in effect created small beds in front of the fairydusters. Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) threatened to take over, but we were ruthless and only let a few stay. A friend provided abundant penstemon seed and a small firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) which we nursed through the summer. A fall a visit to the nursery brought in a couple of Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) and a pair of blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum).  There has never been a need to plant moss verbena (Verbena pulchella) in this yard, and one bed was permitted to be be run with it. A nice blue pot was filled with a handsome Agave albomarginata and the place began to look pretty keen.
    Now it is spring, and all our long-held hope for this area are coming to pass. For such a long time it was merely the whisper of an idea and here it is, a full blown patio with color, birds especially hummers, and a sweet view of the buttes to the south. A little wine, a few friends, and a reliance on patience and the long view, and we finally have the desert perennial garden we imagined so long ago. It is the little perennial garden that could.