Patio: Finally

It’s been 2 years since I last gardened anything of my own. Remember the containers I bought last winter, and the recent plant sale at UTEP?

Photos from 5/14 and 5/16/2014 –

A section of my patio gets direct sun in the late afternoon and evening – late April through August. All of it gets indirect light. It’s covered, and from my thermometer readings, it rarely exceeds 100F or goes below 25F…the cover tempering it to a sort-of zone 9a – assuming this holds decades longer than I’m staying.

Still, less of a challenge than _____.

Some plants I know from experience, but some theoretically, since I haven’t been blessed to be in arid, 3800′ elevation parts of this zone before. The grower was of little help, from the same zone 7 and an hour from my former home, but one of our local kaktus experts advised well (Peter Beste).

container #1
container #1 fills in with agaves

(1) Squid or Spider Agave / Agave bracteosa (from David R. in DFW)
(1) Artichoke Agave / Agave parryi var. truncata (plus 3 pups from my aunt)
(1) Yellow Bells / Tecoma stans var. angustata (maybe not, I hurt the roots)


container #2 (L), container #3 (R)
container #2 (L), container #3 (R)

container #2 gets a bit more sun, so it’s filled in with cactus:

Astrophytum myriostigma (no common name)
Astrophytum nudum (ncn)
(4) Copiapoa esmeraldana (ncn)
(2) Echinopsis grandiflorus (ncn)


container #3 fills in with softer plants:

(1) Twistleaf Yucca / Yucca rupicola
(3 2) White Rain Lily / Zephyranthes candida
(5…2 if a few don’t recover) Yellow Rain Lily / Zephyranthes citrina

All (3) large containers are anchored by the coarse, west-of-the-divide native, Beargrass / Nolina microcarpa. I normally don’t make adjacent containers too different, but here it’s me trying out some new plants, so more variety than a more unified design for clients. The beargrasses can adapt to the water needs of that range of variety.

Lowes had some large, healthy camellias that would have made an impact, but not be of similar cultural needs as 2/3 pots, so I went with the decent impact of the beargrasses. No other native plants available had enough size to provide this much impact as that Nolina, and for this light…not one.

I might topdress each large container with a layer of crushed rock, but perhaps not this type and probably smaller. Both pots brought from my old house, each with a different agave, were topdressed with “locally-sourced decomposed granite”, i.e. 10 feet away; a good look that keeps soil in place during our periodic high winds.

You’ll soon see what grows or doesn’t! Given limited lateral rooting space, my miserly watering, and light, it may very well stay uncrowded. Even if all that’s left is the beargrass (native in the sunny open foothills or shaded by junipers and oaks), the yucca, and a few rain lilies or agaves, I’ll call it a success. Success out here isn’t how close it resembles a Mann / Monet-esque Victorianascape :-)

Of course, after I cleaned my place, I settled in for a drink, then a grilled-up dinner, admiring a very modest garden. Gardens aren’t just to sell a property or meet code to get the permit, though the latter pays my bills.

A divine 80F and 20’s dewpoint, the breeze perfect, and I must have been out there over 2 hours relaxing. A good reason to have a garden.

10 Replies to “Patio: Finally”

  1. First bit of gardening in 2 yrs! Glad to see you settling in with some planting and dinner alfresco in your new home.

    And one of the last things I did the day I moved out of my old house…worked in my garden!


  2. A small garden means more time relaxing in it. And have you really been there 2 years already??

    Exactly, small is the best as long as it’s good! 2 years in July…crazy…..


  3. Can’t wait to see how your containers turn out, David! I’ve always wondered about camellias, then I dismiss them as I mostly see them in moister, more temperate areas. Not only that, I shudder at the thought of planting one seeing as a previous homeowner planted a little gem magnolia before we moved in, so I guess at the back of my mind I just make a connection between the two as I see them all the time in Charleston, S.C, where I’m from, which is of course…. Well blessed with a whole lot more rainfall and climate than we’re accustomed to here. I much rather garden responsibly trying to give back to my eco region than have few sparse, heat resenting blooms, as beautiful as they may be. In the end, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    Thanks, I’m already looking for rock types to topdress them with. The Tecoma is hanging on, some wilting more and other parts coming back…I think it will make it. This cool weather isn’t hurting!

    Good points on the camellia, though in the shade and contained soil, it was tempting. I like the instant look and presence of large ones sold in Lowes (where they have cover, constant water, and they move fast enough for us not to see casualties. Though one typical June afternoon of 105 and 0 humidity could render them into twisted, crisp plant corpses…best I bought at the plant sale before I remembered my camellia idea!

    Southern Magnolia in El Paso…even some crepe myrtles look better, though not many.


  4. Anticipation.

    Exciting zone.

    Gardens are always anticipation, no matter the layer we are in with our garden.


    Those 2 items are it, as is completion. I can’t imagine not having a garden. How, to get the ground near me up to snuff…


  5. Living things bring joy. Glad you have your own garden now–will make you feel like you’ve come home.

    And I’m impressed by your restraint. Somehow a vacant space brings out my extravagant nature and I end up trying to put a garden-and-a-half in a single area. Going through that now as I try to make a habitat garden in a space about 1/10th the size of our last.

    Even though small, it does feel homey. I think what helps me restrain myself is that I can do designs for others. I just revisited my photos when I visited you and Denny almost 3 years ago…wow, that was huge. You’ll downsize the habitat well!


  6. As Laurin says: Great selection of plants. Tecoma angustata in a container is a brilliant idea. Your patio already looks like a great place to just ‘be’ and unwind.

    Thanks, I still have a few more touches (and the grounds outside my patio), but it feels so much better. Looking forward to that later!


  7. Nicely done! I find container gardening (and the subsequent admiration of my efforts) to be very relaxing. I can just about manage to get most things right in small contained spaces. I admire your restraint in form choice (all squares).

    I’ve got a haphazard collection of pots from thrift stores (and curb rescues) that fairly accurately represent my approach to gardening. At times I think I’ll ditch them all in favor of new, matched containers, but then my Scotch-Irish half kicks in and I never follow through.

    I agree – the arching grass alone viewed against those rectilinear planters will be quite pleasing. Everything/anything else that manages to adapt well to your placement will potentially elevate your short view past pleasing, all the way to Potted Perfection.

    “Potted perfection” – I can get behind that. And part of perfection is shifting, moving, and so on. You’re right on the relaxing nature of limited spaces – quick satisfaction. Restraint isn’t easy, but in my typical style, I’ll probably pare this down. When I had a house, it was amazing how many pots I accumulated, many different…somehow not one scorpion or centipede made a home, either. The new owners wanted as many as I wanted to leave, so I only took a few. They got 15 planted, and 10 awaiting some idea of mine, “someday”!!

    Thanks – the grasses do arch, and yesterday evening, I noticed that they were just fine, young and soon to fill in and become realized.


  8. Well for goodness sakes yes, it’s about time! Congrats, enjoy, and hope they’re terribly successful.

    To think one of my last tasks, the last day at the old house, was planting cactus and spiffing up the garden. Thanks…good times are here!


  9. Great selection of plants. I like the square planters. Look forward to seeing how they come along! Cheers!

    Back in the saddle…me too, so glad I didn’t go for other shapes…stay tuned!


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