Saturday, October 11, 2014

Plant Sale At The Desert Botanical Garden

I had been looking forward to this sale for nearly a year. Last October Steve and I went plant hunting for the yard, after finally getting the water-wasters dug up and gone, with mixed results in finding things we liked. One of our stops had been the gift shop at the Garden, where a few lonely specimens remained from the sale which had just ended.

We were too late.

However, the staff gave us assistance in choosing likely plants, along with the information that they held plant sales twice a year. Coming down a couple weeks earlier would enable us to shop this year's fall sale. The spring sale we ruled out since nobody planned on staying the summer to water newly establishing plants. We started planing our shopping list.

My priority, after seeing one in a friend's sister's garden, was a palo blanco tree. I added a palo verde to the list, loving that smooth green bark. With a third space in the back where a dead citrus tree had been removed, I kept my mind open for something to attract wildlife, particularly hummers. Steve and I planned on establishing a series of clumps of ocatillo along the east backyard fence. It would be multi-purpose, part privacy screen, part source of blooms in season, part cover/shade to maybe entice the quail into our yard. More aloes and agaves were on the list, of unspecified varieties. The plan was to look them over and get what we could agree on, adding as much variety to the yard as possible.

We had planted aloes and agaves last fall, only to discover to our anger that the local rabbits found them exceptionally tasty, leading to our finding them exceptionally gone the next morning. The few remaining were hastily protected with chicken wire, which remains as a garden accent to this day, and for a couple years to come at least. I read somewhere that it's the rich soil the plants are grown in at the nurseries which attracts the rabbits, and after a couple years the nutrients wash away, no longer tempting the predators.

The plan on sale day, aka this morning, was to leave the house at 6:00 AM, arriving by 7:00, the start of the sale. It turned out that coffee, showers, and dressing were starting at 6:00, and arrival at the sale was much closer to 7:30, including assembling our scooters for leisurely perusal of the goods.

It was early enough. 

A volunteer assisted in emptying the car and in scooter assembly, followed by directions to the section of the parking lot covered by plants. Another volunteer helped with a flatbed cart, selecting trees, and loading. There were, alas, no palo blanco trees. It seems growers didn't bother much with producing those this last year. A well-branched palo brea substituted for an ordinary palo verde, and its miniature leaves will be much easier to ignore as they litter the landscape. For a wildlife-attracting tree, he recommended a variety of desert willow, and seeing one in bloom convinced us to go with it. It will produce seed pods, and if the critters don't scarf them down, at least they will be easy to rake up. Both trees, once established, can be mostly ignored, water-wise: a major point to us.

We found a spot out of the way to park the flatbed while doing more shopping. I grabbed a couple more aloes while Steve detoured over to some goat-milk fudge. (He shared: YUM!) We found some baby ocatillas, selecting the four best from the large patch of pots. An agave finished the selections, as well as the budget for this year. Besides, some of these still needed holes dug, meaning now that the kids had gone back north, that Steve and I have the upcoming thrill of putting the strain on our own knees for the process.

Paying and arranging delivery for the lot put the finishing touches on our trip. We already knew that the trees would require delivery rather than hanging out the back of the car and being blown to shreds on the freeway, and with no extra cost for the rest of our pots, we opted for simple in loading the car back up for the trip home. Once back at the car, the same volunteer who helped unload the car assisted in dismantling scooters and reloading the car.

All of the volunteers we encountered were more than helpful. They had information we needed for our choices plus planting tips (prune or no? how deep? shade, sun, or mix?) and when one plant I really liked had somehow missed being cataloged by light requirements, brought in all sorts of resources, written and breathing both, until the question was answered. With all that help so promptly offered, we were done and out of there in time to go have breakfast on the way home, and plan where exactly the unanticipated plants would go.

I am probably a tad sunburned, but that's my own fault for no hat and open neckline, ignoring the need to prevent burning that early in the morning just because the air was comfortably cool. (Note to self: this is Arizona, not Minnesota. Duh!)

 I am also beginning to think about next year's fall sale. There were, after all, hundreds of varieties we didn't pick from... this time.

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