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.


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


An Ingenious Deer Fence to Protect Your Roses

“Almost Invisible Deer Fence” developed by Tom Mayhew

Master Consulting Rosarian Tom Mayhew has developed a really ingenious way to protect his rose garden from deer. He likes the deer as well as the roses, and did not want to harm the deer in any way. He learned that deer were “spooked” when they came into contact with “nearly invisible” fishing line. He built a fence using green stakes and fishing line, which he puts up in the spring and takes down in the fall.

Tom Mayhew lives in Pennsylvania.

But many gardeners in the deserts of the Southwest have problems with the deer eating their gardens.

Tom has graciously shared this article, written initially for his local rose society, but subsequently published in other newsletters, with readers here at Southwest Desert Gardening.

You may download the attached pdf, but if you post it elsewhere, be sure to give credit to Tom Mayhew, author and creator of “The Almost Invisible Deer Fence.”

Thanks again, Tom!

Almost Invisible Deer Fence


Small Garden with Roses

This small garden with roses is a wonderful example of the creation of beauty in a small space.

Small Garden with Roses

Small Garden with Roses

This photograph was taken in May of 2012, and the clematis as well as many of the roses were in full bloom. Not, in late June, the clematis are bloomed out, as are most of the roses until August. The rose of sharon, “Blushing Bride,” is, however, blooming prolifically in the heat. I’ll try to get over to photograph the rose of sharon later this week or over the weekend.

A partial listing of roses seen blooming in this small garden would include:
Continue reading


About the Header

The new header was taken on May 20, the day of the annular eclipse, for which Albuquerque had a prime viewing location. My mother, a friend, and I had watched from a spot which gave us an unobstructed view of the western horizon. We had our “Eclipse Shades” and were able to see the eclipse from the beginning until the still partially eclipsed sun sank below the horizon. It was at that moment that the photograph from which this header came was taken.

Blog Header © Susan Brandt Graham

Blog Header © Susan Brandt Graham
Setting sun, still partially eclipsed; view across the Rio Grande Valley from the Sandia foothills

This view from the Sandia foothills, looking across Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley to the West Mesa, gives a feel for the high desert in which those of us in Albuquerque garden. You can see the rocks, and you can almost feel the heat and dryness. Just to clarify, I love the high desert with its brilliant light. But gardening here is not like gardening in a non-desert climate.

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Amazing Micro-Environments in the High Desert

'Gentle Giant'

'Gentle Giant' in the garden of Lois Brandt

Yesterday I posted a photo of a rose in my yard, covered with snow from the night before.

My mom lives less than a mile from me, but her yard is much warmer than mine. I was quite surprised to see that she still had hybrid teas blooming on Thanksgiving Day.

Last night was very cold, and the skies were clear, so I imagine that today even her roses will be done. But what a beautiful little surprise her roses on Thanksgiving were.


Mermaid 2009

Rose 'Mermaid'

Rose 'Mermaid'

This is the rose that was almost destroyed in Albuquerque’s “100-year Snow” in December of 2006. Although it is not yet as tall as before the storm, 2.5 years later, ‘Mermaid’ has returned to its full glory in terms of quality and quantity of blossoms!

Patience does pay.


One Albuquerque Garden: A Private Oasis

Private Garden, Albuquerque

Thanks to the owner of this garden for allowing me to photograph it and use the photos here. All photographs were taken May 4, 2007. Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.

This is a very small city garden, but is artfully arranged to utilize a variety of plants. Roses are the featured plant throughout the garden, but are just beginning to bloom in early May. At the time of our visit, the brightest spots in the garden came from clematis. The clematis was truly spectacular.

Clematis ‘The President’
‘The President’

Clematis ‘The President’ with rose ‘Gold Medal’
‘The President’ with rose ‘Gold Medal’

Clematis ‘Ernest Markham’
‘Ernest Markham’

Clematis ‘Ernest Markham’
‘Ernest Markham”

As soon as walked into the garden, I was hit by the sweet scent of an Oriental lily. The flower was as lovely as the scent:
Oriental lily, FABULOUS scent!
Oriental Lily

Here is a sampling of roses in this garden. There will be many more in bloom later this month. Continue reading


Large-Flowered Climber: Royal Sunset

Royal Sunset is an oldie but goodie for the desert Southwest. It has dark green, leathery, disease-resistant leaves, large flowers that can have great form (especially for a climber!), a nice scent, and color to knock your socks off. To top it all off, it has long, shapely buds.

Royal Sunset bud; large-flowered climber

Royal Sunset, large-flowered climber

It takes about three years for this climber to get fully established. It is well worth the wait. This is a great choice for the Desert Southwest if you are looking for a large-flowered climber.


2007’s First Hybrid Tea

The first hybrid tea bloom of the year is always exciting in the high desert. One never knows exactly when to expect it, nor what it will look like. What have the late cold spells and especially the prolonged high winds done to the buds? Have thrips already damaged the bloom (for those of us who don’t like to spray, or spray very little)?

My first hybrid tea bloom this year was Gemini, one of my very favorite hybrid teas that thrives in the Desert Southwest. Someone once asked me how I could love a rose that did not have much of a scent. Take a look:


(Gemini, Keith Zary hybridizer, AARS 2000)

What is not to love? This rose blooms prolifically from first bloom to frost, has essentially disease-free foliage, and perfectly formed blooms.

According to Bob Martin, well-known rosarian, it was the top exhibition hybrid tea in 2005 (the 2006 data has not yet been provided). Also check here.

The fact that it is a top exhibition hybrid tea should not frighten away desert gardeners who just want a nice rose for the garden. This is a rose that thrives in the Southwest, is relatively disease-free, has many beautiful blooms that hold their size even in the heat, and can provide a lot of pleasure with routine care.

It is a hybrid tea that I can recommend for anyone in the Southwest who wants to grow a great rose!