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 Clockwise from top left: Vertical planter from City Planter; Modern Raw concrete benchModern Muskoka concrete chair; Modern Cube plant pot.

 Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: how to spot a mid-century yard.  Plus (above): cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Mod-scaped gardens surrounding 1950’s and '60s homes are dotted throughout the west, and Tucson has a few time capsules not to be missed, some of them in their untouched, over-grown glory. Here's the low-down on the mid-century yard, and how to spot one:

1. Inside/outside living: The gardens of atomic times were inspired by architectural styles that flowed inside to out. Material continuity, unobstructed views, geometric lines, shifts in elevation, and a connection to the outdoors were aesthetically essential. What was once a fireplace hearth on the interior projected straight out onto the patio and terminated as a planter box.

The architecture, built in planters, plant cut outs, and historical plants.

The architecture, built in planters, plant cut outs, and historical plants.  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

A hedge wall and pom pom's lead to the front door.

A hedge wall and pom poms lead to the front door.  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

2. Plants as architecture: Plants propelled architectural elements into the garden, forming living walls or partitions. An evergreen shrub was meticulously sculpted and maintained as a voluminous, boxy hedge for suggested privacy, while a large specimen plant made a statement, or became a landmark. Plants were sculpted into pom poms or plates, creating a visual interplay of mass and void and visually dictated direction or movement within the space.

3. Gardens were for the people: The Atomic times called for outdoor spaces that were comfortable and accommodated the average American family living in suburbia. Form and function were integral. Hardscapes consisted of concrete, exposed aggregate or stone arranged in organic and/or angular geometric patters. Coupled with plants, their placement and form directed movement within the space, and established a scale that spoke to the comfort level of both children and adults.

Exposed aggregate pavers are staggered to reflect the angles of the architecture, lead to the front door, and allow for edge plantings.

Exposed aggregate pavers are staggered to reflect the angles of the architecture, lead to the front door, and allow for edge plantings.  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

 4. A limited plant palette: A typical mid-century landscape would be comprised of a few different plant species. In Tucson, trees such as Eucalyptus, Bottlebrush, Cyprus, Pines, Palms, African Sumac, and citrus created the classic vertical forms. Mock Orange, Pineapple Guava, Privet, Xylosma, Heavenly Bamboo, Natal Plum and Myrtle were planted in masses and sculpted into varying heights and shapes as architectural compliments.

Remnants of vintage midcentury landscapes can be spotted across Tucson. Here are a few more of our favorites:

Get the mid-century look now:

Don’t be a purist Many of the historical plants listed above are hardy and have adapted to our harsh climate – some like us too much (ahem, African Sumac) – and some require way too much water to look like they “like” where they live. So use naturally sophisticated natives.  Many of our natives are simply sleek and allude to the vintage aesthetic.

  • These sculptural plants create a vertical element in a Mid-Mod way.  Don't block the arches!

    These sculptural plants create a vertical element in a Mid-Mod way. Don't block the arches!  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

    Round or Sculpted:  Use a Desert Spoon or one of our native barrel cacti.

  • Specimen or Allee:  Plant a Native Mesquite.  Its lovely canopy looks stunning in an allee or as a multi-trunked specimen.
  • Vertical Element:  Ocotillo and Mexican Fence post can offer a dramatic vertical element, while aloe and agave species can create a sculpted effect, or become the landmark.

The hedge  Similar to the social norms of the 1960’s, our local shrubs allude to a more hedonistic lifestyle.  With the aid of power tools, Creosote, Little Leaf Cordia, and Leucophyllum species can be coaxed into a more streamlined shape or simulated structure.  (Hedging any of these plants can be quite humiliating - to the plant - and I would never recommend it outside of this forum).

 

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Aloysia gratissima Darbi's Plant of the Month: Aloysia gratissima, or Fragrant Bee Brush
Bee Brush smells divine and the flowers are adorable. A rough and tough plant has tiny leaves while one well watered has slightly larger ones. Place in a location where it's easy to get your nose near the flowers!
* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.

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boxhill sept 2014 issue

Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: why porches are in full swing again. Plus: cool product picks from Boxhill.

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Porches, once the eyes and ears of a neighborhood, are back in full swing. Photo by Darbi Davis

As summer ever…so…slowly…slips into fall, we emerge from our chilled dens and happily dust off our porches – a special place where we can once again embrace the drier, cooler air.  The shift is undeniably subtle, but eagerly embraced by all who call the desert home.

When the fourth Tucson Porchfest hits at the end of this month, it will be a chance for residents to celebrate something that's back in full swing as a center for community events, learning, coffee and cocktails.

The History

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A typical Tucson porch, this one in the city's Menlo Park area. Photo by Darbi Davis

Historically, front porches served as cool, covered outdoor spaces where life rolled by at a slower pace.  Porches were the eyes and ears of street life happenings.  They were silent, transitional spaces that merged the inside with the outside.  They were confidants of secrets, witnesses to chaos, shelter from the sun, support for tired feet, a breezy space, a meeting place, a musical bodega.  They were places of retreat and rest. A culture of idle ease and nostalgic ambience. A theater of pure Americana.

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A porch in Tucson's Armory Park neighborhood. Photo by Darbi Davis

And then the car whirled into town and air conditioners cooled interiors, making the front porch less appealing on hot summer afternoons.  Emerging architectural styles around the middle of the last century eliminated the front porch. History shifted to the  inside.

It wasn’t until shortly after the turn of the millennium that the trend towards a walkable, less auto-dependent life caught on.

Porchfest is born

In 2007, a group out of Ithaca, New York, decided that their community needed more casual, outdoor, family-friendly events, and Porchfest was born.  Communities across the country took notice and Porchfest Festivals popped up all over – including in Tucson, where it travels to different neighborhoods a couple times a year.

A typical Tucson Porchfest includes musicians playing on porches,  Food Trucks, and kids' activities.  The streets come to life as everyone strolls around to stop and listen at intermittent porches or grab a bite. All are invited and it’s free to attend.

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Barbara and Alan O'Brien, far left and second from left, entertain neighbors on their front porch in Tucson. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Barbara and Alan O'Brien live in the Broadmoor neighborhood of Tucson, host to this month’s Porchfest on September 28th. Their back patio hosted their morning coffee rituals until a few years ago, when they moved to the front porch.  Since then, their lives have been enriched by daily stop-ins from friends and neighbors, and their porch earned the name, 'Cawffee Tawk” Cafe, after a Saturday Night Live skit. A friend made a sign for them, which is proudly displayed on the front windowsill.

porchobrien1 "If you have coffee,  they will come," says Barbara, a retired librarian. "Most of the regulars, I don't even serve them any more. They just go in the kitchen and help themselves. This way we get to see the neighborhood and we've made so many friends."

Why porches matter

Full-time Menlo Park resident Deb Dale, partner in Smith & Dale Philanthropic Counsel, doesn’t miss a morning on her porch - even in the sweltering summer. “Sipping coffee, doing morning crossword puzzles, and playing with Stan, the beloved cat” are just a few of her mentioned porch rituals. “We also used [the front porch] as the cupcake decorating locale to wrangle tots during our 4th of July party,” says Deb.

Speaking of tots, porch-for-play is a brilliant modern day use of the space.  Kids thrive in fresh air.  They don’t mind extreme temperatures as long as they are outdoors.  Seasonal shifts, bugs, lizards, carpenter bees, wind, water, sand, and mud provide endless learning opportunities.  If they spill, splat, or dump - no problem. Grab a hose or a broom, or leave it and watch the mess evolve.

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The porch at the Khalsa Montessori school is used for school enrichment programs. Photo by Darbi Davis

Khalsa Montessori School, a Tucson elementary school, provides “Porch” as an enrichment program for their students.  Nirvair Khalsa, founder and director of the school, says: "The Camden porch is an outdoor classroom. The teacher is a master gardener, certified Montessori teacher and artist who designs a beautiful space and engaging projects for the students where they can apply their classroom skills in new ways. On the porch they practice reading, writing, science and art as they demonstrate their new knowledge in the books, posters, journals and art objects they create.”

The kids work on the front porch of the schoolhouse cultivating gardens and learning how to dry herbs, which then get transformed into sachets.  Third grader Iliana says: “Porch is so fun because you get to be outside, and learn about animals and work with clay.”

It’s a cherished and inspiring break from indoor school life, and it's outside time that will certainly inspire a moment of relaxation, regardless of your age.  If you’re a regular backporch sitter, try moving to the front for a different view. And who knows? Maybe you’ll meet a neighbor or two, make new friends, or feel a cooler breeze.

* The next Tucson Porchfest (with food trucks!)  is 4 pm to 7 pm, Sunday September 28th in the Broadmoor-Broadway Village neighborhood in midtown Tucson.

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Darbi's Plant of the Month: Devil's Claw
plantofmonthsept2014Devil's Claw This sprawling native annual has light lavender, tubular flowers that mature into long horned-like fruit.  Once dry, the pod splits and forms a woody claw that contains seeds.  Historically, the dried pod is used in Native American basket weaving.  A fun monsoon loving plant!

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.

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Print Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: how to love your bugs. Plus: cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

For desert dwellers, the bloody hell of summer is marked by songs of the cicada and a menagerie of insects ready to devour your monsoon bloomers and arid edibles. While insects are inevitable during this time, powders and potions in the form of pesticides are often unnecessary – and rid the good with the bad from the soil to the stems.

Ignite your inner insectophile by implementing some basic integrated pest management to help battle the pesky buggers. Dr. Paul Bessey, a former professor of horticulture at the University of Arizona and host of a weekly plant clinic at Tucson Botanical Gardens, recommends that you “get to know which bugs are 'good' and which are 'bad'.  Most of the time, a couple of bad bugs aren't going to destroy your garden." Similarly, MarciBeth Phillips, director of education and sales manager at Arbico Organics, says: "Don't kill an insect until you know what it is."

Thankfully, Tucson is home to the University of Arizona’s Department of Entomology (host of the annual Arizona Insect Festival) and Arbico Organics, a natural pest control company where you can actually buy the good guys to release in your hard. Together they are an excellent resource for bad bug identification and good bug introduction.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Get to you know your bugs, says Dr. Paul Bessey. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Below are three characters that everyone should consider before spritzing that chemical-filled sprayer:

The Chic Bohemian

Photo courtesy of ARBICO Organics

The Green Lacewing. Photo courtesy of ARBICO Organics

The Green Lacewing is a generalist and works wonders in our desert environment. It’s a lovely little winger in a psychedelic shade of lime green. Their eggs are found cantilevered off of a silken thread in an array resembling George Nelson’s Bubble Lamp or infamous Ball Clock. The eggs are stunning and tiny in their natural state, and hardly noticeable in their purchased state. Sprinkle them onto your infested plants and don’t wait for them to hatch. They will settle in your garden if there is enough food to sustain them across their lifecycle. Provide a plethora of pests and nectar (they are pollinators too) and the adults will swoon to the flicker of your patio light after sunset.

The Glutton

Praying Mantis. Photo by Christian Meyn.

Praying Mantis. Photo by Christian Meyn.

The Praying Mantis is a shady green rascal that enjoys the taste of bad garden bugs. However, if left unsatiated it eats the good bugs and tends towards cannibalism at all stages of life. Its eggs are encased in a lofty brown shell resembling a teeny tiny hardened burlap sack - not nearly as chic as the eggs of the Green Lacewing. Once hatched, their voracious appetite drives them to eat a variety of bugs that evolve with their life cycle. As nymphs they eat aphids. As adults they eat beetles. Their survival depends on a copious feast of insects. Anything less and they eat themselves!

The Snowbird

The Ladybird larve

The Ladybird larvae

The Ladybird beetle, also known as the Ladybug, is another beneficial insect. Aphids are their first choice, but they do enjoy other soft-bodied insects. Similar to their pals noted above, they too consume the most during their “infant” stage of life; however, as adults their diet doesn’t shift, they simply eat at a reduced rate. Ladybugs are most useful during their life cycle when they look like a tiny reptile and nothing like the round, spotted, red-winged gems we are accustomed to. The goal is to make them so comfy in your garden that they meticulously lay little yellow eggs in a perfectly straight pattern along a leaf. By the time they reach adulthood and our summer heat sets in, they head for the cool of Mount Lemmon and Madera Canyon, where they play in the pollen for the summer. For this reason, it’s best to release them when our temperatures are moderate.

Says MarciBeth Phillips: "Balance of pests, not eradication, is the key to maintaining healthy plants. Nature favors the breeding of pest insects because without them there would not be any beneficials."

As for Dr. Bessey, his own garden is completely 'au naturel' when it comes to bugs. He refrains from using pesticides or chemicals, and advises using a high-pressure hose if pests get to be too much. His advice? Live with it, and with the casualties. "Frankly, things are going to pretty much come to a balance. The pests are going to get some things,” he says.

* Doctor Bessey will return to Tucson Botanical Gardens in September for a weekly plant clinic on Wednesdays. Find Arbico Organics and their 'good guy' bug supply at 10831 N. Mavinee Drive, Suite 185, Oro Valley, AZ. 

 

Darbi's Plant of the Month: Rock Hibiscus

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Rock Hibiscus. Photo by Darbi Davis

This lovely Tucson native is hardy and likes the sun. It produces tiny lavender flowers in the Spring and with the onset of the monsoons.  The leaves are fuzzy and grayish-green. Rock Hibiscus, or Hibiscus denudatus, is a must-have in any native garden.

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.

 

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boxhill logo Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. In the second of a two-part series on gardening cooperative Flowers & Bullets, she finds a community warming to their mission. Plus: scroll down for cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

When Ramon Ramirez approached his grandmother, 84-year-old Nana Aggie Saucedo, with his gardening intentions, she was skeptical. Nana Aggie has lived in her neighborhood in South Tucson for decades and, says Ramon, is set in her ways.

“My grandfather used to grow his own veggies like corn and citrus, and the loquat tree brought when they immigrated from California is still growing,” says Ramon.

Ramon, who lives part-time with his grandmother, negotiated a corner of Nana’s yard (specifically designated by Nana) for his own garden, complete with a much-anticipated lemon tree. He set out to restore an old barbecue made by his grandfather and in need of repair. And he attended an energy-saving workshop, where he learned how to reduce energy costs and received energy-efficient light bulbs for his Nana’s house. (Convincing Nana that the energy efficient light bulbs were better than her regular old light bulbs is a story worthy of its own, however.)

Rosemary the goat, a recent addition to Flowers & Bullets' urban gardening cooperative. Photo by Darbi Davis.

Ramon and friends helped organize a pot-luck BBQ at Nana Aggie’s house, reuniting her with many of her former students from the now-closed Julia Keen Elementary School, where she worked as a cafeteria cashier for close to three decades. “She connected with the kids and watched them grow. She retired before they shut down the school and witnessed the impact this closure had on the community,” says Ramon, whose work in Nana’s yard came about through his membership of Flowers & Bullets.

Tito (left) and Ramon (right). Photo by Darbi Davis.

Tito (left), one of F&B's founders, and Ramon (right). Photo by Darbi Davis.

The power of this sort of collaboration, sustainable multi-generational relationships, and edible gardens is what this cooperative grassroots organization is all about. Flowers & Bullets launched with a mission to provide an alternative to the food pantry and processed food that, while accessible and affordable, is ultimately detrimental to the overall health and well-being of a population.

"We get ten of these a day," says Tito. Photo by Darbi Davis.

The cooperative’s efforts fill a void in the urban agricultural trend; through their grassroots approach they are building up trust with people who tend to lack faith in traditional programs. Through gardening and growing, they hope for community-building through education, collaboration, and skills sharing, and ultimately to shift the paradigm towards healthier habits. And their plan long term is to establish a curriculum relevant to all neighborhoods.

It’s all very well that urban agriculture is the hot new thing, but are all pockets of the population getting to enjoy it? That’s something F&B would like to see addressed. When Dora Martinez, a F&B member, attended her first public meeting on urban agriculture and city code changes, she saw a distinct lack of representation from South Tucson. “The Spanish translator suggested she go home because there were no Spanish speakers present. The population in need of urban agriculture was not present, and those who were present were not food insecure,” says Dora.

Milking Rosemary. Photo by Darbi Davis.

Milking Rosemary. Photo by Darbi Davis.

 

Greening gardens isn't all that Flowers & Bullets has on their agenda. This past January they adopted three goats – a mother and two babies – giving the cooperative access to milk. And while laws say it’s not for human consumption, I can tell you it’s the best tasting milk I've ever had. The goats are fed on alfalfa and left-over veggies from Tucson restaurant Rocco’s Pizza, ensuring the goat milk is some of the sweetest that cooperative members have tasted. In addition to goat-milking, the cooperative has plans for classes on homemade yogurt, cheese, and soaps.

Filtering the Milk. Photo by Darbi Davis.

Filtering the goats' milk. Photo by Darbi Davis.

Back at Nana Aggie’s house, Ramon’s next endeavor is a water harvesting project, one using recycled materials that he hopes will also harvest the art and graffiti talents of many of his friends. The garden is eagerly awaiting its first sugar baby watermelon harvest. And Flowers & Bullets can rest assured that communities are warming to its mission.

Read more  about  Flowers & Bullets in part one of the series. 

Photo by Darbi Davis

Photo by Darbi Davis

Darbi's Plant of the Month: Chaparral Sage

One of the most fragrant plants for any garden and especially loved by butterflies and hummingbirds, Chaparral Sage or salvia clevelandii sends out gorgeous blue-violet flowers.  Give it a bit of space as it can reach 5' tall by 5' wide.  You won't regret it!

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.

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What's HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks each month. This issue: a touch of the glamour of Old Hollywood.

 

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1. Vibrant Concha Chair

2. Monogram Coaster Set

3. HA/RU Pottery + Stand

4. Greek Key Rug

5. Pebble Table

6. Racquet Club Sofa

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Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This issue, two young men mix art, rebellion and preservation in a gardening cooperative in south Tucson. Plus: scroll down for cool product picks from Boxhill. (Editor's note: we recommend you read Darbi's piece while listening to this song by  Keith Cross.)

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

It’s a mild April morning in the south-side neighborhood of Barrio Centro. This urban backyard is perfectly appointed with bagels and coffee, three goats, a dog, windows covered with anti-SB 2281 signs, and a crop of over-wintered tomato plants ripe with the season’s first pick.

Chairs, tagged – as in the signature of a graffiti artist – surround an old grapefruit tree. Up against the tree is a white erase board with the morning’s agenda and the day’s activities.

Today, students from Prescott College’s Social Justice Education class fill each seat around the tree while the neighborhood’s youth – in the form of seasoned young men and women - speak about Barrio life through gardening, and their multi-faceted cooperative known as Flowers & Bullets.

Agenda

The Flowers & Bullets collective shares its expertise. Photo by Darbi Davis

Founders Tito Romero and Jacob Robles highlight the history and inspiration of the cooperative while Dora Martinez elaborates on the organizations that helped them (and hindered them) over the last few years. Ramon and Brandon, two more members of the cooperative, are quick to tell stories reflecting the rich history of life in Barrio Centro, as well as show off their own garden plots via smart phone.

The day’s tasks include: goat stand construction, compost, and weeds. Each student is randomly handed a name tag containing a tiny vegetable drawing in the corner that indicates the task to be tackled, and the group breaks out to work.

Struggle, resistance, empowerment and preservation all unfold in this gardening cooperative. Flowers are the art, say its founders. Bullets are the struggle.

Onions Gentrification of their neighborhood – the very neighborhood they grew up and still live in – was the primary catalyst for Tito and Jacob when they started their project. “The city split our neighborhood in half through neighborhood associations [groups of homeowners or business owners living within a specified boundary that advocate for improvements to the area]. As young people who grew up in Barrio Centro we've known the boundaries as 22nd Street to the north, Tucson Boulevard to the west, and Alvernon to the east. As a result, the [division] has given power to folks who have little ties to the younger generations or the much, much older generations of families who have lived in the neighborhood for years,” explained Tito.

After the split Tito and Jacob, residents of the eastern division, attempted to work with the Barrio Centro Association, which manages the western divide - Country Club to Tucson Blvd. But they were greeted with opposition and removed from the association’s email list. But Dora, an employee with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and a member of Flowers & Bullets, remained on the list because of her food bank email affiliation. It was later revealed by the Barrio Centro Association president that anyone associated with Flowers & Bullets was removed because they were thought to be gang affiliated.

While the group is not gang affiliated, the simple definition of the word somewhat describes how they operate. “We meet collectively and organize projects within a specific neighborhood,” says Dora. But their organized activities are the antithesis of deviance and a model of creative kindness and compassion.

photo by

Flowers & Bullets installed eight gardens in two months. Photo by Darbi Davis

Tito and Jacob graduated from the now banned Mexican American Studies program - a culturally relevant curriculum offered to any student within Tucson Unified School District, and a program they credit for encouraging them to better their communities and inspire the desire to share personal stories of culture and history with others.

Tito, photo by Darbi Davis

Tito, one of the founders. Photo by Darbi Davis

They credit the Hip-Hop movement for providing them with an artistic outlet to express their message. Flowers & Bullets is based on a combination of principles gleaned from both. “Hip-hop helps us stay grounded and reminds us of where we came from. It helps us relate to the people we want to serve and it's a powerful tool for young people to deliver a message,” says Tito.

Members of Flowers & Bullets also participate in programs offered by local environmental justice organizations, such as Tierra y Libertad, Green for All, and the Community Food Bank. Tito and Jacob volunteered or interned with many of these organizations and say: "Many of the experiences gave us the knowledge and confidence to do it for ourselves in our neighborhood.” Dora brings a wealth of information to the table - in addition to her work at the Food Bank - having spent several months interning at Sleeping Frog Farms.

As a gardening cooperative, Flowers & Bullets installed eight gardens in two months for residents within the modified boundaries of Barrio Centro – that’s one garden a week. They have a wait list of five additional families ready to participate in a community conversation that includes seed trading, plant starting, and storytelling – all for free and for the sake of their Barrios and their people. The volunteers have accomplished all of this while holding as many as three jobs each - equating to full time work or more.

Soilweb, photo by Darbi Davis

Photo by Darbi Davis

Currently, the cooperative teaches classes on the basic concepts of gardening such as plant care, composting, and the ins and outs of microbial rich soil. The educational component instills confidence in new gardeners leading to a plentiful bounty of homegrown food. In fact, they are often asked to teach outside of their target demographic, which brings us back to that mild April morning around the wise old grapefruit tree in Tito’s backyard.

photo by Darbi Davis

Seed trading, plant starting, story telling: Flowers & Bullets' work is literally from the ground up. Photo by Darbi Davis

“The students from Prescott were interested in putting in some work and learning what we were about. Although it isn't the demographic we serve, nor people from the neighborhood, it was really great to see the high school push-outs and the university drop-outs teaching college students how to get dirty,” says Tito.

Next month: We take a look at how Flowers & Bullets got the gardening buzz, meet the goats, and hear a bit of gardening history from the elders of the neighborhood.

* Tucson documentary filmmaker Ricardo Bracamonte, who joins 3 Story as our resident videographer, is following the Flowers & Bullets story. Below he shares a preview of a documentary on the cooperative, due out next summer. Music by Gazzze, a three-piece indie band from Tucson, AZ. For a link to their downloadable EP click here.

Darbi's Plant of the Month: Olneya Tesota or Ironwood Tree

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A flowering Ironwood tree. Photo by Darbi Davis

Native to the Sonoran Desert and currently in bloom around town, it's gray in color with pink/purple flowers followed by bean-like seed pods.  It's a slow grower and a bit pokey, but wow is it gorgeous.  See how it contrasts with other natives in the photograph.

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What's HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks each month. This issue: some sleek Mexicana style for the summer.

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  1. RECTANGLE PLANTER- These little beauties are made for outside, and there's no worrying about breakables. They come in six different patterns and plates to match.
  2. ITALIAN TERRA COTTA HARTFORD POT-  Nothing beats the real thing. These handmade pieces are timeless and can go in any landscape  or design easily.
  3. NACHO LIBRE PILLOW-  Just because no design is complete without one of these guys to add to your favorite outdoor sofa.
  4. RETRO BULLET PLANTER- Not everyone has time to scout for the original “bullet planter”. These come in 12 different colors and three different sizes. Choose from black, white or stainless bottom.
  5. VIBRANT CHAIR-  These are cool and comfortable, and there are 10 different colors and three base colors to choose from.
  6. BONFIRE-  This firepit doesn’t need to be on fire to look super awesome. It's a fire by night and a sculpture by day.

 

 

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Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: making the case for clotheslines. Plus: scroll down for cool product picks from BoxhillCover photo courtesy of Steve Martino.

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Photo courtesy of Steve Martino

It used to be a domestic art complete with cultural quirks, abundant conversation, memory making, and a visual record of trends and the passing of time, as clothes changed shape and hemlines rose and fell to reveal the latest fashions.

Darbi Davis. Photo by

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

But clotheslines disappeared with the onset of the dryer, when the convenience of a machine sent the string into extinction.  At the turn of the millennium, dryer usage accounted for 6% of household electricity use in the United States, according to the Department of Energy.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that residential dryers consume 445 million therms of natural gas annually, leading to carbon dioxide emissions of 32 million metric tons.

We should be grateful that the sun doesn’t hold grudges, as we scurry to bottle its energy, save money, and reverse what we created. The clothesline seems like an obvious energy-saving device, especially in southern Arizona - a place that has abundant sunshine and heat almost all year round.  Who wouldn’t want to save money, energy, and get outside more often - especially in our funky, arid town? And anyway, there's nothing easier, or cheaper: some taut rope, two trees, and the sun's rays.

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Photo courtesy of Steve Martino

Sadly, some view the clothesline as a property- value-reducing eyesore.  As a result, the most basic of energy saving concepts is banned in some residential communities and regulated through Homeowner Associations and their CC&R’s (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) – citing terms such as nuisance and unsightliness. Hence the 'Right to Dry' movement and websites such as laundrylist.org, where you'll find maps that indicate where it’s permissible and prohibited, complete with hefty fines, to let it all hang out and a wealth of information on your right to dry.

The good news for us in Tucson is that Solar Access Laws prevent the anti-line-dry laws from being valid in Arizona (and many other states). But still, some communities in our county have banned clothelines.

Tucson resident Hope Reed loves her clothesline which stretches from the ramada to a trellis across the backyard of her barrio abode.  “I love my clothesline.  Crisp sheets are the best, and I feel like a jerk running the dryer when our yard is often like a big oven,” says Hope.

3 Story’s own Gillian Drummond says she can count on one hand the number of times she has used her electric dryer. “It came with the house, otherwise I honestly wouldn’t bother having one. It just doesn’t make sense to me when the washing dries quicker outside than in a dryer. Hanging out my washing takes extra time, but I see it as a chance for some fresh air. I have photos of my kids wrapping themselves in sheets hanging on the line. It’s fun, and I happen to love the look of it – this constantly changing colorful art in your yard.”

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Arty things are planned for the clothesline at this Menlo Park property. Photo by Darbi Davis

Wardrobe consultant Monica Negri gets playful with her Tucson clothesline. Photo courtesy of Monica Negri

Wardrobe consultant Monica Negri gets playful with her Tucson clothesline. Photo courtesy of Monica Negri

When Monica Negri, wardrobe consultant and owner of Ten Outfits, first suggested a clothesline to her husband, he scoffed. "Being who I am, I negated his opinion and went out and bought one anyway," she says.

Five years later, her husband loves it - and so does Monica. "Why use a dryer in the desert when the Arizona sun and heat dry clothes in 15 minutes? Also, I think it is just cool. I love looking at all the clothes lined up."

The fact is, clotheslines literally can be art - and that bucks the notion that it’s an eyesore. They can also help with passive cooling. For example, an artfully designed clothesline on the west side of a home might shade a west facing wall when used during certain times of the day.  That is exactly what is planned for this Menlo Park property I am currently working on (pictured opposite).  The clothesline will move from the Ramada to the west side where a hefty line will span between two abstract metal sculptures (one is currently functioning as modern outdoor art and the other was found laying helpless behind a shed).  Ironically, the metal sculpture and its not-so-loved partner are classic, rusted, and repurposed clothesline poles from an era when clotheslines were the only option.

Phoenix-based landscape Architect Steve Martino demonstrates how a basic clothesline can inspire a modern look of “a clothesline awning.” It actually shades a window and blocks the view to the neighbor’s roof, says Steve.  And although it’s not used for hanging clothes, the design clearly hints at line-dried nostalgia.  (Take that, HOA’s!)

clotheslineart

Phoenix landscape architect Steve Martino was inspired by clothes lines with this yard fixture. Photo courtesy of Steve Martino

National Hanging Out Day is April 19th, which seems like a perfect opportunity to rekindle a clothesline ritual.  Aesthetic options are endless, but keep it simple and the chances of a weekly routine settling in might be greater.  The process, while a bit longer than dumping into a dryer, offers a moment of fresh air, a break from the indoors, and hopefully a feeling that you are doing some good for the planet – and saving money while you're at it.

Darbi's Plant of the Month: Trichocereus hybrids

trichocereushybrid

Photo by Darbi Davis

These are from South America but do exceptionally well in our climate. They have the most spectacular display of flowers typically later in the Spring. But, possibly due to our warm winter in Southern Arizona, they are flowering earlier this year. Photographs can hardly capture their beauty.

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What's HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks each month. This issue: getting in the mood for Spring.

boxhill april 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Ground Floor

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Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: a 24-hour desert gardening competition. Plus: scroll down for cool product picks from BoxhillCover photo courtesy of Boxhill.

Design Challenge Winner

Judges' choice  2013, 1st Place, was by Janis & Phil Van Wyck Projects

 

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

GrowDown! The Great Tucson Garden Design Challenge, is back for the second year and hotter than ever. Beginning March 18th, three designers will battle the headwinds of constraint while constructing elaborate designs upon petite plots of barren space on the grounds of  Tucson Botanical Gardens.  In only 24 hours, strictly divided into three 8-hour days, each of the designers will bring their creations to life while the public observes from the hedgeline.

“The public can expect to see some seriously elaborate designs. This year we have fire features, a chicken coop and lots of exciting sustainable features incorporated into the finalists' proposed landscapes. I expect some of the designers will need to get creative to overcome unseen challenges to stick to their designs. It will be a lot of hard work for these designers,” says Melissa D’Auria, TBG's director of marketing.

Design Challenge Winner

People's Choice 2013 was by Scott Calhoun of Zona Gardens

After three hours of deliberation, the three finalists were chosen based on skill level and difficulty of the designs. The resulting trifecta of savvy landscape designers represents a think tank of innovative, intelligent design, and it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about performing under pressure.  All have trained hard, under the direction of The University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture.  While each works for a different local landscape design firm, their common thread lies in their passionate respect for the preservation and conservation of our arid climate.  Their differences will reveal themselves through their individual style and how they capitalize on the microclimates or lack thereof, within the confines of their relatively tiny space.

Iylea Olson

Iylea Olson

1. Iylea Olson represents LJ Design & Consulting, a firm that competed in last year’s inaugural Growdown! competition.

About Iylea: She’s rooted in Tucson but crept eastward, expanding her expertise into eastern medicine and martial arts.  These skills complement her additional professional passions - plant science, food gardening, and community outreach. Aesthetically, she blurs the line between modern and natural through her formal use of native plants and naturally functioning earthwork features.  Her ultimate goal for any project “is to meet the needs of my clients while maintaining respect for our local context; creating spaces for people, plants and wildlife to thrive.”

She loves: As a self-proclaimed plant nerd, she loves Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata).  "The smell of creosote after a warm summer rain is hard to beat, it makes for a lovely natural screen, and its medicinal properties are a major plus. A little salve made from the leaves is perfect for healing cuts and insect bites.”

Allen

Allen Denomy

2. Micaela Machado and Allen Denomy represent Solana Outdoor Living.

About Micaela and Allen: Both are Southern Arizona natives and sculpture artists.  They consider themselves “luxury sustainable designers who artfully blend modern design and innovative technology to enhance the surrounding natural beauty while protecting our environment.”

He loves: Allen’s favorite plant is Whales tongue (Agave ovatifolia) "for its sculptural quality, cool texture and bold statement."

Micaela of Solana Outdoor Living

Micaela Machado

He avoids: “Oleander because it’s outdated, uses too much water and is poisonous to giraffes.”

She loves: She refers to the Chitalpa tree as a “hidden gem that is beautiful and perfect for Tucson due to its size, awesome flowers and super-cool bark.”

She avoids: You won’t find any Lantana in Micaela’s designs, because like Oleander, “they use too much water, but they can also reseed themselves, which can be a huge problem in waterways, and some varieties are also poisonous if ingested.”

3. Maria Voris represents Petrichor Design + Build

About Maria: Maria is a designer and a flamenco dancer, so it’s not surprising that her designs are choreographed for flow. "They aren't overly complicated, and pay attention to comfort with little details that tell a story in some way or catch the eye making the space special and unique,” she says.

MVoris

Maria Voris

She loves: She has a hard time choosing her favorite desert plant because, “there are so many to love! Chuparosa is looking fantastic right now and is a great nectar source for hummingbirds. I also love flattop buckwheat for its year-round great looks and ease of care.”

She avoids: She doesn’t have a specific hated plant but simply refers us to the Arizona Native Plant Society's web site for a list of invasive plants to watch out for.  “Yucky invasives are bad for Sonoran desert health!”

* Want to see the designers get dusty in their race to construct a desert landscape? Head down to Tucson Botanical Gardens at 2150 N. Alvernon Way to cheer them on. Growdown! installation is from 7 am to 3 pm, Wednesday March 19th through Friday March 21st. Judging and awards will be held Saturday March 22nd, but the designs will be up for the public to see until May. More here.

Darbi's Plant of the Month: Creosote Bush

Creosote Bush. Photo by Darbi Davis

Creosote bush. Photo by Darbi Davis

Creosote Bush, or larrea tridentata, is a lovely native shrub with yellow flowers that can be seen right now.  Crush a few of its petite, shiny green leaves in your hand and you will smell a fragrance reminiscent of rain in the desert.  It is also famous for its medicinal properties, from soothing skin conditions to pain relief.

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What's HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks each month. This issue: Spring must-haves for the yard.

Boxhill

Ground Floor

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Worms from the Vermillion Wormery

Photo by Darbi Davis

Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: Darbi's love affair with, um, worms. Plus: scroll down for cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Several years ago, somewhere between graduate school and child rearing, I decided it was time to venture into the world of composting. Food scraps, yard waste and newspapers were collected in the hopes of producing black gold with the advantage of a lighter garbage can. Two years went by, and there was no sign of anything soft or fluffy in that large, black bin. But it was infested with every species of roach in existence. We quit composting as a result.

1) Worm FOOD!

Worm food! Photo by Darbi Davis

Over time, the horrible memories faded and our family grew – as did the guilt of watching the garbage fill with food scraps and yard waste. I reconsidered the art of composting and decided to try out a far more fascinating method – worms.

For months, I researched the process of worm composting, determined to find a system that was convenient, functional, and of course aesthetic, across all phases of the composting process. I was hoping to start my bin with 'local' worms, and discovered the Vermillion Wormery in Oracle, met the most delightful worm coach, Linda Leigh PhD, and began my adventure.

Uncomposted material with news paper shreds and castings when all the critters have completed the process.

Uncomposted material with newspaper shreds (left)  and
castings, after the worms have completed the
process. Photo by Darbi Davis

Linda is the resident expert on worms and many other topics related to the natural environment (she’s lived in an ecosystem outside of the earth’s atmosphere longer than anyone on earth, in Biosphere 2, and she survived an encounter with a 9 foot charging bear in Alaska). So, of course, I asked her a few questions about vermicomposting.

“What I love most about worms is their ability to transform worm food into plant food,” says Linda. “That process of transformation into the microbially rich castings [worm poop]is not well understood by science, and I love that mystery of it. The worm bin is a fabulous educational tool. I also love that almost everyone has a story about worms!”

And I love that worm composting is so compact. All you need is a bin (a regular plastic tote will do it ), bedding, and of course the wriggly farmers themselves.

Here are her tips for making worm composting work:

* Use the right bin Dr. Leigh recommends using a 10 gallon tote to start because it is light enough to move around even when full of castings, and easily starts with a pound of worms. The worms can be purchased online or at the Vermillion Wormery. One pound is adequate for a two-person household and requires a minimal investment in the event that worms don’t flourish in your household.

2) Preparing the Worm Bedding - Coco Coir

Preparing the coco coir worm bedding, Photo by Darbi Davis

* Give the worms bedding Worm bedding, consisting of coco coir, composted horse manure or newspaper shreds, is critical in keeping the worms moist so they can breathe and it serves as a habitat for other microorganisms to thrive and process waste before the worms even eat the food. Think of it as a food processing plant! Coco coir is a natural byproduct of harvesting coconut and is a good medium for the novice and smaller indoor bins because it retains moisture well while still allowing for air circulation.

* Buy local Purchasing worms online is reliable and okay; however, make sure you get a full pound of worms, not worms plus bedding equaling one pound. Worms can quickly die in high temperatures so many places will not ship during the summer. Locally fed worms from places like the Vermillion Wormery are the best source because they eat local waste. Locally produced compost is as equally important as locally-grown food, for many of the same reasons.

* Worms will move to their food.  If it's in a flat bin, they will find it.  If it's in a tower-like bin, they will migrate up to it or over (but worms can't jump, so the tower bins must be touching), and back down if necessary.  They do not like light so if the food is near a light source, they probably won't get to it.

Linda’s information above is critical when starting your own worm composting system. There are also many great books on these delightful subterranean dwellers, such as Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, and my favorite, The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms by Amy Stewart.

Here the worms migrate up through holes in each tray to reach their food.

Here the worms migrate up through holes in each
tray to reach their food. Photo by Darbi Davis

For the last year, I can honestly say that these teeny, tiny subterranean farmers have changed our lives. I love that I don’t fear my compost, and that my whole family has an amazing respect for those ridiculously wiggly worms and their underground community. My children are actively involved in their maintenance, and the harvested castings  have turned around seemingly sterile soil.

They truly have become part of the family. For most of the year they reside on our patio. During the heat of summer, we move them into the hall closet, and on the coldest nights they have been known to join us by the living room fireplace. I kid you not.

* Find out more about the Vermillion Wormery here. Visit them every Sunday at the Tucson St. Philip’s Farmer’s Market from 9 am to 1 pm, where they have worm composting systems and worm compost on display.

Darbi's Plant of the Month: Aloe 

Aloe1 Aloes are lovely succulent plants from Africa that do well in the desert, and come in a variety of sizes and flower colors. Their flowers are gorgeous and should be shooting up any day now if they haven't already (these guys are active during the winter months and dormant during the summer).

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What's HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks each month. This issue: outdoor solutions inspired by Pantone's Color of the Year.

NewW_Huesday-Radiant-Orchid

Pantone is the authority on color, and makes predictions for what colors will be popular and why - in fashion, home, industrial design and many other areas of commerce. BOXHILL has used Radiant Orchid, the color of the year, and paired it with complimentary colors  and products  you could use in your outdoor space. Clockwise from top left:
Outdoor Double Cocoon: A cozy little outdoor swing to snuggle up to or put in your favorite tree or patio, it comes in this yummy fresh avocado color. It's small enough to carry, yet big enough to share. From wind and wet to sun and sea, its high quality, weather-proof fabric resists all the elements.

Brass Tray and Vase : We paired up with HCV (Hot Cool Vintage) with the tray and vase. Loving how we can add vintage bones to any outdoor space. In good vintage condition, this gorgeous hand hammered brass Samovar tray dates back to the turn of the 19th century.

Cement Façade Table: This beautiful and unique pair of decorative details from Arms & Barnes has been salvaged from a building in Philadelphia. The material was crafted into a pair of end tables with custom steel frames. They can be put together making a larger table or separated to flank both sides of your favorite sofa or lounge chair. The pair can also be used on an outdoor patio.Each end table measures 18.5”D x 15”W x 20”H

Classic Boho Area Rug: Our reversible polypropylene mats are made to last! But like everything else we have to take good care of them. Hose clean and drip dry if you wash them. Ideally, roll them up when not in use. For safe indoor use we recommend carpet double face tape at both ends. Product is recyclable at the end of its life-cycle. Comes in 4x6 size.

 

Ground Floor

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Octopus Agave_Penstemon

Octopus Agave  and Penstemon

Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: spreading the desert love through plant swaps. Plus, cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by

Darbi Davis. Photo by

Desert gardening may seem tough at times, but one of the easy things about it is that, once native plants are grown, they're easy to share. Propagation can be a cinch, and once you've done that you can spread the love in your own yard - or pass them on to others.

Many of our succulents - native and non-native – such as, cacti, aloe, and other juicy leafed gems are easily propagated through cuttings. Other plants such as some agaves produce 'pups' - little baby plants that pop up around the parent plant or on the flower stalk. And finally, the most common method of growing plants is from seed.

plantswap2 Cuttings are literally cutting a leaf or stem of the plant, placing it in soil and waiting for roots to sprout. Cuttings from some plants such as cacti need to be left to 'heal' or callus prior to rooting in soil. This means they form a harder callus-like surface first. Crassulas, Sempervivums, and Sedums are some examples of succulents that will root from leaves, and often a spectacular shade of hot pink tentacle-like roots can be seen before you even plant them in soil.

Octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) is a good example of a desert plant that pups from a flower stalk, while Squid agave (Agave bracteosa) pups from roots.

Seeds are probably the most common method of plant propagation and can be found in a seedpod that develops after flowering. Some are easier to germinate than others, so a bit of knowledge is sometimes required. Many vegetables, wildflowers, or other plants such as salvia, penstemon, and desert mallow make seed collecting (and propagation) easy.

Once you have mastered the art of propagation, you’ll probably feel the sudden desire for more plants, or realize your over-abundance and want to share. The logical next step is the Tucson Plant Swap.

The Swap was established three short months ago by Jon Grubbs, a non-plant professional but someone with a lot of plant-nerd friends, a general love for plants, and a lust for frugality. Says Jon: “Plants are an expensive habit, and beautify the community – so why not trade?”

plantswap1

A meeting of the Tucson Plant Swap. Photo courtesy of Tucson Plant Swap.

Initially, the Swap was held at Jon’s house, but has since moved to a more permanent location at The Maker House in downtown Tucson. Jon refers to it as more of “a plant pot luck.” He says: "There are no rules. You don’t have to know about plants or bring plants to attend, although common courtesy is encouraged, and greed is discouraged, i.e. don’t take a lot of one plant unless there is excess, and swap knowledge too!”

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

The Tucson Plant Swap's next meeting is slated for mid-February or March at the Maker House. But before you go, bear in mind these basic plant swap rules:

  1. Bring your plants in a container labeled with the name of the plant and any special growing conditions.
  2. Remember last month’s column on invasive plants? If you have a lot of one plant that seems to be growing too well, make sure it is not invasive or prone to jumping the fence! You don’t want to share that kind of love. But do share your knowledge if you notice any of our local pests at the exchange.
  3. Ponder your space before you embark on the plant swap. You want to provide a happy place for those tiny treasures to thrive, so make sure you have enough room for your new adoptees.

Justicia Californica Chuparosa

Darbi's Plant of the Month: Justicia Californica Chuparosa

If you like winter bloomers, this is one to have in your yard.  Native to the Sonoran Desert, this drought-tolerant gem has brilliant orange (or yellow) tubular flowers and succulent-like stems, and the hummingbirds find them irresistible.
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What's HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks of the month. This issue: a gift basket and watering can to help kickstart your 2014 garden.

Ground Floor

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Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: alien plant invaders. Plus, Boxhill has some Holiday picks of the month.

grass

”If we don’t find that pod before it germinates, it’ll be the end of everything. Everything, do you understand? Even your pension!” The Seeds Of Doom (Doctor Who, BBC, 1976)

This may seem like an outlandish way to start a plant rant, but truth be known it isn’t far from reality.  Last month, the Tucson Botanical Gardens opened their newest exhibit called “Alien Invasion of the Plant Kind.”

tbgalienlogo

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

According to TBG's marketing manager Melissa D’Auria, the concept was inspired to “educate and inform the public about invasive plants and their impending environmental impact through the lens of colorful, vintage media” – specifically sci-fi horror films and their accompanying posters.

While the films are not rolling at the exhibit, they all allude to man-eating plants that take over the world - kill, murder, steal, and strangle anything in their path, not unlike that famous episode of Doctor Who.  It’s a metaphor that appropriately illustrates the impact alien plant species have on our ecosystem. And their potential effects were underscored recently when singer Katy Perry’s new album Prism - containing seed paper that can be planted - was labeled a biohazard by Australia’s Department of Agriculture.

Outside of Hollywood, these plants are called invasive species typically introduced to a new region where they take up residence, and then take over.

Fountain Grass. Photo by National Park Service.

Fountain Grass. Photo by National Park Service.

There are a handful of prolific plants of concern in the Sonoran Desert, some earning special project status due to their destructive tendencies, such as buffelgrass.  Others are basic pests, and others syphon water until there is nothing left to share with the natives.  We have highlighted four invasive desert plants most likely to be found in your back yard. So beware; you might be tending to them a bit too carefully.

1.  Rhus lancea (African sumac)

African Sumac. Photo by

African Sumac. Photo by Darbi Davis

Have you heard the saying “Leaves of three, let it be”?  This is a good way to identify this weed that quickly grows into a dense shade tree and then via sucker or seed turns your yard, and your neighborhood into a water-slurping weed forest.  The leaves and bark can be an irritant and the pollen is highly allergenic.  It grows fast, and by the time it becomes a short shrub it is tough to remove.  If after reading this, you are inspired to chop yours down, whatever you do don’t burn the wood, because inhaling the smoke may irritate your lungs.

2.  Tamarisk spp. (Saltcedar)

Salt Cedar

Salt Cedar. Photo by Darbi Davis

Saltcedar is a riparian species, meaning that it likes water.  This tree can be found along our desert waterways and in urban areas.  It tends to be more opportunistic when water is abundant, germinating quicker than our native willows, cottonwoods and mesquites.  They compete for water and win.  Additionally, they contain high levels of salt (hence their name). This increases the salinity of the topsoil, which is undesirable for our local friendly flora.

 

3.  Pennisetum setaceum (Fountaingrass)

The other day I opened my kid’s lunch box and found the soft, sexy, furry burrs of fountaingrass.  Some remained attached to the inflorescence.  The remainder lined the interior of the lunch sack.  I was horrified.  Fountaingrass is sexy and seductive as it sways, backlit by the sun, but it reseeds and pushes out the natives.  Carefully get rid of it, and remember to regularly inspect the area for seedlings. There are lovely native grasses to replace fountain grass.  Deer Grass, Bull Grass and Little bluestem are three of my favorites.

Fountain_Grass_2

Fountain Grass. Photo by Darbi Davis

 

4.  Enchylaena tomentosa (Ruby saltbush)

A recent move provided me with a lovely specimen of Ruby saltbush, straddling the property boundary from my neighbor’s yard into mine.  It drapes over an ocotillo fence, and it doesn’t look bad.  The birds love it.  The seeds are brilliantly colored– pink like that of prickly pear fruit.  But each seed that drops into my yard proves endless weeding opportunities.  It really doesn’t need water.  After visiting the Tucson Botanical Gardens exhibit, I learned Ruby saltbush is a relatively new invasive species to our area.  It is an Australian native, and I can see it as the next Sonoran strangler.  It thrives… on nothing.  The experts at the Gardens suggest “pulling it out and carefully disposing of it,” but for the life of me I can’t seem to dig down far enough to get the sibling volunteer out of my front yard.

Ruby_Saltbush

Ruby Saltbush. Photo by Darbi Davis

Next time you stroll the yard or walk your neighborhood, look out for these destructive devils.  They thoroughly enjoy our harsh climate, have a complex subterranean water-sourcing network, and bully the natives with their aggressive growth and reproductive behaviors.  Some of them burn hot, but not so hot that they endanger their own, just hot enough to suffocate the native seed.

* The exhibit at Tucson Botanical Gardens runs through April and is abundant with feared foliage, paired with vintage horror and information on the most destructive invasive species threatening our desert.

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What's HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks of the month. This issue, it's merry and modern.

GardenGuideHOHOHO

1. TIN & GLASS STARLIGHT - Designed to be versatile, these stars add great light to a design space.
2. MOSS LETTERS - This 18-20" high, moss covered letter is constructed using real, live green moss
3. SNAZZY STILT BOX - This stilt container allows for proper drainage of plants while keeping the container off of the ground while adding spice and décor to the landscape.
4. LUSTROUS LEMON WREATH - A taste of the Italian Countryside! This bright yellow coated magnolia wreath is sure to brighten your front door.
5. RED + WHITE TANGIER RUG - These rugs offer a rich textural surface while being durable enough for any high traffic area of your home
6. URBANFIRE - The Urbanfire has a modern star burner mounted to its firebowl to provide a perfectly dispersed flame.