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Not all roses in the desert are Desert Roses


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.


Just Chillin (bulbs)


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


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.

Step Lively


This info comes to us from Angie Quayle at  The Backyard Garden and Gifts.

If you haven’t planted seeds yet it isn’t too late, if you move fast.

The planting period for the seeds of lettuce, beets, chard, carrots, peas, radishes, turnips and others begins in late August, but continues almost to Halloween. Although the later the seed is sown, the less likely it is to produce a HUGE amount, but seriously, who wouldn’t want fresh produce from their own garden on the table in the Fall. It helps fill the void left by the closing of  local Farmers’ Markets.

Transplants, seedlings that are already growing, can be planted anytime from mid September through October.

If you choose to plant late, a frost cloth is a great investment. Lay it over your plants to protect them from the cool nights and mornings before the sun comes up, as well as to encourage some growth in December and January. If by chance, you got your broccoli in late, say after October 15, the frost cloth can be used not only to protect it during the winter, but also to speed things up in the spring.

Remember, planting in the Fall isn’t just for the fun of it. Here in St. George (Zone 10) the only time of year cool season vegetables will thrive is in the cooler periods of Fall, Winter and Spring.

And now, information you might be able to use if a conversation bogs down.

Many of the crops mentioned above are referred to as Cole Crops.

From the Free On-Line Dictionary: Cole crops-Member of the species Brassica oleracea, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.

Next time?

Desert Roses and other Fall Flowers

Rumor Has It


As a transplant when I hear the term ‘Fall growing season’ I think of that time of year in the Midwest when a gardener rushes to get bulbs in the ground before it freezes harder than rock. So, when I began to hear buzzing about a true growing season in the Fall, my ears perked up.

The Fall growing season here in St. George isn’t a long one. In fact, conventional wisdom has it that it starts around the Autumnal Equinox (this year that was September 23) and ends around Thanksgiving.  During this time of year the days are usually warm, with the daily averages dropping from the mid 80s to the mid 60s. The evenings are cool (a notable difference from our blast furnace-like summer nights) with averages falling from the mid 50s to the mid 30s.  We can begin to expect some freezing nights around Halloween, but the freezes aren’t hard ones. Many plants, including cool season vegetables actually tolerate this climate quite well.

The beauty of the Fall growing season is that some vegetables like lettuce, spinach and broccoli won’t survive in the summer. If you want to eat them fresh from the garden, and who wouldn’t , they must be grown during the Fall, Winter and Spring.

In our next post more about the specifics of planting vegetables, flowers and landscape vegetation.

Keep On Digging.

Strawberries in the Desert


Last spring I bought a Fort Laramie everbearing Strawberry at Backyard Gardens and Gifts in St. George. It was a beautiful plant.  Lush, green, not a hint of brown on its lovely self. I put it on our back porch which gets morning sun from the southeast.

As if on cue, my sweet plant quickly rendered up two delicate strawberries, so tempting they didn’t make it into the house. I popped them in my mouth and relished their juiciness, their texture and the fact that they were mine. Silly me.

As I watered my dear plant through the months of May and June, it flourished. Granted, it was clear about its need for daily water, but I was, to borrow a phrase from my grandkids, down with that. It became my habit to check and water it just after lunch when the sun had disappeared beyond the peak of our roof.

My stawberry  grew stems, which produced dark green leaves in the typical array of three. It draped its branches over the hose caddy on which I had it perched. It grew and grew. I watered it each day, and searched it for more sweet berries.

Nothing. Nada. Not one more berry. Really?

And then I left for the month of July.

I left it, as I left all of my plants in the capable hands of friends. For The Strawberry I left strict instructions. Water. Daily.

Now that I’ve returned mid August, my strawberry seems none the worse for my absence. I resumed watering it daily except for more than a few brown, flaking leaves. Inspire, I gave it a late summer haircut, trimming away everything dead or dying.  As I cut, the familiar plant of last spring  emerged. I’d come to accept the fact that this Everbearing was to become a Never-rebearing, but still, I loved it.

And then, this morning as I tended it, look what I found! A single, lovely and strong flower.

What, I wonder, is the lesson here. Never give up, or get a good haircut for the summer months. Whichever, I am hopeful that I soon will be writing about the taste of my next first strawberry.

What happened while we were gone?!?


After the summer of 2010, beloved husband and I decided we would beat the heat by returning to Michigan for the month of July this year. (Yet one more of our plans that didn’t work out as expected. See: Heat Wave of 2011 hits the Midwest)

Before leaving I found a foster family for my herb pots, and attempted to double checked the trickle system in our back yard. Stay tuned for a post on how that is really accomplished. Clearly, I haven’t a clue.

We returned in early August. The short hand version of what we returned to,  is this: Several plants, fried beyond recognition; one tree on the watch list; and several herbs MIA.

Now the question becomes…When, if at all, do I start replacing the deceased?