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July 24-Sep. 17. Reception July 24, 5-7p. Artist Yaffa Cary’s work is inspired by “Shiva Lingam,” a sacred icon of the divine...   
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Norm Schilling's fall planting tips
by Norm Schilling | posted September 16, 2014

“Desert Bloom” host Norm Schilling will irrigate your gardening knowledge this Saturday, at 9:30 a.m., with a talk at Plant World, 5311 W. Charleston Blvd. Can’t wait? Here are a few of Norm’s fall planting tips to get you started.

Spring is traditionally the time to plant in most climates, but in our hot patch of the Mojave, fall is better for most plants. That allows plants about nine months to build a root system robust enough to handle the most challenging time of year for most plants — our hot, dry summers. While plants appear not to grow during the winter, roots do continue growing, since our soils don’t freeze. So fall planting builds a root system for the spring flush of growth, and the endurance test of summer. 

Here are a few hints that will help you succeed in your planting endeavors.

Dig a $5 hole for a $1 plant. A hole that’s wider than the root ball of your plant, but not deeper, loosens the surrounding soil, so it’s much easier for roots to spread. Sloping the edges of the hole at about 45 degrees further encourages root development.

Amend the soil for nondesert species. This is one more reason I lean more toward desert plants, as they’re generally happier here and take less work. But if you do plant nondesert plants, amending the soil at a rate of about one part well-decomposed organic matter to three parts native soil will help them off to a good start.

Unless it’s a tomato, don’t plant it any deeper than it is in the pot; you might suffocate the roots. And soil piled on the trunk makes it susceptible to pathogens that cause rot.

For trees with stakes against the trunk, remove the stake the day you plant it. If it can’t hold itself upright, restake it using at least two stakes placed well away from the trunk. The new stakes should hold the tree up, but also allow it some movement — trees build tissue in trunks much like we build muscles.



It’s important to group plants in “hydro-zones” with plants of similar water needs: desert plants here, moderate-water-users there. If you put one moderate-use plant in with a group of desert plants, you end up over-watering all the desert plants.

Don’t plant a garden of just shrubs and a few trees. Be sure to include some ground-covers (Prostrate Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys ‘Prostratum’), succulents, accent plants and little flowering perennials (Indian Blanket Flower). This will add interest and give your landscape a more natural look.

Include plants with different foliage colors. Think silvers, blues and grays, and even purple.

Include plants for textural variety: succulents for fleshiness, and ornamental grasses for softness and movement when it’s breezy. Don’t do just succulents, or the landscape will look harsh and uninviting; the little leafy guys help soften the feel.

Include at least a couple of bold accent plants with strong form. These provide a focal point and can add a lot in interest and beauty (Blue Yucca, Yucca rigida or Webers Agave, Agave weberi).

Underplant trees with other plants. Plants share root space and water resources, so planting under a tree will encourage it to spread its roots out for structural stability. If you don’t underplant, add emitters every 3-4 feet anyway to get the roots to spread.

Keep desert trees away from lawns. Desert trees grow slower and stronger when they don’t receive too much water. If they find the lawn water, they’ll grow too fast and rip apart in the wind.

Don’t plant messy trees near your pool.



Research your plants.

If you do plant nondesert plants, use organic (wood chip) mulch. It’s the single best long-term, holistic health-care practice you can perform for moderate-water-use plants.

While cool weather planting is best for most plants, some prefer warmer weather and soils. Succulents plant and transplant best once soils warm up (April-October). And Red Bird of Paradise takes off much better if planted in warm weather (May is great)!

Want a great desert tree? Consider planting a native species. Some of my favorites include Screwbean Mesquite, Redbud and Gambel Oak. Desert Willow is my all-time favorite, for its amazing and long flower show and the beautiful curves and arches in its branches … as long as it doesn’t get too much water, which creates long straight shoots.

Finally, know this: Learn to expect and accept some gardening failures. Gardening is a learning experience. When plants fail, it’s just part of the game. I guarantee you, more plants have died on my watch then ever will on yours.


Render unto Caesars ...
by scott Dickensheets | posted September 12, 2014

Antiquity and modernity


The silent treatment
by Andrew Kiraly | posted September 11, 2014
We all know about diminishing oil, dwindling water, food scarcity and endangered species, but there’s another disappearing resource among us that’s less noticeable: silence. 
Trying to find a quiet space in the modern urban environment is nearly impossible. We live in a noisy world of roaring freeways and blaring ringtones. Even our traditional go-to sanctuaries have brought the noise: Airplanes regularly rumble over our bedrooms, and our libraries have gone all clamorous and interactive.
The scarcity of silence is a topic on the mind (and ears) of Trevor Cox, Salford University professor and author of The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World. In this excerpt in American Scientist, Cox seeks out some of the quietest places on the planet — places unpolluted, by nature or by design, with artificial sound. Encouragingly, one of those places is just south of us at Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve:
While I was on an expedition to record singing sand dunes, I experienced something quite rare: complete silence. The scorching summer heat kept visitors away. Most of the time my recording companion, Diane Hope, and I were on our own. We camped at the foot of Kelso Dunes, in a barren, scrubby valley with dramatic granite hills behind us. Virtually no planes flew overhead, and only very occasionally did a distant car or freight train create noise. Much of the day there was a great deal of wind, but at twilight and early in the morning the winds calmed down and the quiet revealed itself. Overnight I heard the silence being interrupted only once, when a pack of nearby coyotes howled like ghostly babies.
Sounds peaceful. Almost ... too peaceful. Curiously, Cox does find in his research that, yes, there is such a thing as deafening silence, and there is such a thing as the kind of menacing aural absence that can lead to a sensation of ants crawling on your brain. Even in the desert quiet of Kelso, he notices that the absence of sound compels his brain to stage a coup and start supplying its own noise — one theory to explain tinnitus, a chronic ringing in the ears:
Theories of tinnitus abound, but most experts agree that it is caused by some sort of neural reorganization triggered by diminished input from outside sounds. ... In a silent place, or when hearing is damaged, auditory neurons in the brain stem increase the amplification of the signals from the auditory nerve to compensate for the lack of external sound. As an unwanted side effect, spontaneous activity in the auditory nerve fibers increases, leading to neural noise, which is perceived as a whistle, hiss, or hum. Maybe what I was hearing on the dunes was the idling noise of my brain while it searched in vain for sounds.
But the aural mirages inspired by Kelso are a minor annoyance compared to some of the trippy effects induced by even quieter places he writes about — like the anechoic chamber at Salford University in Manchester. Get this: It’s so quiet that its sound levels are measured in negative decibels, which make the room not so much a sanctum of quiet serenity as a sensory distortion chamber that can freak out visitors with a psychic version of nails on a chalkboard:
An anechoic chamber has an impressive silence because it simultaneously presents two unusual sensations: Not only is there no external sound, but the room puts your senses out of kilter. Through their eyes, visitors obviously see a room, but their ears hear nothing that indicates a room. Add the claustrophobic drama of being enclosed behind three heavy doors, and some begin to feel uneasy and ask to leave. Others are struck with fascination at the oddness of the experience. I know of no other architectural acoustic space that regularly has such a strong effect on people. But it is remarkable how quickly the brain gets used to the silence and the contradictory messages from the senses. The magical impact of the first visit to an anechoic chamber is never really experienced again.
Silence is golden — and a rarity in the cacophony and caterwaul of modern life. Maybe we’d all do well to have our own anechoic chambers to gather our thoughts and calm our restless souls. Just don’t stay in there too long.


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