Someone else’s Garden

Posted on December 18, 2007. Filed under: Musings, Science |

I was weeding in my front garden today. (Yes, weeding in December.  That’s the desert for you, even in the northern hemisphere).  I found myself trimming the Desert Spoon yet again.  This thing shouldn’t need trimming at all.  In open desert it grows big and round to about 4 feet in diameter, then just sort of stays there, putting up a fast-growing spike every couple of years to propagate itself.  I think plants like these should be left alone, for the most part, but someone years ago (not ME!) planted the ‘spoon right in front of my kitchen window.  If I didn’t trim it’s spiky leaves back, periodically, it would poke visitors in the leg–or maybe even more uncomfortable spots–as they came up the walk to my door.  I may not be the most hospitable person in the world, but I really don’t want someone grabbed at and punctured on their way to have a cup of tea.


When I first moved here, as part of my “welcome new resident” package, I was given a list of plants “allowed” to fill the small spaces between the concrete and the door.  Fair enough.  The HOA (“Home Owner’s Association”, although I like to pronounce just the acronym) has in mind sustaining the natural desert environment and promoting the use of low water plants.  I have no quarrel with having a list of plants (less decisions), although I will say after seeing garden after garden with the same plants arranged slightly differently, it gets a bit old.

My issues are that the builder (probably) or the original owner (less likely) picked out the landscaping when the place was built some 16 years ago, long before I lived here.  Someone had the idea to put a cute little Desert Spoon in front of the window, surrounded by the inevitable “river rock”.  Now, it is well known around here how big these plants get.  It’s also known that they grow fairly quickly.  So, why, one asks, would they plant one of these monstrosities (if in my garden) or nice desert bushy-things (if out in the desert) in such a small space?

I believe it’s because they are readily available, inexpensive, and fill space without too much thought.  They look neat and tidy when first planted, and probably add to the building’s “curb appeal”.  When I first moved in, I had a professional landscaper evaluate the garden, and asked about having the Desert Spoon removed.  ‘No!’, she shrieked.  (All right, she didn’t actually shriek, but did say “No” in a louder-than-normal voice).  “It’s a nice desert plant”, she said.  She actually refused to remove it.  I pointed out that a) It is MY garden, and b) I don’t like the plant, but she remained unmoved.  As did the plant.


Some of the cactus varieties in my area are actually protected, like that symbol of the American Southwest, the Saguaro. (pronounced Saw-hwah-roh).  One must get permission to move one of those, as they are endangered.  But, trust me, Desert Spoons are a dime a dozen.  They are also notoriously difficult to remove, once they have a strong root hold.

I do not engage the services of that particular landscaper anymore, and I have asked myself the question “Why, if it’s my garden, in front of my home, do I have things in it which I don’t like?”  I believe these things affect our mental states in sometimes subtle ways.  I have pledged to remove “that which I do not want” from my life in 2008, and, believe me, this plant is on my list.  If any of you are wanting a nice Desert Spoon plant to add to your (large) sunny landscape, let me know.  Mine’s free to a good home.  You just need to bring your own backhoe.


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10 Responses to “Someone else’s Garden”

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LOL. I only wish we could find native plants that have a halfway decent curb appeal and don’t require excessive watering. With our freak freeze in spring and continuous drought since then, almost nothing is surviving. I can’t find a decent illustrated list of Georgia native plants along with their growth habits, etc. Argh!

Muse, how interesting is that while you are trimming a Desert Spoon I could shovel the snowed trees..loll!! We have a big snow storm, again, in less than 2 weeks..Mind u I prefer snow in winter than rain and last year December 18th we had a thunderstorm..Anyway, I know that the weather can be very cool in the desert especially when the sun is gone, I never felt so frozen when I was in Egypt but the weather there might be different though compares to yours..Well, talking about northern hemisphere, you are pretty down south close to Mexico..How amazing is to learn about different cultures which all gonna enjoy the ”Holy Days” in their own ways..

Have a good one my friend, Muse…

I heartily applaud your 2008 goal of removing “that which you do not want.” I may even borrow it! (I promise to return it unharmed .) I know from both personal experience and from many wise teachers that removing unwanted and annoying items from your home can really improve the energy of both the place and yourself. This is just as true of the outside of the house—–trash, fallen leaves, fences, garden gnomes, and Desert Spoon plants should all go if they don’t add to the energy of joy you feel in your space. Happy digging!

Peace, Sarah

ab, we had a freeze like that last winter. Freaky to be sure. Lots of things went: Citrus, Texas Rangers, other things. I’m happy my oleanders and bougainvillea survived, although they looked really terrible for months.

CV, the world is an amazing place–different climates, different winters. I knew it would be much hotter here in the summer, but I didn’t realize it would be colder in the winter than San Francisco, where I’m from. We’ve had below freezing temps. several times this year, and snow in the mountains (so pretty!), but none on the desert floor as yet. A few years ago it snowed at my home. It never stays on the ground for long here, but it’s an amazing sight to see the Saguaros with snow.

Thank you Sarah, and you may borrow my goal. I trust you to return it in good condition. 🙂 Goals are eternal and evolving. I so agree that physical clutter, or “glitches” can reflect mental and spiritual clutter, too.

I’ve spent so long (about 3/4 of my life) living in flats now that I can barely remember what it was like to have a garden. I don’t mind that too much, it’s the price of wanting to live in a city like Sydney without going bankrupt, but I’d love to have a garden again one day. I love buddleia and how they attract butterflies, so maybe something like that would fill my garden. Definitely nothing like Desert Spoon.

I think it’s a great idea to start 2008 by removing the things that are weighing you down. Often we put up with things for no real reason and it’s your garden, your small sanctuary; you should be able to choose the plants! The environment we create says as much about us, after all… shouldn’t we want it to be all it can be? I’ve been thinking about doing a clean out in the New Year too and you’ve inspired me now! Maybe I’ll put some of it on Ebay. There’s so much junk on Ebay, a little more’s not going to hurt anyone, right? 🙂

Hmmm, cj, do they take big huge live plants on ebay? Or, are you SURE you don’t want a nice Desert Spoon in your not-yet-as-existent garden? I’d make you a great deal–just pay shipping and removal charges. 😉
I’m glad you’re inspired to do a clear out, too. I’m doing one as well inside my home, and inside my head, too!
I’ve lived in flats in the past. They can be great–less maintenance–however you’ve reminded me to be grateful for my space, my garden, and beautiful mountain views. Thank you, and here’s to your future garden!

[…] before I left, as I do almost every day, and all appeared to be well. I didn’t tell you in my earlier post (about the Desert Spoon in front of my kitchen window) that I also have an even bigger one right in […]

Being a transplant from OR to AZ and buying a home in the desert (Gilbert) I had no idea of the type of plants to grow in AZ. We hired Moon Valley to “redo” our yards, both front and rear. The fella that came over planted this and that all over – Wonderful! Two years later most all have died and we had to replace the plants. (When we signed the contract to have the plants put in, nobody told us it was only good for 3 months after planting.) One of the plants planted was a little Desert Spoon, 6 years later it is quite large (about 4 feet in diameter and about 3 feet tall). Now I wondering if I should trim the thing… I notice “landscapers” trimming these and many other plants around into little “pineapple” looking plants. I detest the look. + all the other plants that the landscapers do “little round or square bushes” – I hate it with a passion! I wish to keep all bushes in the form they where meant to be…

Hi, Charlie; nice to see you! It is certainly different gardening in the desert, than in OR or CA, isn’t it? Oh, man, I know! I don’t like seeing those pineapple-looking Spoons, either; it’s just…wrong! I’ve read there’s no horticultural reason to trim them that way. I trim just the spines themselves, one by one (!), a few inches at a time, at an angle—trying to get the rounded look of the original shape while still being able to walk up my path. They seem to do pretty well that way. I see another spike coming on this year… 🙂

[…] summer!” + I have written about my trials and tribulations with this ubiquitous shrub before (here and amazingly enough, again here.) I swore I would not do this…but, seriously, the Spoon near […]

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