Rainfall is very unpredictable, but most often in summer as
thunderstorms. We've had more than average this year, but the overall
trend has been toward drought (as much as 10 months at a time with none).
I don't know what the average at the house is yet, as it is radically different
every year. It's been from three to about nine inches so far, but I
suspect (from the native vegetation) that over the long haul it may be over
10. Just like everywhere, there are problems with gardening, but it is a
good climate for Irises overall, at least for bearded, aril, and spuria.
Not so good for those liking cool and/or damp or low PH. As you can see, I
tend to garden between the natives, but I do water quite a lot where things like
Iris are growing, at least part of the year when they are growing. A lot
of the European species and their descendants, such as those with lots of I.
variegata in them have some problems getting established, and are very slow to
increase. Those with more blood from species of the steppes, deserts, or
Mediterranean (which is a lot of the background of most bearded cultivars) seem
to be happier here.
Natural vegetation is kind of hard to sum up, as there is quite a lot of
diversity. I'm sure it would be even more interesting, but it is an area
that has been heavily impacted by cattle grazing for something over 100
years. Lots of things that should be here are not, and others are
rare. It is always fun to see what comes up inside the fences as time goes
by. Lots of surprizes. We have few Astragalus, and most of them are
annuals or green herbaceous ones with bladder pods. There are a few
Penstemons, but they are rahter conservative in their appearance (P. fendleri is
the most common). The dominant annual that covers most of the ground is a
small fuzzy Plantain (in flower in the photo). In the larger category (no
trees) There is a variety of mostly small Cacti (the Chollas can get over 6 ft,
but are usually shorter), a couple species of Yucca, Nolina, scrubby Oak and
Juniper, Three-leaf Sumac, Apache Plume, a host of small shrubby Composites,
etc. The only bulbs I've seen so far are two tiny Alliums. There are
a number of small succulents with storage tubers or they are annuals, mostly
these are Portulacaceae. We don't get a big spring annual display because
winters are too dry most years. In years when it is "moist" in winter, as
this year, we get a few winter annuals such as Oenothera (looked like a toilet
paper factory exploded in April this year). Most of the annuals are minute
to tiny, and can mature in a few days from seed. Others are oportunistic
and will grow any time temperatures are warm enough and there is water (more
often in summer or fall). Most of the herbaceous growth is
perennial. Grass covers most of the ground (when cattle are gone for a
while), but lately the Plantain is ruler supreme.
It would be perfect, except for the relentless wind (60 mph at night is
routine, much higher is commonplace).
I picked it though, and I'm making into my own kind of oasis.