In my previous post, we explored the power that sex (or at least talking about it) might have on the ever-growing backyard-revolution. Today, we’ll elevate the conversation from sex to attractiveness. The August issue of Fine Gardening is out, and in it (page 34 to be exact) you’ll find expert advice from my wife Melissa. The magazine asked her and six other experts from different regions to describe five of their favorite focal-point plants. Based the magazine’s desire to present a varied palette from all seven regions, one of the five plant descriptions, Fine Gardening said, would not be published.
For the Southwest, Melissa chose red-hot poker, globe thistle, century plant, blue-avena grass, and desert willow. Fine Gardening edited out the latter, so I’m including it here. It’ll be especially helpful for our dryland friends living at lower elevations.
Name: Chilopsis linearis
Zone: 6 – 11
Size: 12’ - 18’ x 8’ – 15’ wide
Conditions: Prefers well-drained soil, tolerates alkaline soil; full sun; low water.
If the scale of your garden or landscape is such that you would prefer a larger element as a focal point, try chilopsis linearis. Native to the riparian areas of the southwest up to 5,000 ft., it’s considered to be either a large shrub or small tree. Desert willows normally max out at about 15’ tall and 12’ wide, but in the perfect microclimate mature specimens level off at 25’. Loved for its long summer blooming period and lovely, prolific flowers, it flaunts a dramatic, twisted branching structure. Its somewhat shaggy bark can be cleaned up to reveal a beautiful undulating habit creating plenty of winter interest. Stop or significantly reduce watering in early fall to provide for a pre-winter hardening-off period.
Be they interesting plants, productive beds, “character boulders,”
sculptures that exude beauty, or outdoor activities that provide a fun challenge, focal points in our gardens are critical for getting people off of their computers and TVs and into their backyards. What’s your favorite backyard (or front yard or side yard) focal point?