Misleading Appearances

A few days ago in my post “Survivors,” I wrote about my cuttings that survived the winter. I was particularly fond of the Tall Sedum (pictured bottom left). Its four leaves reminded me of a propeller that was just waiting to be launched into spring. Imagine my dismay yesterday, when three of the leaves fell off, and the remaining one turned yellow. I was about to pull the cutting with a sigh, when I noticed new life growing at the base of the stem.

Speaking of misleading appearances, here is a true story: My husband and I had our careers in the San Francisco Bay Area, where people who don’t know each other keep to themselves and avoid eye when passing on the sidewalk. When we moved to Southern New Mexico, I was shocked when a stranger smiled at me and said, ‘Hello.” One day soon after when I was walking from the parking lot to the side door of Walmart, I became aware of a biker (in leather with multiple tattoos and piercings) closing in quickly behind me. There was no one else nearby, so I became a little nervous as he drew nearer. Imagine my surprise when he rushed ahead to open the door for me.

Honestly, Gentle Reader, this really happened in the Land of Enchantment.

The Survivors

As I look forward to 2021, I am starting to think about new life in the garden. All of my rose geranium, mint, and sweet potato cuttings have survived the winter in my studio (so far). Outside, the rosemary and dianthus cuttings are doing well, as well as a single cutting from my neighbor’s orange jubilee bush and a tiny volunteer from her golden ball lead tree.

On the other hand, all of my efforts with salvia cuttings have failed, and only one tall sedum and two citronella cuttings have survived. Today, I cleaned out all the failures. If the survivors can only stay alive for another two months….

Although it’s too early to plant seeds, I couldn’t resist opening my seed box to admire the contents — some carefully gathered by hand last summer, others ordered by mail, and others, alas, probably too old to germinate. In any case, they all look beautiful to me.

Shadow and Light

Although not much is blooming at the moment, the shady side of the courtyard is looking rather nice.

The sunny side, where we recently created a new border, is looking bare. (See below.) The blossoms have fallen off the new Lantana plants, although some buds are forming. I am hoping the plants will put down good roots over the winter and spread out nicely next spring. In October, I will pot up some violas and kale plants to fill in the spaces over the winter.

The evergreen holly tree in the corner has only been in the ground for two seasons. It grows very slowly, but it is covered with green berries that will soon turn red and remain on the branches throughout the winter.

I am still experimenting with Pelargonium cuttings. In the summer heat, my cuttings from the Pelargonium graveolens (Rose Geranium) rooted well in moist soil. Even though they are related, all my efforts with Pelargonium citrosum (Citronella) utterly failed. Undaunted, I took some cuttings again this morning. Perhaps they will root in water during the cooler weather. The fragrance in my studio after I brought in the cuttings was intoxicating.

Citronella (left) and Rose Geranium (right)

June Garden

Desert Bird of Paradise

The showy blooms of spring have passed, and the garden is settling down for the long hot summer. However, there is still some color to delight me, especially in the Desert Bird of Paradise shrubs.

In the courtyard, I planted some different annuals this year, since many of my usual choices were not available. The Zinnias began to look shabby as the days grew hotter, but they are doing better now under the Vitex tree. In this climate, many plants that like full sun actually do better in filtered shade. The Moss Roses, however, seem to be natural sun-bathers, even in Southern New Mexico.

Indoors, my plant nursery from cuttings is showing mixed results. Again, the dry heat seems to be a problem. The Mint, Rose Geranium, and Citronella are promising. Not so sure about the Salvia and Lantana. All of the cuttings seem to do better in water than in soil, but it takes longer for the roots to form.

On the back patio, my herb garden seems to do well in the morning sun.

If all else fails, I will still have my triennial Petunia to comfort me. It grows so fast and so profusely that I will have to cut it back several times this summer.

Hope

Every year I eagerly await the appearance of Rose Geraniums in the nurseries in June, and every year I grieve when they die in autumn. I never tire of their lovely scent.

Last fall I decided to take a cutting to see if I could keep it alive through the winter. For months it showed no signs of rooting, yet it remained fragrant. Then in January, it finally began to put out roots and new foliage. My dilemma, Gentle Reader, is when to plant it. Will it survive?

All I can do is hope.