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Despite Thus We Stay for Mar. 05, 2009

­We are “landscape challenged”

by Carol Dunn

HUERFANO- Forgive the title of this column, but I am trying to be sensitive to the many soils and native plants in Huerfano County.  It’s not that we have bad soils, it’s just that they would be more suited to somewhere else, like Egypt or Los Angeles.  If you take a look around the landscape, you’ll see that most homeowners don’t have much to work with when attempting to make their front yards look like the cover of Country Gardens magazine.  Oh sure, you’ve got an occasional luxuriant, irrigated place where some previous owner (cheater) hauled in 700 loads of fertile topsoil and everything grows tall and lush like in the Amazon jungle, but in general, most of us have some major work to do to just to make anything grow.  And when someone advises you to be at harmony with your surroundings, remind them how pleasant it is playing volleyball in a front yard landscaped with yucca.

    Besides yucca, what thrives here?  Rabbit brush, sage, kochia, thistles, goathead stickers, prickly pear and cholla cactus absolutely LOVE the soil in Huerfano County.  If these plants are part of your landscaping plan, then you are in luck.  Sit in the shade this summer, let nature take its ­course, eat a bowl of ice cream, and enjoy life.  However, if you were hoping for violets, petunias and columbines, get ready for thankless hours of digging, fertilizing, watering and mulching.  These plants do not want to grow here.  On that little tag that tells you how to grow them, there is a picture of Huerfano County with a slash through it.  These plants will fight you every step of the way, and usually they will win.  Things will be going along pretty well, and then you’ll forget to water them during an 8-hour span of hot wind and, the next time you look, they will be as crispy as corn flakes.  Their little crunchy ghosts will haunt you in your sleep, taunting, “Weee, tollld youuu so.”

    Yeah, yeah there are stunning native flowers growing here and there.  Bright beautiful colors sprinkled around the native landscape.  They appear to live on no water, in hot sun, despite the wind, and with no visible soil to anchor their roots.  One would think these plants would be THRILLED to live in a well-kept, watered garden and be loved by a gardener.  But just try to transplant one.  DISASTER.  They don’t want to live in your garden.  They would rather exist on a dry horse trail, getting trampled every couple of days.

    And when we talk about “the soil” in Huerfano County, let us qualify one thing. According to my handy-dandy USDA-NRCS Soil Survey (get your own FREE copy and look up these amazing facts yourself by calling (719) 738-1171, there are 94 types of soil in Huerfano County with such family names as Apishapa – fine, montmorillonitic (calcareous), mesic Vertic Fluvaquents – and if you understand what that means, you deserve an honorary degree from Soil U.  Some of us have alkaline soils, some have sandy, some have gravelly, some have stony, some have all of the above, and some don’t really have any.    

    Huerfano County landscaping is just not for the feeble-hearted.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer the ice cream method.