Milo Mitchel

Science Education and Gardening

Category: Pruning

Wilflowers: From the Desert to the Coast

I’ve just returned from 2 weeks of camping, climbing and exploring in the Southern California Deserts. My climbing partner and I were blessed with a phenomenal wildflower show. From the desert lily and sand verbena (pictured on left) to the magenta fivespot, many rare flowers graced our hikes and climbs. Flowers thriving in the brutal environment of the Mohave desert, give a drought conscious gardener hope. Scrambling up Hellhole canyon in Anza Borego State Park, we saw hundreds of chuparosa shrubs and thousands of poppies and monkey flowers, as we ascended 1000ft into a treacherous canyon to a hidden oasis.

I spent this last weekend mushroom and wildflower hunting in Salt Point State Park. In stark contrast to the desert, the coastal landscape is lush and full of pacific coast iris (pictured top right), orchids and trillium. Despite getting wet during the storm Saturday night, it was a terrific trip.

Late Winter Pruning

Evergreen perennials are often fast growing and require periodic pruning to renew them and keep them vigorous. With all the warm weather he had in January things have already started growing and it’s important to remove old growth to make room for new blooms and foliage. Perennials such as penstemon and Santa Barbara daisy benefit from a hard shearing this time of year. I often use a special Japanese serrated knife to speed up this chore. This tool is called a root knife, and is available at leevalley.com , which carries many hard to find gardening tools and accessories. With the root knife you can grab all of the foliage of a plant like catmint with your left hand, and slice off all of the old growth with your right. The new shoots that remain quickly produce new blooms and the plant looks 100% better. Once the danger of hard frost has passed, it will be time to cut back frost tender evergreen shrubs such as fuscias and loropetalums (Chinese fringe flower).

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