Tuesday, April 22, 2014

kale blossom salad

Giving it a sprinkle of olive oil and maybe some salt. Beautiful and yummy, but only if you grow your own. It would also be great in a quick saute with same olive oil, salt and some garlic. Nothing else needed. I wonder if I can make kale chips with the flowers?

I am surprised to discover that there aren't many varieties of kale. The grocery stores carry "green kale" and "purple kale." I remember it was such a big deal when they started selling Italian lacinato kale, marketed as "Dinosaur Kale!" Ooh. All these are kales with tough leaves that can survive shipping. I'm growing Red Winter, which has such tender leaves, that even mature leaves make a tender salad, no cooking required. Sometimes you can find it at a farmer's market, but it does wilt quickly, and who wants to buy wilted kale?  Yes, I think purple kale (Redbor) is quite beautiful, and tasty when cooked.

Burpee has 4 varieties - Dwarf Blue, Red Russian, Lacinato and Red Winter. I've tried growing both the Red Russian and the Red Winter and I can't tell the difference.

Park Seed has 5 varieties, White Russian ("The most cold-hardy and moisture resistant Kale we've ever grown!"), that looks like basic green kale in the photo, but I haven't tried it, Lacinato, Redbor Hybrid ("purple kale"), Winterbor Hybrid ("...unsurpased for extra-mild, sweet Kale tang." Seriously? Kale tang?), and Pentland Brig, described as "Looking and tasting a bit more like a cabbage than like the tightly-curled, deeply ruffled varieties..." Sounds good, but does it have that "Kale tang?"

Seeds of Change has four varieties, Red Russian, True Siberian, Lacinato, and "Healthy Kale Mix" which I assume is an open pollinated mix of various kales. Maybe I'd like to try the True Siberian.

Seeds of Italy has two kinds of kale, Lacinato and Galega de Folhas Lisas Smooth Green Leaf. Google translates this as "Galician of flat sheets" but it also translates "Galega de Folhas" as "kale leaves" so I wonder if the translation is really just "flat kale?"But wiith a name like that, how can one resist?

Renee's Garden has four kinds of kale, Lacinato, Portuguese Tronchuda Beira, Triple-Curled "Darkibor" (looks like standard green kale) and Russian "Wild Garden Frills" which is nice marketing for "Equal parts Wild Red & Green Russian Kales."Tronchuda Beira" looks like a a cross between Swiss chard and collards, and looks interesting. I may have to try that one.

The Cook's Garden has four varieties, five if you count "kale mix." These are Lacinato, Winterbor, Wild Mix and Redbor. Boring!

Thompson & Morgan didn't have link to kale in their catalog, but a word search shows 3 types, Black Tuscany (Lacinato), Scarlet (might be Redbor, repackaged), and Rossignol (a green ruffled kale). There is also Walking Stick, which is described as "edible." I'm going to pass on that one. For some reason, I expected more from this company.

Botanical Interests also did not have a link to kale, and a word search shows five varieties, Dwarf Blue Curled, Lacinato Nero Toscana, Red Winter (where I got my seeds), Redbor, and Ornamental Kale Chidori Red.

Gourmet Seed lists Portugese (misspelling is theirs) as a cabbage, so maybe I'll rethink that one. Also has Black Tuscan (Lacinato), Red Russian, and Siberian.

I may have to try a new one or two, but really, I'm quite happy with my Red Winter.

first roses

Of course the first rose to bloom is 'Knockout'. The first one opened last week. But a close second was surprisingly Annemarie's rose. These first blooms aren't much to look at, but like the last roses of the season, you take what you can get. 'Knockout' is such a popular rose, but it is hard for me to see why. The color is terribly garish.

because David likes to see the whole plant

The flower form is irregular and nothing special. The canes have huge thorns. But I suppose it has its virtues. It grows and blooms despite complete neglect. It seems to bloom better with some attention, though. It has multiple flushes through the season, but not the continuous bloom that is described by others. There are a few weeks between flushes in my garden. It seems to be completely pest resistant (still gets aphids though). It has a very nice fragrance. But the color and flower form! So awful!

Annemarie's rose (not an official name, it's just the name that I gave it since Annemarie gave it to me as a passalong plant, the first person described having it being her great-great-grandmother who described it as a "bourbon" rose) put out a first flower that looks different from last year. The color is about the same, but the bloom form of this first flower is different and bigger.

 This is what it looked like last year. Hmm, maybe not all that different.

This is what it looked like in April last year, growing indoors.

It is doing some strange things. Last year, the growth was bushy and thorny. The new growth this year is upright and completely thornless.  I wonder if the flowers on the new growth will look different. 

I've been getting into roses. There are so many colors, flower shapes, bush shapes, fragrances that I can easily see getting obsessed. I see people's rose blogs (Piece of Eden, and A Rose is a Rose...), of people who have gardens (mostly) devoted to roses, and I admire how far they have investigated their passion. "I should have a rose garden!" I say to myself. It's like that whenever I see other people who are focused on one group of plants. In addition to the rosaholics, there are the penstemaniacs, clematiphiles, orchidophiles. What do you call people who collect daylilies, peonies, lilies, apple trees, grapes, gesneriads? But although it would be nice to collect just one group of plants, what I am interested in, is seeing how various plants grow, bloom, and otherwise reproduce (a force that is at odds with the force that wants a beautiful structured garden, which in turn is at odds with the force that wants a "wild space"). Just the other day, I was noticing how the lilies pop out of the soil, and then grow so incredibly fast. I'm thinking, "wow, they must be very efficient at pulling carbon dioxide out the air, and utilizing it." Such a great plant for me, being winter starved, then seeing something so exuberant in growth, and the result being so beautiful. So of course my next thought is "I should have a lily garden! A garden totally devoted to lilies! Yeah!" Yeah. Along with the garden devoted to roses, and the one devoted to irises, and the one devoted to penstemons, and the minimalist garden, and the native plant meadow...

Monday, April 21, 2014


I really should dig out and compost the Red Winter kale, but the bees are enjoying them so much I hate to take them out. I'll have more seeds than I'll know what to do with, but I do want to save seed from the plants that have a different leaf form.

Friday, April 18, 2014

bad day

There are times when I hate gardening in Albuquerque. Today was one of those days. It was one of those fists-to the-sky yelling, then collapsing to the ground crying "I'm getting out of this godforsaken place!" while lying on the ground kicking-at-nothing-in-particular, days. Well, maybe not that bad, but this is spring in Albuquerque after all, and New Mexico is a powerful dramatic place, so maybe I was doing it a little, internally. The most powerful thing in spring here is the wind. I tried to make my peace with Albuquerque's spring wind, way back when I wrote my blog entry in Casa Coniglio. But who was I fooling? The bone dry wind here makes spring, which should be joyful time of year, into a teeth-clenching, sinus-burning, gritty-eyed, nerves-on-edge, itchy and cracking skin, time of year. No cute chicks and lambs. They are miserable, too. I want to slap that curved-bill Thrasher that just tore out all the newly sprouted Night Scented stocks, into tomorrow. All the fresh new growth that I gleefully blogged about previously, torn to shreds and dehydrated. One of my luscious William Shakespeare 2000 David Austin roses that I had been pampering, with a dozen flower buds, SNAPPED. AT. THE. BASE. (I can't even bear to show a photo - I am showing the one that is okay - so far). My violas at their prime, SNAPPED AT THE BASE. This never happened when I lived in California! (Deer, yes, wind, no). And before I hear a snide little Tina Fey voice saying (or writing) "that's why you should grow native plants", let me politely say DON'T GO THERE, BITCH. So @#($*)@ spring in Albuquerque. I will either have to get out of Duke City, or build an enclosed garden with wind blockers. For now, I'm going to wallow in my misery with my trusty bottle of Balvenie. Yeah. That's my new Spring in Albuquerque celebration.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


There is a lusty eagerness to spring growth, an excited burst of growth that makes my heart glad to see. In a more negative mood I would say it is desperation that drives the plants, to take advantage of the more moderate spring temperatures and the remnants of winter's moisture before the heat and drought  of summer halt growth again.

But I get a particular pleasure in seeing the growth spurt of Mediterranean plants like this young rosemary.  As the plants mature, the growth rate slows, so I will prune them down periodically, to get this look. This plant won't need a pruning for a couple more years at least.

Another Mediterranean, the thyme growing back from a harsh cutting back.  I guess it likes my garden. I have seedlings sprouting up all around it. 

My guess is that this is a Snowdrop anemone, which I was surprised to see growing here when we moved in. Not what you think of as growing in the desert.

The lilacs around town are doing particularly well this year, mine a little less so, but much better than last year. I have always found the harsh contrast between a tree or shrub in bloom in isolation amid a harsh desert terrain to be inspiring. Maybe I need to work on that.

The little-leaf culinary sage is a little later than the full-sized variety. I thought it might be a sad excuse for a sage, but not that it is getting bigger, it is growing on me. Still looks like a mutant to me, but the spring push is very nice.

My cutting of 'Iceberg' rose was planted in the ground last weekend.

My little twiglet of a seedling of Cotinus coggygria is bursting forth as well.

I planted this tuft of a seedling lavender 'Hidcote' late last summer, and it made it through the winter about 2" across. It's putting forth a nice push.

The 'Walker's Low' catmint is fronting the spuria iris which has been steadily increasing in size.  No signs of buds on the iris. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

'Kent Beauty' has sprung out of the ground, after retreating underground for the winter. What a glorious eruption of chartreuse in the spring.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

neostylis pinkie 'starry night'

It's been three years since I bought Neostylis Pinkie 'Starry Night' at the Pacific Orchid Exposition. This is the first time it has bloomed. I finally figured out what it wanted: a period of winter chill. This year I stuck it in the cool garage. The buds formed, and this time, they opened. It has a fragrance somewhat reflective of both parents, the vanilla cream scent of Neofinetia, and the sweet grape scent of the Rhynchostylis. The appearance also shows both parents: the plant and flowers are a little larger than Neostylis, the pink lip and spots from the Rhynchostylis. The leaves also have the tendency to wrinkle when the humidity isn't high enough, from the Rhynchostylis parent. But it doesn't produce the  foxtails of flowers as does the Rhyncho parent. Ah well. Sometimes we are more like our mother, sometimes we are more like our father, and we don't always get the best from each. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

5 days

5 days. That's all you get from a tree peony. Today is day 5, and the petals are already fading to purple, the edges withered. Tomorrow, or the day after, the petals will fall. At least the foliage is attractive the rest of the season.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Just a few quick shots late this afternoon, while waiting for dinner to cook.

'Goldrush' apple is the first of the trees to have flowers. Just a few, since it only has something like 4 branches, but the others have no flowers at all. This is the first spring after planting, so I can't expect too much.

 The 'Red Winter' kale is starting to bloom. I didn't expect the glowing yellow flowers. The flower buds are very tasty. Better than broccoli.
I think this is my favorite of the violas to bloom. They are like water colors.

This one is kinda nice, too.

A gratuitous peony shot.  Hey, the flowers only last 5 days, so I have to appreciate them while I can.

One indoor shot, of the star jasmine 'Pink Showers' which is more like pink sprinkles. They are indeed pink, but they smell nothing like I think star jasmine should smell like. I've also never had an indoor plant use so much water. It's amazing how quickly it dries out, and if it dries out, it drops leaves. A lot of them. Funny how much they remind me of the apple blossoms outside.

campanula rotundifolia

The first of the Campanula rotundifolia flowers has opened, and it will continue to produce flowers until the first frost. It won't be covered with flowers, but have a scattering of them constantly all summer. Funny that the "Bluebell of Scotland" is also considered native to New Mexico. It does not have a refined appearance (some would say "weedy") which should make the courtyard look more forest-like. Maybe.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

la paz

This is the third blooming of Hippeastrum 'La Paz' this year. My assistant's last name is Paz (which incidentally means 'Peace' in Spanish) so this amaryllis makes me think of her. Except she is getting married and changing her name. I tried to convince her to keep her last name, but she won't. Kids these days. They never listen. The amaryllis is keeping its name.

tree peony

Not a great year for the tree peony.  Not a great name, either,  since the two tags that on the plant were different and what bloomed is quite different from either. The package was the Japanese name for a white peony. Clearly not. The other was the name of a Japanese peony that is supposed to be pink with streaks of color. Clearly not that either. My guess is 'Taiyo' but I could be way off the mark.

I am amazed at how fast the flowers develop. The above photo is from yesterday.

This is what the buds looked like this morning as I was leaving for work.

Then, this afternoon.
Last year was 6 flowers, this year only 3. Not a big deal, since the flowers only last for 5 days.

 And since the flower colors clash with the redbuds, it's probably coming out this fall.

Going to my mother, even though I have dubbed my father "the peony killer" since he decided to transplant the $70 tree peony 'God of Longevity' that I gave him, in the middle of summer, and it promptly died. Rather inauspicous I would say.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

phlox kelseyi 'lemhi purple'

I wasn't certain what to make of Phlox kelseyi 'Lemhi Purple' when I bought it. The three plants I bought were on the end-of-season rack, and were rather scraggly, spindly, with a rather loose attachment to the roots. Still, I've always liked the rock garden dryland phloxes that I've seen, so I bought these. This is their second spring, and they have certainly found a way into my heart.

Saturday, April 5, 2014



One of today's gardening events. Removed the boxwood, and moved Oklahoma, to be replaced by New Texas. Probably kinda dumb, but I didn't expect that in a year, Oklahoma would have grown such extensive and large roots. I hope it lives. A tree does not make a forest, but Oklahoma is a bit more forest-like than the boxwood. And before you say it, yes, I know it's going to need some pruning as it grows in this space.

The two boxwoods are now flanking the front doors. A little formal perhaps. A little "Southern Plantation" perhaps. But I think it is okay.

texas vs. oklahoma 1 year later

I previously blogged about my (limited) experience between Texas vs. Oklahoma redbuds. So now that the plants have been in the ground for a year, some additional observations.

Oklahoma, left; Texas, right

Just to recap. I needed to put something in the holes left vacant after the removal of the half-dead river birch and the removal of the invasive and house-knocking aspen in my small courtyard, and thought about redbuds. I figured they had a nice size, nice leaves, would grow well in both sun (one side of the courtyard) and shade (the other), had color in both spring and fall, would grow to a size that would be neither too large or too small for the courtyard, and would be relatively native (varieties from Texas and Oklahoma) and appropriate for this altitude (as opposed to aspen). They would also not be particularly flammable, since the branches would eventually be over the firepit (thus no pinyon or juniper). They would be broader at the top than at the bottom (as opposed to juniper or pinyon, or mountain mahogany), which I felt to be important for the space since there is limited walking room and I wanted an overhead canopy. I had considered fragrant ash (but shrubby), Rocky Mountain maples (potentially too big, but still a good option), Japanese maples (not native but would be beautiful, smaller than a native maple, and appropriate for this microclimate). I decided on the redbuds for these reasons, even though I would have preferred something fragrant (juniper, pinyon, mountain mahogany, fragrant ash) since the courtyard would hold fragrance. Ah well, compromises had to be made.

Looking on-line and in the Sunset Garden Book, the most locally native redbud was Cercis reniformis aka C. canadensis var. reniformis, the kidney leafed redbud. It was fall (perfect for planting), and at the nursery, there was one Oklahoma redbud left, and one Texas redbud, both labelled C. reniformis. My research showed no difference between the two, and the nursery personnel didn't think there was a difference (never a good resource here, I've discovered). The leaves were a bit different between the plants, but I thought that difference might be cultural. I figured the differences would be minimal, and might add variety to the courtyard, so I bought both.

Oklahoma - more compact, spreading

Texas - looser, more upright

The differences turned out to be much more marked than I had expected. Planted at about the same size, Texas grew 6-8 feet last year, Oklahoma grew 6-8 inches. Texas had thinner leaves, more easily damaged by wind, turned a glowing yellow in the fall. Oklahoma had glossy thick leaves, which turned from green to bronze to brown in the fall, never having much fall color. Branches of Texas grew upright, Oklahoma grew outward, with the lower branches drooping. Texas grew multi-trunked, Oklahoma did not grow from the base.

Oklahoma - more purple, more dense

Texas - more rosy, less dense

Oklahoma flowers are slightly darker, and from my nursery excursions, it seems that I have a particularly dark Texas, which is only slightly lighter than Oklahoma, as other Texas plants at the nursery have lighter flowers, closer to Eastern redbuds. I am also noticing that on these one year plants, Oklahoma blooms all along the trunk even to the ground, whereas Texas doesn't seem to bloom as much on the 2 year-old wood.

Oklahoma - smooth stems

Texas - knobby stems

On Texas, where the leaves joined the stem, there is a noticeable swelling or nob, whereas on Oklahoma, the stems are smooth.

"new Texas"

I'm going to take Oklahoma out and replace it with a Texas redbud since Texas grows more upright and the multitrunked form is more "woodsy." That will make the hubby happier. Unfortunately the new Texas that I bought has paler pink flowers than the old one, but I think that will be okay.