REVIEWS

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Once More Unto The Breach


This time of year, my garden always turns into a jungle, and it’s my own fault. I know I’m living in the desert, I know 90% of my plants should be low-water use, and yet I keep designing areas that get too much water run-off. Well, no more, my friends! Or mostly no more. Hardly any. I’ve made up my mind, this is the year when the Big Shift begins. I’m keeping a few roses, but the rest are going bye-bye.

Don’t laugh – this is not going to be easy. You know that scene in Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, where Malificent turns into a dragon and almost claws the prince to death? My roses treat me that way when I’m being nice to them, you can imagine what a fight they’re going to put up when I try to prune them out of existence.

A few of them will be given away to unsuspecting acquaintances. And a few of them are doing so badly, they’ll probably give up without drawing more than few pints of blood. I’m pretty sure this process will take three months this fall, and next year I’ll be getting rid of some more. I’d do it all at once if I had a crew of five men and a dump truck, but I’ve got one full-time worker (me) and one part-time (my poor, uncomplaining husband). Together, we’ll cut up rose canes, haul bricks away from raised beds, shovel out the extra soil, and shore up what’s left with stones, decreasing the bed sizes by two-thirds.

And what will go in their places? Rocks! Cacti! Weird desert shrubs! Peculiar garden sculpture! Sound boring? Not at all, I love the Martian weirdness of desert flora. I love how they stand up to the heat and the blazing sun, how some of them will burst into bloom in the worst part of the summer. And I admit, I love how they need so much less water and time (though some of them draw almost as much blood).

I guess every gardener passes through the early phase of trying to turn their garden climate into something it’s not. You can kid yourself into thinking you won’t pay serious consequences for it, until you’ve suffered through a few years of invasive grass and the yellow jackets who love to nest in it – not mention the mosquitos, ticks, fleas, weeds, white flies, and mildew.

Despite all that, my garden has actually been pretty healthy most of the time. If I had several hours a day to devote to it, it would be a more successful micro-climate. But this time of year, I need to take about ten rests a day when I’m out there hacking back the jungle. Those rests take at least fifteen minutes each and include multiple glasses of water and the A.C. turned down to 77 degrees F. Plus I have to use gallons of grass killer to keep the yard police from breathing down my neck, and that stuff is smelly and expensive.

So bye-bye roses (or most of you, anyway). Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still plant my flower seeds this fall. That’s the nifty thing about living in Phoenix; you can still have your cottage garden in the fall, winter, and spring. Veggies too, if you’re feeling intrepid. I won’t even miss those roses.

Assuming they don’t get rid of me before I get rid of them.

So wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

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