Monday, June 30, 2014

robin update

That's a lot of growth in the last 5 days. Momma and Pappa are very busy.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

'silk road' morning

Against the brilliant blue New Mexico sky. Please can we have some rain?

Friday, June 27, 2014

'silk road'

The first blossom opened on the 'Silk Road' lily. I'm still not sure how I feel about them. I didn't get these lilies because of the color (a bit garish to me) or their form (flowers seem clunky to me), but because they are supposed to be tolerant of heat (yes! they are!), and extremely fragrant (it is fragrant).

Last year, I planted them in too much shade and they were spindly. This year, they are much happier in frighteningly hot full sun.

They get enough sun to wither and stunt this dahlia, in fact they are the plants shading it. I didn't know you could give a dahlia too much sun. 'Casa Blanca' lilies grown in the same space are not so happy, but these last 2 weeks of 90+ degree temps did not faze 'Silk Road.' So 'Silk Road' is very tough. I could smell the one open flower from 5 feet away, even though up close it didn't seem all that strong.

How can you not like a plant that tolerates intense NM sun and wind, grows from ground to 4-6 feet high and blooms by the end of June with big fragrant colorful flowers? I guess you could say they are growing on me.


The 'Algarve' beans are popping up. I guess the 90 degree temps are what they like, since I planted them 6 days ago.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

robin update

2 weeks later and rest time is over. Mom and Dad are busy hunting for bugs.

rose garden, 90 degrees, 9% humidity, 10 mph wind

We've had temperatures in the 90's this last week, with typical desert humidity, and not much wind, so I had to see how the roses fared in the Albuquerque Rose Garden at the Tony Hillerman library.
'Double Delight'
Most of the roses looked like this 'Double Delight,' which some would call "crispy critters." To be more accurate, most of the rose bushes had no flowers at all, and most of the ones that did, looked like this. Double dehydration. But there were a few that were sort of okay, and a few that were great.

One Hybrid Tea that looked pretty good, was 'Francis Meilland.' The flowers were about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of normal, but the flowers looked mostly pretty good. Maybe because it was planted in afternoon shade, so it might not be a great comparison. Not as fragrant as in the spring, but what do you expect in 90+ degree temperatures in the afternoon?

'Linda Campbell' was blooming fairly well. Maybe I was wrong when I said previously that she did not repeat well. The flowers are about 3/4 normal size, and there was about 1/4 the amount of blooms as the spring flush, but heck, that's pretty good.

I was surprised to see that the roses that did the best were the singles. 'Mermaid' was looking pretty flawless. She had a nice light fragrance. Known as "the thorny monster' she is not as thorny as some.  Way too big for my garden since she grows 15-25' tall.

Not a "covered in flowers" kind of moment, but again, something is better than nothing.

The Austin rose 'Jaquenetta' was the only one of the Austins that was looking decent. Pretty good actually, for a rose that is deemed unworthy of growing, considering that none of the other Austins were looking very good.

One spray on 'Claire Rose' looked fairly good, but the rest were brown mummies.

Somebody must have loved 'Golden Wings' because there were 3 bushes in various parts of the garden. This is the best one, although from a distance, the flowers looked brownish and the leaves yellowish, so overall the plants look a bit sickly.

I'm not sure what I would pick out of this lot.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


'Bolero' has had a rocky start. The plants I received from Regan had already broken dormancy in the box, and 3 of the 5 plants died making me worried about whether 'Bolero' would be a good rose for me at all.  I also purchased 3 from Roses Unlimited, which arrived late because they were "growing slowly" but when they arrived, they were beautiful. They even had blossoms which had a slight fragrance. The first few blossoms on the survivors of the first shipment opened, and were rather nondescript, with only very faint fragrance. Knowing it was an offspring of 'Fair Bianca' made me worried that 'Bolero' would be as weak a grower as its parent. Had I made a mistake?

I chose 'Bolero' because it received rave reviews on a couple of blogs and on HelpMeFind - although on HMF it is rated as only "good" for heat tolerance, Hoovb raves about it on her blog, and on GardenWeb ("it would rather bloom than grow"), so I figure that if it grows well in hot Southern California, it should do well here. It is also supposed to stay fairly short and have fantastic fragrance. I also have a weakness for white roses, and perfumed white old-fashioned roses are nearly irresistible to me. Thus my previous experience with 'Fair Bianca', 'Winchester Cathedral', my front yard filled with 'Iceberg' and my order for 'Snowbird' (which never arrived). I've been resisting 'Pope John Paul II' which is a hybrid tea (not my favorite rose class) for a while now, but I don't know how long I can hold out. I'm trying to figure out where I can put a 'Madame Hardy' and a 'Madame Plantier.'

Today's photos of the one blossom to open today may not look like much, with slightly crispy petal edges, but keep in mind that this is in the midst of 95F heat, reflected heat from a south wall, and 30-40mph winds. I skeptically sniffed this morning...delicious! And I mean Wow! I also noticed that even with all this heat and wind, all the surviving plants have burst out new growth. This might be a lesson in patience and perseverance. If so, I'm filling my garden with these.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

beans go in

Yeah, I know it's late. Beans are supposed to go in when the soil is warm enough and no chance of frost. That was maybe 3-4 weeks ago. But that's what happens when trying to find a new job and buying a new car, and having a guest from out of town, and then the decision making difficulties. The basil is already big.

First was what to plant. My one raised bed has limited space and I had to decide if I wanted to grow vegetables at all. Months of ideas, and this was my inspiration:
 The white roses were planted, and I had to decide what to put behind them. Evergreen shrubs? Junipers? More (climbing) roses? Rosemary? Russian sage? I bought some dahlias to give me a temporary sense of height, and color, as if either shrubs or larger roses. Or they could remain if I liked them, as a cutting garden. (2 months later, and they are barely coming up. Weird.) I figured there was enough room for more plants (note to self: although you are very good at guestimating space visually, that sense is skewed when trying to find room for plants, so measure, will ya?). There aren't a lot of vegetables that I wanted to grow. Tomatoes? Nah. My guy won't eat tomatoes (bad energetics). Squash? Too big. Melons? Also too big. Eggplant? Honestly, we don't eat eggplant. Carrots? Boring. Last year I planted bush Roma beans. These went in really late (August) and I got a couple of weeks of nice green beans before frost killed the plants. Then I remembered the beans that I grew in a community garden back in 1995. They were Spanish Meralda beans, which were incredibly delicious, instead of the green things that are just good because they have butter on them. Meraldas were meaty, tender, yummy, longer available. I discovered that Park Seed carried 'Smeraldo' beans ("The best selling flat bean in Europe!" Catalogs kill me). I wonder if they are close enough? I got them, and also 'Algarve' French beans (I was also tempted by the 'Rattlesnake' beans at Plants of the Southwest).

Park Seed 'Smerado' beans
Then, what to do about supports. 'Smeraldo' (55 days) is said to grow 4-6' high, and 'Algarve' (52 days) grows 6-7' tall. The bean towers at Gardener's Supply were out of stock and ridiculously expensive (it would be years before I would buy $80 worth of beans at the grocery store), and rather industrial looking. Plant World here in Albuquerque had steel obelisks, 7 feet high, which would not only provide support, but would look good even in the winter. I would have to tie string between the rungs to provide enough for the beans to climb. They looked something like this:

But at that size, they didn't fit in my car, and actually cost more than the Gardener's Supply version. Park seed also had their bean supports:

But the plastic ring one would never last in New Mexico sun, and the other one was very utilitarian and ugly (sorry to my neighbor who has used these for years):

Of course I could have just made a tee-pee from bamboo, but when I was a kid and made these, they took a lot of space, fell apart mid-season (my fault), and was too small at the top for all the vines. So I got the Gardener's Supply version, which arrived today, and are actually quite sturdy.

I do like the height and structure that the bean towers give to the side yard. I should harvest some in 2 months, then for maybe a month before frost.  I just hope the HOA doesn't give me a citation because of them, since they are visible over the top of the wall.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I've been entranced with 'Madame Isaac Pereire' ever since I read it described as the most fragrant rose ever. It was the first rose I planted at the old house, and it grew like gangbusters in its third year, the flowers frying against the west wall before even opening. Disappointed, I dug it out and gave it away, only to try to grow it again in another part of the yard. Failed. Twice. At the Modern House, the first time I saw the back yard, I saw a spot where my unbidden irresistible thought was "that area needs Madame Isaac."  I tried to resist the vision and planted 'Laguna' instead, but was disappointed when 'Laguna' bloomed with a strong tinge of orange (decidedly not my favorite). Out it came, to go to another friend's yard (where this year it, without the orange). I gave in to my vision and ordered Madame, which died on arrival. The nursery sent me a replacement, which when planted looked miserable for a long time. Then the weather warmed up and the tiny (6" tall) plant put on leaves and flower buds. Here's the first flower, which I must admit is a garish shade of pink. It is delightfully fragrant (I think the neighbors think I'm saying my prayers as I'm kneeling and sniffing it), but I have to admit that it is much less fragrant than 'Mr. Lincoln.' But 'Mr. Lincoln' has an ugly rose-on-a-stick bush, whereas Madame is more graceful. Maybe I need both.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

'mulberry flambe'

I had my doubts when I saw Salvia pachyphylla 'Mulberry Flambe' advertised in the High Country Gardens catalog. First of all, there's the name, like nails on a chalkboard. But I had grown the species for years and have been impressed by the plant just as it is. It has evergreen silvery leaves. It grows densely. It is extremely drought tolerant, growing in the no-irrigation part of the garden. The bracts are impressive (in some plants they are as big as grapefruits) and the blue flowers poking out are charming. The leaves have a pungent fragrance that is not only pleasant, but rabbit repellant.

Okay, so the drought tolerance is to the point where the plant rots easily, and establishing the plant can be tricky: too much water and it rots, too little water and it turns crispy. The pungent fragrance can be too much of a good thing, as it is impossible to wash off the hands, even with soap. The bracts can turn brown even while the blue flowers keep coming, and the brown bracts can be a pain to deadhead.

So when I saw 'Mulberry Flambe' advertised, it didn't look all that different from the ones that I had been growing. but I bought one anyway. In its first year, it grew, but didn't bloom. It did grow more than the seed grown plant I had purchased at the same time. The second year it had a few flowers, nothing too impressive, but the plant was still larger than the other plant. This year, it is pretty impressive.

The flowers are impressive in their quantity, if not their size, which is actually smaller than others that I have grown. The bracts do color up sooner in comparison. In truth, the leaves are more yellow than I would like, and much more yellow than the seed grown plants.

But this is what the other one I planted looks like, planted at the same time. It's not a fair comparison, however, since in my other garden, I would say the seed-grown species plant I had was actually more impressive than 'Mulberry Flambe', and grew just as fast. The bract heads (flower heads?) were four times the size and the leaves consistently silvery.

And there's something to be said about keeping good-looking leaves (and yes, I did choose a plant whose leaves would match the color of the utility box). Overall, 'Mulberry Flambe' is worth growing, and worth seeking out if you need a group of identical plants. I just wish I knew how to grow S. pachyphylla from cuttings, so that I could grow a bunch of seedlings and select my favorite.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Some people consider nodding flowers on a rose a fault, and say derogatorily that the rose has "weak necks."

I, on the other hand, find  roses with a nodding habit to be my favorites.

How boring would this rose be with flowers that were stark upright? Well, maybe not boring, but certainly less charming.

I like weak necks and I can not lie
You other gardeners can't deny
That when a rose has that certain kind of grace
And the fragrance in your face
You get hooked...

Okay, I'm losing it. 

i could dig you into the ground

The other day, when my sister was visiting, conversation drifted to exercise. She complained that she couldn't run at all. Now, she does Karate, and you wouldn't want to mess with her unless you wanted an ass-kicking, but running? She said that she couldn't run a mile. She asked "Could you run a mile?" Thinking that a large portion of my exercise consisted of digging, sifting gravel, moving rock, and other garden chores, I said, "No, but I could dig you into the ground!" I knew that wasn't coming out right when I was halfway through it, and her expression confirmed it. Ouch. I was literally dumbstruck with embarrassment. I sputtered something about gardening. I think she knew what I meant, though. I mean, she's my sister, and knows that things come out wrong sometimes (a lot).

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Today was potting-up day. The rosemary cuttings were separated and potted. Hmm...I was worried that I wouldn't end up with four plants of 'Blue Spires' that I needed for the plan, so I took a few extra cuttings. Now I have 11. Also have one 'Frimley Blue.' Now what do do with the extras?

I'm not sure what happened to the 'Frimley Blue' cuttings, but most of them rotted. So many variables: but they looked fine until I moved them out of the orchid house and onto a windowsill. Maybe too cold, maybe too dark. Maybe both. Probably for the better, since I have nowhere to put 'Frimley Blue.'

The 'Winchester Cathedral' rose cuttings have rooted and two are putting out new growth. This is one of the greatest joys I have in gardening: seeing the new growth on the cuttings. I think I get even more excited by that than having the plants bloom. Weird, eh? I think I should rename myself "The Propagator." Unfortunately, "The Propagator" is at odds with "The Garden Designer" who sighs and says, one more time, "Where are these going to go?"

Monday, June 9, 2014


Mr. Robin has been very industrious in my garden.  He built a very loose messy collection of grass on top of this light fixture (I wouldn't even call it a nest) two days ago, which I promptly swept off with a broom after noticing how many droppings he left around the place. I felt guilty when I heard a popping sound and looked down to see shards of turquoise and golden yellow lying around. 

But two days later, and the nest was back with a vengeance. Neither Mama nor Papa were around all evening. They made the nest tall enough that I couldn't see into it, and I didn't have a mirror, so I tried using my cell phone to see what progress had been made. Hmm. Needs a flash.

There you go. That was a busy two days work.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Clematis are new to me. Of course I had known about clematis, but I had never grown them. I'm not really a vine person and people never really grew any clematis in California other than the evergreen clematis C. armandii. I've always loved the colors and shapes of the flowers, though. I didn't think they would grow here, in the dry heat, but when I moved into this house, there was a tiny plant at the base of honeysuckle, overrun and looking miserable. The one flower it produced was lovely, however, and when I saw my neighbor's clematis, I knew I had to take better care of this one. I think that it is Jackmanii, since it is a common variety and the people who lived here only planted plants that were readily available. I'm glad of that in this case, because this has got to be my favorite color (the Knockout roses, on the other hand...).

'Betty Corning' was planted this year, and it has produced its first flower. "Betty the Beast" she has been called for her vigor (despite delicate flowers), but she has been slow out the gate in my garden. Perhaps it is because when planting it I had to slice off most of the roots from the edge of the rootball on this very potbound plant. She is supposed to be fragrant, but I detect nothing so far. I hope she becomes the beast and competes with the honeysuckle. She makes a wonderful complement to the Jackmanii.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

random garden observations

 Looks like all 'Samba' wanted was more sun. After the aborted stem in March, I threw the plant outside, where it suffered through light snow, heat, 50 mph winds and forgotten waterings. It put out another stem.

Hmm. Maybe too much sun. And too much wind. 

My entry bowls were planted with this sedum dasyphyllum and 'Dragon's Blood' when the curved billed thrashers ripped them out. I threw all the bits back in the bowl and mounded river rock around them to prevent the birds from doing it again. The result is not so bad!

Campanula rotundifolia still blooming its heart out.

The newly planted 'Bolero' planted last week, now has to suffer through near-100F temps and intense high-altitude sun. Poor things. It really is not a good year for the new roses.

The 'Alexandria' strawberries planted last week are fine, whereas those planted 2 days ago are flat on the ground despite careful watering.

My Lowe's rescue 'Chicago Hardy' fig is tiny,

but looks like it is producing a fig.

Whereas my big 'Petite Nigra' fig is just putting out a a lot of leaves.

'Mrs. BR Cant' likes the heat. Finally putting out some growth.

Something is chewing branches off 'Polly' Peach. I tried mouse traps, but whatever it is, was able to trigger it without getting hurt, because the peanut butter was entirely licked clean. The rat trap was licked clean of the peanut butter without triggering it. The poison bait is half gone today, though. I may never know what it was.

My little 'Iceberg' rose cutting from November is growing. I've had to pinch off the flowers to get it to grow instead of produce flowers.

I didn't think lilies would grow here, but that glorious pot of lilies at Agua Fria Nursery in Santa Fe was taunting me. 'Scheherezade' is bigger this year.

Showing off the secondary buds that are forming. Something to look forward to in a month. Maybe next year I will get the famous tertiary buds. Did I forget to fertilize it? Gotta run out to do that now.

'Black Dragon' is supposed to be a selected form of Lilium leucanthum, that is said to now be lost to existence (extinct), so I was surprised to see it offered by McClure & Zimmerman. Still had to order it, since I loved those candelabras of trumpets with dark purple exteriors and white interiors as a child. But here is the plant growing...


 ...and this is L. leucanthum from The Lily Garden. I wonder if the one from M&Z is going to turn out pink or something.

The clematis is producing its first flower, many more buds this year than last year. Funny how the posting makes the flower practically blue.

See? I don't just grow roses.