Saturday, January 31, 2015

outdoors and in

Outdoors, the hellebores and the rosemary are the only things blooming in today's storm of snow, rain and slush.

 Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Champion' has a refined appearance, a green flush, and looks like it is carved out of stone.

 Helleborus niger 'Joseph Lemper' is larger, and less formal in appearance. He has a larger flower than his brother 'Jacob', and the flowers tend to appear as twins, which make them look a bit crowded.

 The H. orientalis hybrids (H. x orientalis) are beginning to bud. This one is a single white from Pine Knot.

 'Connie' suffered a lot from too much sun this last summer, but may still put on a show.

 The double spotted white I got from High Country Gardens before it closed, is starting to bud.

 Rosemary 'Gorizia' has a few scattered lavender flowers.

The plain old rosemary from Home Depot has a lot more flowers, of a nice blue.
 I might have started seeds too soon. This is cardoon 'Gobbo di Nizza.'

I had saved seeds of Dianthus leucophaeus from my old garden. I'm afraid for them since I do not have a sunny cool window, and these are my only seeds. I can't find seeds on-line. This is just like the Veronica tauricola that I had at the old garden. I'm sure the new owners have killed it, and I don't have any and can't find any. Lesson: when you get an unusual plant, do what you can to keep it. It may be very hard or impossible to replace.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

winter orchids

This is why I grow orchids.

Neofinetia falcata
When the outdoors is full of peaceful browns, greys, and dark greens, I may get a yearning for something blooming, and even better, something that smells delicious, like this Neo, which gets my mouth watering with its vanilla creamsicle scent.

Dendrobium 'Blue Twinkle'
'Blue Twinkle has a bit of sweet fragrance when the sun hits them.
Orchids are actually less work than the amaryllis (Hippeastrum) that has to go outdoors in the summer. I still haven't found the right spot for them - the direct high desert sun is too much for them, and the shade is too dark. I don't have a tree big enough to put them under.

Neostylis Lou Sneary 'Bluebird'
I have the orchids growing under lights next to a window. The lights are powered by electricity, which is ironically produced by the sun through the PV system on the roof. Better than from fossil fuels, but not a perfect system I know. It would be better to move to Hawaii, but then of course, there is all the fossil fuels used to transport household goods, food, etc., to the islands. So all in all, I think I'm doing okay. This intergeneric hybrid combines the fragrance of Neofinetia with the grape-like fragrance of Rhynchostylis.

Lc. Rojo 'Barbara'
This is not the Rojo that I grew as a teenager, which was an unnamed seedling. I knew it as the child of Laelia milleri and Cattleya aurantiaca, but I see on the web that Laelia milleri is now known as Sophronitis milleri, and Cattleya aurantiaca is now Guarianthe aurantiaca, so Lc. Rojo is now Sophranthe Rojo. Whatever you call it, the one I had years ago, was more of a sealing wax red, with shiny petals that looked like they were made out of wax. This one is an award winning clone (for whatever reason), and is more orange red. I've had this plant for 2 years, purchased as a tiny growth,  and this is its first flowers. As the plant grows, it will produce more flowers, hopefully like my old plant which had 10-20 flowers on a stem. Rojo isn't fragrant, but so what.

I've had some success with Dendrobium moniliforme, so last year I bought this variegated version Dendrobium moniliforme 'Himeginsetsu' from Andy's. Bummer that the leaf tips have browned, but it's doing well enough to bloom. It's produced a few blooms off and on for the last few months, the pale pink flowers smell like cherry blossoms.

Buds are forming on some of my other orchids, so more to look forward to. Yay!

hellebores again

Hellebore 'Jacob' fading to pink picotee. It didn't do that last year.

First time for this plant of Hellebore 'Joseph Lemper' to bloom. Not looking very impressive, but next year should be nice.

 Just as the H. niger's are fading, Hellebore 'Champion' starts to open. I bought this last year as H. niger 'Joseph' but I knew it wasn't, since the leaves were wrong. I believe that this is H. x ericsmithii 'Champion' since it was the only other white Hellebore that the company sold. More green tinge than H. niger, which is typical for the x ericsmithii hybrids. A bit disappointing to me at first, but now I like it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

vitex before/after



Funny that the Vitex held onto its leaves this year. None of the others in the neighborhood did. After an hour and a half of leaf stripping and pruning, I'm much happier. From mushy mess to architectural. Very satisfying.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

winter combo

I really like this combination of Siberian iris 'Caesar's Brother', Helleborus hybrid and Veronica liwaniensis.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


In two days the lawn was taken out and a flagstone path was placed with new drip irrigation and new planting beds (yes, that's frost on the planting beds).  I'm not sure if it looks nice or if I hate it. Sigh! I'll just have to think about all the new plants that I can put in.

Monday, January 5, 2015

the clean up debate

Every year the question is debated: to prune now and clean up the garden when there is little else to do, or wait until spring and allow some winter interest? Some plants have an attractive winter appearance, and if we follow the examples of Piet Oudolf and Oehme/Van Sweden, we should leave them alone until spring. Waiting until spring also shows which parts have died over the winter and which have survived. Cutting back too early can also remove some of the plant's winter protection and cause more winter die-back.

Logically, the ones that don't have such a nice winter appearance and don't have the worries about die-back (such as the herbaceous perennials that die to the ground) should be prettied up now.

So that should mean that this vitex should be cleaned up now, although it does get a significant amount of winter dieback which is not necessarily predictable, and pruning now can mean pruning again in the spring when new growth shows where the live parts and dead parts are.

 This Nepeta 'Walker's Low' doesn't have the most attractive winter appearance, but the dead foliage does serve as a marker so that I don't "forget" how big it gets and try to sneak in more plants than will really fit.

Caryopteris has a nice winter appearance, but will need to be pruned back hard in the spring, and although I could just shear it down, I like to do the more time consuming task of pruning out the dead wood. So the debate continues. In all honesty, things will get cleaned up as time and weather permits, usually when I'm itching to do something in the garden, even if I "should" wait until spring.

There, don't you feel better now?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

quiet season begins

So begins what I call "The Quiet Season." We took down the holiday decorations today. The neighbors have been taking down their light extravaganza bit by bit. The weather has turned miserably cold. The last flowers in the yard have frozen and withered. The garden has turned quiet, quietly waiting out winter. Given the amount of moaning and whining from me throughout the fall, you might think that this time of year is miserable for me (and not very quiet), but my big secret (even from myself) is that The Quiet Season is a joy.

I'm amazed that I find this season restful instead of miserable. There is little to do in the garden, but that turns out to be blessing. It is a time of planning for the next year, and the feeling that there is a lot of time to do that planning. It is a time of dreaming, of seeing the garden in my mind's eye of what I want for the coming year. I was always better at dreaming than reality. It is also time to appreciate the stillness of the garden. There isn't much in the way of chirping birds, no night time crickets. The apple trees have again held onto their leaves longer than I think is reasonable, but the last leaves will soon fall, and the next few months will be twigs, buds, pruning and hopes for the next year. My pruning is going very slowly this year. One branch this week, another next week, as I make my decisions. It's so hard to prune away so much of this summer's hard-won growth.

The leaves of rose 'Winchester Cathedral' have turned orange-red. I'd never seen that before in my old garden. They've been this way for a few weeks now, acting like they will never fall but last the winter this color. We shall see.

The new growth of peach 'Redhaven' are brilliant red against the intense high-altitude desert sky. Maybe next year I will get more peaches, and the porcupine will leave them alone.

Rose 'Alnwick Castle' has turned entirely burgundy, just like the Mahonia repens that appeared in my north garden.

Every year I vow to remove the 'Knockout' roses that were here when we moved into the house. I've never liked the flower color, and they are wickedly thorny. But they do bloom and bloom despite serious inattention. One visitor to my garden exclaimed his appreciation for the flower color, and I cringed inside. But I can't help but appreciate the strong growth, the lack of disease, the flower production, and the fragrance. When they are in bloom, I always look around for the source of the fragrance, a part of me not wanting to believe they are from the lowly 'Knockout's. So instead of using my pruners to cut them to the ground, I give them a real rose-pruning.

I also vow to take out the thorny hawthorn, with the 2-inch spines always threatening to take out an eye.  But in this season, the branches are artful, and pruned up, less of a threat.

The contrast between Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) and aster 'Purple Dome' has been nice through the summer, and remains so in winter, a nice contrast in both form and in color. This combination is a little more appropriate to Albuquerque than the structurally similar combination of 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grass and 'Autum Joy' sedum which is everywhere on the east coast and midwest.

Salvia 'Caradonna' is down to the basal clumps, with viola seedlings coming up around it.

"Betty the Beast" clematis (Clematis 'Betty Corning') has turned entirely brown, with everygreen honeysuckle growing through it. I have high hopes for Betty to strut her stuff next year.

The 'Red Winter' kale remains under the thin layer of snow that we got last night. When spring comes, we will again have more kale than we can eat, and then kale blossom salad.

The spuria irises give me a hint of spring to come, since they form their tufts of new growth in the late fall, and staying that way or growing minutely until spring. I don't know if they appreciate The Quiet Season. I will be watching their every millimeter of growth and wishing for spring, and by then my garden "To Do" list will have grown to seemingly impossible lengths, and then The Dreamer will have to give it over to The Do-er.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


The lighting system is a project that I had been working on all summer. Today after working through snow and ice, I finally got the lighting in the pond to work.  The big test will be seeing if it still works after we fill the pond. That can wait until next summer.

The original installation of the lighting was quite odd. There was an assortment of timers, no two being alike, several timers in the garage (only one for outdoor lighting), two hidden under a furnishing, another hidden behind the fountain, and none labelled with what they were for, and none of the lights worked when we moved in 2 years ago.

I spent $300 in bulbs, and replaced the halogens with LED's. Which didn't work. I ended up hand excavating the lines to try to find a break in the line since the entire north side of the yard didn't work, or seemed not to.

Somehow, magic occurred today, and nearly all the lights came on. There might need to be a little adjusting, but right now, I'm just thrilled that I got them to work.