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Summer Snowflake

April 27, 2011


Spring at Red Butte

April 12, 2010

Saturday morning I decided to head to Red Butte Garden to see what is blooming.  I didn’t walk the whole garden but here are a few photos I took.  The gardeners were hard at work, which is what I was trying to do in the home garden last week.

The weather didn’t cooperate last week so I didn’t accomplish nearly what I’d hoped at home. There was some death and destruction over this winter. It seems my clary sage plants that I started from seed last year are toast and I was so hoping to see blooms on this plant in person instead of in a book. The worst thing about this winter was the unseasonably low temperatures in the teens back in November without any snow cover. Otherwise it was a normal Utah winter which means expect the unexpected. Ah well, most things are looking decent, if seeming a little late.

There’s some blooming in my garden and I will take some pictures this week. Chores beckon… transplanting, more cleanup, and pruning. Happy spring!

Roses as Easy Care Plants

March 30, 2010

Roses have been branded as fussy and demanding primadonnas, but in here in Utah, that is just not the case.
This is part II, a continuation of “Got Roses?” posted a few weeks ago. I mentioned that roses grow quite happily in our Utah climate. The purpose of this is not to change the minds of those who just don’t like roses, but to reassure people who have been afraid to try them, because they think roses are demanding.

Zephirine Drouhin

I’d like to go into further detail about my organic methods of caring for roses. Roses are not bothered much by diseases in Utah, so forget the fungicides and pesticides here. What roses do need in our dry climate is water and organic matter. Utah’s mineral soils are very low in organic matter and our skies low in precipitation with most of it falling in the winter.
In this low rainfall climate, roses will need some supplemental water, however they are not so thirsty as lawns. Roses are quite drought tolerant actually. I’m sure those rose rustlers, who preserve roses by cuttings of found roses on abandoned homesteads and cemeteries would agree. If we get good spring rains here, you can get by without applying supplemental water for quite a while. Now here’s a piece of advice that applies to all gardening. Don’t run your irrigation on a set schedule. It’s a good idea to arrange the plantings by water needs and then only water each zone of the garden as needed.

Eglantyne with snow in summer

The soils in the Salt Lake area as varying just as the hardiness zones. In the valley you find more clayey soils, while the foothills can be very sandy. Organic matter can help both. It will help break up the clay, and help the sandy soils retain moisture. High elevations may be a zone colder than the valleys, so it’s important to make sure you choose roses that are hardy where you live.

Star of the Republic

I mix some compost in the planting hole with a ratio of 1/3 compost to 2/3 native soil. If when you dig you hit hardpan clay, you will want to break up as much of that as you can. If you have really bad drainage raised beds can help.
To fertilize my roses, I use alfalfa pellets, purchased from the feed store in 50 lb. bags for about 8 bucks. 50 lb of alfalfa will feed a lot of roses. Here you can get them from IFA or Steve Regan co. Alfalfa is a balanced fertilizer with a NPK ratio of 3-1-2. I soak them in a bucket for a while when I’m working in the yard, just to soften the pellets. Then I put maybe 2-3 cups, using the shovel around the base of each established rose. You would use less on smaller or young roses. Then hubby follows me and pours compost to cover the pellets. I do it this way because my dog likes the pellets and will try to eat them dry. If you don’t have those concerns, you could run around the yard flinging pellets dancing as you go.

Baronne Prevost

Also another great amendment here is cottonseed meal. It has a higher nitrogen content than the alfalfa, but also is acidifying, which is helpful for our alkaline soils. Most roses that are budded onto rootstock in the U.S. are budded on to Dr. Huey which really does well in alkaline soils, but even my own root roses seem to adapt well. If you ever have a rose that was one color in previous years and suddenly is blooming red too, you want to remove those red suckers (Dr. Huey) down at the base of the rose where it is emerging. If you’re only seeing red blooms, the top of your rose(the budded desirable one) has probably died off. That’s why it’s important to choose hardy roses. You can also bury the bud union deep at planting to keep it protected from the cold.

Dr. Huey rootstock- sprouted from roots leftover after removing a rose

You can also give your roses an extra oomph occasionally by giving them an organic fertilizer like Dr. Earth. There are other brands too. Don’t overdo this though, even organic fertilizers can burn if misapplied. I should mention here that it is really important to get a soil test before you start adding lots of fertilizers to your soil. My soil test showed very high in both phosphorous and potassium, so I don’t need to be adding those, and too much can be detrimental. You can get a soil test from the USU county extension office. It’s well worth the $14 cost.

Louise Odier

Pruning is probably the biggest chore with roses. But if you have just say five, it’s not a big deal at all. When you have 80 roses, pruning begins to feel like work. Not because it’s hard to do, it’s just that there’s a lot of pruning to do in a small time frame. Don’t sweat the pruning. To paraphrase what Joy Bossi always says, “the person holding the pruners makes the rules.” I would say the main thing with pruning roses, is that as your roses mature, you want to remove some of the older canes each year allowing the young ones to rejuvenate it. If you are looking for information on how to prune, follow this link to Paul Zimmerman’s You Tube channel, where he has numerous excellent video demonstrations. You can also visit his blog Roses are Plants Too.

Constance Spry

A great rose book is Foolproof Guide to Growing Roses by Field Roebuck. This book has been updated and released as Complete Roses:Featuring 100 Easy-Growing Favorites. You should be able to find it at the bookstore.

My favorite mail order rose nurseries are …
High Country Roses in Jensen Utah- They carry and can advise on hardy roses- own root. They also carry the roses native to Utah: Nootka Rose, rosa nutkana, and Wood’s Rose, rosa woodsii.

Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham Texas- old garden roses, and Texas Pioneer Roses bred by the owner Mike Shoup. (2 gallon large own root plants)

Chamblee’s in Tyler, Texas. (1 gallon own root)

For a great selection of roses locally, I recommend J&L Garden Center in Bountiful as one of the best for selection and value.

Anne Boleyn

If you are looking for old garden roses, the local nurseries usually only have a couple of varieties if any. You may have to go mail order to have more of a selection.
So why not try a beautiful rose in your landscape? If you’re only going to grow one or two make sure that you choose a fragrant rose, one that fills the air with heady fragrance.

Wildflower Wednesday: Astragalus utahensis aka Locoweed aka Utah Ladyfinger

March 24, 2010

Astragalus utahensis

This Wednesday I wanted to blog about Astragalus utahensis. It is one of many Astragalus species native to Utah.  My first introduction to this plant was on the foothills of the Wasatch range. In spring their purple/magenta flowers jump out against their silver foliage. They are some of the first wildflowers to bloom in our region. Astragalus utahensis grows in rocky/sandy earth with little water. In these harsh conditions they will flourish. Here is a general information page on Weeds and Wildflowers.

Astragalus utahensis goes by several common names. Locoweed is one of them.  Some Astragalus species are poisonous to cattle and can cause major problems for ranchers. For more info see this publication from NMSU.  I’m not sure if this one is actually poisonous but people around here call it Locoweed.

Locoweed growing in the Cathedral Valley Desert in Capitol Reef National Park

Utah Ladyfinger is an alternative name used by folks at INPGA and Slow the Flow. They are promoting it as a lovely low water ground cover or desert rock garden addition for our landscapes. And rightly so. But you can’t sell it with weed in the name.

A few years back I was lucky enough to pick up some Locoweed seed on my shoes (I think)  and then had a Utah Ladyfinger pop up in the old sand box out back. I have not been lucky enough to have it reseed (not much of a weed I guess).  I haven’t seen any signs of it this spring,  but we had a few good years. Here is a close up of this beauty.

Utah Ladyfinger

Despite this being a Utah’s Choice plant, I have not seen it for sale at the local nurseries. Maybe I just haven’t noticed but I don’t think so. I am planning on building a small rock garden and would like this as a permanent part of  it. I was so excited to find it for sale from Rugged Country Plants. But alas, they are temporarily sold out. I will keep checking though.

Thanks to Gail over at Clay and Limestone for hosting Wildflower Wednesday.
Have a wonderful Wednesday!


PS. Seed can be obtained from Western Native Seed,, and Wildflowers Unlimited. Many of Utah’s good nurseries carry packets of Wildflowers Unlimited’s native seeds, usually by the checkout counter. If you can’t find them at your favorite nursery it looks like Wildflowers Unlimited takes orders through the mail.

Spring Awakening

March 21, 2010

For March’s Picture This photo contest over at Gardening Gone Wild the theme is Awakening. I just got back in town yesterday and went to Conservation Garden Park to take pictures of the garden. On the to-do list for this fall is to plant more early blooming bulbs in my own garden.

First my entry

Here are some other photos. I had a nice time photographing for the little while I was there. I was quite surprised to see busy bees already about their business. I found two beds planted with crocus and sedums mulched with colored glass. I love purples and blues so I spent a lot of time around this bed below. This is where I saw the bees so they must love the blues too!

I’m sure this bee would not be happy that I was posting a picture of its behind on the internet!

This bed wasn’t as pleasing visually for me. I guess it was the green glass, but it does contrast nicely with the burnished sedum heads.

pasque flower

I really liked the bulbs contrasted with the needled evergreens. In fact I like needled evergreens with everything.

And back to the blue glass bed again. I liked the groupings of crocus throughout this picture. I think that may be tricolor sedum planted in there. It sure is pretty.

I hope you enjoyed my spring awakening photos. Photography and gardening tips are always welcome. Thanks for visiting.

Wordless Wednesday: Daffodils at Red Butte

March 17, 2010