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Senior Correspondent

The desert is beautiful in its own way and I have come to appreciate it. The colors and smells after a rain are like no place else. For a few weeks the normally brown hillsides turn as green as a slope in Ireland after the winter rains. The ultra low humidity means few flying insects, huge, cloudless skies, and the ability to see the mountain tops up to 50 miles away.

Even so, for the last 30+ years I have maintained a flower and plant-filled backyard pretty much year-round. There are times when all of us desert-dwellers need a break from the look of a desert, and my backyard has been that respite. Dozens of pots, overflowing with geraniums, petunias, pansies…whatever is in season, define the back patio, porch, Ramada, and the edges of the yard. Flowering bushes, bougainvilleas, Texas Rangers, lantanas, bottle brushes … anything with color and texture soften the look of the block wall that surrounds the yard.

As you might imagine there is a fair amount of time, effort, and money in maintaining that oasis. Even though all of the bushes and plants are low water use, low maintenance, desert-approved plants, they grow and therefore must be trimmed. They also die after several years and must be replaced. I replant most of the pots two or three times a year. During the summer each one must be watered every single day.

For the last few years I have begun to grow tired of this cycle. I find myself spending less time in the backyard due to interests and activities that are better done inside or away from home. Instead of looking forward to all the replanting every few months, I find myself coming up with reasons to push the work back from week to week.

Well, I finally found the excuse to end this madness: RV travel. We leave soon on a 3 week trip. While the lawn, bushes, and trees are on a sprinkler and drip system, putting two dozen pots on the same system would be a lot of work. More importantly, the yard stuff gets watered much less often than the pots would require. In August we will be in Oregon for even longer making the watering chores that much more involved. Then, in October is another three week trip to California.

Betty has no objection since she spends even less time in the yard than I do. We both agree that our changing priorities, desire to simplify, and the need to put limited financial resources where they give give us the most joy means the end, for now, of all those flowers. We also agree that our next home will have a much smaller yard to maintain and decorate….just enough for the dog and some planting.

In the meantime I have given Betty a challenge that she seems excited to take on: figure out things other than live plants to go in the colorful pots, and other ways to enliven the backyard that avoids watering or maintenance. I am quite sure she will have a burst of creative thoughts that make the space just as pretty as the flowers did. Hopefully, it won't be nearly as expensive as the flowers!

When she does you can be sure I'll write about it and include pictures. In the meantime, I still have half a dozen pots to empty and store away for another day.

Back to the backyard …

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