03/4/17
house finch

House Finch in Breeding Plumage

House Finch in Breeding Plumage, on Rose ‘Mermaid’

house finch

House Finch in Breeding Plumage, on Rose ‘Mermaid’

The house finch is a very common backyard bird here in Albuquerque. During breeding season, the males take on a much more colorful plumage. This guy seems pretty pleased with himself.

He is sitting on a branch of ‘Mermaid,’ a hybrid bracteata introduced in the US in 1918. Regular readers will recognize it as one of my favorite roses. I have hung a cylinder feeder near it, and any birds hang out on ‘Mermaid’ as they wait their turn at the feeder.

Roses are beginning to leaf out. ‘Mermaid’ is the one rose I cut back in the fall, for reasons I have explained multiple time over the years on this blog. So, I can just watch it leaf out and then bloom a little later.

The other roses, however, are leafing out a little earlier than I would like, and I will be pruning them soon. Hopefully, it will be safe… One year, before I knew anything about roses in Albuquerque, I pruned in February! I had one of the best spring blooms ever that year! But, I also recall 2005, when I pruned in early April and did not fertilize until late April. We got a hard freeze in May, which pretty much wiped out the spring bloom here. That was a freak occurrence, but in the time of climate change, who knows?

Nevertheless, I am ready to begin pruning roses, and will hope for the best.

I will also enjoy the birds that come to the yard. 🙂

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06/17/15
mermaid rose

Mermaid, A Beautiful Old Garden Rose

Mermaid, A Beautiful Old Garden Rose

Mermaid is a beautiful old garden rose (Hybrid bracteata 1918) that long time readers here know well. In May of 2006 it was reaching its peak after having been planted several years before. It took Best of Show at the Spring 2006 Albuquerque Rose Show, along with the ARS Victorian Award for Old Garden Roses with unknown date of introduction or introduced in or after 1867. Who could have imagined what December of 2006 would bring?

Mid December of 2006 brought an 8 inch snowfall to my house. It was heavy and wet, and pulled Mermaid and its trellis a little away from the wall. But I was sick at the time, thought there wouldn’t be more snow at least for a while, and I could repair things when I felt better. Big mistake!

A week later or so I got an unheard-of-for-here 22 inch snowfall at my house! The melting and refreezing, melting and refreezing added more weight, and in the middle of one night with a noise loud enough to awaken me at the other end of the house, Mermaid and trellis came crashing down across the patio. It took me weeks to get that mess cleaned up to the point I could walk out into the rest of the yard. To do it, I had to cut everything, including the clematis that had been growing with Mermaid, off at ground level. I thought everything was gone.

Imagine my joy at finding tiny basal breaks later in the spring of 2007! Mermaid did not grow a lot in 2007, but the companion clematis came back more rapidly. 2008 was even better. By 2009, things were looking very good. At the Spring 2010 Albuquerque Rose Show, Mermaid once again won the ARS Victorian Award along with Best of Show.

The 2014-2015 winter in Albuquerque was quite mild. Mermaid’s spring bloom this year was probably the best I have seen since the 2006 damage. Once again, at the Spring 2015 Albuquerque Rose Show, Mermaid took Best of Show (5 matched sprays in the entry in “Exhibitor’s Dream”) along with the ARS Victorian Award. This is a rose you will not see often in rose shows, because it is an “eight-hour wonder!” It opens in the morning, and drops its petals by evening. But, it is gorgeous during that time!

mermaid rose

Mermaid, Best of Show 2015, at placement during entry before judging

These are images from this year’s spring bloom:

mermaid rose

Old Garden Rose, Mermaid

mermaid rose

Old Garden Rose, Mermaid

mermaid rose

Old Garden Rose, Mermaid

Mermaid – one of my favorite roses, and back to being a focal point in the garden of my small Albuquerque yard.

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04/28/15
clematis and mermaid

Clematis and Mermaid: Great Companion Plants

Clematis and Mermaid: Great Companion Plants

Clematis and Mermaid make great companion plants. I have already shown this year’s ‘Nelly Moser’ bloom with ‘Mermaid.’ ‘Nelly Moser’ is the first to bloom. As that bloom comes to an end, a white clematis, whose name I do not know, begins its bloom. About the time that bloom comes to an end, ‘Mermaid’ will begin what can be a spectacular spring bloom. The white clematis is reaching the peak of its 2015 bloom.

Clematis needs “cool feet” to thrive, along with sunshine on the leaves. ‘Mermaid’ provides shade for the clematis roots, and a strong structure on which the clematis vine can climb.

clematis and mermaid

‘Mermaid’ with ‘Nelly Moser’ and a white clematis

clematis and mermaid

Closer view of white clematis and ‘Mermaid’

This third view gives you some idea of the size of ‘Mermaid.’ I have mentioned before that I prune it back in the fall (the only rose I treat that way!), and it has already grown a lot this year. After the spring bloom, I will cut it back again to keep it from filling up the entire yard! But, I really enjoy growing this rose.

clematis and mermaid

‘Mermaid’ with ‘Nelly Moser’ and a white clematis

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02/9/15
rose 'queen elizabeth' early spring

Spring Too Early?

Spring Too Early? We Won’t Know until Summer

Spring. Can it ever be too early? As the Northeast is buried under record total snowfall for a winter, Albuquerque has been enjoying a stretch of warm, sunny, windless days, with highs hovering around 70°F. It is glorious just to be out and enjoying what many – including me – would describe as “perfect weather.”

clematis early spring

Clematis putting on growth in early February

Early growth on my clematis vine, growing as a companion plant with my rose ‘Mermaid.’

The question for a gardener, though, here in the High Desert, is, “can spring be too early?” That is a question that cannot be answered until late May! Why? The average last frost-free date here is in mid-April. If plants have already sprung forth with new growth, the tender new growth can die. One year we have a very late freeze in mid-May, and by that time the roses already had much new growth, buds, and some were actually blooming. That freeze killed back much of the new growth, and the Spring Rose Show of the Albuquerque Rose Society was pretty small that year. Along with the show, we had an Arrangement Judging School (taught by Lew Shupe and Gary Barlow!) attended by rose lovers from all over the Pacific Southwest District. The only roses that year I had to donate to the school for practice arrangements was ‘Betty Boop.’ Although that is the latest killing freeze I have experienced in my part of Albuquerque, I have not forgotten it!

Then there are the fruit trees. I have the dwarf peach ‘Bonanza,’ a fruit tree I truly love for many reasons. But, it is an early bloomer, and some years we get a freeze after the bloom and no peaches will be harvested that year. I grow it for many reasons besides the peaches, but I still prefer the years when peaches form. 🙂 I also have two pear trees: one that produces pears people like to eat, and the pollinator pear that produces pears the birds like to eat. Win-win for all! In years with late freezes, after the pears trees have bloomed, the tree with the fruit for people will not produce. I have to say, the pollinator pear is tough – the birds nearly always have their fruit produced.

Today and tomorrow are also supposed to be glorious days with highs around 70. I will be out enjoying the weather, and working in the garden to dig weeds and to do general clean-up. I could not ask for better weather. But behind all of that is just a bit of worry that the plants that are responding to the glorious weather now may also respond to cold weather and late freezes that can be part of life in the Southwest Desert. We won’t know if spring is too early until summer has arrived.

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02/6/15
spring and roses

February Gardening

Challenges of Gardening in the High Desert in February

February gardening in New Mexico? Well, that can be both a temptation and a challenge. Here in Albuquerque we are in the midst of a series of warm, sunny days without wind; perfect gardening weather!

The problem is, our average latest frost-free date is in mid-April, and I have seen killing freezes as late as May. When it comes to roses, for example, we tend not to prune until early April, and fertilize even later.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of things to do in the garden in February when the days are so wonderful for being out. I did some weeding; I need to do a lot more before Spring really does arrive! I removed some dead canes from some of the roses. This is not pruning; this is removing dead canes, plain and simple.

I couldn’t help looking over my own-root miniature roses in containers, in protected areas. Some of these have not been appropriately pruned in some time. They always start to leaf out in February, and by the time another 6-8 weeks go by, they are virtually impossible to prune. The canes become spindly, and the blossoms smaller and with less perfect form.

February Gardening – I took a chance with some of these own-root miniature roses, in containers, in protected spots, and pruned them. Several different outcomes are possible with this February Gardening action:

    these miniature roses could look better than they have in years;
    these miniature roses could die back to the ground with a really severe cold snap, but since they are own-root, most would come back, although it might take time;
    the majority could look like they always have.

I want to stress that I did this only with own-root roses in protected areas, for this February gardening and rose pruning action.

This is not the only time I have gone against conventional wisdom in the pruning of some of my roses. Some of you know that I have the Old Garden Rose, ‘Mermaid,’ a Hybrid bracteata introduced in 1918. After its near-demise in the 22 inch snow (“The Big Snow of 2006”), I always cut it back in the fall, and then do not trim it again until after first bloom. It has rewarded me with lush spring growth and spectacular first blooms. It then blooms intermittently throughout summer and fall.

But, this is the first time I have pruned any roses as part of February gardening in Albuquerque. I’ll keep you updated on the result.

gardening

Miniature rose ‘Marriotta.’ On its own root, and grown by me in a container in a protected spot. Image from Fall, 2014.

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07/10/13

Rose Mermaid – 2013 Spring Bloom Comes to an End

Rose Mermaid

‘Mermaid’s’ 2013 spring bloom was beautiful and amazing. She had more blossoms than ever before, and virtually no thrip problems. She won the American Rose Society’s Victorian Award at the Albuquerque Rose Society’s Spring Show, and Best of Show (Horticulture) at the Albuquerque Council of Garden Clubs Spring Show. But, more than the awards, she was just a joy to behold in the yard and on the patio.

Mermaid can be an aggressive grower, and the last major blooming branch was headed into the patio. This is not particularly desirable, because she has many very prickly thorns. People only half-jokingly say that she will attack anyone or anything that comes close. But, I left this branch until the last bloom was gone.

rose mermaid

‘Mermaid’ on July 4

rose mermaid

‘Mermaid’ July 10, 2013

This rose is interesting to view, even when the gorgeous, creamy fresh blooms are gone. The stamens, bright golden with pollen when they are fresh, hold interest for long after.

rose stamens

Two-day-old center with stamens

‘Mermaid’ seems to be tolerating the Southwest’s extreme drought and summer heat very well. Although the first flush of blooms is now over, she is already putting out new growth everywhere!

rose mermaid

New growth on ‘Mermaid’

rose mermaid

More new growth

At the rate this beauty grows, it will not be long until there are new blossoms!

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06/14/13

Rose Mermaid on June 13, 2013

Rose Mermaid has had a spectacular spring bloom this year. Said to be Monet’s favorite rose (thanks for the tip, David Clemons), I’ll just say Monet had good taste in roses. 😉

These images show Mermaid on one day, with various phases on the one bush I have.

This is a bloom just barely opening in the morning. They open in the morning, and the petals are gone by the next morning.
The long golden parts are the stamens, the pollen bearing part of the male plant reproductive system. The center part is the stigma, the visible portion of the pistil, the female plant reproductive system. The stigma is sticky and catches the pollen.
Even barely unfurled, Mermaid, to me, is gorgeous.

rose mermaid

Bloom beginning to unfurl early in the morning

Close up of the stigma (the visible portion of the pistil in Mermaid). It looks very other worldly.

rose mermaid

Stigma of Mermaid

On the right is a bloom starting to unfurl. The spent bloom in the lower left has just lost its petals. The one in the middle is about 48 hours old. I cannot tell how old the one in the lower right is.

rose mermaid

Spent blooms of Mermaid

These are actually on two different branches – one with the buds, one with the spent blooms.

spent blooms and bus of Mermaid

Spent blooms and buds of Mermaid

Mermaid was awarded the ARS Victorian Award (best old garden rose with unknown date of origin or introduction in or after 1867) this year at the Albuquerque Rose Society Spring Show. She won Best of Show in 2006 and 2010, but this year she did not hit her peak until after the show. The glory of Mermaid for me is in the garden! Sharing her with others at shows is fun. Any awards are just a bonus for this beautiful rose!

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06/5/13

Rose ‘Mermaid’

Rose ‘Mermaid,’ Part 15, the Saga Continues

The Old Garden Rose, ‘Mermaid,’ has long been one of my favorites. Regular readers here are aware of my love for this hybrid bracteata, introduced in 1918, which was also the year of my father’s birth. I planted the rose in his memory after he died.

Although known for being somewhat tender, the rose grew huge, climbing up the fireplace within a couple of years. After the 22 inch snow that fell in late December 2006, with thawing, freezing, thawing, freezing, etc., the weight of the ice tore ‘Mermaid’ and its trellis off the wall of the house, and it had to be cut off at ground level. I was sure it would not recover.

Recovery was very slow, but ‘Mermaid’ did recover to virtually her old self by the spring of 2010.

This spring, 2013, has been an exceptional year for ‘Mermaid,’ as the following images demonstrate:

old garden rose 'mermaid'

Buds on ‘Mermaid’ in early spring

old garden rose 'mermaid'

Spray of ‘Mermaid’

rose 'mermaid'

‘Mermaid’

rose 'mermaid'

Old Garden Rose, ‘Mermaid’

Is it any wonder that the Old Garden Rose, ‘Mermaid,’ is one of my very favorite roses? 🙂

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06/16/10

The Saga of ‘Mermaid,’ Part 14

Mermaid

Mermaid -Best of Show, Albuquerque Rose Show 2010

Over the past several years, I have documented ‘Mermaid’ as a beautiful Old Garden Rose (hybrid bracteata) introduced in 1918. She was up to my roof, and in May of 2006 won “Best of Show” in the Albuquerque Rose Show. You have seen that “The Big Snow of 2006” almost totally destroyed her, and she had to be cut off at the ground. She has very slowly come back. She is not yet up to the roof, but this spring she is blooming as beautifully and prolifically as when she was in her prime.

She just won the ARS Victorian Award for best OGR introduced after 1874, as well as Exhibitors Dream and BEST OF SHOW at the Albuquerque rose show June 5.

‘Mermaid’ is back!

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