Notes of Gardening in the Panhandle
Growing plants in the Panhandle can be tough, particularly when you are growing in an exposed situation with a goal of conserving water. Many plants will do fine when given ample water and protection from the wind. However, it takes a tougher plant to make it trying to rely on an amount of water closer to our natural rainfall. There are plenty of plants that will grow in this situation. We just have to look a little harder to find them and need to look for new varieties that may fit in our climate.
A natural bonsai effect occurs when less water is applied to a plant. This can be observed in the difference in sizes of trees in the panhandle compared to the trees further South, where more water and less wind allows them to flourish. A native comparison is the mesquite tree, which grows as a shrub or small tree here compared to the same tree, which may provide nice shade a little further South.
My favorite cultivated example is Buddleia davidii, or Butterfly Bush. The first time I grew it, it was in a bed in part shade between two houses. It was well protected and given plenty of water. It grew to an impressive height of at least eight feet. Now I have it growing fully exposed to our sun and wind. I have watered it deeply only two to three times during the summer for the last six years. The plants make very nice shrubs reaching four to five feet. They bloom all summer and attract butterflies like no other plants.
Gardening with a purpose
Many people want to use their gardens to attract wildlife to view. Butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, birds and other fauna are easy enough to get into your garden. Plant selection is important. Butterflies will need flowers that provide nectar easy to sip. They will also need plants such as parsley and dill for their caterpillars.
Hummingbirds prefer tubular flowers in shades of red. A feeder filled with fresh sugar water is helpful.
Bees often prefer flowers in shades of blue.
Birds benefit from letting plants go to seed. They will then spend time among your plants foraging for food.
Minimizing pesticides and other chemicals is essential for a healthy environment for wildlife and your gardens' ecosystem. Insects are the first decomposers of plant material. They will help turn plant waste into plant food. Even smaller microorganisms that break plant material into smaller particles, producing nutrients available to plants, depend on the larger insects for this initial action. A little damage to a thriving plant is acceptable if the end result is a healthier garden environment. Don't clean up plant debris too thoroughly. It will provide a smorgasbord for insects and provide hiding places for caterpillars and other creatures you may want in your garden.
Diversity in the garden will also benefit your gardens' ecosystem. A garden with few varieties of plants will not attract as many interesting and helpful creatures.
At CANYON'S EDGE PLANTS, our focus for 12 years has been finding those plants that perform well with our growing conditions and benefit the environment and wildlife at the same time.