Friday, April 27, 2012

Blooms around the neighborhood

Not much happening around here today, as there were things diverting my attention from the gardens, so here are some photos I took in the neighborhood yesterday of cacti and aloes.  Most of them were taken of plantings in a strip of land between the sidewalk and the parking lot at Kleinman Park about a 1/2 mile from my house; I pass this park almost daily and decided I needed to get my camera after I noticed the profusion of Saguaro blooms a few days ago.  Amazingly, the shot is of blooms on a limb only about 5.5' off the ground, while the limbs on most Saguaros are at least 8' up the main stem or "trunk".
Unknown variety of pencil cactus blooming @ a house on the next block

Saguaro blooming in Kleinman Park near my house; notice the bee in the lowest bloom.

Hesperaloe blooming, also in Kleinman Park

Opuntia ready to bloom @ Kleinman Park

Another Opuntia in Kleinman
This last one's from my front yard, Dahlia 'Heatwave'; it was taken about 8 AM today before it had fully opened and as you can see, it will be the first of many.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tomato cage and the Stapelia mystery solved

Tuesday evening when I got back from coaching T-ball I used the last of the available light to plant Sweet 100, Roma, Black Krim, Mortgage Lifter and Aunt Ruby's German Green tomato seedlings in the raised bed where I'd previously planted the Albion strawberries (which I'm still hoping will come up).  I'm not really happy with the tomato cages that I used in the first bed I built as they take up so much room they limit how many can be placed in each bed and usually aren't tall enough for most tomato varieties anyway.  I was looking for some other way to manage the new plantings when I struck upon the idea of using bamboo tied together like the scaffolding they use in Asia.  I went to Home Depot yesterday and bought 4 packages of six 6' bamboo stakes and using a ball of twine I already had, began to construct my cage.  The uprights were simply pushed into the soil until they hit solid ground and the exterior cross pieces were woven through the uprights to make a loose basket weave, then lashed together with the twine. Next I lashed cross pieces to each side to make five individual compartments, one for each type of tomato and used plastic garden fencing to separate each compartment and add additional rigidity to the cage.  So far, only one plastic "wall" is installed, as darkness stopped me from completing the rest yesterday.  The nice thing about using bamboo, besides it be an inexpensive sustainable product, is that it can be cut with a good pair of pruners, which can also be used to cut the twine and the garden fencing to the right length or width, so the entire cage was built using just one tool. Another bonus to this design is by that cutting the twine, the entire cage can be disassembled for easy storage at the end of the season.  The total project cost was was around $15 and the finished cage is 5.5' x 18" x 5' and each section is 18" x 11.5" x 5'.

3 sections of the cage, with standard tomato cages in the background

The Stapeila mystery has been solved, thanks to Detrick, who provided the cutting at the Plant Swap; the one in the foreground is Stapelia leendertziae and the one behind it is Orbeopsis malanantha, so it's not a Stapelia at all, although they are in the same family, just a different genus.  After Googling both of them and seeing the gorgeous deep red of their blooms, I can't wait to see them for myself.  After seeing the differences in the blooms, I can see why they are in different genera, as S. leendertziae displays the star shaped bloom typical of Stapelia, while the blossom of O. malanantha is shaped like the bowl of a red wine glass, which is highly appropriate since it is a deep red reminiscent of a hearty burgundy.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Goodies from the Swap, plus blooms and a bird

Here are the unknown Stapelias at the swap from Detrick, along with a Dragon Fruit cactus Hylocereus undatus, which I found out is not self-fertile, so I guess I'll have to buy another couple from HD if I want to get fruit.
Hylocereus undatus on the L, Stapelias on the right 

Last year's chives have come back and are now blooming.

The mixed Freesias are finally beginning to bloom.

Primrose 'Pacifica' Primula polyantha is blooming again and looking very happy on the front porch.

Some of last year's vincas are finally blooming and look like they won't need to be replaced after all.

The pomegranate I planted this year is also beginning to bloom, holding out the promise of fruit in the future.

Here's the latest raised bed; this one's planted with both bush and climbing varieties of pickling and cutting cucumbers and lemon cucumbers.  Even though I swore I wasn't going to try the lemon cukes again, I still had seeds left and couldn't bring myself to get rid of them.  I also planted 5 kohlrabis acquired at the swap; I thought I'd only gotten 2, but one pot had 3 in it and the other had 2.  The screen frame is held in place with guy wires on each end and it should hold up to almost anything.

Lastly, here's a female Quiscalus mexicanus, Great-tailed Grackle; I still haven't been able to get a good shot of a male, which has a longer tail and is jet black from head to tail.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring plant swap

Members of the Phoenix/Tucson area Dave's Garden on-line community held our Spring Plant swap this Saturday and about a dozen members were in attendance.  Our gracious hosts, Linda and Ken have such beautiful gardens and getting a tour would have been reason enough to go, but they also made pizzas in their wood-fired oven situated in the front yard and they were delicious.  There were lots of neat plants available, as well as some seeds and I managed to snag two Stapelias brought by Detrick, but he wasn't able to identify which species they were; guess I'll have to see if anyone on Dave's Garden can help with that.  I also snagged a nice Brandywine tomato plant, a couple of kohlrabis, a couple of hollyhocks, a clump of Dwarf White Ruella, a dragonfruit plant, a sweet potato vine and a large bunch of Snowdrops.

Linda and Ken's gardens are rather impressive and prove that you can have a lush setting even in the desert.  The front yard features graceful steps leading to the front door and a wonderful brick terrace partially screened by a low stuccoed wall; this terrace is where their amazing wood-fired pizza oven is located.  The landscaping draws your eye from one planting area to the next and consists of open areas interspersed with planting beds with flowers such as irises and daylillies with vegetables interplanted with them.  I found this to be a unique approach, since I tend to separate my veggies and flowers, even if the beds are in close proximity to one another.  The backyard makes the most of the limited space with a bed along the back wall that includes roses, grapes and elephant garlic, as well as others.  There are two more beds which again intersperse veggies amongst the irises.  They have several fruit trees, including a "cocktail" apple tree, a peach, a nectarine, an orange and a gauva.  They also have a nice greenhouse, a composting area, a small veggie garden and a pond.  The most amazing thing, at least to me, was the fact that they grow amaryllis from seed!

The hill where they grow daylillies
The terrace; in the upper right corner you can see the pizza oven.
One of 2 iris beds in the backyard.
The back wall with its' grapes and roses
The pond
Some of the many plants at the swap.
L - R; Rodica, Linda (our host), Holly

When I get every planted/potted, I'll post some pictures

Friday, April 20, 2012

Doves, symbol of peace or backyard bullies?

When I first placed my feeders in the backyard, doves were an infrequent visitor but apparently doves are like teenagers, once a good feeding location is found, the word gets out faster than the aforementioned teenager can text a house party location.  Before you know it there are literally dozens of them occupying the yard.  I've seen 4-5 dozen sitting on the phone and electric wires in the back and mobs of 20-30 can be found on the ground when the cats aren't around.  While doves have a reputation as symbols of peace, I think they must've had some really good "spin doctors" doing PR work for them, because I've seen them bully their way to the feeders, pushing the smaller birds out of the way like a drunk sailor muscling his way to the bar.  They descend like a mob to get at the seeds that fall to the ground and squabble amongst themselves like kids going after candy when the pinata breaks open.

All 4 species of doves previously noted can be seen in this photo.

While I haven't seen them at the feeders, the following birds have been seen in the yard:

Mimus polyglottos - Northern Mockingbird (Pres. Jefferson had one as a pet)
Quiscalus mexicanus - Great-tailed Grackle

Haven't been able to get pictures of these birds yet, but the Grackles should be fairly easy, as they like to search the lawn for insects after I water.  I'm going to put a suet feeder in the nectarine tree for the Mockingbirds, so maybe I'll get as photo op soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blooms and other happenings

Well it's heating up with a forecast high on Saturday of 99 and 100 on Sunday, but for now it's gardening as usual.  With the exception of the Climbing Golden Showers, the roses continue to put on a show, especially the miniature roses from the 99 Cent Only Store.

Here's a yellow bloom from the Climbing Joseph's Coat; I don't remember any this color last year.

Some of the established plantings are blooming as well, here's the sage I transplanted from the front yard to the back when I planted the Ein Shemer apple in January.

This is the Little Pickles I planted on 3/29.

Here's the Basketball Plant in the wheelbarrow succulent garden.

The grape flowers (I believe this is Ruby Seedless) are finally opening and are really unassuming.

The lettuce in the window box was beginning to bolt, so I pulled it and went to Home Depot to look for something to plant in its place.  They had zonal geraniums in 4" pots for 5/$10, so I bought 4 red, and 3 each in pink and white.

I'm expecting the Freesias and Dahlias to bloom soon, as well as the chives and the pomegranate, but still no sign of blooms on the alliums.

I finally got all the weeding and trimming done, so I had time to build another raised bed; this one has a trellis of 1" x 2"' as a frame for green plastic garden fencing that the cucumbers can climb up; will post a picture after it gets planted.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What I've done this week

Now that Little League has started and I got roped into helping my daughter coach Logan's t-ball team, plus going to Morgans' softball games, I've had less time to spend in the garden lately.  Despite that, I've managed to spend 2-3 hours each day on basic maintenance, such as mowing, trimming and weeding, the nuts and bolts of gardening, as it were.  I also built the third raised bed and planted 20 bare-root Albion strawberry plants and crossed my fingers that they'll come up bless me with lots of berries.  I made a birdbath out of a plastic pot tray and some chain, but the birds didn't seen interested, so now I'm using it for a large feeder for the doves, since the cats make it dangerous to feed on the ground.  I fill it with all the seed the birds drop to the ground from the 3 hanging feeders.

Not much new in the floral department, except for the roses, which are outdoing themselves this year.

Hopefully the rain predicted for tomorrow won't be enough to keep me out of the garden.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Planting Larry

Larry's all ready for spring planting, with a basket full of 12 of his favorites. I have to agree with him on his selection, all of which have been popular for the last 80-100 years, as all of the packets are from seed catalogs from the 1910's - 1930's.

I potted up 9 cuttings from my Stapelia gigantea, which was given to me by a friend nearly 10 years ago; these are destined for the Spring Plant Swap on the 21st so I can share my friend's gift with others he has never met.

Here are some of the flowers blooming in my gardens in the last few days.

This Asiatic lily bloomed yesterday, just in time for Easter
One of the last Prince Alfred daffodils
I replaced the stock in Butch's baskets w/Ice Plant 'Red Surprise'
Tulips continue to bloom in the bulb bed
Climbing Golden Showers is finally putting on a show
Echeveria 'Dondo' blooming (originally thought this was going to be a pup)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Bunny Larry

Larry was asked by his good pal The Easter Bunny if he could help out by delivering eggs in the neighborhood, and of course, he accepted.  Looks like he'll be very busy come Sunday morning hiding all those eggs, as long as he can keep Chuck from pilfering a few.

I added two more pictures to the backyard bird album; the Curve-billed Thrasher was very skittish and it took several attempts before I got a good shot.

Curve-billed Thrasher - Toxostoma curvirostre
Inca dove - Columbina inca

Flowers are blooming all over, especially the roses; doesn't the Blue Moon look like a bride's bouquet?

Blue Moon Rose; one of my favorites
Climbing Don Juan; this one will flank the new gate
Climbing Joseph's Coat

The fruit trees are getting in on the action as well, with both the nectarine and the Ein Shemer producing fruit, which is surprising considering I only planted the Ein Shemer on January 18.

Ein Shemer
Pink Lady apple I started from seed last summer