Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Chitalpa Tree

I'd like to highlight my Chitalpa tree and give my opinion on this variety.
This is my single-trunk "Pink Dawn" Chitalpa Tree, planted in March 2016 (so just over a year ago). It was purchased at Treeland Nursery in Mesa, AZ for about $50 (15 gallon size).

Here's how it looked the day I planted it (March 11, 2016), next to my 6 year-old (at the time) daughter.
Basically a large twig with about a 1 inch diameter trunk. 

Here is the tag that came on the tree. 

And a better photo of it a few days/weeks after planting.

Over the past year, I have needed to brace it a few times with tree stakes because our winds seem to always be blowing to the east and the tree started looking lop-sided, and still does, especially when it has no leaves in the winter time. I have watered it on a newly planted, desert adapted watering schedule, once every 1-3 weeks depending on the season/temperatures. It's growth rate has been incredible and it has proved to be very strong in high winds even without staking. It was barren for several months in the winter, losing it's leaves after most deciduous trees I observed and growing them again it seemed almost overnight in March. The flowers took the show in April and I love staring out my windows and front door at it's beauty.  

Overall, I am so happy with my choice to plant this tree in my front yard. I am excited to watch it grow larger (20-25 feet tall). I sometimes wish I could have found the multi-trunk variety, but sometimes I see them around town and they look more sprawly with less dense canopies, so I usually end up just loving the one I have. 
The Chitalpa is a cross between the Desert Willow and Catalpa trees. I planted a multi-trunk Desert Willow in my yard this past fall and even though it's tiny now, I know that the two will look great together with their similar blossoms, which are both pale pink. 
Slightly off-centered trunk

I love this tree and am happy about it's flowering, size and low water needs once it is established in my yard. 

In the Edible Garden - May 2017

My four garden beds are mostly occupied with tomato plants, but I have one bed dedicated to cantaloupe melons and several other crops going on currently; trellised Armenian cucumbers, multi-colored carrots, bell pepper (no fruit yet), pole green beans, luffa squash, zucchini squash, green onions (always), basil (always) and garlic (I've harvested several small bulbs). Strawberries are still growing in a pot near my porch where they get morning sun only. 

Armenian Cucumber

Armenian cucumber

Cantaloupe melon (aka muskmelon)

Cantaloupe Melon (aka muskmelon)

Rosemary (finally growing well with partial shade)

Basil from seeding mother plant

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Gusty Spring

I've been really enjoying my growing plants this Spring. It has been really windy the past few days and the weather was a little cooler, which encouraged me to be outdoors trimming and giving other attention to my plants. Here are some photos of our backyard taken a few weeks back. The yard looks so different from when we moved in August of 2015. And I have plenty of dreams for it to look better in the next years, but I'm also practicing patience. It is so rewarding seeing plants grow into what I imagined when in the planning stages. I love how the view out my home windows improves with each season.

Tarocco Blood Orange Tree, planted Feb 2016

Improving view from my kitchen window

2 new hibiscus plants

Young volunteer basil plant I moved from another garden bed.

Flowering Green Onion

Armenian cucumber plants climbing, I supported them with some twisty ties. Compost behind.

Tiny cucumber forming

Luffa Squash seedling. First I soaked the luffa seeds 24 hours with no sprouting. Then I rubbed new seeds with fine sand paper and they sprouted! They required protection from birds.

Pole Green Beans. We'll see if they can share their trellis with the luffa squash plants. I'm anticipating them running out of space.

Yellow Bell Pepper plant, clustered blossoms in the center top of the small plant.

Patio tomato plant growing well in a large pot. I've been more diligent this season with fertilizing my garden, about every 2-3 weeks.

Cantaloupe (muskmelon) plants growing slowly

My beautiful Chaste Tree, growing fast, tripled original size since planting 1 year ago.

Chaste Tree blooms, bees are enjoying them.

Front yard, Young Desert Willow's first blooms this month. Planted Fall 2016, (Free SRP Shade Tree)

Desert Willow

Front yard, Chitalpa Tree, ruffly blooms. Trying to know how to prune this oddly-growing tree. It is growing toward the east side, so is lopsided. May need some staking to straiten it up.

Front yard, First time enjoying blooms (and new bright-green growth) on my wax leaf privet. When we moved in it was in bad health with overspray of herbicides (all the plants in the front yard were really bad looking, almost unrecognizable.)

Wax Leaf Privet

Friday, March 31, 2017

March in the Edible Garden

It's easy to take more photos of my flower gardens than my vegetable garden. Especially now when everything is small and just beginning for this season. I was pleased with the harvests with the fall garden and while some of those plants are still producing (garlic, cilantro, tomato, carrot, green onion, basil), I tore out a few crops when the weather warmed up (Celery, turned out tough and small) (Snap peas and lettuces, kale, spinach, eggplant) to make room for Armenian cucumber starts from my friend Shirlee and pear tomato starts from my friend James and yellow bell pepper and patio tomato plants from A&P nursery. 

Volunteer Tomato plant from Fall 2016

Armenian Cucumber starts I will try to train up a trellis

Yellow Bell Pepper

Patio Tomato

Cantaloupe Melon from seeds planted 2/8/17, very slow to grow

3 Strawberry plants from May 2016 starts
 I also purchased a few more trellises (raw metal ones in the lumber area of Home Depot, not sure what type of construction work they are actually intended for). In February, I planted luffa squash seeds after soaking them for 24 hours, but they never sprouted. I may try again. I also planted green bean (pole) seeds last week and they sprouted quickly but my tortoises got into them and ate them down to the ground. I am fixing that problem with an additional garden bed by the wall with the trellis.
We have harvested many tiny strawberries and enjoyed the deep flavor compared to store bought strawberries. I moved them back to a place in my yard where they receive afternoon shade since the weather has been hot lately. 

Strongest Papaya Tree

I still have my two Papaya trees growing near my garden. One had it's trunk broken (probably one of my children), but I braced it up with a bamboo stick and it is still alive. I water them infrequently and deeply. It will be exciting to watch them grow taller and determine their genders.

Just Can't Quit this Gardening Thing - Spring Flowers

Nasturtium 3/13/17
I realized today how much I I have invested in my garden and yard when I was organizing all the plant containers from the nurseries I have purchased plants at in the past year. I have quite a stash of containers, I should start up my own nursery someday. 

My yard is beautiful this time of year with so many colors of blooms and a lot of spring growth. I am so excited that my citrus tree has finally began to grow with the addition of hundreds of beautiful bright green leaves. We only had one orange blossom on the entire tree though, so we will see if we have one single orange on it this winter. I sprayed the tree for thrips (I used Fertilome Triple Action Plus) one early morning to hopefully help the new foliage to stay beautiful and not have cosmetic damage show up in fall.

Chaste and Chitalpa Trees have their new Spring leaves. I was so excited to see them sprouting out beginning of March.
Chaste Tree 3/9/17

Chaste Tree 3/9/17
I love the showy flowers on nasturtium. My kids love to nibble on the leaves while they play outdoors. I was so excited to have a return my investment by harvesting many seeds from the plants. It was interesting to see how the seeds form after the flowers are spent. I left them on the plant until the seeds easily pulled off (on average 3 seeds per flower). Then I left them to dry. I look forward to planting them next fall. 


Nasturtium Seeds attached after flower is spent.

Nasturtium seeds drying
My tortoise food garden has changed a lot in the past several weeks. The dandelions I had planted grew huge but then became really sticky and tough. The tortoises ate all the leaves they could and I was surprised that no new leaves were growing in. I tore those out along with the beautiful flowered arugula. A lantana bush grew volunteer in that area and since that is not tortoise food, I tried transplanting it to my flower bed and we will see how it handles the rough transplant. 
After removing those plants, I added more petunia and geranium plants, which the tortoises seem to enjoy. I also planted more dandelion seeds I collected from a nearby park. Then I planted 2 more hibiscus plants and moved my other one to a more sunny location to see if it will thrive there. The tortoises enjoy hibiscus leaves and flowers.
The ruellia in the tortoise garden is filling in as well. I see the tortoises eating the lower leaves occasionally.

Arugula Flowers continuously attracting bees (bougainvillea in background)

Volunteer Lantana before transplant

Some beautiful flowers around my backyard this past month include:
White Cloud Allysum
Blue wildflower


Poppy prior to bloom

Mexican/Evergreen Bird of Paradise
Spanish Lavender planted in a large pot in full sun Mar 2017

 Our weather has been warm (80's-90's F), with a few cooler days here and there, like today was cool and gusty winds (high of 67 F). My wildflower garden is beautiful and I am content with the flowers that grew although I planted so many more seeds than what popped up. The poppies are stunning along with a blue wildflower and a yellow puff-ball type and my favorites in that portion of the garden, the morning glory (white flowers) and myoporum (tiny white flowers).

Poppies moments before opening

Morning Glory 3.28.17

Myoporum 3.28.17
My yard is getting more and more beautiful and I love gardening and watching it all change, grow and bloom from season to season.