Saturday, June 8, 2013

Skinny Plants

Living in an area with hot, dry summers and poor soil, the plants in my yard live in spartan conditions. I don't constantly water them or use chemical fertilizers. And look how skinny and healthy they are!

Festuca glauca.

California poppy.

Achillea 'Moonshine.'


Clockwise from top: tansy, iris, lavender cotton, California poppy, indigo, juniper.


Legacy buffalo grass.

Love in a mist.
Kidding aside, the plants don't have thin leaves because they live on scant rations in harsh conditions. They thrive in those conditions because they shed heat and collect water well with those thin leaves. California poppies have a tap root and irises have shallow tubers, which help both of them thrive in poor, dry soil. Buffalo grass has a short growing season--it doesn't green up until late May. Most of them come from places like the Sonoran Desert, the western Great Plains and the Mediterranean that have hot, dry summers. They're skinny, hale and hearty through natural or artificial selection. But if they're overwatered or overfertilized, they'll get floppy.

Some other adaptations for hot, dry summers and poor soil:

Rosa glauca: small leaves, short blooming season, can grow in shade.

Rosa alba semi-plena. Same story as R. glauca.

R. woodsii. Same strategies as R. glauca. New Mexico locust has small leaves, which it sets late and drops early, like many other North American trees.

Lamb's ear. Fuzzy leaves provide insulation. Needs more water and shade than the other plants shown.

The point is, there are things going on, obvious or not, that determine how plants do in different conditions. Some are delicate flowers, some can thrive almost anywhere, but it's a function of the plant's genetics.


Anonymous said...

Gorgeous pics! My favourite is the California Poppy.

Lori Miller said...

Thanks! Oddly enough, the state flower of California grows better in my yard than the state flower of Colorado.