Sunflowers and birds of all kinds go together naturally and beautifully. Several years ago some “volunteers” came up from the seeds I had been feeding. The birds loved the fresh seeds that formed when those flowers finished blooming! The goldfinches preferred them over the expensive nyger seed. The house finches love them, and the doves hang around under the flowers waiting for the other birds to drop an occasional seed. Since that first year of volunteers, I plant sunflowers each year. Although I always intend to plant them right after average frost-free date, some years I don’t get them planted until mid-summer, giving me and the birds flowers and seeds in the autumn. This year I got them planted early, and the flowers have peaked and the birds are enjoying the seeds. Within the next couple of weeks I’ll be removing the spent ones, and resowing seeds for a second bloom in fall. While this past Fourth of July weekend was an extremely busy one, I did make time to relax one afternoon and photograph some of the birds enjoying the sunflower seeds.
Gemini, A Great Hybrid Tea Rose for the High Desert
Gemini is probably my favorite hybrid tea rose to grow here in the high desert of the Southwest, Albuquerque. As beautiful as it is, it is equally tough. It tolerates the summer heat. Mine was not damaged by the extreme cold of February of 2011. The colors are wonderful. The form is close to perfect in almost every bloom.
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!
These are images from this year’s spring bloom:
Mermaid – one of my favorite roses, and back to being a focal point in the garden of my small Albuquerque yard.
Beautiful Small Yard in Albuquerque
Beautiful small yard: Albuquerque is surrounded by Federal lands of one type or another on the north, east, and south. Yards within Albuquerque proper tend to be small, compared to other places I have lived. The weather beckons people out of doors most of the year. Attractive yards in which to spend time are desirable, but sometimes making a very small yard attractive takes some thought and planning.
Water was not always considered a problem in Albuquerque, although it certainly is now. Ideally, the native plants would have been left when homes were built. Instead, the land was bulldozed clear of the native plants in many parts of Albuquerque (as well as other places in the Desert Southwest). New homes are often being xeriscaped from the beginning.
This home was built in the late 1990’s. This yard has been featured in several posts on this blog. It has not only matured, but the owner has tried to decrease the use of water by removing some plants, while keeping the foundation plantings and then a few for color. A lot of work has gone into this yard, but the owner has certainly achieved a beautiful small yard.
The beautiful New Mexico sky is a constant feature here. Plants featured here,and these have been longstanding, are roses ‘Hot Cocoa,’ ‘Gentle Giant,’ and ‘Baby Grand;’ clematis trained on a pillar; two nandina bushes; and the Rose of Sharon, ‘Blushing Bride,’ trained into more of a tree shape than a shrub. This will bloom later in the summer. Although the yard is small, the plants give a lot of privacy here.
This is a beautiful small yard.
Bees and Dragonfly in an Insect-Friendly Garden
Bees and a beautiful dragonfly delight this gardener, who several years ago changed my approach to gardening to attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and others.
For many years, I sprayed my roses, and used systemic fertilizers with pesticides as well. I did not have much variety in my garden in terms of types of flowers. Several years ago I decided to stop spraying, and to add a few different flowers known to attract pollinators. In a very short time, I began to see more bees and butterflies here. I should note that I have several neighbors who are organic gardeners, so we have a more neighborhood sized area friendly to pollinators.
Two days ago I was out just enjoying the flowers that were blooming. I was aware of the variety of bees buzzing around, along with a few butterflies and some black chinned hummingbirds. But, I almost stuck my nose on this gigantic dragonfly before I even saw it! It stayed for some time, which allowed me to grab my camera and photograph it. Its beauty was quite complex, and I am glad it stayed long enough for a photograph.
Beautiful, but well camouflaged, dragonfly
Busy bee laden with pollen
A different bee laden with pollen
Garlic: Add a Little Spice to the Garden
Although in this blog I have focused on flowers since the beginning, every now and then I venture into something different, like solar cooking, or birds, or chile peppers, and other such things.
This year in the vegetable garden I am growing tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, okra, and oregano.
On a recent trip to Tucson I visited the Tucson Botanical Gardens, a wonderful place I can recommend to anyone planning a visit to Tucson. There are a variety of different “gardens” on the grounds, and I enjoyed each one. I took a lot of photographs of many different things.
But, the one thing that really captured my eye was the garlic growing in the Herb Garden. Garlic grows well in the Albuquerque area, and at one time I grew it. That was some time ago, though, and before I began photographing on a daily basis. This was a fun photographic subject. I want to grow it again.
But, this leads to something of a conundrum. What is shown in this image is a hardneck variety, that is, one that produces a flower stalk at the top of the plant. It is a fun one to photograph! The problem is that if these “scapes” are allowed to develop, the bulb below will become somewhat stunted. Softneck varieties usually do not form these, and are considered easier to grow. But, photographically, they are not as interesting.
I plan to plant some type in the fall. It appears that the only solution to the conundrum is to plant both types!
Clematis and Roses: Companion Plants
Clematis and roses can be excellent companion plants, particularly for climbing roses. When someone asks me to recommend a companion plant for roses, I first ask the type of rose. If the rose climbs, I almost always include clematis among the recommendations.
Clematis need “cool feet.” That is, the plant does not thrive if the roots at ground level are exposed to direct sun. But, in order to bloom well, the vines themselves need sun. Pairing clematis with a climbing rose provides that. The rose provides the shade for the base of the clematis.
The clematis vine needs a support structure. A climbing rose provides a marvelous support structure, and the vine does not choke the rose (as some vines might).
Regular readers here know my love of the Old Garden Rose, ‘Mermaid,’ a hybrid bracteata (1918). If left to its own devices, it would be at the top of the house and covering my patio at the end of a season (actually, during a season!). I learned the hard way I need to keep it trained and controlled throughout the season. Surprisingly, it seems to thrive that way. It usually starts to bloom sometime in May, although this year it appears it could be a bit earlier than that.
I have two different clematis plants growing with ‘Mermaid,’ and both usually bloom before ‘Mermaid.’ ‘Nelly Moser’ is the first to bloom, and as its bloom ends, a large white clematis whose name I do not know begins its bloom. About the time it finishes, the rose begins its bloom.
‘Nelly Moser’ has begun its bloom, and the images with this post are of ‘Nelly Moser’ growing as a companion plant with ‘Mermaid.’
Closer view of ‘Nelly Moser:’