Friday, July 20, 2018

acantholimon halophylum

Acantholimon halophylum was attractive from the get-go. They formed a very neat clump of prickly leaves, like a dianthus but much more uniform, almost perfect half spheres of olive green. Planted a few years ago, the first year was just foliage, the next year there were a few flowers. I admit that they were a little disappointing compared the the showy pink flowers of Acantholimon hohenackeri that I had at my old house. I couldn't find those again, but Agua Fria Nursery had these instead. A. halophylum may not have showy flowers, but the little umbrellas of white that are the bracts left after the bloom has faded, are much more impressive. In my garden, the bracts form a bright spot of white that glow in the sunlight. Visitors to my garden always comment when they see them, not only about how unusual they are, but how eye catching. That bright white has been there since early June, and will last through the winter, a much more impressive length of show than any flowers. The bracts close when it rains, then open again when they dry out, in a charming manner. The plants are amazingly drought tolerant, even though they are planted in almost pure sand, and other drought tolerant plants suffer in this location. Don't be dismayed by the diminutive little tuft of prickly foliage if you ever are lucky enough to see this at a nursery. Just buy it. On the other hand, leave them for me. I wish I had about 10 more. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

first flush is over

The first flush of roses is the biggest. Throughout May, the roses have been putting out their first flushes. I've been too busy with the wedding to take a lot of photos, but I certainly have been appreciating them.

Abraham Darby

Abraham Darby

Alnwick Castle

Bishop's Castle
 Bishop's Castle has been the star of the garden, with multitudes of fragrant flowers.

Bishop's Castle

Bishop's Castle







Munstead Wood

Munstead Wood

Princesse Charlene de Monaco


Sharifa Asma

It is rather sad when the dead-heading has to be done and the first flush is over.

14 dozen roses and a couple of rings

It's been a month since my last posting. The garden has been bursting forth, but there hasn't been much time to photograph or post while in preparation for the wedding. Yep, after 18 years of being together, we decided to do it. 14 dozen roses went into the table centerpieces, not to mention all the other flowers. I don't want to post too many photos. This is a GARDEN blog after all. The wedding was at Quarai, and the reception was at our house.

The flower arranging party.

Surrounded by flowers. 

Head Table

Guest tables

My sister making the garlands for the front entrance.

One of the finished garlands

Another sister making the cake

The finished cake

The ceremony

The roses cooperated by being in full bloom

yep, even Abe.
The professional photos won't be out for a couple of weeks, and no, I didn't try to root any of the florist roses. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

why I grow roses...for now

On the rose forum, a thread was posted that asked "Why do you grow roses?" I thought about for a few days, and here is my answer.

Why do I grow roses? A big part of why I garden is to grow fragrances that are otherwise unobtainable. Then I realized that I have moved to climate where fragrances are rare. The thin dry air here is not a good conductor of fragrances, and the earthy fragrances of grass and wood and vegetation and decomposition that I grew up with are essentially absent here except on the rare humid day or after irrigation. Most of the time, I go for a walk or out in the garden and smell...nothing.This is very strange for me, since I have an over-sensitive sense of smell (hyperosmia), and the scent of an area is how I know and understand my surroundings in a similar way as we do seeing it or hearing it.   There are some fragrances here, they are just primarily herbal: the pinyon, or juniper, the fernbush, whose whole bush has a warm woody fragrance and even more fragrance when it blooms, and the herbs that do well here such as rosemary, lavender and thyme. But what I want in my garden are floral fragrances in addition to the herbal. And there are some fragrant flowers here, the weedy Spanish broom, which smells candy sweet for a week or so, the musty smelling Scotch broom or other Cytissus cultivars, and the native Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), which does smell strongly of chocolate. Hall’s honeysuckle grows here also, and is a scraggly weedy looking vine, that builds up a fire risk thatch. These tough plants all have what I have forbidden in my garden, that being the color yellow, which grates on my eyes like nails on a chalkboard, and all these plants have weedy appearances. Then there is the native chamisa, whose golden yellow flowers in the fall, smell strongly. In fact whole areas of the city can smell like this in the fall. Some say it smells of sweaty gym socks...after it has been sitting at the bottom of the gym bag for a week. However you describe it, I have not encountered anyone who has described it as pleasant. Some other native plants have non-yellow flowers and pleasant fragrances: Purshia has ivory colored flowers on a tough sculptural shrub. The native mock orange, Philadelphus microphyllus has white flowers which smell of pineapple in the spring on rather scrappy-looking shrubs.  Fendlera rupicola is a similarly looking shrub and also with white flowers but four petaled, which are fragrant if you put your nose in them. All these shrubs have beautiful flowers which last a week at most in the spring, too short of a time for a fragrance addict. But people grow lilacs which don’t last any longer. Datura wrightii has large white night blooming scented trumpets throughout late summer, if you have room for a large perennial to perhaps 5 feet across that dies to the ground in the winter. I tried growing one, and it died, but I may try again. 

Although all of these plants are worthy of growing, when I moved into this house, I knew I wanted season-long floral fragrances. I also knew that all around the neighborhood, people grew roses easily, even in yards where the owners were not particularly interested in gardens. So I started growing roses. If I lived in a warmer climate and/or one with more moisture, I may not have become much of a rose grower, favoring the tropical scents of gingers, plumerias, Trachelospermum, Michelia, the fragrant camellias or rhododendrons, gardenias, daphne...the list goes on and on. Here I have a lot of herbal scents, some ephemeral spring fragrances, the long blooming chocolate flower tucked away where I don’t have to actually see them much,  and...roses. Although their water loving ways may mean that they will need to be replaced, probably by the drought tolerant plants I mentioned. 

But for now, the roses are here, and rose season is just beginning. These three roses began blooming first, all opening flowers on the exact same day, April 21, this year. 

Bolero: Although white and fragrant , I will probably remove them all at the end of this year. I need something that uses less water in that spot, and Bolero is also extremely susceptible to thrips damage and constant spraying is not something I'm good at. There isn't a great need to replace them, since the rosemary will gladly expand to fill the area, but I'm thinking of a white flowered Autumn sage. I already have Texas Wedding, which is, like all Salvia greggii, starts blooming early and continues blooming all summer. In this climate, it's amazing, which is why it is used everywhere. It's fragrant, but an herbal foliage fragrance. 


Salvia greggii 'Texas Wedding'

Marie Pavie, will probably be a keeper. It blooms throughout the summer, and the fragrance from one plant can be detected from yards away. I planted 4 more last year, to surround the outdoor eating area, and hopefully we can dine bathed in the fragrance of these.

Old Blush will also probably stay. Not because I like it, since the flowers are rather boring and not very fragrant, but because it is just a tough rose that keeps on blooming. The color of the flowers changes to a rather strident cerise in the heat. I'd remove it but I don't have the energy. That, and it was a gift from someone who took a cutting from her great-aunt's yard and told me that she was happy that it was now in a yard where it wouldn't be destroyed and lost. Hmph.

Opening their first flowers about April 27, are these two.

Abraham Darby. I wondered if it was my imagination that made me obsessed with this rose, but then this first one bloomed and I smelled it, and it all came back to me. The fragrance is incredible, and the  flower form is just perfect.

Winchester Cathedral. I keep thinking I should remove it, since the flowers are small, strangely scented and doesn't rebloom well (probably due to my neglect), but I don't think it's going to happen.

mini-beards are over

The time of the dwarf bearded irises is over. My photo journal says that it lasted about 3 weeks, which I suppose is not a terribly short time. But those three weeks are over so quickly.

'Eramosa Enigma' was quite nice this year (above), but I like the color of 'Gemstar' (below) better.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

miniature bearded iris time begins

I've become very fond of miniature bearded irises. They bloom very early in the season, when color is most useful, and then their small stature helps them easy to overlook when their bloom is over. Like all irises, their bloom life is very short, 2-3 days at the most, and although a larger plant produces flowers at different times, the overall bloom time is rather short, a couple of weeks at the most. Still, it's early spring color for very little work. 'Autumn Jester' was previously posted and it probably has a few more flowers and it will be done, 10 days overall color, which can be more than the tree peony in a warm year, but still very short compared to a hellebore, and about the same or more than a flowering plum.

It's still a pretty small plant and it could probably use a little more care this year to produce a bigger plant for next year. 

'Alpine Lake' is quite small, even by miniature bearded iris standards, about 4 inches tall. It produces so many flowers that they are a bit crowded. Flowers are oddly colored, being rather grey and with mottled greyish blue and purple.

'Riveting' on the other hand is on the larger side for miniature bearded irises. I remember being quite disappointed last year, when it didn't look like the picture from the catalog. The picture showed the falls to be almost entirely dark purple with a thin white border. Mine bloomed with just the brushing of purple. The plant is also bigger than I wanted, maybe about 10 inches tall.  But it has turned out to be quite vigorous, and floriferous. I've grown very fond of it. It would be easy to be a collector of these dwarf bearded irises, as they do come in a variety of colors (although, as always, I'm only interested in the white to purple range).

Friday, April 6, 2018

tree peony time

It's that glorious time when the tree peony blooms. Appreciate it while you can, because the flowers only last a few days, then it's just the photos to remember them by. I bought this one about 7 years ago labelled as white from a local nursery. I'd expect that from a box store, not a nursery. Still, it's a TREE PEONY with all its exotic connotations, and is beautiful despite clashing with the color of the redbuds.