Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Last year, I discovered dryland clematis also called sugarbowls. They've been offered on/off by High Country Gardens, and I saw one offered once at Agua Fria Nursery, but last year, reading about them in Robert Nold's book High and Dry, I had to get some. Actually I already had one, but I needed more. Those flowers were so cute that I had to get my hands on whatever I could find. Unfortunately (or fortunately for that matter), I was only able to find a few, at Laporte Avenue Nursery. I ordered a couple of whatever they had. I had read that they take some time to get established, and seeing how slowly they progress, at least in my garden, that is a bit of an understatement. Still I got one flower so far, and one more to open, from my six plants. One died last year, which was very sad.

My plants are a far cry from those posted on the Denver Botanical Gardens website, but at least it's a start. How can you not fall for these delicate creatures?

The lilac is the opposite of small and dainty, but it blooms in a coordinated color and at the same time. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

pruning rosemary

I've heard comment from others that the best way to prune rosemary is to never prune it. I don't agree. I think that rosemary when left alone, grows so vigorously, that it flops out, and becomes woody, then large branches die, leaving a scraggly mess. If you doubt this, see if you can remember the large scale rosemary plantings at the Century 24 movie theater here in Albuquerque. This past year, they had to remove a large number of half-dead/mostly-dead plants and then they pruned back the rest. Those that were pruned back look so much better this year.

But I do agree that shearing the plants several times a year into gumdrops as they do in many other public areas (i.e. gas stations) is equally ugly. So then what to do? There are a couple things to keep in mind. First, is that rosemary grows natively in an area populated with browsing animals, particularly goats. Although the strong smell from resinous oils keeps the deer and the rabbits away, it doesn't necessarily keep the goats away. Then, notice that rosemary blooms in late winter and grows strongly in the spring, then continues somewhat more slowly in the summer and slows down in the fall. Then also notice that rosemary blooms on old wood, that is, the growth that was made the previous year (this also explains why a young rosemary plant may not bloom very much). One more thing to think about is that if you want your rosemary to bloom in those glorious clouds of blue that I love. If you just want rosemary to use as an herb, you might want it to grow as many tender new leaves as you can (although I can't imagine anyone wanting that much rosemary!).

So given that rosemary grows fast and is native to an area with browsing animals, I think it is okay to prune rosemary hard. That being said, don't prune rosemary to where there are no green leaves, because it won't sprout new growths from that old wood. Personally, I think it is okay to shear rosemary into mound or gumdrop (!), then pick prune for shape, and to remove old dead wood, and the scraggly growths and to remove the clumps of stems at the ends of branches that results from shearing the shrub a few times. It takes some time. You can also shear rosemary into a hedge as they often do in California. But I think the most important thing to remember is when to prune rosemary.

I pruned one of my 'Gorizia' rosemary late last fall because I was too busy to prune it in the spring and it began to cover my window. The unnamed rosemary next to it, I left unpruned since I was frankly too busy, and it didn't cover a window. This spring showed me the results.

'Gorizia' grew new leaves strongly this spring, but produced almost no flowers, since I had pruned off all the growth from last year, which would have been the flowering stems.

The unnamed rosemary, was covered in blue flowers this year. Now that it is done blooming, I have pruned it back, but this means that I have pruned off all the lush new growth that is produced on the ends of the stems as the plants finishes blooming. 'Gorizia', having no blooms, started growing new leaves much earlier.

So when to prune? If you want flowers in the spring, prune right after blooming, so that it will produce a lot of new growths that will bloom next year. If you don't want flowers or if you just want early tender growth, prune in the fall or winter.

And how to prune? If you want flowers, prune hard so that the plant produces a lot of new growth which will bloom all along those year-old stems. Also prune hard if you want long straight stems for barbecue skewers. I guess that means that my opinion is to prune hard. BUT, only prune ONCE a year if you want flowers. If you want a gumdrop (no!) or a hedge, you will need to shear it several times a summer. Although it may seem contradictory that I prune into a gumdrop but then I hate gumdrops, when I prune once a year, it quickly outgrows that gumdrop appearance. It also looks less like a gumdrop since I prune out the witches brooms that grow after shearing to the same spot a couple of years. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

first roses, frost roses

 Every year is a different test on my plants. This year, the long warm spell in February followed by frosty temperatures made for a challenge to the new young growth and buds. Many of my roses couldn't take it, and the flower buds aborted or the new growth got frost nipped. These four roses seem to have done well. 'Munstead Wood' kept its flower buds, when even 'Bishop's Castle', usually my most reliable rose, gave up. Munstead has a really delicious fragrance this year.

'Marie Pavie' has a less-than-perfect first bloom, but there are lots more to come. No bud drop. 
 'Old Blush' is practically a weed. Too bad the flowers are not very exciting, and there is almost no fragrance. No bud drop with that late freeze however.

'Winchester Cathedral' didn't do very well last year, for whatever reason, but this year it seems pretty happy, and didn't freeze any buds. Still has that "hint of latrine" fragrance that I'm not terribly fond of. 

There are more to come, but these are the first to open flowers.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Phalaenopsis parishii

I bought this Phalaenopsis during the Pacific Orchid Exposition at Andy's Orchids three or maybe four years ago. It's my first bloom. It's a miniature orchid, and my plant has leaves that are less than 2 cm although my book says that they grow to 12x5cm. They are also deciduous in the wild but evergreen in cultivation. Mine didn't bloom until something triggered it to lose all its leaves this winter. I had one previously (given away when I moved) and it had a sweet fragrance in the morning. I was eager to get another, although they have been rather tricky to grow.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

more dwarf bearded irises

On this stormy, snowy day, some photos of the miniature beardeds. 'Autumn Jester' again.

This one is 'Eramosa Enigma'. I'm not sure I like the greyish dusty purple colors, and the plant is not as floriferous as the others, as well as being larger, about 12".

'Gemstar' is not the dark navy blue that was advertised, but it is still a cutie.
My friends tease me about my obsession with beards. I can't help it, even when I was a kid I loved them. With irises, I can have about as many as I want.

Monday, March 27, 2017


My third dwarf bearded iris opened, and the closest to what I ordered is 'Riveting'. I think it might be mislabeled since it doesn't look like the catalog photo.
This is what it is supposed to look like:

Sunday, March 26, 2017

hope and promises

The best things about spring are hopes and promises. Those plans made and begun a year ago, or last fall, are starting to show some signs of life. Some of the hopes will prove to be fruitless, and some of the promises will fall through, but spring is full of optimism.

I was hopeful that the hellebores would have a better show this year, as compared to last year.
 'Conny' wasn't particularly prolific last year, but this year she seems happier. The one on the left didn't produce anything last year.

After seeming to languish throughout the last year with just a few leaves, the NoID hellebore has been almost a little too much this year, if that is possible.
It has so many flowers, that it has lost its previous grace to become a dense, blooming fool. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Really, I'm not.

The tree peony wasn't looking its best throughout last year either, since the redbuds have grown and are producing a bit more shade than the peony is happy about. This spring is still full of hope. Here's the promise from yesterday.
Today, I don't know if it has exactly fulfilled it's promise, but it's still an impressive feat to me.

I started getting into bearded irises last year, since they are some of the tough perennials that survive in this climate. I'm most excited about the dwarf bearded irises. My memory of these from 25 years ago was that these were predominantly yellow, and rather boring muddy colors early in the season, but I decided to tray a few. Last year the remontant 'Autumn Jester' produced a single flower in the autumn, which made me smile. I watched in anticipation this year as the tiny tuft of leaves slowly grew. I was checking on them daily, looking for signs of bloom. Suddenly one day there were flower stems when they weren't there the day before.

From yesterday morning. Such anticipation. 

Isn't that just the coolest? At a diminutive 7-1/2 inches tall, it is a far cry from the tall bearded irises, and much earlier.

'Alpine Lake' actually opened its first flowers a couple of days ago, so was the first.
It is even smaller, at 4" tall. Although the reticulata irises are earlier to bloom by about a month, these dwarf bearded irises are easier to place in the garden. Whereas the reticulatas produce tall 18-24" grassy leaves after the blooms are done, the dwarf bearded irises stay small. Choosing varieties means more than picking a pretty flower I have discovered, since dwarf bearded irises can be 4-12" tall, the tallest being 3 times as big as the smallest.

I can't remember the name of this one. It should open tomorrow, and then I should be able to identify it. Until then, there is the promise of glory to come:
 Again, keep in mind that it is only 8" tall.

In contrast, tall bearded iris 'Best Bet' is showing stems quite early. None of the other tall bearded irises are showing any signs of blooming yet. I moved some of my tall bearded irises this spring to work with design. NEVER, EVER do this. They will survive, but they won't bloom this year. Wait until fall. Come to think of it, I'm going to move my spurias this fall if I can remember to do it.

Roses are always an exercise in hope. I bought some bare root roses from David Austin this year (more from other companies on the way), and a couple came looking pretty sad, with brown spindly canes. This one had a couple of green buds, but my hope diminished as the day after I planted them, one of the buds turned brown and dried.

 Today, I'm noticing some signs of life on the one remaining bud. With all those roots, I hope it will make a glorious comeback. There is hope yet.

 'Bishop's Castle' is forming buds:

I think I like the leaves of 'Falstaff' even more than the flowers. I'm not sure why. They just seem so optimistic. The promise of blooms to come is not always well fulfilled with 'Falstaff' however.

'Munstead Wood' is full of promise, with a bud already showing color. 

 'Savannah' is trying to make a comeback after all of her new growth was frozen by a late freeze.

Last year, I let the "octopus canes" that developed on 'Winchester Cathedral' stay, to see what would happen. So far it looks like it might have been a good gamble, since as you can see, every node has produced a growth and clusters of buds. Such hope I have in seeing how this will turn out.

'Old Blush' has many promises, and usually keeps them. 
Not afraid of growing in the least.

The fruit trees blossoms are a promise for fruit later this summer. I don't know if I can successfully keep the bugs from them this year.

 'Ashmead's Kernal' and 'Tydeman's Late Orange' starting to bloom against a typical New Mexico spring sky.

 'Polly Peach' doesn't have the flamboyant floral display that many peaches have, but the fruit quality is much better than those with the big spring show. It's a trade off, and perhaps I haven't discovered the perfect tree with both qualities yet. My 'Redhaven' also has a poor spring show. But I'd rather have better tasting fruit.

The fruiting apples are similar in that they bloom over a longer period and don't have the "wow" factor that the flowering crabapples have. I guess I'm a bit disappointed in that, because I was hoping to have it all. Here, 'Goldrush' makes an effort.

More hopes and promises in the garden.
 Campanula sarmentica looked like it died in the fall, turning suddenly and totally brown. I was tempted to pull it out. Good thing I didn't.

 Cercocarpus' nondescript flowers bring with them the promise of glistening feathery seeds to come.

 I had a lot of hope for some dryland Clematis, or "Sugarbowls" as they are called. They don't seem to be very happy, and had no flowers last year, but I still have hope.

 I have hope also for a much larger type of clematis, here 'Betty Corning' in her third year has produced 5 growths. Last year there was only one. If the wind doesn't destroy the new growth, like it did last year, it should be fabulous. Similarly for the 'Jackmanii' to the right which seems much happier without the honeysuckle competing with it. Both of these clematis die to the ground every year, but it is said that Betty can reach 10-15 feet.

I love dryland phloxes, and it was with high hopes that I planted this Phlox kelseyi 'Lemhi Midnight' last year, which is supposed to be darker than the 'Lemhi purple'. So far in a better location, this one is doing better than the 'Lemhi purple' plants that I have had for a few years.

The lilac is showing some promise.

 When the blooming stem of Salvia transsylvanica 'Blue Spire' froze last fall, I was disappointed. The strong spring growth gives me hope, however, since the flowers last year were very nice.

 I have mixed feelings about Aster 'Purple Dome'. It has done very well with very little water, but the color of purple is a little too strident for me. Still, that new flush of growth and its stalwart nature give me hope for a glorious early fall display.

The 'Scheherezade' lily was disappointing last year, since in the shade of the redbud trees, the stems flopped horribly. I've moved the pot to a sunnier location and have hopes for a happier plant. Or it may kill it in the heat. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.