Make It Green
Was there a month of February this month? Seriously?
As things turn out, getting older means that when you are ill you are ill for a longer time: a 'bug' that would flee after a few days just decades ago now lasts a week, or more.
And the body gangs up, too: how did I manage pneumonia, and the flu, all at the same time? My ever-present weak lower back seizes the opportunity to flare up too, so at the same time that I am down with pneumonia I am also walking with a cane for nearly three weeks. This badly affected my schedule — one last-minute emergency especially — but now back to normal.
Whatever that is.
Drip irrigation, continued
One reader took issue with my column last week in which I showed readers my experiments with subsurface irrigation. While the column updated readers on my own experiences with drip irrigation using NetaFim, the real thrust of the column was my evolving ideas about how to apply water to plants: I am looking for practical ways to eliminate spray heads while maintaining the low maintenance characteristic of spray systems and focused on NetaFim because it has, in my experience, the best product. But there are others.
In fact, the entire irrigation world has been racing towards the future, madly creating new products in ferocious competition as the gardening world faces increased pressure to reduce water usage.
Hunter Industries, for one, offers a system called 'PLD' that is quite similar to the NetaFim. Of more interest with Hunter, perhaps, is an innovative product called Eco-Mat. Picture a very shallow "pan" that is placed below the planting area. The device contains a mesh as part of the system. The basic idea is to slowly fill the underground pan with water, allowing roots to uniformly access water. This has obvious advantages for watering turf grasses, especially in high use areas.
The same product can be used for shrubs, too, by varying the installation depth. No word on costs; I suspect that this is a solution with limited use for those hard-to-water areas in residences or on larger communities where high-end appearance is essential. More on this later.
Hunter is a California company that manufactures all products, including extruded plastics, in a very modern and impressive San Diego plant, toured a few years ago by your Design Pundit. Find out more on line: www.hunterindustries.com.
Toro is a recognized name in the green world and offers similar products. Local stores are well-populated with Toro parts, including a product call Micro Drip Irrigation. More at www.toro.com. It is fair to say that Toro has some work to do in developing this product line, though.
Be careful here, people. It is very easy to become confused when facing irrigation parts at the Big Box stores. The rule here is: keep it simple. Offerings of micro-drip systems are too complex in my view for all but the most limited and specialized applications.
What about flowers?
As season starts to wind down we move into a stressful time for our gardens. Temperatures fluctuate with little or no rain, and drying winds, waiting for summer rains, are now 90 days or so away. But some plants love it!
The Desert Senna, a sweet patio tree, is flowering now; this is a fine plant with interesting trunk and small, sweet textured leaves. The little yellow flowers are quite abundant and beloved by butterflies.
The Shaving Brush Tree is a manageable tropical exotic, reaching about 20 feet x 20 feet, with unusual white flowers covering the tree before the leaves appear; the green and brown bark is interesting as well. Flowers are 4-6 inches across that look like — well, a shaving brush?
One of our most misused plants blooms in early April and throughout the summer. Thryallis is a low maintenance 6 feet x 6 feet plant, lovely when allowed to gain full, billowing form, covered with tiny yellow flowers. Planted in smaller spaces (and I am looking at you, Collier County Transportation!) Thryallis becomes pitifully imprisoned, just another maintenance commitment.
A few vines of interest are blooming or will be soon, including Clerodendrum (of course), as well as Queen's Wreath, Golden Chalice and Bengal Creeper. Also blooming is the Jade Vine; if you know of one locally, please let your Design Pundit know? I saw this plant on Kauai but do not know of any local vines. It is difficult for sure.
Michael Spencer, ASLA, has been practicing landscape architecture since 1979 and is president of MSA Design Inc. Learn more at www.msadesign.com or contact Michael by email: email@example.com. His website is www.msadesign.com. And watch for his forthcoming book on tropical plants.