Sunday, March 23, 2014

garden update

'Samba' was my most anticipated purchase when I bought a bunch of Amaryllis a year ago, and my biggest Amaryllis disappointment. It turned out to have difficulty flowering, the photos showing ruffled flowers that turn out to be distortions that make flowering a struggle. It's going to end up in the compost pile.

Meanwhile, 'La Paz' makes a third phallic ascent this year.

I'm not one for yellow flowers, thus this 'Crandall" gooseberry is in a pot to see if I can tolerate it. Lots of fragrant flowers, early in the year, but I'm still not convinced to like yellow

The side yard is shaping up, with the dying Mugho pine removed yesterday (so off to the spa today for some pampering of sore muscles!). The dying aspen trees have been removed, the purple plum and the overgrown cytisus removed, the Salvia 'Maraschino' removed (just clumps of old dead stems). The structure of the area is now visible, although it looks rather bare in comparison. Needs some growth.

Back in June 2012 after the half-dead aspens were partially removed:

The 'Iceberg' rose cutting from November has graduated to a gallon sized pot and has two buds on it.
2 months ago in a  2-1/4" pot:

The 'Mrs. B R Cant' cutting has also grown enormously. No place to put it, so I'm giving it away.
2 months ago:

I put in a bunch of 'Bolero' roses yesterday, which are supposed to bloom a lot, with fragrance and heat tolerance. We'll see. Right now, they are looking pretty pathetic, since they arrived in the mail partially leafed out, and of course immediately wilted upon unpacking.

'Polly' peach is blooming away in its second year. I'm surprised to find that the flowers are nicely fragrant.

Still a very small tree though, not the 3 feet of growth that other peaches put out.

'William Shakespeare 2000' was my first rose to leaf out, plants are still pretty small.

I am getting a little frightened by the extreme vigor of Annemarie's heritage rose. It put out these basals in the fall, which remained red throughout the winter with no cold damage. They look like they are making a bid to take on the world.

Violas enjoying the cool sunny weather.

I wish I had the energy to take out these 'Knockout' roses. I really don't like the color of the flowers even if the plants are very vigorous.

The spurias and the 'Walker's Low' are bursting forth.

Phlox kelsyi 'Lemhi Purple' putting out its first flowers, although they are more magenta than purple.

Petite Nigra fig, showing some life. I've given it an ultimatum: Make fruit this year, or you will be replaced by a Brown Turkey.

The overwintered kale bursting forth. Too much to eat, and it will have to come out for the rose bushes.

The Texas Redbud has opened its first flowers.

Oklahoma Redbud is thinking about it. It will have to come out this year, the shrubby, droopy form will not work in the courtyard.

The un-named tree peony has only three flowers this year. It too will have to come out, since it looks out of place. I will send it off to my mother come fall.

I was so proud of myself for finding a solution for the courtyard imbalance problem. I put in two more boxwoods, and plan on taking out the euonymus. Adding two boxwood to the already existing one, added structure, symmetry and balance to the courtyard. It also brought out the ire of the hubby who voiced his displeasure a month later. They will have to come out. He says he wants a forest in the courtyard instead of a garden. I get the last word, but it may become more wild looking. Still a garden. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

amaryllis time continues

The amaryllis have been in the cool garage, and I have been bringing them into the relatively warm house every few weeks to get them to flower. It worked for some, others didn't do anything. I figured that they didn't get enough sun and fertilizer last year to bloom. 'Minerva' was one of those, sitting in the house for a month before I put it back into the garage so that it wouldn't grow leaves too soon. Then the weather started to warm up, the days longer, and up pops two flower stalks. I think some plants are more affected by their internal clock than others. After all, Hippeastrum bloom in the spring in their natural climate.

'Minerva's buds develop white with pink edges and as the flowers open, the internal scarlet develops. Last year as the buds developed, I also thought that it was the wrong plant, but then flowers opened and color developed. The leaves develop just as the stems elongate, unlike many amaryllis whose flowers develop on leafless plants. 'Minerva' is an old variety, and still a great plant, the flowers being in proportion to the stem height, and apparently easy to grow from year to year.

'La Paz' on the other hand, has very long stems, with the spidery flowers perched on the top, looking a bit small in proportion. My plant of 'La Paz' has put out a second flower stem. It bloomed December 22, 2013 by my records, and I thought it was done. But with the warming weather, another stem has appeared, and a third is forming. Quite a pleasant surprise. These photos show a more true color than the last photos.

I also didn't think that 'Samba' would bloom this year, no signs of bloom a year after a month indoors. It seemed like a struggle for it to bloom last year as a new bulb also. Stay tuned.

It's funny how some amaryllis like 'Samba' put out a stem with a big fat bud at the top, and others, like 'La Paz', and H. papilio have a long skinny bud, inside which the forming flowers seem too small to ever amount to much. 'Minerva' and 'Ruby Star', are sort of in the middle. I have a friend who freaks out when she sees stems like these developing. She averts her eyes, and even blocks the view with her hand, saying it looks gross. She wasn't like that before her divorce. It makes me worry about her.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

old hellebore, new hellebore

As if trying to prove my last post wrong, the hellebore is picking up steam.

I was just thinking that I should get some spotted white single-flowered hellebores, when there they were at the nursery. I think they are getting more popular here in Albuquerque, because two of the three nurseries that I went to had hellebores. Jericho had a bunch of 'Ivory Prince' which has never looked very "ivory" to me. They always look muddy green at the nursery, which is not the look I am going for. Maybe they are being sold past peak. Too bad for me if that's the case, because they are immensely floriferous, at least they are in the as-sold condition, and I am missing out if they are really a brighter color. Osuna Nursery had three varieties of hellebores (not much compared to the nursery I went to in California a few weeks ago). Two were of the "Spring Promise" variety and they also had 'Ivory Prince' (also looking muddy green). They only had a few 'Conny' but she was just what I had been looking for. I stepped away to look at the other color, a rich brick red which perfectly matches my flagstone (not a good thing if the flowers disappear visually into background) and when I did, of course other shoppers swooped in, saying "Let's get these!"  I breathed a sigh of relief as they moved on. I probably shouldn't have worried, since if someone is asking "What are these?" they probably wouldn't be spending $25 on a 1-gallon perennial.  I bought two. Which then makes me wonder about my sanity.

sitting on my kitchen countertop

Saturday, March 8, 2014


It's snowing a little today, but that doesn't stop the hellebore from blooming. I'm becoming a little obsessed with hellebores. The flowers form when little else is blooming, which of course adds to the obsession since there is nothing to distract me. I was a little concerned that this quality alone may be causing me to overestimate the quality of the plants, but I don't think so. I love the graceful curve of the stems from which hang the flowers, winter bells in the garden. I love the shape, color and glossiness of the palmate evergreen leaves.

The flowers last a good long time. The flowers on Helleborus niger 'Jacob' began opening on Christmas Day, and began to fade toward the end of January, turning green with pink edges (when most of the rest of the garden was brown). The flowers are still there, but mostly green now. I'm happy to see seed pods forming, and lots of new leaves coming up.


Comparing photos, it is curious to me that the white bracts of full bloom were rounded, but as they faded to green, they became more pointed.


This hellebore hybrid is blooming now. It came from High Country Gardens, and was the first plant I planted in TMH garden, even before we moved in. I'm not normally fond of double hellebore flowers, but this one did me in, with the drooping white flowers and spots. I'm not sure who bred it, but there are probably better cultivars out there. This one seems to be a bit unstable, with some flowers opening perfectly, like this one, others never turning white, and having deformed flowers. It may be because I have it in too much sun, since I removed the beautiful but over-rambunctious aspen trees from my tiny courtyard. I suspect that the sun makes the bracts turn green sooner, as well. I have a couple of white single hellebores from Pine Knot Farms that I planted last year in a shadier spot. Maybe next year they will bloom.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

goodbye cattleyas

Cattleya orchids have always been my favorite flowers. Like, if I had to choose one type of flower that is my all-time favorite, it would probably be the cattleya orchid. If I had to give up gardening but could only grow one thing, it would probably be the cattleya orchid. It's not necessarily the frilly over-the-top girly ones like the Blc. Ray Holmes that I had bloom last year (photo above), but also the simpler ones, like my Lc. Mini Purple (below).

So it comes as a disappointment for me to realize, after returning from the Pacific Orchid Expo, that cattleya orchids have a very low pleasure-to-misery ratio. In my house, they are unhappy, and show their displease by not blooming, or sulking, even though they rarely croak. It's not that I'm not patient.  I had this Blc. Jeweler's Art 'Carved Coral', for NINE years before it bloomed, then it bloomed twice a year, before Landscape Architecture school neglect caused the roots to rot.

 Here's maybe a better shot for color.

I only had Blc. Little Mermaid 'Janet' for a year or so, before I gave it away. It just got too big. But I still miss it. One day I was home, and I heard a crash. Janet's leaves had grown so much that it pushed itself right off the windowsill.

Iwanagara Appleblossom 'Mendenhall' has also gotten just too big for my space, the flower stems on this variety get a foot tall, with the sweetly scented flowers perched on top.

Cattleya orchids are sympodial orchids, which means that the leaves grow up from a creeping rhizome like an iris. This creeping rhizome can be more of a running rhizome, such as bamboo, which makes it hard to contain in a pot. The plants continue to grow as if they were along the branch of a tree, which is how they grow naturally, right out of the pot. In the home, they need a pot to hold the growing medium and moisture, and a pot that is not too big or the roots will rot, but too small, and in a season they will be growing mostly outside of the pot. Without the nutrients and moisture from the medium, plants growing mostly outside of the pot don't bloom.

Such is the case with my Lc. Starting Point 'Newberry' x C. walkeriana v. semi-alba, a seedling with a nice pedigree, but which wants to grow in a straight line (not reasonable in a pot). Cutting off the old growth, and repotting just the new growth means no flowers for a lot of the cattleyas, which resent this treatment.

Such was also the case with my C. walkeriana 'Pendentive', which was given away, despite the beautiful flowers and delicious strong and fruity fragrance. It also required very bright light sunlight (a bit of shadecloth from the NM sun), relatively dry at the roots and moist in the air. Not an easy feat in New Mexico. The bright light they need also generates heat, and you also have to keep the air moving to keep heat from building up and burning the leaves.

I don't know what I expected, with trying to grow Slc. Love fresh. This is a cross involving the rupicolous (rock growing) Brazilian orchid, with Sophronitis and Laelia. It requires very bright light (full sun growing on granite boulders in Brazil), and cool temperatures, not reasonable to expect here. It grew and bloomed for a few years before dwindling miserably. Here it is when it was looking good.

Funny, but I don't even remember the name of this one, or what happened to it, which I regret every time I see this picture

I kept a B. nodosa for while, but I have to admit it was for sentimental reasons, being one of the parents of B. Little Stars. I guess I don't miss it too much.

Brassavola Little Stars (B. nodosa x B. cucullata), is in the top five of my most favorite orchids ever, for its simple form, pure color, and incredible night time fragrance, which admittedly is an acquired taste. It grew well enough for me in the old house, but not so well in my current house. Still, I may keep trying with this one, before I give up entirely. But mostly I think I'm going to try to focus on the miniatures, particularly the monopodial orchids (orchids that grow one or a few stems, and keep growing longer, rather than creeping along a rhizome). Or at least the tight clumpy ones. So then goodbye to the cattleyas.