Wednesday, April 26, 2017

i guess this is not the best climate for roses

This year, many of my roses look miserable. We had a warm spell in February and the roses started to leaf out. Then we had a cold spell and the roses didn't look so bad, but then after a month of warmer weather (70-80's for the highs, 40's for the lows) I realized that many of the bushes had dropped all of their buds (the ones that had them) and just were not interested in growing. I tried to understand why: moist soil? Check. Nutrition? Check. Sunlight? Check, check.

My cutting of Madame Alfred Carriere was the worst. After growing well as a cutting alongside my orchids, I put it out to go dormant for the winter. In February, it started to leaf out, then the tiny leaves, perhaps 3 mm long dried up. This went for a few cycles of tiny leaves which dried up. I tried more sun, less sun, more water. Some fertilizer, checking for bugs. Then some branches started dying back. It was freaking me out.

This is what it looked like:

In desperation, I brought it into the house, into the orchidarium. Within 24 hours, there seemed to be some growth. In disbelief, I waited.
Here it is, 3 days later:

Compare to the top photo which is the same tip, and you can see the dried up tiny leaves now with some growth. 
 ...and compare the second photo with this, at the fork. Remember this is only 3 DAYS later.

...and compare the third photo for the same place on the stem. Mystery solved.

Conclusion: it is climate. Madame just didn't like the weather. After all, same pot, same mix, different climate. So not a good climate for many roses, particularly Madame Alfred Carriere. I find this to be very sad, since Madame has such good fragrance. I know now, that if a rose doesn't do well, it may just be that this climate is not good for it. Maybe it's time to take out the roses. I know I should plant natives. I know!

Monday, April 24, 2017

second Clematis scottii

This one has slightly darker flowers than the first one I posted, and it is about half the size of that one. Same disarming charm.

Penstemon caespitosus

I have to admit that I wasn't very impressed with Penstemon casespitosus when I encountered them at Agua Fria nursery in Santa Fe. In the nursery, they didn't have that many flowers and they were rather small. Still, I liked the color, so I bought one. That next spring I was so impressed that I bought 3 more, in some scraggly 2-1/4" last-years pots. This year I'm impressed with those 3.

 Although the flowers are still small, they are quite abundant... that they have a nice show of color. Pretty nice for not being on the drip line, being rarely irrigated, and being in sandy fill that pretends to be soil.

 The plant forms a nice mat of leaves, not scraggly at all, so that the plant is very nice even when not in bloom.

They bloom a little earlier than P. linarioides.

Sometimes they are more blue or violet, sometimes more pink.

The first one, however, hasn't even started to bloom, although on close inspection, there are buds forming. I suspect that it is from seed from a different location that has a different bloom time.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Last year, I discovered dryland clematis also called sugarbowls. They've been offered on/off by High Country Gardens, and I saw one offered once at Agua Fria Nursery, but last year, reading about them in Robert Nold's book High and Dry, I had to get some. Actually I already had one, but I needed more. Those flowers were so cute that I had to get my hands on whatever I could find. Unfortunately (or fortunately for that matter), I was only able to find a few, at Laporte Avenue Nursery. I ordered a couple of whatever they had. I had read that they take some time to get established, and seeing how slowly they progress, at least in my garden, that is a bit of an understatement. Still I got one flower so far, and one more to open, from my six plants. One died last year, which was very sad.

My plants are a far cry from those posted on the Denver Botanical Gardens website, but at least it's a start. How can you not fall for these delicate creatures?

The lilac is the opposite of small and dainty, but it blooms in a coordinated color and at the same time. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

pruning rosemary

I've heard comment from others that the best way to prune rosemary is to never prune it. I don't agree. I think that rosemary when left alone, grows so vigorously, that it flops out, and becomes woody, then large branches die, leaving a scraggly mess. If you doubt this, see if you can remember the large scale rosemary plantings at the Century 24 movie theater here in Albuquerque. This past year, they had to remove a large number of half-dead/mostly-dead plants and then they pruned back the rest. Those that were pruned back look so much better this year.

But I do agree that shearing the plants several times a year into gumdrops as they do in many other public areas (i.e. gas stations) is equally ugly. So then what to do? There are a couple things to keep in mind. First, is that rosemary grows natively in an area populated with browsing animals, particularly goats. Although the strong smell from resinous oils keeps the deer and the rabbits away, it doesn't necessarily keep the goats away. Then, notice that rosemary blooms in late winter and grows strongly in the spring, then continues somewhat more slowly in the summer and slows down in the fall. Then also notice that rosemary blooms on old wood, that is, the growth that was made the previous year (this also explains why a young rosemary plant may not bloom very much). One more thing to think about is that if you want your rosemary to bloom in those glorious clouds of blue that I love. If you just want rosemary to use as an herb, you might want it to grow as many tender new leaves as you can (although I can't imagine anyone wanting that much rosemary!).

So given that rosemary grows fast and is native to an area with browsing animals, I think it is okay to prune rosemary hard. That being said, don't prune rosemary to where there are no green leaves, because it won't sprout new growths from that old wood. Personally, I think it is okay to shear rosemary into mound or gumdrop (!), then pick prune for shape, and to remove old dead wood, and the scraggly growths and to remove the clumps of stems at the ends of branches that results from shearing the shrub a few times. It takes some time. You can also shear rosemary into a hedge as they often do in California. But I think the most important thing to remember is when to prune rosemary.

I pruned one of my 'Gorizia' rosemary late last fall because I was too busy to prune it in the spring and it began to cover my window. The unnamed rosemary next to it, I left unpruned since I was frankly too busy, and it didn't cover a window. This spring showed me the results.

'Gorizia' grew new leaves strongly this spring, but produced almost no flowers, since I had pruned off all the growth from last year, which would have been the flowering stems.

The unnamed rosemary, was covered in blue flowers this year. Now that it is done blooming, I have pruned it back, but this means that I have pruned off all the lush new growth that is produced on the ends of the stems as the plants finishes blooming. 'Gorizia', having no blooms, started growing new leaves much earlier.

So when to prune? If you want flowers in the spring, prune right after blooming, so that it will produce a lot of new growths that will bloom next year. If you don't want flowers or if you just want early tender growth, prune in the fall or winter.

And how to prune? If you want flowers, prune hard so that the plant produces a lot of new growth which will bloom all along those year-old stems. Also prune hard if you want long straight stems for barbecue skewers. I guess that means that my opinion is to prune hard. BUT, only prune ONCE a year if you want flowers. If you want a gumdrop (no!) or a hedge, you will need to shear it several times a summer. Although it may seem contradictory that I prune into a gumdrop but then I hate gumdrops, when I prune once a year, it quickly outgrows that gumdrop appearance. It also looks less like a gumdrop since I prune out the witches brooms that grow after shearing to the same spot a couple of years. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

first roses, frost roses

 Every year is a different test on my plants. This year, the long warm spell in February followed by frosty temperatures made for a challenge to the new young growth and buds. Many of my roses couldn't take it, and the flower buds aborted or the new growth got frost nipped. These four roses seem to have done well. 'Munstead Wood' kept its flower buds, when even 'Bishop's Castle', usually my most reliable rose, gave up. Munstead has a really delicious fragrance this year.

'Marie Pavie' has a less-than-perfect first bloom, but there are lots more to come. No bud drop. 
 'Old Blush' is practically a weed. Too bad the flowers are not very exciting, and there is almost no fragrance. No bud drop with that late freeze however.

'Winchester Cathedral' didn't do very well last year, for whatever reason, but this year it seems pretty happy, and didn't freeze any buds. Still has that "hint of latrine" fragrance that I'm not terribly fond of. 

There are more to come, but these are the first to open flowers.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Phalaenopsis parishii

I bought this Phalaenopsis during the Pacific Orchid Exposition at Andy's Orchids three or maybe four years ago. It's my first bloom. It's a miniature orchid, and my plant has leaves that are less than 2 cm although my book says that they grow to 12x5cm. They are also deciduous in the wild but evergreen in cultivation. Mine didn't bloom until something triggered it to lose all its leaves this winter. I had one previously (given away when I moved) and it had a sweet fragrance in the morning. I was eager to get another, although they have been rather tricky to grow.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

more dwarf bearded irises

On this stormy, snowy day, some photos of the miniature beardeds. 'Autumn Jester' again.

This one is 'Eramosa Enigma'. I'm not sure I like the greyish dusty purple colors, and the plant is not as floriferous as the others, as well as being larger, about 12".

'Gemstar' is not the dark navy blue that was advertised, but it is still a cutie.
My friends tease me about my obsession with beards. I can't help it, even when I was a kid I loved them. With irises, I can have about as many as I want.