Nonnative El Paso Creatures

This past year El Paso had a lot of rain. Some parts of the city flooded. I got to see some interesting critters in my garden that I did not know I had because they normally do not live in the desert. I probably brought them home from Lowe’s and instead of dying in the arid sand they thrived a reproduced. I now have earthworms and snails! I felt pretty good when I saw them because I must be doing something right. I still have mushrooms too. 🙂

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Now you may think those are little flecks of dirt, but they are tiny round snails! El Paso does have some snails and they usually have coned shaped houses, so these are not native to the area.



A Desert Anomaly!!! Mushrooms????


I have mushrooms!!! Yes, in my courtyard which has its own unique microclimate, there are mushrooms. These are not puney either! They are big white mushrooms! God has graced us with some cooler days and rain this past week, but even before the rain I had two of these growing, well now I have five! (I think are a few smaller ones coming as well.) My children automatically assumed they are poison!! I explained that they may not be but we should be safer than sorry.

These mushrooms are growing at the base of my trumpet vine in the courtyard. This is my trumpet vine’s second season. I didnt have any mushrooms last year so these fungus spores either came in with the wind or the pesky pigeons I have nesting on my roof.



One of my most favorite flower scents is the Gardenia. I have tried a few times to grow them and it has not worked out. This year one of the gardenias I still had from last year attempts managed to hang on. It even gave me a single heavenly blossom. Oh, how that one blossom filled my courtyard with the creamy gardenia fragrance. Yet the plant looked horrible!

I thought about it and decided it must be the silly container I have it in. Its just really silly, I was going for aesthetics and not practicality. Its a low soup shaped bowl / container. I do not think my poor Gardenia had room for its roots. While wandering around Walmart’s gardening center I found a really cool tall pot. (From one extreme to the next.) The color matched the pot I have my cherry willow in so I decided to get it for my gardenia. I also liked that since this pot is about 30 inches tall it makes it much easier to smell the future Gardenia blossoms. I think the Gardenia will be doing much better. It has a parade of new leaves already!



July 9, 2012 update

My Trumpet Vine!!!!

Trumpet Vines are also called hummingbird vines. In some parts of the country they are considered and well known as invasive pests. As a gardener in the dry desert southwest I search out these invasive plants in my local nurseries because they have genes fit for survival in the hot dry desert.

I saw a picture of an amazing trumpet vine online that had engulfed a light pole. I saw images of the gorgeous trumpet flowers and its quick growth inspired me to have one. It can be grown over arbors and even as ground cover.


I bought mine last year at Lowe’s and I have been so happy with it. In just one year it has wrapped itself (with help) around a square column in the front of my home. It grew the fastest on days where El Paso registered over 100 degrees. This year not only do I have amazing green compound leaves as foliage, but the trumpet flowers have also bloomed. (Last year I only had one cluster of blooms.) They are a very vibrant melony red color. I saw a humming bird come for a visit two days ago and a brilliant orange butterfly this morning!

I hope that it grows over my tile roof this year. I have a pigeon problem and since they do not like plants but love manmade structures, maybe this vine will choke them out. I do have to routinely tie the vine back and secure it here and there to help it out. It grows super fast. I will warn you that you should wear longer sleeves and gloves if you are a very sensitive person. Trumpet vines can cause a mild irritation which is why they are also known as the cow itch vine. (I hope pigeons can feel it.) I always feel a very mild irritation after working with it. I would also like to warn you that sometimes it shoots out. I nearly got poked in the eye going to work this past week.

Here is a photo of my trumpet vine, please excuse the crazy long piece of white rope, I am attempting to train it unto my roof.

I have gifted my mom with a trumpet vine who like how fast it grew. I have since purchased three more for my own garden. Now there are two trumpet vines in my courtyard and two in my backyard. One is in the ground, I am still trying to figure out where to place the last one. I hope they cover my rock walls. I can appreciate the rock wall versus other options but I do not like feeling squared in by them and the heat they give off at night is unpleasant.

Here is a May 2015 updated photo of my monster trumpet vine. 



Topiaries are a gorgeous addition to any garden. They give a garden a more constructed look which I find attractive next to wild natural plants. I recently came across some tall spiral topiaries in Home Depot. I have never seen them before. I was quite surprised that they have tiny leaves, what was more surprising was the price. About $80.00 for a 36” plant!!! I wanted 2 of them, but now I just don’t know. They are so expensive. I am wondering if I am better off getting two fakes for my front door instead. I really like the look a lot. Maybe I should wait until next year. I am not sure yet. Plus I will have to maintain their shape, which I am sure will not be too bad if I keep up with it. I am also thinking it would be nice to have one or two around my pond area. It would be a different vertical element besides the basic tree.

Another type of topiary I admire is the small shrub that is cut into various globes of different sizes. I really like how they look as well. I have seen them at Sam’s last year prices at $50.00. They were small plants. I guess it is expensive to cut and care for these plants. These may be the last things I add into my yard due to their cost and I would want to see everything else grown in first before adding them.  Unless! I keep them in pots and can move them around at will.

Trees in Containers

Lately I have become obsessed with planting trees in container and keeping them in container. This is a way I fill in my garden with more vertical interest and I really like the way large pots look dispersed about a garden. Another advantage is that the roots are contained. I have some places where roots can possibly become a problem but by having the trees in container I avoid that hassle. My courtyard is an area where I need to plant trees in containers for space and foundation reasons and limitations.

I did a lot of researching online before potting my own trees. I have found out that rooftop gardens have a lot of potted trees and they are kept that way. I found some images of impressive roof top gardens with some impressive sized trees in what looked like small pots. I also observed this when I went to a new nursery here in El Paso. The large trees hade small pots by comparison. The owner told me he starts them in the ground then plants the trees into pots. Little by little the trees are transplanted into larger pots.   Some trees grow out of their container but you can take steps to keep them in the container you have choosen. You can remove the container every so often and clip the roots back. You can also clip back the crown. I currently have a patio peach tree, which obviously is a container plant. I am also experimenting with two pink flowering Cherry Willows and a Bradford Pear. The Bradford Pear was supposed to go into the ground. However I love the way it looks in my courtyard amongst the two cherry willows. So I will pick another tree for where I was going to plant this one. I need to pick a container for the Bradford Pear. The two cherry willows are in pots because I want them in my courtyard but I cannot plant them into the ground due to my house.  I have also seen an illustration of a cherry willow being added to a rooftop garden. It was a huge tree with a small root ball so I am pretty confident this will work out just fine. Once the trees get larger I hope the effect will be breathtaking. Another venture I will be trying out is keeping palms in pots. Palms do not like me too much and although you can see them all over El Paso, this really is not the climate for them as our winters are too cold and our air is too dry. Yet people plant them anyway. I am thinking of trying a Chinese fan palm in a pot, I like the way they look with the many leaves and I can move it inside if needed in the winter months.

As far as pots go, I have some gorgeous pots made of plastic but look like cermanic. They can be found in a variety of colors and sizes. I have choosen the largest pots in red.