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Mother’s Day is 11 Days Away

I’ve been a contributing blogger for several years now, so I figured you might like to know  that I’m a devoted fan of the Old West. I live on a rural ranch in the High Desert, love the ghost town trails and a bit of off-roading.

All it takes is a rustic bucket and a bunch of field flowers

All it takes is a rustic bucket and a bunch of field flowers

I collect almost anything rusty and rustic. While I do admit to having too many irons in the fire, one passion is bringing history to children in my traveling museum just for kids. In fact, my collection doesn’t fit in one car now, so I’m hoping to get some money together for a box trailer in which to haul my displays and Civil War tent.

Those who know me, weren’t surprised when I was elected as the President of our local museum association. I can be the curator of a large collection of outdoor farm implements and mining equipment — each one is rusty — so I’m in my element.

My husband has put up with my crazy need to share Old West history with everyone I meet. So after 34 years of marriage and Mother’s Day just around the corner, what does he think will be a good gift?

How about you? Does it get harder to find that something special for that special someone? Flowers are nice, but why not go the extra step and have a plant in a designer pot with a nice photo of you in the card? Take a “selfie,” print it out and attach it. It will mean that you took some extra time to really make a point.

Back to Mother’s day gifts. I’ll let you know what he sprung on me. Enjoy your Mom on this special day —  get her something nice and memorable.

Rusty Profile photo

Rusty LaGrange

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Lovely Spring Gift Ideas For High Desert Gardeners

Prickly Pear as a Source of Food

Prickly Pear as a Source of Food

Gift Ideas We Love

Do you really want to receive a dozen roses that will only last a week? Why not ask for a cactus that blooms for you each year? Just go to your nursery and pick out the prettiest. And as for color, you’ll find a good variety.

Many of the varieties offer different shapes and heights, while others bloom in hues of white to cream to yellow, pink to red to rose. All of them are easy to water, drought-tolerant, and easy to grow in typical desert temperatures. Prickly Pear is native to the Southwest, easy to transplant and grow while providing sweet fruits to make jelly. The new pads or leaves (before they grow spines) can be cut and boiled or fried like green chilies. They have a mild taste and are also worth pickling.

Animals use their broad trunks and leaves for hiding from predators or getting out of the summer heat. Ernie, my cat, loves to sit in the shade and dream of being a lion — I’m sure that’s what he’s thinking.

Another feature of cactus that I enjoy is their slow growing nature. You can plant them in a 10″ pot and it will be years before you’ll need to transplant them into a half whiskey barrel or directly into your yard. Many of them can grow for decades, often dropping “babies” or allowing their arms to be cut and replanted for the new generation of cacti. I have a night blooming cereus that is over 40-years-old and has been inside all of its life.


Cream Yellow bud from Hedgehog cactus
Cream Yellow bud from Hedgehog cactus

“Christmas cactus”, known for blooming in winter with bright red or fuchsia colored pointy blooms, can be more temperamental because they are a tropical cactus. They don’t like their roots too wet or too dry. A trick for forcing their blooms is to place them in a closet for a month prior to the holidays. Once out of the dark, they want to herald in the New Year. Healthy and happy plants will blossom all year.

Those combination cactus sampler dishes, that nurseries often place near their check out stands, are a really smart way to try some cactus plantings. Each dish holds a selection of tiny cuttings. The photo above is of a Hedgehog type of cactus you’ll find in some platter gardens. Some selections don’t live very long; others grow and bloom and last for years.

If you’re not sure which ones to try, try all of them. They take little water and often produce a few flowers or even double in size during their first year.

Some cactus plants for sale at nurseries are not really cactus at all but are succulents with spiky skins. Their interiors are mushy pulp and don’t have the fortitude to make it through a dry, hot desert summer. You can try growing them in a portable pot or inside near a window. Be careful of direct sunlight scorching them through the double- and triple- panes of your windows. I tried that and more succulents and aloe vera plants succumbed to being bleached to death by the sun. It doesn’t take long to broil them in the intense heat.

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink

My favorite tropical/ desert species is called the Carrion Plant. It grows large, slim, columnar arms  on thin stems that look more like sipping straws. It produces flowers only once a year. The bud is a large yellow pod with purple lines and polka dots but covered in hair. In a few days, the pod bursts open into a giant yellow and purple star with the most horrific odor you’ve ever smelled. This rancid perfume is designed to attract insects — especially the fly that helps propagate its pollen. It smells like dead, rotting meat — hence the name “Carrion” plant. It only takes one visit to a Carrion Plant to instill that smell into the sensory part of your brain. Whew!

So there are some of my favorite cacti and plants that make a good gift and have the longevity to last more than a few days or weeks. Once you have cacti in your garden, you’ll have a fragrant  friend for life.

Rusty LaGrange

Drought Tolerant Plants for High Desert Gardens












Lavender has made my recent weed-digging worthwhile. It’s received very little watering yet looks vibrant and healthy.

Lavender is grown in fields of southern France and as perennia shrubs and garden landscaping in North America. This aromatic herb also grows well in the high desert’s heat and drought. Grow it in an herb garden, make lavender crafts, or look for lavener lotions and bath and shower gels like my favorite lavender scent, Savannah Gardens, from Crabtree & Evelyn. They used to carry several products in this scent. One I liked was a sachet drawer liner.

Read the blog post, Scents: Do You Have a Favorite?, by Susan on Susan mentions how scents affect our moods. For instance, lavender is “soothing and relaxing; helps to relieve stress, depression, anxiety, and nervous disorders.” Geranium, jasmine, rose, and sandalwood are relaxing. Plant these in your garden, or find their scents in candles to enjoy in your home.

It’s no wonder that I love gardening. We garden for reasons of scent, childhood memories, comfort, crafts, food and more. Furthermore, tending to the garden gives us a workout. That’s better than going to the gym in my opinion.

Evergreen Fire Retardant Groundcover and Hedges

If you’re looking for an evergreen groundcover to use in your high desert landscaping, try the evergreen Dwarf Coyotebrush or Coyotebrush. This evergreen groundcover or hedge has dioecious white/cream flowers from summer to fall. It attracts songbirds and butterflies and is thornless.

California Fuchsia is another good hedge to plant that grows large and that hummingbirds love. The Fuchsia can be planted in the ground or pots and is drought tolerant. It flowers from mid-spring to winter.

Drought tolerant Fuchsia

Fuchsia Plant










Autumn sage is another aromatic evergreen that attracts songbirds and butterflies. Its red flowers bloom from mid-summer to mid-autumn.

The Copper Shine Coprosma, better known as the Mirror Plant, makes a beautiful glossy hedge. It’s wind, sun, and frost resistant and can be planted in full sun or semi shade.

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