Confessions of a Hose Dragger …

By Linda Patten

July/August

This time of year, a lot of people go on vacation…but why go on a vacation when instead, you can go on a quest…and this is what I did…I quested.  This time of year, a lot of people travel to visit a scenic area… but why visit just one scenic area when instead you can experience the flavor of several scenic areas by simply whizzing by at 80 miles per hour? …and this is what I did…I whizzed.  This time of year, a lot of people travel so they can be refreshed by gentle ocean breezes or be wafted by cool mountain air… this is not what I did…instead I choose to go to hell.

The quest:  A puppy.  Not just any puppy mind you, an AKC registered $3,000 English Cream Golden Retriever puppy.

The mission:  Travel 27 hours there and back to retrieve a retriever.

Goal location:  Hell/Phoenix, Arizona in the summer.

So, if you consider me to be a friend of yours, keep in mind that you can probably get me to do anything… well, anything short of murder… and honestly I may be open to that depending upon the circumstances… anyway, when my friend Sally asked me to accompany her to pick up a puppy, how could I say no?  “No!”  Darn, too late… instead I said, “Sure!”  We will drive straight through she said, it’s only 12 hours.  Ummm… OK… my personal best was driving 26 hours straight from California to Texas so this sounded doable… except well… I’m older now… a lot older.

We leave at dawn.  I wish, but Sally is not a morning person plus she doesn’t know the meaning of “You can’t take it with you”.  Well, evidently, you can.  We stopped only twice for gas and windshield bug removal… our only sustenance, car snacks, keeping us alive.  Wow!  Look!  Moab… whizzz…Golly Gee! Canyon Lands… whizzz… Gasp! Arches National Park!… whizzz… Fantastic!  The Grand Canyon is only 40 miles away???  Sigh… Driving, driving, driving.  12 hours… no, really more like 15… Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?  The first Saguaro cactus was spotted at dusk.  We arrived in Phoenix under the cover of darkness and trust me, that’s a good thing during the summer time!  I woke up to a covered oasis… palm trees, gleaming white washed citrus trees, various spikey cactus, a few weary euonymus and lots of cheerful bougainvillea happily blooming in the baking sun.  There were pigeons and doves by the hundreds.  There were lizards.  The temperature forecast was 115 degrees… is that even possible!?  We played a fun Phoenix driving game – whoever spots an actual person out and about walking wins… neither of us won.  However, the puppy was procured… he is a cutie!  His name is Romeo.  He is litterbox trained… amazing!  And after spending a glorious week in Phoenix, we made it home.

So, I guess we better talk about plants a bit since this is, after all, a garden club…

I came home to a jungle.  With all the rain, accompanied by a couple of days of heat, I hardly recognized my garden… except I did… because there were no weeds… and you know, I always tell the truth!

One annual flower you might think about planting next year is called Five Spot.  These darlings have been growing in my garden for two years now after first spotting them at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Seeds are available at local nurseries – not in the large seed racks but on the smaller rack that has native and wildflower seeds.  What follows is some great info from the wise and powerful internet to tell you everything you need to get these adorable flowers going in your garden:

Five spot wildflowers (Nemophila maculata) are attractive, low-maintenance annuals. Native to California, they can be grown virtually anywhere in the United States and areas with similar climates. They are prized both for their prolific, striking flowers and their soft, fern-like foliage. Five Spot Plant Info Five spot wildflowers are named for their distinct flowers: 1-inch wide (2.5 cm) light blue or white blossoms of five petals, each of which is tipped with a vivid, deep purple spot. They are reasonably compact – they grow to no more than 12 inches (30 cm) high and 8 inches (20 cm) wide and do not spread over the course of the summer. They prefer cool climates, germinating best in soil temperatures of 55-65 F. (13-18 C.). If your summers are particularly hot, don’t be discouraged. They should be able to survive if given lots of shade. They are annuals, and they’ll die back with the first frost. If allowed to flower and die back, however, they ought to seed naturally, and new plants should appear in the same spot the following spring. They bloom consistently and impressively all spring long. Tips for Growing Five Spot Plants Learning how to grow five spot flowers is exceptionally easy, as is their care. Because of their compact size and vigorous blossoming, five spot wildflowers are perfect for hanging baskets. A handful of seeds should ensure a great display through the spring. They also grow flawlessly in the ground, however. They’ll tolerate most types of soil with full sun to dappled shade. They do not transplant well, so direct sowing is recommended. Early in the spring, as temperatures are warming, sprinkle the seeds over the bare ground and then rake lightly to mix them with the soil. After this they need essentially no care, apart from regular watering.
They are adorable!

Like to grow weed?  Here’s a great one for you, Butterfly Weed.  Amazing clusters of orange flowers that are a bee magnet.  This beautiful perennial grows to about 2 feet tall and loves sun, sun, sun… though I did not see any in Phoenix where there is a lot of sun but I was probably delirious… which probably saved me… Once again, here is everyithing you need to know to have these lovies as a part of your garden:

What is a butterfly weed? Butterfly weed plants (Asclepias tuberosa) are trouble-free North American natives that produce umbels of bright orange, yellow or red blooms all summer long. Butterfly weed is appropriately named, as the nectar- and pollen-rich flowers attract hummingbirds and hordes of butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects throughout the blooming season.  Butterfly Weed Characteristics: Butterfly weed plants are milkweed cousins with tall, clumping perennials that reach heights of 12 to 36 inches. The blooms appear atop fuzzy, green stems, which are adorned by attractive, lance-shaped leaves. Butterfly weed plants spread by way of seeds, which are released from large pods in early autumn. Butterfly weed grows wild in a variety of environments, including open woods, prairies, dry fields, meadows, and along roadsides. In the garden, butterfly weed looks great in wildflower meadows, borders, rock gardens, or mass plantings. How to Grow Butterfly Weed Growing butterfly weed requires very little effort. The plant, suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, thrives in bright sunlight and poor, dry, sandy or gravelly soil with a slightly acidic or neutral pH. Butterfly weed plants are easy to grow by seed, but may not produce blooms for two or three years. Once established, butterfly weed is drought tolerant and blooms dependably from year to year. Also, keep in mind that butterfly weed has long, sturdy roots that make transplantation very difficult, so locate the plant in its permanent place in the garden. Butterfly Weed Care:  Keep the soil moist until the plant is established and showing new growth. Thereafter, water only occasionally, as butterfly weed plants prefer dry soil. Trim old growth every spring to keep them neat and healthy.

And, do you suffer from boring trees?  Dress them up.  Spotted while driving through Lyons was a gorgeous clematis, in full bloom, using the rough bark of a tree as a trellis.  Marvelous!  I almost drove off the road from said spectacular sight… note to self… must avoid plant ogling while driving as this can be a real hazard.

Sigh, as final note, this is one of sympathy to those gardeners who have watched their beautiful plants devastated by hail… again… be brave, be strong and know that like a Phoenix, they will rise again… just don’t go there… in the summer… like I did…