Sunday, May 31, 2015

Yellow Roses

Weather: The eastern Pacific hurricane season began May 15; yesterday a tropical disturbance became hurricane Andreas. Mid-week we went from cool temperatures and reasonable humidity to higher morning and afternoon temperatures with humidity levels in the high 20s in Los Alamos and Santa Fé. Last rain 5/21.

What’s blooming in the area: Persian yellow, Austrian copper, pink, Dr. Huey and hybrid tea roses, pyracantha, purple locust, silver lace vine, bearded iris, red hot poker, peony, alfalfa, purple salvia, Oriental poppy, donkey spurge, golden spur columbine, pink evening primrose, blue flax, Jupiter’s beard, Shasta daisy, brome grass.

This week men were in the local hardware stores buying pepper and tomato plants. Beans and corn are up enough to recognize from the road.

Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, alfilerillo, tumble mustard flourishing, oxalis, bindweed, fern leaf globemallow, scurf pea, loco, sweet sand verbena, goat’s beard, plains paper flower, green-leaf five-eyes, flea bane, common and local dandelions, June, needle, rice, and cheat grasses.

In my yard: Rugosa roses, potentilla, black locust, privet, beauty bush, skunk bush, chives, vinca, California poppy, snow-in-summer, Bath pinks, Johnson’s Blue geranium, baptisia, winecup mallow, Maltese cross, catmint.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, snapdragon, marigold, gazania.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, hummingbird and other small birds, geckos, bees, ladybugs, ants.

Weekly update: Yellow roses are the most traditional ones in the valley. Most grow on boundary fences, not in special beds.

The ones that aren’t Persian Yellows are their descendants. Rosa foetida is the parent of most yellow flowers in the market and almost all of the hybrid teas that have some hint of coral in their petals.

Unlike the most common roses, its buds are round. The open flower is a shallow cup of semi-double petals. The color is deep, pure buttercup.

The ones you see with larger flowers are probably a hybrid or cultivar. Their plants don’t tend to be as lush.

You rarely see them in the market. I found one several years ago, only it was grafted onto Dr. Huey rootstock. It has never been vigorous, and the root keeps sending up canes of its own. The rose only blooms once, but mine usually blooms in late summer when the unopened buds are encouraged by the monsoons.

You sometimes see yellow roses in adjacent yards. I’m not sure that means the neighbors exchanged plants, or if one took a cutting from something that reached into his or her yard.

I know I did see someone stealing them once. The yellow roses had bloomed for several years outside a stone wall. One day I saw a car parked and someone digging them up. That was the end of those roses. I doubt it was the owner moving them with a car.

Another wonderful colony disappeared in town. A dense hedge hung over a six-foot high wall. The wall’s now fronted with a xeriscaped border of yuccas. I’ve often suspected the landscape architect you recommended the southwestern style bed took the roses and resold them at a much higher price in Santa Fé.

There, tradition is a commodity.

Photographs: The close-ups were taken in my yard this week; the rest were taken in the area on 20 May 2015. I believe # 1 is the parent of #2; you can see they share a wall. I believe #7 is the parent of #6; the properties adjoin.

I believe #8 is the parent of the one above; they are on the same land and it looks like the owner took cuttings to make a hedge when the road became much busier.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Weather: High winds and rain late Monday, and again Thursday.

Ann Beardsley, has just published Backyard Weather Forecasting. It’s available from Amazon in paperback and electronic versions.

What’s blooming in the area: Persian yellow, Austrian copper and pink roses, pyracantha, snowball, silver lace vine, bearded iris, red hot poker, broad leaf yucca, peony, alfalfa, Oriental poppy, donkey spurge, golden spur columbine, blue flax, Jupiter’s beard, Shasta daisy. Roses of Sharon, the last of the frost tender shrubs, are leafing.

Beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, oxalis, bindweed, fern leaf globemallow, scurf pea, sweet sand verbena, goat’s beard, common and local dandelions, June, needle, rice, and cheat grasses.

In my yard: Beauty bush, vinca, pink evening primrose, California poppy, snow-in-summer, Bath pinks, Johnson’s Blue geranium, winecup mallow; began planting seeds.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, snapdragon, marigold.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit in the shade bed, small birds, bees in the beauty bush, ants. A man who works at San Juan Lakes told me the fish and fishermen have been very active the last three rainy weekends.

Weekly update: Rain, blessed rain, nothing’s so rare as real rain. If only it and the temperatures would coordinate. Instead, each time a group of plants started to flourish from the moisture, cold temperatures intervened, first to kill the fruit flowers, then to diminish the lilacs.

Snowballs escaped the carnage. They’ve had one of those seasons that sends you to the nursery. Only, as I mentioned in my post for 20 May 2007, the plants you buy may never be as wonderful as the ones you see that were planted sometime between 1950 and the late 1970s.

They probably will never get taller than the house nor produce so many flowering stems.

The drought has taken it’s toll on some like the one above where bare branches extend from the mound of white. People who pruned in dry years may have damaged their shrubs’ abilities to recover, at least for a few years.

But those who can tolerate the sprawling unpredictability of benign neglect have been rewarded this year.

The only problem with snowballs is they only look good in mass from a distance. If you get close, you discover there’s a reason they’re called Viburnum opulus sterilis. There are no reproductive organs in the center, just tiny residual tufts.

That’s probably another reason it’s hard to buy the wonderful old plants. They have to come from cuttings, and everything depends on the parent stock. Marketing experts for garden outlets believe their only market is small suburban, orderly patches, so those are the scions.

Photographs: All pictures taken in area on Wednesday, 20 May 2015.
1. Snowballs with trees.
2. Snowball between tall forsythia and under trees; the fence is more than 6' high.
3. Recently planted snowballs.
4. Specimen snowball that really is taller than the house; some drought damage visible.
5. Snowball that died back.
6. Snowball above a 3' wall.
7. Snowball flower in my yard.
8. Snowball growing between two apricot trees.

9. Snowball growing under trees; chain link fence is 6' high.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Shade Bed

Weather: Cloudy days followed by rain Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It would have been an ideal time to plant seeds if the winds didn’t howl all day Wednesday and Thursday, and the temperatures hadn’t fallen yesterday.

What’s blooming in the area: Persian yellow, Austrian copper and pink roses, spirea, snowball, silver lace vine, bearded iris, red hot poker, peony, Oriental poppy, donkey spurge, blue flax.

Beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, alfilerillo, western stickseed, tumble mustard, hoary cress, oxalis, bindweed, goat’s beard, common and local dandelions.

In my yard: Beauty bush, grape hyacinth, vinca, pink evening primrose, golden spur columbine, snow-in-summer, Bath pinks, Johnson’s Blue geranium.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, pansy, marigold.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Small birds, ants. Some animal ate through my hose in the winter; it ate through the replacement this week.

Weekly update: It’s not that I don’t envy people who draw up garden plans and execute them exactly. It’s just I don’t believe those published before and after pictures. I’ve yet to find a plant so domesticated it follows a diagram.

A couple years ago I got tired of constantly weeding an area along the blocks supporting my back porch. A soaker hose runs along the base on its way to the roses at the other end. I’d tried to get grass or Dutch clover to cover it but failed.

Like everything in my yard, it was on a slight slope. I though it might help if I terraced the section with a row of bricks that could hold level the soil and hold water. After all, it was only a foot wide and twelve feet long, a mere thirty-two bricks to haul in my compact car and lay.

I put in various left over seeds and covered them with decent dirt and leaves. The bricks trapped water from the hose, the rain, and drips off the edge of the metal roof. The soil and mulch washed out. Only a few Sensation cosmos germinated.

I decided part of the problem was the area had gotten much shadier than I realized when the lilacs to the south and west matured. The next year, I tried various shade loving bedding plants, just to see what would work. The wax begonias did OK, but I their flowers were always hidden in their leaves. I only see the plants from above. The periwinkle went out of bloom. The impatiens and pansies died.

Then, I remembered something I’d seen in a ditch in the village. There were violet leaves at the bottom at the end were water entered. I’d been so surprised, I took a picture to convince myself I wasn’t imagining them. Violets are a woodland plant I grew in Michigan.

I found some violets at an Albuquerque nursery and ordered some lilies of the valleys and ferns. If I was going to try a northern shade bed, I figured I might as well experiment. The Labrador violets turned out to be dog violets and shrank in size. The others didn’t make it.

Undaunted, I ordered more last year, and, wa lah, they came back this year. One violet put out a small flower. That isn’t what mattered. There was evidence they had begun to spread underground. That’s what they do in the north to fill in large areas. I didn’t care if they bloomed in the spring, if they stayed green all summer.

Lilies of the valley are like violets in the north. Given them a chance, and they spread. So far, mine are still discrete plants, although a few put out 2" high stems.

I had no expectations about the ostrich fern. I had learned in Michigan, it was very difficult to get any type started. I ordered the only species I thought might survive. Last year the rabbit ate the fronds. This year, the ostrich fern came back. I only wanted it to get some variation in height.

Pansies have been trickier to grow. They like cool weather and the nurseries don’t offer them early enough for them to get established. This spring was too warm, and now it’s wet and cold. I got lucky with the plants I bought to fill the spaces between the perennials. They probably won’t bloom much until fall, but they may stay green.

Nothing will keep out the weeds, but it’s more pleasant to weed a bed with something in it than it is to weed to keep an area clear. Also, it’s more fun when you don’t know what will happen from season to season. Diagrams are for football fans, and even those are after the fact.

1. Pansy and lily of the valley, 16 May 2015, between showers.

2. Dog violet, flooded by rain, 19 May 2013.

3. Shade bed, one foot wide between line of outer bricks and tiles along the foundation, with soaker hose through the center. Ostrich ferns, 16 May 2015.

4. Village ditch with violets growing in bottom, 19 January 2012.

5. Violet leaves in #4 ditch, 22 May 2012.

6. Violets spreading in Michigan, 2 May 1991. They’re on the east side of the garage in the shade of a neighbors tall lilac. Yellow flower is dandelion.

7. Colony of lilies of the valley in Michigan, 11 May 1991. There shaded by a neighbor’s tree.

8. Miracle Bride White sweet violet has two offspring, one at a distance to the left, the other under the leaves to the top right; 16 May 2015.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Beans and Bees

Weather: Clouds Monday and Tuesday with some rain; strong winds Friday afternoon; below freezing this morning.

What’s blooming in the area: Spirea, snowball, silver lace vine, bearded iris, donkey spurge, blue flax; grape vines leafing.

Beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, western stickseed, tansy mustard, hoary cress, oxalis, bindweed, goat’s beard, common and local dandelions.

In my yard: Grape hyacinth, vinca.

Bedding plants: Snapdragon, pansy.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds, ants.

Weekly update: Changes in plants arise from three processes: mutations like those that produced the major fruit trees, hybridization that produced corn, and Darwinian natural selection.

Mutations are rare. Carl Moh found it was possible to treat beans with gamma rays and have those with black skins produce ones with "a range of seed-coat colors from white, yellow, to grey brown." The process changes one gene from dominant to recessive and that change can be perpetuated.

Beans are structurally resistant to the hybridization. Flowers on common beans open briefly, the ones on limas not at all. They are self-fertilizing. When Paul Gepts tried to cross common beans from the Andes with those from Middle America the resulting seeds were sterile.

Human decisions altered the workings of natural selection. Working backwards, Gepts assumes natives planted the largest seeds from each year’s crops. By chance, they selected ones with particular types of proteins, and thus eliminated the protein diversity that had existed. The two characteristics happened to be genetically tied. Other forms of genetic diversity were unaffected.

Europeans introduced a more dramatic force for change when they brought honey bees. They force their way into flowers. Patricia Hoc’s team found, in Argentina today, wild and cultivated beans interbreed, and the domesticated ones triumph. Olivier Hardy’s team found Apis mellifera were the main pollinator of wild limas in Costa Rica.

In this country and elsewhere in the nineteenth century, breeders and farmers applied their time-proven techniques of selecting seeds without realizing they were working in an environment where the presence of bees made hybridization possible.

William Weaver has researched many of the heritage forms of lima and common beans. He found many variants within each type, some more stable than others. One called Linsenbohne was developed in Pennsylvania and taken to Switzerland in 1705 by the land agent who was helping a Mennonite group migrate. From there it spread through to alpine regions of Germany and northern Italy. In the Appalachians hills it’s still grown as Brown Lazy Wife.

King of the Garden is a lima introduced in 1885 by Frank S. Platt. It was being grown commercially in Carpinteria, California in 1904 in a field where it tended to rogue. Harry Fish noticed two sports, which he passed on to W. Atlee Burpee. With a little work to make them reproducible, they were introduced as Ford Hook and Burpee Improved in 1907.

As for the Hopi lima which I’ve been watching grow, Weaver thinks it’s a strain that "exhibits characteristics of crossing." He believes it was once plain orange, but now the seeds may be plain or speckled.

Honey bees are unnoticed agents of change everywhere fruit trees are planted.

Ernest, Emmalea and Gordon Johnson. "Fordhook Lima Bean Production," University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Weekly Crop Update, 11 March 2011.

Gepts, Paul. "Origin and Evolution of Cultivated Phaseolus Species," Advances in Legume Systemics 8:65-74:1966.

_____ and F. A. Bliss. "Phaseolin Variability among Wild and Cultivated Common Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) from Colombia," Economic Botany 40:469-478:1986.

Hardy, O, S. Dubois, I. Zoro Bi, and J. P. Baudoin. "Gene Dispersal and Its Consequences on the Genetic Structure of Wild Populations of Lima Bean (Phaseolus lunatus) in Costa Rica, Plant Genetic Resource Newsletter 109:1-6:1997.

Hoc, Patricia S., Shirley M. Espert, Susana I. Drewes, and Alicia D. Burghardt. "Hybridization between Wild and Domesticated Types of Phaseolus vulgaris L. (Fabaceae) in Argentina," Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 53:331-337:2006.

Kruhm, Adolph. "Highest Quality among Lima Beans," The Garden Magazine, April 1920.

Moh, C. C. "Mutation Breeding in Seed-coat Colors of Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.)," Euphytica February 20:119-125:1971.

Weaver, William Woys. Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, 1997.

Photographs: Native Seeds Search, Tucson, Hopi Gray lima bean, since post for 22 March 2015.
1. Day 74, 4 April 2015, open flower.
2. Day 85, 13 April 2015, open flower with buds in various stages.
3. Day 91, 19 April 2015, first seed pod, with dead flowers.
4. Day 97, 25 April 2015, first pod full sized with bulges for seeds.
5. Day 107, 5 May 2015, leaves turning yellow and falling.
6. Day 112, 10 May 2015, seed inside pod.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Bean Origins

Weather: Rain yesterday.

What’s blooming in the area: Spirea, bearded iris, moss phlox, donkey spurge.

Beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, western stickseed, purple and tansy mustards, hoary cress, oxalis, common and local dandelions.

In my yard: Tulips, grape hyacinth, vinca.

Bedding plants: Snapdragon, pansy.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds, ants.

Weekly update: Beans are a new world plant met in different forms by explorers. The English saw navy beans, the Spanish found pintos and limas. Linnaeus saw them as extensions of existing European species and grouped many into Phaseolus vulgaris and some in Phaseolus lunatus. When Asian beans were encountered, they were placed into the most likely category.

Some of the chaos has been cleared. Bernard Verdcourt has removed varieties like mung and adzuki beans into their own genus, Vigna. They need less sun than the long day or neutral American types.

Explorers then were searching for domesticated plants like coffee and tea which would bring wealth to their sponsors. Today, plant hunters are collecting wild plants hoping to find another aspirin or penicillin.

Paul Gept and others have analyzed one of the proteins common to Phaseolus vulgaris, phaseolin. They found two major strains in cultivated forms, the S found in México, and the T from the Andes. More variety existed in the wilder specimens from México.

The botanists noted beans from México "tend to flower later and for a longer time, have longer racemes peduncles, more floral nodes per raceme, larger flower bracteoles, and smaller seeds than those from the Andes." Also, the S and T cannot produce fertile offspring.

They expanded their tests with newly collected varieties from Columbia and the Andes. With more information, it seemed possible Phaseolus vulgaris was also domesticated in the coastal region, because it had S, T, and other protein types.

Taken together, Gepts concluded there’s "evidence for multiple, independent domestications of the common bean in Middle America and the Andes." Jonathan Sauer has gone farther, suggesting they probably already were different species. However, he conceded, it’s probably too late to sort it out. All those collections have been organized according to Linnaeus.

No one yet has found much evidence for the stages of domestication. There’s only two obvious differences, both of which may be attributed to human selection. Domestic beans are larger than wild ones and their pods do not explode. It’s fairly obvious, unscattered seeds were more likely to be collected than ones camouflaged by ground debris.

The most important domestication stage isn’t obvious from the plants. It was learning how to cook and eat them. Once alkaline chemicals were added to corn, it became a nutritious food. When people in the deep south and in Italy took corn into their diets without the preparatory step they suffered from pellagra.

Many beans contain toxic levels of Phaseolunatum. The legume form of prussic acid is released in damp conditions, and appears in the highest concentrations "in small, plump, solid-colored or spotted seeds of wild tropical varieties," according to Oscar and Ethel Allen. It can be removed by boiling.

Natives not only learned about boiling, but they also may have figured out the lighter colored seeds were less likely to cause problems. They no doubt began to collect ones they remembered were safer to eat. When Americans generalized from their view that raw, whole wild foods are always better than cooked white ones, they got sick.

Notes: Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid originally derived from the willow; penicillin was first derived from the Penicillium chrysogenum bacteria.

Allen, O. N. and Ethel K. The Leguminosae, 1981.

Gepts, P. and F. A. Bliss. "Phaseolin Variability among Wild and Cultivated Common Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) from Colombia," Economic Botany 40:469-478:1986; second quotation, "Middle America" includes México.

_____, _____, T. C. Osborn, and K. Rashka,. "Phaseolin-Protein Variability in Wild Forms and Landraces of the Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): Evidence for Multiple Centers of Domestication," Economic Botany 40:451-468:1986; first quotation.

Sauer, Jonathan D. Historical Geography of Crop Plants, 1993.

Photographs: Trees are continuing on their predetermined courses after the frost of 17 April. All photographs taken yesterday, 2 May 2015.

1. Catalpa releafing.
2. Apricot fruit dying away.
3. Elberta peach flowers drying, then falling.
4. Black locust releafing.
5. Bing cherry flower remains hidden by leaves.