When I moved to the Sonoran Desert, I took the time to select out the plants that I thought had a fighting chance of survival down here. I still took a lot of losses that first summer.
There is no way to understand the impact of that low humidity/high heat until you live through several months of it. Michigan one year had a week of weather that was in the high 90s with 'low' humidity of around 40%. Ha ha. Low? Low is 4% - how little did I know.
Things died. Thankfully, I have blanked out most of what I have lost. Nature can be kind.
And some things just limped along, looking pathetic, but not so gone as to be mercy tossed to the compost pile. My african violets were in that category. I came down here with four, quickly losing one to wilt. One went into a long decline, finally rotting out at the base. I have its leaves in a bag with some potting mix, hoping one will root and I can recover the plant.
The other two? Have suddenly decided they might be okay after all. They are both blooming very prettily at the north window I have settled them.
Although this show of happy may be short term; in late July through most of January, the humidity levels are naturally higher. I have started to put my plants in humidity trays, and I will add these two to that system soon.
But for now, I'm just sitting back and enjoying my small bright blessings.
At least they remind me of my lovely yellow primroses back in Michigan. This is the Lady Banks Rose. The specimen shown here is clambering over the neighbor's fence into my yard. Later this year, I am going to take some cuttings to see if I can start a few of these plants.
The individual flower of this rose is quite diminutive, as each bloom is slightly larger than a quarter, yet these are borne in clusters - this is a group of 14 - and produced in great sprays across the entire bush. This picture shows a vanilla bottle vase and a coaster for a pedestal. Tiny!
The flowers bloom but once a year, but for a show like this from a rose in the desert? Worth the wait*.
I'm not the only one who appreciates this rose. Here is one of our resident lizards who spends a lot of its time sunning on the wall just below the boughs.
The Desert Mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua, is blooming in my backyard. We moved into this rental at the beginning of the year. The winter rains dumped nearly two inches of precipitation soon after, guaranteeing good weed wildflower germination.
So I've been pulling a lot of weedy material out of the gravel in both the front and back, but I've been doing so with a careful eye, trying to identify what grows down here. In the far back corner of the yard, I have a cluster of these mallows. The one in the corner might even be a second-year plant, all of the others look like newbies.
This is a lovely plant, obviously desert adapted. It's cousins in the mallow family like to have their feet in the damp, and this one is no exception. The plants I have seen in the wild have been constrained to the areas of the washes, where the water comes in volume and stays longer than anywhere else in the desert.
I will be watching my plants to see their summer habits. Desert Tropicals, an informal on-line encyclopedia of Arizona desert plants, states that "The coral flowers of the desert mallow come in summer to fall."
I'm not keeping my hopes up. The ones in my backyard look like they are putting on an all-or-nothing show.
Meanwhile, at the back feeder, I got a positive id on the Lesser Goldfinch. He is a green-backed male, and the two of them seem to be local. Maybe I'll get to see babies in a few months!
Part of my job is going to folk's residences and measuring their house when they want to renovate or add on to their existing home. The rest of my job is coming back to my office and drawing up that home on the computer, for their architect or designer to work with. That's what I do. I draw buildings.
Last Wednesday I got to take a few pictures of a client's garden. And because it's late in the season and we are all hanging on to every last glimmer of summer, I have to share:
Winter in Michigan and the outdoor garden is far away. The months are long, cold, and dreary. All the brown grass and grey slush makes the green indoors a great relief.
I am as much a gardener inside as I am outside. My house has
plants in every available window, some that I have carefully
tended for over a decade. Being in the green gets me through this grey season.
This year, I looked around my house on New Year's Eve and took note of all that was blooming.
Some of these were plants I brought in for the winter. This variegated periwinkle (Vinca minor) is overwintering indoors, as this plant tends to be a tender perennial in zone five.
These are sold as plants for mixed container plantings, and can be found spring and summer anywhere plants are sold. I decided to bring in this particular plant because I liked its leaf color and was rewarded with a pair of its charming blue blossoms.
Another plant that received refuge from the frosts was a mixed planting of annuals, Salvia: Lady in Red and Lobelia: Crystal Palace. I find this salvia to be a real winner, sending out flush after flush of rosy red blooms all summer long. The hummingbirds love it. When the frosts came, I wasn't ready to let it go, so in it came. It continued to bloom through the Holidays.
You have to look for the lobelia, they are peeping out from the salvia's foliage.
Other plants are year 'round residents, like my african violets (gesneriads). These are unnamed cultivars that I have purchased on impulse at the grocery. I currently have four of them on a windowsill in the kitchen that gets no direct sun, and their only natural light for a few hours in the morning. They don't seem to mind this, and at least one of them will bloom each year during the winter. This year it was the blue one, with a slight ruffle and a white picotee rim.
In yet another east window, I have more plants blooming in winter.
Here you can find a sprawling cyclamen, and a gangly crown of thorns (Euphorbia splendens syn. milii). The euphobia was actually a dumpster find. I stuck it in soil and it's bloomed reliably for me ever since.
I've collected plants since I was just a kid, maybe 9 or 10, wanting my own versions of the plants my mom and grandmother grew. I can't imagine a house without plants. In winter the promise of the plants is one of the things that helps me get through these months of no sun and dirty snow. Who can stay glum when this is what greets you at the kitchen sink in the morning?
Most of my clean-up here is in spring. I leave seedheads standing for the birds, and most of the foliage from the last year does no harm to leave until spring. The bearded iris are an exception to that, and every third year or so I actually manage to remember to clean them out in the fall.
So comes the sun and warm weather, and I am out there pulling away the dead leaves from the new spring growth. Daylilies, iris, delphiniums all reveal fresh new green or bronze leaves. The columbine are little mounds of tidy foliage. The chives are already a foot high.
Some things in zone five are best left for spring. I looked over the lavender, the sage, the thyme - all the woody perennials - and decided to wait a few more days before pruning them down. The buddleia and the russian sage are also waiting. Once they show new growth, I will know how much of the old to take off.
Crocus have been showing for some weeks now. I have a few handfuls of several varieties, so the early season is still going, although they are just about done by now. The late ones are huge, dwarfing the little early ones. I have a bunny or something that is going through and mowing down my crocus foliage. I put some chive cuttings over them today, in hopes that it will deter the damn beastie.
The daffs are all sending their buds skyward, as if in competition with the leaves to see who will get there first. The scilla are also halfway to bloom. I will watch them both daily now, awaiting the day they open. I love me my blues in the garden. These scilla, planted last year, will be my first wave of the blues for this year.
For once, this year I cleared the fall leaves from the border with the apricot tulips before they got all tangled up in them. Maybe I will get a flower or two, although like most of the high bred varieties, these have been slowly declining since I planted them.
In the same border, I trimmed out all of the ratty foliage from the hellebores. They are supposed to be early bloomers but in zone five, I don't know what that means. I have some fresh leaves coming up, and will watch them for anything that looks like buds, but they have only been in the ground since fall, and may need more root time. I dunno.
Speaking of extended root time, I have a pot of amaryllis that I have been dragging in and out for several summers of green floppy growth that is FINALLY sending up a new bloom stalk. Hurray!