Gardening with a 1%er

I'm not a gardener, nor do I have a green thumb, but persistence seems to be the key to growing plants.  Living in the high desert with little yearly rainfall and working with an overgrazed landscape doesn't help, but again persistence.  I had a success with a barrel cactus I moved this spring into the front garden and it is now blooming, but trying to germinate plants from seed proves to be much more difficult, at least for me.  I have constructed a pallet garden filled with soil from the river bottom and with several layers of rabbit protection have tried again to start plants from seed.  As a result, I have started to develop a list of requirements for plant species I will try to grow on the estate.

1.  Extreme drought tolerance.  The irrigation system on the estate is taxed and new plantings do not receive irrigation so their growth has to rely on the yearly rains once established.

2.  Perennials.  If I go to all the trouble of growing a plant from seed and manage to get something I can transplant I want to come back year after year.

3.  Nice flower displays.  The goal is to create an inviting landscape.  So nice flowers with a variety of colors makes for an area with lots of hummingbirds, butterflies, and native bees.

4.  Unappetizing to mammals.  Rabbits, Deer, and Javelina can do a number on plants especially during times of drought when there is little feed and mammals have destroyed a number of projects.  Deer love Crepe Myrtle and have damaged several young pines I had ready for planting, rabbits love spineless Prickly Pear, and Javilena will dig up Red Yucca with a vengeance.

5.  Germinates easily.  Plant species that meet the above requirements must also germinate easily.  I generally average a germination rate of about 0.0001% for many plants, so a species that germinates easily and grows rapidly is always a plus in my book.  I have tried oaks a number of times, both germinating from seed as well as cloning, without success.  I currently have a single oak that has sprouted in the pallet garden and hope it survives.  One mechanism used to identify species that germinate easily is to look for volunteers.  Plants like Lantana produce lots of seed and have volunteered in a number of places around the estate.  Mexican Bird of Paradise is another easily germinated species.  So I harvest the volunteers as well as seed for planting in other areas.

At the suggestion of the owners wife I constructed a pallet garden for seed collected from around the estate as well as some herbs and peppers.  Because of the poor soil conditions, soil from the riverbed was transported and used for the planting beds.  Planting garlic, hatch chilies, bell peppers, and a variety of collected seed like roses, things have started to sprout.  Protection from rabbits is key to getting anything to grow.  At the back of the garden are a series of buckets with spineless prickly pear, all eaten by rabbits, but within the protection of the pallet garden they are beginning to recover producing new pads.

Pallet garden with 2 layers of rabbit protection. For sprouting seeds in a protected environment  
Transplanted and recovering plants in individual buckets.

Transplanted Barrel Cactus in bloom.

Volunteer Mexican Bird of Paradise in the front garden.


  1. We also have Bird of Paradise from smaller plants and volunteers we have here. A neighbor transplanted some Verbena and after many years, they have decided to grow near our driveway. The orchid color is beautiful color but we had to let THEM decide where the seeds would grow! We also have Fish-hook Barrel cactus here and we transplanted one 14 years ago. I think it is dead today but that was a long run. One piece of advice we were given on transplanting THAT cactus was to line up the cactus the same way it was found or it would try to move to line up that way. We marked it for transplanting in the same orientation.

  2. Thanks Pat, I have not tried Verbina and will keep it in mind. I did not know about the orientation of cactus and did not mark the one moved into the garden and will also keep that bit of information in mind.

  3. I went on a Butterfly count once and remember Pipevine swallowtail. We have them here and they love the Verbena blooms as well as Desert willow flowers. I have not seen a Pipevine plant here and one of the butterfly experts sent me a photo of what to look for!

  4. The butterflies in the front garden seem to be attracted to anything in bloom and the density of plants in bloom keeps them hanging around. Mostly local species (lots of the little yellow ones) though I did plant milkweed for the monarch butterflies but the rabbits keep it trimmed down and it has yet to produce any flowers this year.

  5. We have larger yellow butterflies but I only see them flying and not what plant they like. I bought a book of 70 most common butterflies [at the Chiricahua National Monument store] and thought [years ago] that I would get a BIGGER book when I learn those 70. I have Not YET learned those 70 LOL

  6. I can empathize, I'm always trying to learn more about the wildlife but only manage to identify new species at a very slow rate. I get a photograph and start searching but then realize I missed some important detail, so I'm stuck until I see the organism again and get another photograph with the missing details.