Glory's Garden

All the world's a garden, you know, and we are mere flowers within it. Come, I'll show you!

Don't get any funny ideas!

©2018 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved

My Peeps!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What my garden taught me - the hard way, a Guest post by Diane Quinn

My desert garden taught me quickly, and taught me well, and I've got the scars to prove it! Mojave Desert gardening is not for the faint of heart. It is also not for people who are squeamish at the sight of a needle. Cacti back up their don't-mess-with-me appearance with more than just a bad attitude.

I moved as a tenderfoot from the lush vegetation and wet climate of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to the driest area in North America. The gardening and climate shock surpassed the cultural shock and proved to be a more painful learning experience for me.

Where I come from, the soil is so rich that anyone can call themselves a gardener. You dig a hole, you put the plant inside the hole, you cover up the hole, and then you let Mother Nature take over. All right, maybe you do have to spray for the occasional pest, and maybe I am understating the value of a good "green thumb". In the desert, anything, and I do mean anything, that manages to grow survives with a level of tenacity that, if it could be applied to humans, we would already have the cure for Cancer.

For those of you who live where it actually rains more than four inches a year, you may believe that "desert" and "landscaping" are a contradiction in terms. In the West, those words are code for either terracotta or beige colored sand and rocks in lieu of that high maintenance green turf that I had previously always taken for granted. Upon that basic, desert canvas an assortment of low-water plants are strategically placed, that is, if one is lucky enough to have a drip system. In my case, there was no luxury item attached-just me and my trusty hose.

Gone were the pacifist maple trees of my past. Instead, they were replaced with sentinel-like Joshua trees with a strange bark that grew downward in the shape of shark's teeth. In another corner of my yard was a small, scrawny looking palo verde tree. As this tree matured lethal-looking needles popped out on its perpetually green limbs. It was then that I began to wonder: "Was there anything in my desert garden that wasn't capable of sending me to the emergency room?"

In the minority were pacifist plants like purple sage and brightly colored garzania daisies. They became polka dots of color scattered among rocks throughout a drainage area called a river-of-rock. (Yes, I mean no water - just the rocks.)

These plants were mere fluff when viewed beside the arsenal of desert stalwarts in my garden like the sword sharp Mojave yucca; the graceful, but sharp edged Spanish
yucca; a cow-tongue cactus with two inch teeth and an elephant ear cactus with needles large enough to fit a sewing machine. Against all odds, these plants seemed to be winning a private war against the rain god, and they were winning with persistent chutzpah!

I had two things working against me from the beginning: I was an ignorant tenderfoot and I'm an Aries. You know, my "sign" represented by a ram - those creatures with big horns and a tendency to run into hard objects on impulse. As a result, here are some lessons that I learned VERY quickly:
1. Do not wear sandals or any type of canvass shoe in the yard even if your feet do need to get a tan. Your tan will not cover the scars that the odds guarantee.
2. Do not assume that standard garden gloves will protect your hands. (And, no, they do not sell any steel type fabric in the form of a glove at Home Depot.)
3. Do not use a 6-inch knife to trim any, and I do mean ANY cactus. Count on it - you will be stabbed and you will be sorry.
4. Do not think that you can stick a trimmed off piece of cactus with your knife in order to remove it from the ground. Trust me, it will slip off your knife and land on your flip-flop wearing foot.
5. Do not use plastic bags, (boxes or heavy paper bags preferred), for removal of cactus unless you want a lawsuit from your trash removal company.
6. Do not wear a hat, visor or sunglasses when working under a palo verde tree. Unless, of course, you have an especially hard head, and you won't mind if a two-inch needle pierces your scalp after you bang into a limb because you didn't see it.
7. Do not water a cactus, unless you want to kill it. (Yes, these warriors do have a weakness.) If Mother Nature doesn't provide the rain, keep your hose off of it.
Ah, yes, I remember the good old days of gardening in Pennsylvania. It was easy to be careless there because nothing in my yard wanted to slice and dice me with the precision of a Veg-O-Matic. However, with every prick, stab or slice, I gained a new respect for what it truly means to be tenacious. All vegetation in the desert fights for its life and must eventually find a way to adapt. When it finally dawned on me that our move west had certainly forced me to develop many of the same characteristics as the plants I waged a war against, I gained a new respect for my thorny adversaries.

I can laugh now at my early desert gardening foibles. It also seems fitting that I have retained a rather ugly looking needle prick on the top of an index finger that, even after two years, has still not gone away. The tiny nodules from the nasty cactus prick remain embedded under my skin as a constant reminder of a tenderfoot's lack of patience when approaching a cactus pruning job. This red bump with hardened skin may not fit any standard of beauty, but when I look at it I see more than just a blemish, and I have to smile.

I smile at the tenderfoot who too often felt like a pin cushion and who still values a tan on her feet more than a possible attack from an overly defensive cactus. Well, I am an Aries after all, and I try not to hold a grudge.

 Diane Quinn is a "green living" friend of mine and yet another Heliumite who writes wonderfully humorous stories and informative articles for Helium and for several print publications.


  1. Beautiful, interesting article make even better by a good dose of humor. Magnificent pictures. I especially like the pink flowers and the purple trumpet flowers. I wouldn't mind seeing this desert for real.

  2. Hey, this is my second attempt to post a comment. Did something wrong in signing off.
    Diane, you have convinced me to stay in Georgia, where our biggest problem is an occasional season when the tomatoes split a little from the hot sun. You have done a great job in all of the hardness of the desert! The flowers and other plants are beautiful. You deserve to have the Order of the Bronze Cactus "pinned"to your lapel!

    And, Glory. Keep doing your good work in having guests on your blog. Sir Don de lu here - and there!

  3. I'm always quite astonished at the diversity of climates and flora in the USA and love it when I see it myself or at least have others tell me about it.

  4. I can relate to all of this, and found myself chuckling a little too familiarly at some of those "pointers."

    Over the years, I've lost many a plant (and entire garden) to the desert climate. Still, when you love to garden as much as I do, you simply have to keep plugging away.

    Great article, Diane! Thanks for such a fun post, Glory:)

  5. This is a very cool (HOT and prickly) gardening story. Now I REALLY appreciate my "questionable" soil, climate and plants. At least they don't try to skewer gardening participants at every opportunity.

  6. Imagine killing a plant with too much water!

    Lovely post, so enjoyed reading it.

  7. Wow! So inspiring and funny with those little humors. I like this blog so much and I will share this with my friends.

  8. Glad to have you with us, Tabby!

  9. I have read more than a hundred blog articles on gardening but it's the first time I have encountered a very different and unusual garden such as yours. I think if you can manage to grow plants in such extreme environment, I would say that you really have the real green thumb.

  10. I just love your garden!In my region the cactus plant is rare and doesn't grow well!

  11. Wow nice plants you've got there!Congrats on your little corner of heaven!

  12. Wow. What an inspiring blog and I am in love with your flowers! They are all indeed a gorgeous flower.

  13. MANY THANKS to everyone for your very kind comments about my crazy article written several years ago. All of you who live in lush locales and that get regular rain should not take for granted those weeds growing in your garden. Love them! Celebrate them! Embrace them! Why, because we have weeds that grow here that defy weed killer. I'm NOT kidding. People just let them grow into giant bushes and find it much easier to pretend that the green thing growing in the corner isn't a weed. Hey, when it's 108 degrees, who really cares? :-)

  14. Your garden is great! And I admire you because I believe that the true test of gardening is being able to grow plants in an extreme environment. Cactus is my favorite and I found out that there are hundreds different species of cacti. Maybe you can try planting a lot of these varieties.

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  17. You accept all that spam shit Glory. I get at least ten a day of these anonymous comments and I delete them all. All they want is to advertise their side. It's spam, nothing more, nothing less, they post the same messages everywhere.
    I do wonder though why I get notified of this shit.

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