Mother-Daughter Clerking Team at the Tucson Rose Show

Yesterday I had the privilege to judge at the Tucson Rose Show. Judging roses is always fun, but the Tucson show was especially enjoyable this year.

One of the things that made it so enjoyable was meeting new clerks, Cathy and Lena Rose, a mother-daughter team. Lena is eight years old, and not only clerked, but also did the art work for the cover of the printed schedule! As if that were not enough, she also entered an arrangement, and won the Novice Arranger Award! Way to go, Lena!

Mom didn’t do too badly either. Cathy won the Mini Royalty and Mini Silver Certificate in arrangements.

It was really wonderful to see this mother-daughter team involved in such a wonderful hobby together!

Lena and Cathy Rose
Lena and Cathy Rose, clerking team at the Tucson Rose Show

Novice Award, Tucson Rose Show, April 14, 2006
Lena’s winning arrangement in the Novice category

MiniRoyalty Award and MiniSilver Certificate, Tucson Rose Show, April 14, 2007
Mom Cathy’s Mini Royalty and Mini Silver winning arrangement

(More arrangements from the Tucson Rose Show here.)


Death and Rebirth in the Desert

The desert and the native plants growing there never cease to amaze me.

Prickly pear cactus is a native plant used in a lot of landscaping in Tucson and the Sonoran Desert in general.

Yesterday I saw this large piece of prickly pear that had been broken off its main stem and roots by a late freeze followed by high winds (click to enlarge the picture):

Broken Prickly Pear

“Oh, well, that’s the way it goes,” I thought. But closer inspection showed something rather amazing: the dying plant was giving birth to new prickly pear cacti:

New plants arising from dying prickly pear

This is just another example of why hope springs eternal among gardeners (and plant lovers) in the Southwest Desert.


Another Challenge: Late Hard Freezes

This weekend I am in Tucson, located in the Sonoran Desert of the southwest, rather than the high Chihuahuan Desert in which Albuquerque is located. Many years ago I lived here for seven years, and although many things about the city have changed, the plants have remained pretty much the same. Palm trees, which do not grow in the Albuquerque area, are pretty much a staple of cities in the Sonoran Desert.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived yesterday was that the palm trees looked very strange: the centers were green, but the outer fronds were brown and looked dead. I did not recall ever seeing all of them look like that before (click to enlarge image).

Palm trees, Tucson 4/13/07

“What happened to the palm trees?” I asked.

“All the palms had been trimmed up this spring, but after that there was a late freeze that lasted several days.”

In all the years I lived in Tucson that had never happened. Fortunately, the palms seem to be recovering well.

I have certainly seen that happen to roses in Albuquerque, and I hope I have no pictures of that to show you later this season.

(There are some photos of roses with this type of damage, however, and an excellent discussion here.)


Wind: Another Challenge in the Desert Southwest

New Mexico is the only place I have ever lived where Spring is not my favorite season.  And that is because of the high winds that are a staple of Spring in the high desert.

Gardeners here learn very quickly to keep their plants well-hydrated, at this time of the year as much for the winds as for the temperatures.  Nothing can dry a plant out as quickly as the wind!

For the last several days we have had very windy weather.  On April 10, we had gusts up to 40 mph, but steady winds around 25 mph.  Not good for plants, especially tender young shoots on roses.  A lot of new leaves on my roses are looking a little ragged now, but the worst damage was to a new cane, which was snapped completely off:

(Click on thumbnails for larger view)

Cane snapped by high wind 4/10/07

The rose looked pretty bedraggled with the shoot just hanging there:

Wind damage 4/10/07

Fortunately, this is not the kind of damage that kills a rose. It can be frustrating to see promising shoots damaged so that they have to be removed, but the rest of the plant is fine.

Wind – just another challenge in the desert Southwest.

[ETA 4/14/07: Apparently wind was widespread across the entire Southwest, including California, at about this same time. For photos and discussion of damage in the high desert of California, there is an excellent link here.]


My First Hummingbird of the Year!

Less than 48 hours after posting “Attention, Hummingbird Lovers” and getting my hummingbird feeders up (three weeks late!), I saw my first hummingbird of the year feeding at one of the feeders.  This is the earliest I have seen a hummer in my garden any year.  It was a Black Chin male, and I hope he likes the looks of the place for a home for the season!


Mesa Community College Rose Garden

Friday, April 6, I had the good fortune to visit the Mesa Community College Rose Garden.  The Garden is sponsored by the Mesa-East Valley Rose Society, and was designed by LeRoy Brady, who has done much of the fabulous landscaping along Arizona highways.  A full history of the Garden can be found here.

In spite of the 95 F degree temperature, the roses looked fresh and beautiful. In the High Desert roses won’t be blooming for at least another month, but in Phoenix, “The Valley of the Sun,” they were in full bloom. The Garden was an oasis on a very warm day.

Click on thumbnails for a larger view.

MCC Rose Garden April 6, 2007
Overview of general area

MCC Rose Garden April 6, 2007
An oasis in the low desert

Continue reading


Attention, Hummingbird Lovers

The Desert Southwest is fortunate to be home, at least part of the year, to an amazing variety of birds. The low desert, especially southeastern Arizona and around Tucson, have hummers during the winter months. Here in the high desert we have them only during the warmer part of the year.

I generally put up the hummingbird feeders on March 15, and take them down one month after I have seen the last hummer feeding at one. That is done to provide food for those migrating through – both the ones coming through early in the spring and those passing through in the fall.

The earliest hummers to arrive for an extended stay in my yard are the Black Chins. The earliest I have actually seen them here is April 13, and the latest April 15. The males arrive first, and it is important to have feeders up by the time they arrive, because they are looking for a place to establish a home. So I must get the feeders out today (and should have had them out long ago!) If you live in the high desert and want hummers to hang around your garden, I would recommend the same for you. Continue reading


Why Hope Springs Eternal for Gardeners

In the first post of this blog, I bemoaned the effects of the freak snow storm in late December on Mermaid, the climbing hybrid bracteata that was the largest rose in my yard.

Spring 2006:




After The Big Snow of December 2006:

Mermaid After The Big Snow

The cleanup was not completed until early March, and Mermaid had to be sawed off at ground level. I expected her to come back, but I was not sure that she would.

Today, much to my surprise, she is showing several shoots:

Mermaid Coming Out

Mermaid has indeed survived the Winter of The Big Snow. I don’t know how long it will be before she is back to her full glory, but I have no doubt she will reach it!  Photos of her progress will be posted here throughout the growing season.


Jackson and Perkins Sold

On April 2, Harry and David announced the sale of Jackson and Perkins, major wholesaler and retailer of roses in the United States.

According to the announcement,

Jackson & Perkins was founded in 1872 and is the nation’s largest
marketer of premium rose plants, grown on approximately 3,200 acres and
harvesting over six million rose plants annually. Jackson & Perkins
generated net sales of approximately $74.0 million over the past twelve
months. . . Continue reading


Early Spring in the High Desert: Fruit Trees

Here in Albuquerque, the first things to bloom in my yard in the spring are bulbs and the dwarf peach, Bonanza. I have grown this peach tree in a 3/4 whiskey barrel since the late 1980’s. No matter how cold or how warm the winter, it has never failed to bloom. This year, after the very heavy snows but relatively mild winter temperatures, the blooms were spectacular.

‘Bonanza’ bloom Continue reading