Tag Archives: county extension services

Reach for the sky

My soaring nopal.

I’VE LONG been a desert fan and the cacti that come with it. There is something spiritual about a desert. The same can be said about rainforests, the desert’s alter ego.

When I lived in Houston, one of my favorite road trips took me west. You didn’t have to go far before the environment turned dry, and nopal cacti appeared naturally along the highways. In spring they sprouted red flowers.

Mexicans are fond of eating nopal. I don’t share this love. Nopal is too much like okra, turning slimy when cooked.

So I just admire the appearance, and I don’t have to drive west to see nopal. I need only to step into the yard where I have about the tallest nopal I’ve ever seen.

I shot the above photo with a zoom lens. That’s just the noggin of my nopal. It soars 18 feet into the air.

I measured, more or less.

It was just two of those paddles when I planted it at least a decade ago, having no idea what I was getting into.

My second ex-wife is something called a Master Gardener. You get that title from the County Extension Service after taking an amount of training on such things.

While I am the yard chief here at the Hacienda, she was the garden honcho where we lived together in Houston.

I often encouraged her to plant bougainvillea. She never did. Perhaps it was out of pure spite. I hope not. But she did the right thing. I see that now.

Bougainvilleas are beautiful. They also sport thorns that would fill the most vicious rosebush with envy.

Our bougainvillea likely tops out at 20 feet, and even more from left to right. It is held in place by steel chains. The plant never stops growing, both upward and outward.

I water the nopal because I don’t want it to fall down. I never water the bougainvillea because I want it to calm down.

Springtime is just getting started.

My soaring bougainvillea.

 

 

End of spring

abel
Abel at work, pushing my lawnmower.

IT’S OVER. Spring has gone, and summer has begun.

I know it’s not the official end of spring, but we march to a different seasonal drummer at the Hacienda.

When Abel the Deadpan Gardener (and neighbor) mows the lawn for the first time, it means summer has started, and it has. The summer rains are easing in. Sweet.*

Abel mowed the lawn yesterday.

Another sign of spring is that two bunches of lily bulbs beneath the ground in what I call the Willy-Nilly Zone** push their noggins above the dirt.

I often think of my second ex-wife when I survey our Hacienda domain. She’s a gardening fanatic and a certified “Master Gardener” via a course offered by the county extension service in Houston. Her yard is nice by local standards.

I see it via Google Street View. It pales, however, in comparison to the Hacienda spread, and I’m not a gardener, neither certified nor master. I’m a rank, lazy amateur.

Our yard tends to itself and only requires stern discipline. This year, more than ever before, I’ve eliminated lots of greenery because it was getting out of hand, berserk actually.

I like the cleaner look. Some of the eliminated stuff was huge, all planted by my child bride who gleefully plants whatever and then goes on her merry way, leaving the fallout to me.

But summer is here. Rains will quickly increase until they become daily. Downtown streets will flood most afternoons. The air will be cool, and the nights romantic.

Philodendron in its niche. Trimmed by me. About five feet high.

* * * *

* I won’t think it’s sweet in waterlogged October. I’ll consider it a curse, but that’s for later.

** The Willy-Nilly Zone wraps itself around the two exterior sides of the downstairs veranda. It’s hemmed in by the Romance Sidewalk. It’s a happy zone for plants because, I think, the proximity to the house reduces cold in winter. In modern parlance, it’s a “safe space” for greenery. Plants are never offended in the Willy-Nilly Zone.