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For The Garden

Plants That Glow in the Sunlight

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: February, 2013, Page 126
GOLDEN BARREL
(Echinocactus grusonii)



GOLDEN BARREL
(Echinocactus grusonii)


Type: Cactus   

Elevation: Low desert

Blooms: Yellow; spring

Size: 1.5'H by 2'W

Soil: Gravely with excellent drainage

Light: Dappled light from tree canopies; takes full sun if gradually acclimated. Avoid western exposures in summer.

Water needs: Low; roots rot in cold, moist soil. During winter, rainfall is usually sufficient.

Maintenance: Minimal; protect plant during freezes.

Attracts: Native bees

Note: Native to Mexico, golden barrel is endangered in the wild.

Why we like it: Its round shape and yellow spines create a shimmering golden globe. The effect is more dramatic when grown in clusters. Golden barrel performs well in containers.


PINK MUHLY
(Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’)
PINK MUHLY
(Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’)


Type: Ornamental grass

Elevation: Low to mid-desert

Blooms: Pink; fall

Size: 3'H by 3-4'W

Soil: Not fussy; most will do

Light: Full to partial sun

Water needs: Low; better appearance in summer with extra water

Maintenance: Rejuvenate by cutting back 4 to 6 inches above soil level in late winter/early spring, just before new growth begins.

Attracts: Birds are drawn to the seeds and use the foliage for their nests.

Note: For maximum effect, group in masses where flowers will be backlit by the sun.

Why we like it: One- to 2-foot-tall pink flower plumes produce an airy froth that hovers over the plant.


TEDDY BEAR CHOLLA
(Cylindropuntia bigelovii)
TEDDY BEAR CHOLLA
(Cylindropuntia bigelovii)


Type: Cactus

Elevation: Low desert

Blooms: Pale green with reddish streaks; spring to early summer

Size: 3-6'H by 2-4'W

Soil: Gravely with excellent drainage

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Very low

Maintenance: Using tongs, pick up spined stems that fall to the ground and transplant or dispose elsewhere.

Attracts: Cactus wrens build nests in the protective stems.

Note: It is also called jumping cholla because spined segments “jump” onto passersby when brushed against. Site away from foot traffic.

Why we like it: This tough native may appear soft and cuddly from a distance, but its barbed spines make it an effective barrier plant.


FAIRY DUSTER
(Calliandra ‘Sierra Starr’)
FAIRY DUSTER
(Calliandra ‘Sierra Starr’)


Type: Shrub

Elevation: Low to mid-desert

Blooms: Bright red; on and off year-round

Size: 4-5'H by 4-5'W

Soil: Average; well-draining

Light: Full sun; withstands intense reflected sun and heat

Water needs: Low to moderate

Maintenance: Minimal; as needed, selectively thin old stems to promote air and light circulation through its center.

Attracts: Hummingbirds

Note: ‘Sierra Starr’ is a hybrid between native pink fairy duster (C. eriophylla) and Baja fairy duster (C. californica). It produces more abundant and showy flowers than its parents.

Why we like it: It is covered with tufted flowers resembling twinkly powder puffs that Tinkerbell might wield when dusting. (Yes, we do believe in fairies.)

Other Favorites:
Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica); Mexican thread grass (Stipa tenuissima); old man cactus (Cephalocereus senilis); pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla); red-spined, fire barrel, or red barrel cactus (Ferocactus gracilis, F. pilosus)
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