Sunday, July 27, 2014

the hidcote ultimatum

One of my favorite plants ever, is lavender. I'm not alone in this. When I proposed my one-plant challenge to my friends, one of them said that if they had to have a garden with just one plant variety, it would be 'Hidcote' lavender. 'Hidcote' has a lot of things going for it. It has very dark violet flowers, which I particularly love. It also has a very compact growth habit and it produces basal shoots (as compared to the x-intermedia hybrids like 'Provence' and 'Grosso' which get rather rangy with time) and it reblooms in the fall. I've been researching the many, many varieties of lavender and I keep coming back to 'Hidcote' (it doesn't mean that I'm not going to plant other varieties though!). Of course I could never have a garden with a single variety of plant, and one of my favorite combinations of all time is white roses and 'Hidcote' lavender.

I planted a rather large number of 'Hidcote' in my yard, a few last year, and many more this year. It has become obvious that 'Hidcote' is a seed grown strain (most named cultivars of lavender are cutting grown, and thus identical), with the plants showing very different growth patterns. Of the couple dozen plants I planted, three of them are 'Hidcote Supreme', a supposedly improved seed grown strain. So far they seem to be a little more uniform than the 'Hidcote' that I got from Plants of the Southwest, and have the rather strange habit of growing vigorously from the basal shoots in the spring, but not much from the pre-existing branches. The new green growth poking through the older silver leaves looks odd to me. Otherwise they seem about the same size and color. They are overall much less vigorous, but the seedlings of regular 'Hidcote' are so variable that some are much less vigorous and some much more so.

Of these seedlings, one has shown exceptional quality. All of the lavender in the neighborhood is done for the season, including almost all of mine. This one, however, is blooming away. All the photographs except the one above is from today. This photograph above is the one I showed back in April, when it was a 2" tuft that had survived the winter. It is now about a foot across.

Although it started blooming with the rest of the 'Hidcote', this one has just continued to bloom, the old flowers dropping off, but leaving some still-purple calyces (seed pods?), as you can see in the photo below.  Its vigor and long season is impressively better than the other 'Hidcote' and also vastly better than 'Hidcote Supreme'. I've got to propagate this one, but in the past, I have had not-so-great results from cuttings, even though everywhere I've looked, people say lavender cuttings are easy. This one seems worth the try.

Addendum: Just to show what the other lavender are looking like, for comparison.

Old 'Hidcote' which reblooms well in the fall

'Hidcote Superior'

'Hidcote' planted last year

two figs

'Petite Nigra'

'Petite Nigra'
'Petite Nigra' mostly just branching, no fruit

It's the end of July and the figs are starting to produce buds. I have two figs to compare, although there are tons more. My friend's fig 'Celeste' was loaded when I visited a month ago, and I remember a previous co-worker's green fig ('Kadota'?) was prolific, even in Albuquerque's borderline climate. 'Texas Everbearing' which may or may not be 'Brown Turkey' is said to do well here as well.

I don't have either of these, although I may replace the ones I have with one of them. I purchased 'Petite Nigra' from Logee's a few years ago, figuring that I could grow it as a container plant, but all that toting in and out was a pain. I planted it in the ground last year, and it came through the winter without any problems.  There did not even seem to be freeze damage on the tips, which were green, but the plant only wanted to grow from the base. It has put out 3 feet of growth, and with the monsoon rain has started putting out branches on those, but it seems much more interested in growing than fruiting. The fruits only just started to form, only a few, and are now a bit smaller than a pea. Will it ripen in the next month or two? Last year, a number of fruits formed, but didn't ripen before the first killing frost. 

On the Lowe's death rack this year, was a number of $3 'Chicago Hardy' figs in 1 gallon containers. I wanted to take the lot of them, but settled for one. My photojournal says that the figs started to form June 3 or so, just a couple, but they seemed to just sit there without developing. Now, it is producing baby figs at many of the leaf axils and the first fig is about the size of a small plum. Given that the plant started out so small, and is in a container, I'd say that 'Petite Nigra' is going to find its way into the dumpster by next year.

'Chicago Hardy'

'Chicago Hardy' first year

'Chicago Hardy' fruit forming

Saturday, July 26, 2014

immature gardening

The last of the Scheherezade lilies is fading today. The short flowering season of many plants is why I have to have a big variety of plants in my garden. I suppose that a garden that is consistent all year long with no fireworks could be calm and meditative. It would be more reliable. It could be a garden built on structure rather than flowers. But maybe it would also look industrial, commercial.

I was talking with a friend the other day about how I had read that when a gardener is first starting out, their garden tends to be focused on flowers. As they mature, the gardener begins to look at other aspects, such as form and structure of the garden, and also of each of the plants. Foliage becomes more important than flowers, until the garden is primarily focused on foliage and structure. We both agreed. We are immature gardeners.  Although the garden needs to have form and structure, and plants should be placed where they complement each other, a garden must have flowers to maintain the childish enthusiasm. Which is the most important thing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

first peach

First peach. Redhaven. Not so beautiful, but as big as store bought. Taste: divine.
I had been lamenting the flavor of peaches here in New Mexico. Even the locally grown ones were flat. Had I cut down all the beautiful aspen trees for nothing? Had I been mistaken in my thinking that peaches were my favorite fruit (or maybe second favorite, behind strawberries)? Was my childhood memory of incredible California peaches exaggerated by nostalgia? My conclusion after today's taste: nope. Memory serves me correctly. I was generous enough to share it with my guy, and I had to savor every morsel, eating slowly. After all, there are only 4 peaches on the entire tree (planted last year). At least peaches can grow and fruit here, whereas strawberries can't tolerate this climate. I still miss the aspen trees. I had been thinking of taking out the peaches and replanting the aspen. But I don't think I can, now.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

peach progress

My 'Redhaven' peaches are starting to color up. Funny that they color long before they are ripe. They still feel crunchy, but they are starting to smell good. Too bad that 'Redhaven' doesn't have attractive flowers in the spring.

'Polly' peaches are still green, as this is a late ripening variety.  Some are still left after the the attack of the presumed porcupine. Strange that the fruit grew to this size within the first few weeks, then stopped getting larger. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

lessons in cuttings

Most rose cuttings seem to take almost exactly 1 month before roots start appearing out the drainage holes of the 2-1/4" pots. These 'Marie Pavie' cuttings were struck on 6/15/2014 according to my records.

Marie is not shy about growing roots, apparently. That's what I hear about those old roses. If they were hard to root, they wouldn't be passed along very much. And if they are ugly, no one would want to.

I was going to do a whole bank of 'Marie Pavie' so I took 10 cuttings. But the performance of the mother plant is not what I had hoped, and the flowers are still pink instead of white. So I've changed my mind. Now what to do with a bunch of 'Marie Pavie' cuttings?

Two 'Eden' cuttings were struck on 6/3/2014 and have been potted up for more than a week now. Nice to see the new growth. My friend who wanted the cuttings, bought a plant from Heirloom Roses instead and they sent her two. So now I have two 'Eden' roses to figure out what to do with as well as all the 'Marie Pavie'.

This 'Eden' cutting (white pot) was actually a cut flower that I had in my office for a week before using it as a cutting, about a week before the other cuttings, and it still hasn't made roots. The lesson to me is that it might not be worth it to use old cut flowers as cuttings.

  Of course, as I am tossing it out, this is what I find. So make that three 'Eden' roses to find homes for.

These cuttings of WS2K were also taken on 6/3/2014 but haven't rooted yet. The difference with these, is that I took cuttings of stems that had bloomed a couple of weeks before, whereas normally I take cuttings of the stem just below a flower that is either fading or just faded. I noticed that these older cuttings almost immediately put out a few new leaves, which didn't grow very much. My theory is that taking a cutting just after blooming is when the plant is entering a pause in the growth cycle. Then, using stored energy it makes the roots. Success! If cuttings are made too late in the cycle, the plant enters a growth phase without the roots, which depletes the stored energy. Failure! If it has enough stored energy, or if it has enough vigor and can manufacture enough energy from the remaining leaves, it then has to wait until the next pause to grow roots, if it can before rot sets in.  Just my theory. I should have been a botanist.

 These 'Bolero' cuttings were struck on 6/3/2014. A month later and they were potted. Now on their first outing to the big outdoors. I'm not particularly concerned with patent issues, since I'm not propagating for sale, only for personal use. I should grow these on that planting I have in mind instead of Marie, but my newly planted 'Bolero' plants are not big enough for many cuttings.

These 'Winchester Cathedral' cuttings were taken 5/7/2014. I had 3 cuttings, and all three grew roots, but one was slow, then suddenly wilted and died. I'm not sure what the problem was with that one, probably the same as for my rosemary.

I had 11 rooted 'Blue Spires' Rosemary and I'm now left with 2 (and a 1/2). What a disappointment. I thought I would have extras, but now I am one short. What happened? I potted the newly rooted cuttings in Foxfarms Ocean Forest Potting mix, which was expensive and highly touted by the salesperson, but it is a rather dense mix, which holds a lot of water and not a lot of oxygen. Not what rosemary cuttings need. Probably would be great for a colocasia or spathiphyllum, but not for rosemary. Unfortunately, I didn't notice until too late. Interestingly, when I unpotted the dead plants, the roots seemed okay, just the tops were brown and dead. I repotted into Pro-Mix high porosity mix, and the two strongest plants survived. The third is iffy.

Always new things to learn.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

scheherezade 2

The yellow background of 'Scheherezade' has faded to white. Much nicer to my eye. There is a fragrance, and although it is not strong and not particularly sweet, it is pleasant. I guess I'll be keeping 'Scheherezade.'

Monday, July 7, 2014


First bloom on 'Scheherezade'. I'm not sure I like it. Too much yellow. Not much fragrance. One of those "Beggars can't be choosers" kind of thing, though.

baby flies

I've been photographing you since you were in the egg. Why are you so shy now?

Hiding under the boxwood.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

when I get the blues

 In the midst of my wind and heat anguish, I forget that there are things that do really well here. Some of these happen to be right in my favorite color. One of these is the lowly, weedy Vitex. 

This is one plant that needs heat to do well. 

I'm biased, but I happen to think that I inherited one of the best plants I've ever seen around town, with its vibrant color, and very long flower spikes.

The bees were so busy that they didn't even notice me taking photos. When I take photos of them on the lavender, they usually avoid the camera by only going to the flowers on the opposite side of the flower stem from me. But with Vitex, they don't care.

It's good at blocking the view of my trash bins and the neighbor's house, but only in the summer. The winter structure is architectural, but very low density since most of the coverage in the summer is from compound leaves.

Vitex may be my most impressive color producer right now, but there are a number of other plants that do well here, and in my favorite color scheme. I don't think I've been anywhere that the Russian Sage (Perovski atriplicifolia) looks better than in Albuquerque. Here is is normal for the plants to be 5 feet tall and even wider. It grows so well here, that I expect that it will soon appear on the invasive species list since is spreads so aggressively by seeds and underground rhizomes. But I have to admit that I love the color, even though the color varies. My big plant always has a dusty, smoky appearance, but sometimes the lavender is much more intense, sometimes it is rather washed out looking, like it did yesterday. I think it depends on whether the color is coming from the flowers (brighter) or the calyces (dustier). 


Lavender 'Provence' has a similar color, and the added benefit of being more controlled, and being, well, lavender and all that entails, but with a shorter season of a few weeks, rather than Perovskia's four months of bloom.  I like the other common Lavandula x intermedia hybrid 'Grosso' better since the flowers are much darker. Or the very dark L. angustifolia 'Hidcote' which is just about done right now.

Caryopteris x clandonensis is also an almost foolproof plant here, also in my favorite color range. Here, my 'Blue Mist' is just starting. I may like 'Dark Knight' a tiny bit more, since the flowers are a much richer color.

Plants of similar color bloomed earlier in the season, including the various Salvia species and hybrids, and the various catmints (Nepeta). I also don't have Buddleia hybrids, which may be invasive species in other parts of the country, but not so much here. I just realized that not only do these plants come in my favorite color, every single one of them has my other important criteria, fragrance. For most of them, it is primarily a fragrance of the leaves, an herbal fragrance, not a floral one. The only exception to this is the Buddleia, which to my nose, smell fermented. I need to make a list of these plants so that when I get bummed about plants that don't grow well here, I can look at the list. Oh wait, I guess I just did.

Addendum 7/7/2014:
Looked at all the Buddleia around the neighborhood today, and they are too purple, not enough blue. Scratch them off my list.
I also forgot about rosemary. Lovely violet color that comes in spits during the winter, then a big flush as soon as the weather warms. I don't have to remind myself. It's already in the garden.

Walking out the front door, I can't believe I didn't notice when the Playcodon (balloon flower) started opening. Now that's a great blue, somewhat darker on the screen than in iPhoto. That goes on the list.

robin update

Weren't you just taking our picture 2 days ago?
Apparently a lot happens in 2 days.


Every few years, the weather in Albuquerque is just right to allow a fruit set. Apricots are particularly susceptible to a late frost since they bloom so early. This is surprising to me since don't apricots come from the Middle East, which has weather similar to ours? Perhaps not as similar as I thought. My friends Keith and Ginger have an enormous tree, and a bumper crop this year, and apricots ripens all at once and don't keep. So I had a gift of a a few pounds of fruit that if not eaten, would be bad by tomorrow. Perfect for jam. Or cobbler. Yum.

Friday, July 4, 2014

lookin' good

The best looking rose in the ABQ rose garden today (after weeks of 95F and more than a day of 40 mph wind) is 'Good as Gold', which is a shame, because I don't like yellow flowers. Not much fragrance.

Nope, not 'Belinda's Dream' which gets such rave reviews. Belinda has been flowerless since the temps went above 90. This one is 'Memorial Day' which gets highly mixed reviews on HelpMeFind's comment board. But it gets second place today, in terms of bloom production. It gets first place, easily, in terms of fragrance. Maybe if I grew roses where everything grows easily and blooms all summer, without disease or weather damage, I too would call this rose "plain", or say "not that impressed", but today I'm impressed.

In third place is 'Sunset Celebration' which shows very little heat and wind damage. Mild, but good fragrance. Another rose in the yellow/orange scheme that doesn't give me a lot of pleasure to look at. To each his own. Sometimes I wonder what is driving my tastes. Maybe it's the colon bacteria.