Monthly Archives: November 2011

Not all roses in the desert are Desert Roses

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To be clear, the roses I write about today are not Desert Roses (Adenium Obesum). I admit to knowing little about growing roses in the desert, but I know NOTHING about Desert Roses. Fear not, however, if you need answers about Desert Roses, leave me a comment. I’ll find what I can and get back to you.

I was astounded when I moved to St. George by the number and robustness of the roses in our neighborhood. Their colors were so vibrant, and the floribundas were, well, flori-bundant with impressive blooms.

In search of more info about these wonderful friends I thought I’d left behind in the Midwest, I learned the following.

It almost goes without saying, but roses are not native to our Dixie Corridor desert environment. They exist, in large part, because we rose lovers plant them were they have access to water either from our trickle systems, or our watering cans. Experts recommend watering them deeply three times per week in summer, two to three times per week in fall and once a week in the winter to a depth of 3 feet. That can add up to quite a bit of water so make sure you mulch the plants well to ensure that as much moisture as possible stays around the roots. Drip irrigation or at least irrigating directly at the roots is recommended for roses, as water on the foliage is the cause of lots of rose diseases and problems.

If you want to plant new roses, the time to plant bare root roses is between December and January. It seems that the deeper, richer colors do better than their more delicate siblings, and floribundas are preferable to tea roses.

Roses need at least six hours of sunlight per day. Desert sun is, of course, much stronger than sun anywhere else so rose placement in the garden is very important. Roses grown in the desert should get lots of morning sun and be shaded from afternoon sun during the hottest part of the day, especially during the summer. Generally, the east side of a building will provide the protection roses need while also ensuring that they get all the sunlight they need.

If you have existing plants in your garden the next couple of months would be a good time for a basic pruning, cutting back long canes to prevent them from being whipped around in the wind. Floribundas should be taken back to approximately 2 1/2 to 3 feet. A more thorough pruning is appropriate in early spring, as long as you are dealing with plants that bloom more than once a season. If that is not the case, wait until after the bloom to prune.

Fertilizer is an important consideration for your roses as the soil quality in the desert is often very poor with little nutrient value. It is always a good idea to consult with an agent at your local county extension office to discuss the soil quality in your area and which supplemental nutrients you’re likely to have to supply. You may need to fertilize your roses each month from February through June and at half strength from June through August.

So, that’s what I’ve learned about roses in the desert. They reward me with such unexpected joy each time I see them. I’m willing to give them all the extra attention they need to survive around here.

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Just Chillin (bulbs)

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This is not something we did in the Midwest, but Angela of Backyard Garden and Gifts (see my blogroll) highly recommends it. After your bulbs have been in the ground for a year, begin digging them and chilling them for 6- 14 weeks each Fall. I suspect that it forces the bulb to dormancy, which our St. George weather can’t be counted on to do. Make certain to remove any fruit from the refrigerator in which you chill them, as the the ethylene gas emitted by ripening fruit (apples and pineapple are the worst offenders) tends to ruin the bulbs.

Now before you dig them, you need to decide which bulbs to plant. There are several proven to in mild winter climates such as ours. Among them are daffodils, certain tulips, crocus, hyacinth, Asiatic lilies, iris and muscari (aka grape hyacinths).

As to the ‘when’ of planting bulbs in the St. George area, December and January are the preferred months, however, if you are a gardener who likes to take risks, you could plant as late as the month of March. Just make certain the spot you have chosen is in well-drained soil. Soggy soil will drown bulbs.

As with bulbs planted in other climates, make certain to fertilize for sturdy roots and optimal flowers, and water during the dry periods.

Bulb on, fellow gardeners. We just need to remember to chill!

You just need to look

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I love Fall colors in the Midwest. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever seen them. It is the autumn palette that grabs you by your lapels and dares you to look away. When you go out for a drive to look at the colors, and everyone does, you round a corner and there they are, as though the heavens had a paintball fight with the horizon. You cannot help yourself. At the very least you allow and ‘ooh’ to escape your lips.

Now I live in the desert. It’s mostly rocks and they are mostly red. ¬†As I walked my dog, Dixie, through the property near our home the other day, I reminisced about the colors in the Midwest and how much I missed them. Everything is a trade-off, I rationalized. I just need to accept the fact that I no longer live where…

Whoa! Wait a minute. In my reverie I’d nearly trampled a small, but defiant yellow flower. And not just any yellow flower. This flower was the yellow of a summer sunset. I wish I could tell you its name, but I don’t yet know my wildflowers here.

I raised my eyes, slowly, and panned across the landscape. As though the red-brown curtain had been drawn back, I began to behold color. Delicate greens, some blue-green like a rippling stream. Some mixed with honey, turning them the shade of freshly mowed grass. There were purples, lilacs, ambers, chocolates, cinnamons and expressos. And the shapes were as varied as the colors. Sharp, curved, flowing, abrupt.

The more I saw, the more I wanted to see. Dixie and I walked long that day. We stopped often to peak under bushes, and around the edges of stone outcroppings. We saw gorgeous color. It made me wish I could paint. Soon, I hope, I’ll know the names of these plants, but in the meantime, I’m just going to soak up their gorgeous, subtle shadings.

You really do just need to look.