Sunday, September 11, 2011

Botanical Darwinism... the oleander that grows by the Fortress of Solitude.  It's really pretty bad-assed.  I recognize that bad-assery is not normally a quality that one ascribes to plants, but let's recap:  The Fortress of Solitude is in the middle of the Mojave Desert, no rain to speak off, hotter than Satan's sauna in the summer, and what passes for "soil" here is a mixture of powdered gypsum and lime.  It's not very plant-friendly and yet, here is this giant oleander that gets no attention from me outside of my checking, once a year, that my drip system is not giving it anymore water than it deserves, which isn't very much because I'm a cheap bastard.  Not only does it survive, it thrives.

Three years ago, I embarked on a major trimming of this bad boy.  I was not gentle.  There was a chainsaw, a Sawzall with a 12 inch branch trimming blade - there's a horror movie right there, and every other sawing, cutting, and snipping device imaginable involved.  At the end of two days, I had hauled three truckloads of dismembered oleander parts away.  Did it care?  No.  It just kept sprouting and growing.

The oleander is actually four separate plants and, two years ago, in what we now refer to as the Unfortunate Water Softener Incident, the two plants on the left of the picture above were subjected to a flood of brine.  It killed them.  Dead.  Dead as a plant can get.  Leaves wilted, dried up and dropped, leaving nothing but a bunch of naked sticks sticking up, like a giant's wienie roast gone wrong.  Nothing to do, I thought, but grab the chainsaw, cut this all out and start over.

But, it turns out, salt to an oleander is like cobra venom to a honey badger.  It doesn't kill, it just turns the oleander into a sleepy fuck for a while.  Three weeks later, I noticed new sprouts on the stumps and, now, look at the picture above.  Can you tell the difference between the two plants on the left and the two plants on the right?  No.  No, you can't, because the oleander just doesn't give a shit what you do or don't do to it.  God forbid, I should ever fertilize this son of a bitch.

Having been convinced of the invincibility of the oleander, we've come to terms with the beast.  A couple of times a year, I trim the big guy to a) keep the homeowner's association busy bodies out of my hair, b) let the neighbors keep their view of the Strip, and c) allow me to open my back gate.  In turn, the oleander provides an effective screen that prevents passers-by from observing what's going on in my back yard as well as supplying biomass.  Lots and lots of biomass.  In the past 6 months, I've dumped something like twenty 30-gallon barrels of oleander trimmings onto my compost pile, which is a good thing.

But still...
Here's a close up of Mr. Oleander.  The light green stuff you're seeing is what has grown since I trimmed it back last week.  It's like the bastard is almost defying me.

All I can say to that is, "How about a little FIRE, Scarecrow??"


  1. I need to get an oleander. I've killed every single plant I've ever had... including a plastic one.

  2. Oleander is supposed to be one of the most invasive plants. Has an awful reputation. Guess you are just helping it to keep that reputation. Good Luck in dealing with it!