Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Icebergs in a High Plains Desert

"A friend bought me a rose and while I'd never look a gift plant in the stamens, I simply don't do roses. They frighten me!" - Fearful in Flagstaff

Fear not, Fearful: Roses love it out here.* What you really should be worrying about is what to plant next to that gorgeous rose! Doesn't this dainty white flower look spectacular mixed in with my roses? It's a weed. And, a very well cared for weed, I might add.

I'm an equal opportunity employer in the garden. I don't need references. You just need to be good-looking.
Roses are so lovely on their own that most times we don't think about what makes them so darn gorgeous in a bouquet. When that white weed worked it's way up through the climbing rose vines, it gave me the big idea to plant Baby's Breath and blue Cat Mint near other roses for the same effect.

And, I gotta say... I think they're healthier for it. Companion plants keep the ground shaded and cool. Seems harder for bugs and disease to take hold.
Burgundy Iceberg Roses are happy bloomers in high plains deserts.

The rose we were yakking about is a breathtaking Burgundy Iceberg. Icebergs are about as easy to grow as a daisy (well, not quite, I love to exaggerate,) and they bloom all summer long. So if you haven't bought one yet, buy one today. I did! As soon I stopped emailing Fearful.

Cat Mint & Roses bloom together all summer.

Hot Tips!
  1. Why grow slacker roses that bloom for a day and call it quits? Icebergs and tons of other varieties bloom all summer long. No muss, no fuss.
  2. Sink one of those black 1-gallon nursery pots (the kind your perennials come in) into the soil, next to the rose. Fill it with water so it trickles straight down to the roots, where it will do the most good.
  3. Baby's Breath (Gypsophilia) looks incredible planted next to your roses. This easy perennial absolutely adores the alkaline soils of the desert southwest.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Zen & the Art of Ignoring My Plants

My Plum Bonsai tree is flowering. So, in spite of doing everything wrong, I must also be doing something right.

I could save a fortune on cellphone bills if only AT&T would listen to reason. You see, I think they should offer a plan that lets me call out but nobody can call in. That would save me 50% on my phone bill ~ plus I'd be a whole lot better looking. If the phone would stop ringing, I'd stop tearing my hair out trying to deal with all the requests from people on the other end of the line.

I had a pretty little Plum Bonsai that was asking too much of me, too. Bonsais need misting and soaking and lots of love and attention. I adore this plant but there must be an easier way...

Hmmm... Why raise a needy, little baby tree when I could raise a low-maintenance, full size tree? So, I re-potted her. And, I bought her a little religious icon so she could pray for attention from someone other than me.

Whaddyaknow? She's flowering for the very first time. Alert the media. This master gardener is incapable of raising a Bonsai. However! My flowering, full-size tree is growing quite nicely.

With adequate moisture, Bonsais grow easily. In desert environments, like mine, they require daily care.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Exponential Daffodils

Peeping Tom Daffodils naturalize, making more Daffies every year. I love the 'wild' look of these little guys.

I've been called a cheapskate more than once and that always hurts my feelings. I am not cheap. I'm broke! Totally different scenario.

I have been known to spend a ridiculous amount of money on Daffodils, though. I can't help myself. Cheery yellow flowers perk up my dull brown garden and if you buy the more expensive bulbs they do something extra special.

Quail Daffies go hog wild, doubling the number of flowers very quickly. I love the buttery yellow color of this one.

Some types of Daffodils divide and create more cheery yellow flowers every single year. 10 bulbs turn into 20, then 40 and, well, you get the picture. Bonus! Mrs. Moose flatly refuses to eat 'em.

So, there ya have it. I'm not cheap. I'm all about value.

Carleton Daffodils are big bruisers that don't seem to mind my high winds. These dudes multiply like crazy!

If you have hard as rock soil like me, you've probably destroyed many a cute, little bulb planting tool. Digging holes with an old crowbar works like a charm!

Walmart sells counterfeit Carletons. I planted 'em and they do not multiply...

These gals sell heirloom Daffodil bulbs!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Garden Parties & The Problem With Perfection

"Do what you must. Not all that you can." - Mom
Alstroemeria is ready for the party ~ even if I am not.

Ever wonder why lawyers have special paper? Longer paper called legal pads? It's because they bill by the hour so naturally they drum up a long list of things to do that are completely and totally unnecessary.

Maybe that's what I've been doing. I'm having a party to celebrate the coming of age of a special someone. I want to have this party. I also want to have a magic wand. Because I created a lengthy must-do list that can't possibly get done without somebody working a little magic...

Johnny Jump Ups don't know it yet, but they've been assigned table centerpiece duties.

In springtime, my gardens are designed to disappoint. No matter how completely I crowd them with early spring bloomers my brain longs for that certain summer day when every perennial is performing perfectly. (You know which day I'm talking about. The day you're out there, in awe of your flowers, and of course no one else sees this vision of perfection but you.)

Azaleas will sit outdoors.
And, pretend they've been doing that all along.

This time of year, nothing is blooming and I've been fretting about that the whole time I've been planning this party.

As of this morning, I have things back in perspective. Mine is not the kind of house, or garden, that inspires oohs and aahs. But, chances are no one will notice the imperfections but me.

So, I'll clean the kitchen and Pete will clean the dog. (This was a whole lot easier when he was a puppy.) We'll cook up a bunch of great food and hope for the best.

"In a way, nobody sees a flower. It is so small, we haven't the time. To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time." - Georgia O'Keeffe

Alysum Basket of Gold, Meadow Phlox and Primrose are early bloomers ~ a saving grace for high mountain gardens.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Frogs, Bogs & the Perky Primrose

Earlier than I've ever seen them bloom, Primrose are in step with the Crocus this year.

They're not the only ones to get a jumpstart on springtime. A chorus of bog frogs gently serenaded me as I putzed around the garden last night.

I s'pose that has something to do with our massive snow melt and lots of ooey, gooey mud.

Half the nature preserve (across the road from me,) has turned into a bog and that's inspired Columbia Spotted Frogs to burst into song.

It's nice to know that somebody enjoys Mud Month...

Polyanthus Primroses (above) are usually the ones that show up in Walmarts, and grocery stores. Misunderstood little gals who tend to croak as soon as you bring them home and stick them in a sunny window.

They like it cold. Really cold. And, wet. After I murdered a few hundred of them, I wised up and transplanted the latest victims next to a Cat Mint shrub. She drapes over the baby Primroses during hot, dry summers, keeping them cool. (Probably the only reason they survive.)

Other Primrose varieties are a whole lot tougher.

Pink Evening Primrose blooms all day and closes up at night (go figure.) She's a goodie for the southwest because she absolutely loves hot, dry, miserable summers.

Yellow Evening Primrose does what's expected of her, blooming in the evenings with a very pretty fragrance.

Everybody seems to have a special favorite...

* Maguire's Primrose (Primula maguirei) is a common wildflower found in the Utah Mountains.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Time & Sunshine

Cosmos and Viola seedlings are flowering indoors.
Clearly I have jumped the gun!

Three weeks after The Pretty Bad Accident, I'm feeling back to normal and ready to take on the world. This prompted a happy day of putzing in the garden.

Early spring is a favorite time. Mountain snows have disappeared from the meadow. Tiny, lime green shoots peek out of thick mud, promising colorful things to come.

I am always amazed at how much "growing" goes on beneath the snow. Oriental Poppies are 6 inches high. Catmint prouted long before snowdrifts melted away.

With the exception of the Gambler Garden, this joint is cleaned up, composted and ready for spring. Time and sunshine should do the rest.

I name my gardens. I suppose that's kind of weird but it helps me keep track of who needs water when.

There's the Impulse Garden, the Tenant Garden, the problematic Gambler Garden which requires far too much love and attention ~ though, some days in summer, it is absolutely worth the effort.

The Gambling Garden Gals are still up to their eyeballs in winter mulch. They'll stay that way for another month.

'Tis here I cheat zones by 2 ~ planting zone 7 perennials where most folks worry about zone 5. I have learned... Deep snow insulates them in winter. April is the riskiest time of all.

Everyone got into the act today, including Meg who rearranged heavy rocks to make way for new seedlings, giddy at the prospect of going into the ground.

Before I got to know horses, I never would have believed this to be true. Hold out a carrot and she really will follow you!

Tie her to a 200-pound rock, hold out a carrot and she'll still follow you! Barely noticing the mighty task I am asking of her. She dragged the big rocks to precisely where I need them to be.

Way more fun than hiring a human....

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wild Winds & Outdoor Bonsais

Meet my 'Bonsai' Pear tree, standing a proud 4-feet tall.

To one-up my incessant high winds, I trim young trees to look like stubby dwarfs.

The downside to this approach:
You'll need a snappy comeback for annoying neighbors who comment: Hey! There's something wrong with your trees!

The upside is that it helps grow stout, strong trunks that hold up to high winds.

It's been a blustery few days in the mountains, prompting the local weatherman to issue a 20 pound warning.

Dogs and cats under 20 lbs would be well-advised to stay indoors or we might see them blowing down the old ranch road.

Pete qualifies, Buddy does not.

This puts a crimp in the plans of my rabble rousing cats.

High winds took down my rickety picket fence and this morning I'm wondering what to do about that. Prop it up or throw in the proverbial towel?

I recall the morning I proudly stood on my deck after this impenetrable barrier was installed and watched Mrs. Moose stare at the fence, dumbfounded.

Then she nimbly stepped over that 4-foot fence and proceeded to devour the new cherry tree. Between wildlife and wild winds, planting trees in the mountains is a bit of a challenge. Most of mine are happily growing in a horizontal direction.

Staking trees is not really necessary in normal environments. The natural movement of the trunk, by the wind, stimulates root growth, creating a stronger tree.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Reading Garden

What goes into a Reading Garden?
Color... texture... sound?

What about the gentle babble of a water fountain? Is that pleasing to the ear? Or, would the monotony ruin your concentration?
Mine is a ski town, bursting at the seams with tourists who are missing the best season of all. Come summer, cool temperatures and cloudless blue skies encourage us to spend as much time outside as possible. Bonus: no bugs to pester you.

Which is why we're schemin' and dreamin' on a community garden that encourages one to spread a blanket on the lawn, curl up with a good book and soak in the beauty of a perfect summer day.

I think we're going to test this lawn seed because it uses a lot less water and fertilizer than traditional Kentucky Blue Grass. This project is on a budget - aren't they all? :( We have a water shortage, so we need to be careful.

The entire project is up for debate.

If you've stumbled upon this little bog and have ideas on what goes into a Reading Garden, please drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you! (USDA zone 5, full sun to part shade, clay soil.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Live Free or Die

It's getting crowded in here.

I kicked everybody out of the sunny window so my seedlings could start enjoying the royal treatment. These big girls have been languishing in luxury for far too long...
I'm kind of slow to the punch but I recently figured out that many of the flowering plants sold in my supermarket are actually cold-hardy perennials happy to flourish in the garden.

That prompted me to go a little hog wild. So now I've got more flowers than window sill space. Many of them are anxiously awaiting transplant time outdoors.

Sun Stars (orange) are crowding Tigridia.

Alstromeria (pink) is shadowing the Alpine Bellflowers (purple.) And, that is a cowardly thing to do since the baby bells are so very small.

Giant Canterbury Bells (below) aren't terribly happy about these crowded conditions, either. Though they have a very poor way of showing it.

Canterbury Bells have been flowering non-stop since early February.

The only gal that's truly happy is my French Lavender. Though if she can't move outdoors pretty soon, even she seems hell bent on a revolution.
Tick, tock, tick, tock... This mountain gal is a month away from planting day....

Monday, April 14, 2008

Good Year

This is the sign of a very good year.

It may not look like much to you ~ just a dirty little creek. But, it's been dry as a bone for as long as I've lived on this property. I didn't even know it was a creek!

So, this isn't good news... It's the best of all news for this high plains desert!

As record-breaking snow fall begins to melt, my dirty little creek will grow into a babbling brook putting smiles on the faces of all the flowers in the Big Rock Garden.

What a sweet way to kick off my first afternoon of playing in the mud!

Scooping water from this new, little creek and blessing the tenderest of my babies with some makeshift irrigation.

Much to the dismay of neighbors and friends, I never shovel in the winter time. What's the point? It's just gonna snow again.

But I shoveled quite a bit today ~ chipping away at the mountains of snow in some parts of my yard, moving it to places that have been dry for too long.

Moisture is the bane of mountain gardening. Too much, too little, rarely if ever precisely what we need.

But, we're off to a good start. Just what our mountain wildflowers have been hoping for.

And, this, I hope, is a sign of a very good year.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Seeds, Bulbs & Other Cheap Thrills

Half my yard is celebrating spring and so am I. A good month behind kinder climate gardens, the Daffodils are finally threatening great things.

All the trappings of a farm girl summer are getting a jumpstart in my sunny window. Planting from seed saves me a bundle plus it adds 30 days to my too-short growing season.
When I can't afford Hawaii, I buddy up to the Plumeria and fantasize about ocean breezes. (Plumeria is surprisingly easy to grow indoors. Phosphate encourages plentiful blooms.)

"Honk, honk, honk," cry the Canadian Geese. "Not again!" grouse those cranky Sand Hill Cranes. "Harumph!" grumbles a Bull Elk as he rises to his feet and saunters away from the trespassers...

Early this morning, I opened the blinds to discover a hot air balloon, blown off course, bouncing across the Swaner Nature Preserve.

I live in the strangest place. But, somehow it seems to suit me.

Quick-Growing Veggies for Mountain Gardens
  • Cocozelle Bush Zucchini: matures in 50 days.
  • Thessaloniki Tomato: matures in 60 days.
  • Oxheart Carrot: matures in 65 days.
  • Lemon Cucumber: matures in 70 days.