PO Box 2458, Tijeras NM 87059

Mountain Gardens--finding success with plants for the high desert and East Mountains of New Mexico

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fire Resistant Plants

I culled these from a variety of sources. New Mexico doesn't have much in the way of information resources available (yet, but can't be long now) for landscaping for fire safety. California, Colorado, Oregon--google their fire programs for more in depth info. Obviously, I deleted plants that weren't suitable for our growing environment. We're mountainous/high altitude, cool and very dry--if you're not, you'll have more choices.

Plants that are considered fire resistant are--deciduous/hard wood, or succulent, or non-resinous, or evergreen, or native, or short/dense. Again, plants need to be hydrated, and kept free of dead or dry leaves, etc.

Mountain Gardens carries most of the plants on the list, and many are available at other local nurseries. If you have questions about plants you may have that aren't listed, check with your local forestry or extension offices; they should be able to find the info you need. Please don't start ripping out your landscaping until you have good info--and remember that many plants can be retained if they're kept well pruned.

Here are a few links to some revealing photos and info--homes that survived wildfire due to maintaining the defensible space strategies in these last few blogs.

Antennaria rosea Pink pussytoes
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Kinnikinnick
Aubrieta deltoidea Rock cress
Cerastium tomentosum Snow-in-summer
Delosperma cooperi Purple iceplant
Delosperma nubigenum Yellow iceplant
Dianthus species Dianthus, Garden carnation, or Pinks
Fragaria species Wild strawberry
Lamium species Dead nettle
Phlox subulata Creeping phlox
Sedum species Sedum or stonecrops
Sempervivum species Hens and chicks
Thymus praecox Creeping thyme
Veronica species Speedwell

Achillea species Yarrow
Allium schoenoprasum Chives
Aquilegia species Columbine
Armeria maritima Sea thrift
Artemesia species
Aurinia saxatilis Basket-of-gold
Campsis radicans Trumpet vine
Coreopsis species Coreopsis or Tickseed
Delphinium varieties Delphinium
Echinacea purpurea Coneflower
Epilobium angustifolium Fireweed
Eriogonum Eriogonum raggaii or jamesii
Eurotia spp Winterfat (.)
Festuca Glauca—Blue Fescue
Fendlera rupicola Fendler brush Antelope brush
Gaillardia varieties Blanket flower
Geranium cinereum Grayleaf cranesbill
Helianthemum nummularium Sun rose
Hemerocallis species Daylily
Heuchera sanguinea Coralbells
Iris hybrids Iris, tall bearded
Kniphofiauvaria Torch lily or Red-hot poker
Lavandula species Lavender
Linum perenne Flax, blue
Lonicera species Honeysuckle
Lupinus varieties Lupine
Mirabilis Four O'clock spp
Oenothera species Evening primrose
Papaver orientale Oriental poppy
Penstemon species Penstemon or Beardtongue
Ratibida columnifera Prairie coneflower or Mexican hat
Salvia species Salvia or Sage
Stachys byzantina Lamb’s ear
Yucca species Yucca
Zauschneria Hummingbird Trumpet
Zinnia grandiflora Rocky Mountain zinnia

Shrubs—broadleaf evergreen
Arctostaphylos—Manzanita, kinnickinnick
Cotoneaster apiculatus Cranberry cotoneaster
Daphne x burkwoodii var. ‘Carol Mackie’ Carol Mackie daphne
Mahonia aquifolium Oregon grapeholly
Mahonia repens Creeping holly
Acer glabrum Rocky Mountain maple
Amelanchier species Serviceberry
Caryopteris x clandonensis Blue-mist spirea
Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’ Dwarf burning bush
Forestiera neomexicana New Mexico olive or privet, or Forestiera
Perovskia atriplicifolia Russian sage
Philadelphus species Mockorange
Potentilla fruiticosa Shrubby cinquefoil
Prunus besseyi Western sandcherry
Rhus species Sumac
Prunus tomentosa Nanking cherry
Ribes species Flowering currant
Rosa species Hardy shrub rose
Rosa woodsii Wood’s rose
Salix species Willow
Shepherdia argentea Silver buffaloberry
Shepherdia Canadensis Russett buffaloberry
Spiraea douglasii Western spirea
Symphoricarpos albus Snowberry
Syringa species Lilac
Viburnum trilobum Viburnum, Compact American
‘Compactum’ cranberry

Larix occidentalis Western larch
Pinus ponderosa Ponderosa pine

Acer ginnala Amur maple
Acer grandidentatum Big tooth maple
Acer negundo Boxelder
Aesculus hippocastanum Horsechestnut
Alnus rubra Red alder
Alnus tenuifolia Mountain alder
Betula species Birch
Catalpa speciosa Western catalpa
Celtis occidentalis Common hackberry
Cercis canadensis Eastern redbud
Crataegus species Hawthorn
Fagus sylvatica European beech
Fraxinus virginiana Green ash
Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis. cvs Thornless honeylocust
Gymnocladus dioicus Kentucky coffee tree
Juglans species Walnut
Malus species Crabapple
Populus angustifolia Narrowleaf cottonwood
Populus tremuloides Quaking aspen
Prunus ameriana Native plum
Prunus virginiana Chokecherry
Prunus virginiana ‘Schubert’ Canada red chokecherry
Quercus gambelii Gambel oak
Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Purple Robe’ Purple Robe locust
Robinia neomexicana New Mexico Locust
Sorbus aucuparia Mountain ash

Eschscholzia californica California poppy

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Sustainable Hoophouse

I suspect it would take all the fingers of one finger to count the number of dedicated gardeners I've known who didn't want a greenhouse (hothouse, cold house, hoophouse, high tunnel--cold frame please???). Mountain Gardens has seven, two heated in the winter, five cold for our dormant perennials. We're adding another in a couple of weeks to improve our success with fruit trees. Now you'd think we'd be fairly competent by now, but we have a lot of questions, the nuts & bolts kind of things that aren't usually addressed in the two page "manual" that comes with hoophouse kits. As luck would have it, CNM's Workforce Training Center (WTC) was offering a one day course on Sustainable Hoophouse Technology. Perfect!

Our class was taught by John Nelson of Mananica Farm in Algodones. John grows organic vegetables--you'll usually find him at the Los Ranchos farmers market. Not only does John have his own hoophouse, he's worked on a variety of other both private and university projects, garnering experience with different building techniques, and materials. John has a building background himself; he knows level.

Our presentation included the expected discussions--of materials--greenhouse poly, aluminum frame vs pvc, row covers--and how they're used in (or on) a hoophouse.  But it was John's sharing of tips and tricks like his home built jigs that really resonated for us. How do you drill through an aluminum (or pvc) pole, then repeat it in the next, and the next...at the same height, in the same plane so that the connecting pieces line up nice and straight!? Now we know. We know how to bend two twenty foot pieces of 2" pvc into a twelve foot arch. We know what a 'weazel clause' is (ask me later). And that the grey pvc cement stays pliable longer, and is stronger. And that a carborundum blade cuts pvc cleaner and faster.

John has worked with the folks at Las Poblanos, with Extension, with Del Jimenez (a true expert) of NMSU's research station in Alcalde. He helped put up houses at East Mountain Organics, and has corresponded with Dr. Reines at Ojo Sarco, and many others.  There is a host of ideas on the best size and materials for, and ways of operating a hoophouse.  Experimentation is a big part of the process.

We enjoyed the informal nature of the class; the small size let us be comfortable chiming in and asking questions. We all ate lunch together continuing the discussion. It's always a such pleasure to spend time with a group of like minded gardeners. Thank you John, and kudos to the WTC.

So what are we going to do? We have a trench wide enough and deep enough to hold 150 5 gallon pots. In coming days, we'll insulate the bottom and sides of the trench, lay in water pipe that's connected to a pump, a water reservoir, and solar panel. The pipes will get covered with several inches of soil before the pots are set in. We'll cover it all with plastic over hoops just wide enough to cover the trench. When the trees arrive, and are set in, we'll cover the pots with manure, sun warmed water will circulate under the pots, et voila, warm roots and cool tops. Experimentation. Perfect.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fireproof Houses

Ok, ok--anything will burn if it gets hot enough. Concrete and rock will crumble or shatter, glass and metal will melt. But...as per my previous post, there are strategies that can  make you almost fireproof especially if you incorporate them from the beginning.
Rastra wall

 Masonry and concrete are the materials of choice (see Fire Safe Building Design, Structure Mag). There are new and affordable building materials like SmartBlock, precast, and rastra--beams made of recycled styrofoam and concrete. We've used rastra ourselves, and find it sustainable, durable and easy to work with. You can cut it with a hand saw, mortar it with foam, and coat it with earthen plaster. It's surprisingly light, and a relatively large beam can be lifted in place by hand. Once in place the channels can be poured with concrete or packed with clay.

Old materials like adobe and strawbale are surprisingly fire resistant when coated with three or more inches of mud.. Stucco is better than wood siding but under high heat it can shatter and allow fire access to interior framing. Double pane windows have a huge benefit, resisting shattering where single glazing would break and allow fire entry (keep flammable materials away from windows for this reason). There is heat reflective glass! Steel framed windows are the best, then wood and aluminum. Vinyl melts, so even if the glass is intact.... This Old House has a great list of fire resistant materials, too, including tile and metal roofing, paints and more.

In the design and building process, make sure simple things like fire blocks aren't overlooked. Use roof vents instead of soffit or eave vents which can give fire ready access to attic and roof spaces. Since embers can pile up dramatically, you should use masonry, concrete or stone on the first two feet of foundation, and columns for porches and decks should sit on two feet of concrete piling. Keep wall and roof designs simple--embers pile up in those picturesque angles, cubbies, and corners. Reconsider upper story wood decks or balconies for the same reason--blowing embers can pile high and ignite them rapidly. Especially dangerous are wood decks that face a downhill slope. Fire climbs slopes rapidly. If you have an existing deck consider walling it in underneath with cinderblock, or building a stone or masonry wall as a firebreak. If you use wood columns, heavy timbers resist fire much longer than framing wood.

Global warming projections call for increased wildfire in the southwest, and if we don't get significant relief from current drought conditions, here in the East Mountains that may be sooner than later. Combining these building strategies with a plan for defensible space (our previous blog) will go a long way toward making you safer in the event of wildfire.

There's a lot of material available online (beyond the scope of this blog although I promise to get my fire resistant plant list up soon). I urge everyone who eyes every dark smudge on the horizon with anxiety to do the research, and implement some of these changes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Things we would do differently next time (this would be next lifetime since we're getting a little old for major changes now)--put all doors and windows on the east side of the building. That way, when the wind gusts (always from the west) over 50 mph (frequently enough) and the double flaps on the doggy door go horizontal as the maelstrom boils in (very cold maelstrom too) we wouldn't have to rig the rube goldburg contraption pictured above. This year's version of our doggy air lock tunnel features hay bales, plastic sheeting, an old door, a second freestanding doggy flap, a window, and lots of weights (bricks, cinder blocks, rocks, etc) formed into an elegant bow designed to allow the dogs free access to the yard while keeping the wind out. One day we'll get the kinks worked out, and we'll mount something permanent (and cosmetically appealing.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fire Safety in the Landscape

If you've been listening to the news this last week, you've heard that fire season is starting early--for a variety of reasons, it's almost upon us--news to make any New Mexican nervous, especially after this last year, the worst fire season in New Mexico history. With this in mind, I'd like to present highlights from a class we had last summer on Landscaping for Fire Safety.

First, if you haven't attended one of Forestry's Firewise seminars, you should. ASAP. Until then, there are many things you can do to help make your home safer in the event of wildfire--to the structure, and in your landscape. And still have a lovely garden, not just a field of rock with one or two puny plants.

Establish zones around the building--in the immediate area around the house consider establishing a no burn zone--use paving or rock, and succulent groundcovers within a few feet of the foundation. Think Tuscany--terraces, a fountain, pretty pots (that can be moved if necessary),  Foundation plantings, trees and shrubs very close to the house, make it more susceptible to catching fire. Fire climbs--don't plant trees or shrubs under eaves, soffits or vents that give fire a ladder into the structure. Surround the house with walkways or terraces. Put your planting beds in mulched island berms no closer than 10 feet from the foundation. Plant low growing shrubs, groundcovers and perennials. No trees within ten feet of the house, and trees and shrubs well spaced within thirty feet or so. Fire climbs--trim limbs 10-15 feet high, and prune dead material out of shrubs. Choose plants that have low flammability like sumac, mountain mahogany, ponderosa, etc. (while most pine are highly flammable, ponderosa has thick, fire resistant bark.) Irrigate this immediate zone to keep plants well hydrated. Use small mulch; it holds moisture better than large bark, and feeds the soil as it breaks down. Living soil holds moisture. If you feel compelled to remove all cut grass, etc, consider composting it, and returning it to the soil. Living soil sustains a plant community that can withstand the vagaries of an arid environment. Remember the dust bowl.

Use hardscaping like walks, low walls, and drives to block the path of the prevailing wind; windblown cinders can be strategically blocked or deflected (cinders can be driven against a house in piles--burning it even when the fire is a mile away). Fire climbs--if your home is upslope from prevailing winds consider using hardscape to make a fire wall. The steeper the slope, the faster the fire climbs. Plant gradually, using a mix of low growing, fire resistant plants. Gambel oak has tenacious roots, and can be pruned low to keep fuel load down.

Keep flammable material cleaned up and away from the house--gutters, firewood. Solvents and other chemicals must be stored safely.

You've created a defensible space. This is mandated by code in parts of the country like California where wildfire has been a terrible problem. These simple strategies have had amazing results there, and here in New Mexico too.There is a lot of material about this out there, and some conflict. Do some reading, carefully consider your own situation, and make informed choices using common sense.

I'll try to find some photos, and next post I'll talk about some structural things that you should think about. I also have a nice, big list of fire resistant plants that work well here if I can just but find it....

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 5, Snow Again

They said we'd get wind, and boy, we've already had gusting well over 50 mph, and into the 60's possible. Rain, grapple, sleet, snow.  All the little gaps in the insulation are showing! But the work we got done earlier in the fall has made a difference. The kitchen is much warmer, and we're burning less wood. When the wind drops, we'll cut the wind generator back on. So far the power is good but we'll probably have to fire up the diesel generator sometime today. Ah, life off the grid...

The real downside to this storm is that my warm, sunny greenhouse is cold and dark just when I really need to be working in there. My plug shipment came unexpectedly, and those plugs need to be repotted soon. We're expanding our selections of Plant Select material.

The Plant Select program is a collaboration between the Denver Botanical Garden, CSU, and growers to produce plants especially suited for Rocky Mountain growing conditions. At our altitude, we've found these plants to be exceptional performers, and better choices than many plants that grow well in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. The program adds new plants to their palette every year--we've selected nineteen, some new, some old favorites.

We love the Diascia, Coral Canyon, because it goes on heavily flowering into November despite freezing weather. The agastaches are drought tolerant natives that take our clay, are wonderfully fragrant, and came back for us after -30, despite their zone 5 designation. We'll have Sinning, Coronado Red, and Sunset.

Lavendar Mist is a perennial osteospermum. In addition to penstemons Pike's Peak, and Red Rocks, we'll off Bridges and Shadow Mountain. The Denver Daisy rudbeckia is new for us too, as well as a buckwheat, Psdowns, and Kintzley's Ghost honeysuckle. More about these later...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 2, 2011

So, it looks like the whitefly predator, the encarsia formosa, has hatched. I guess we'll just have to be patient, and wait for results. These critters are nearly impossible to spot without a microscope. That's the downside. I'm finding aphids and desperately want to spray, but don't want to kill my predators too. If I've got a plant that I'm pretty sure won't have them, I can try the SucraShield. It'll knock down any softbodied mite, aphid, whatever, and can be used even on veggies right up to the day of harvest.

Looking at blogs from other organic growers, I can see we're having many of the same issues. We are personally committed to organic methods (certified or not), but have to produce plants that can compete with plants that are bombarded with chemical pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers. We are looking at baskets from local wholesalers that look like something from Disneyland (yes, they are luscious!), and wonder--are we cheating if we bring them in? We know they would sell, but still....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Late Fall

We're finally getting some breathing space. We've been uber busy prepping for winter, and, not that we're done, but most of the plants have been cut-back and/or divided and/or root pruned and/or fed, burped, diapered and put down for a long nap. There are an exuberant few still blooming despite some freezing nights--the diascia (twinspur) just doesn't know when to quit!. The plumbago and geraniums have colored up beautifully. Ahh, fall!

Last season convinced us that we can't control all our pests with a squirt of soapy water; though that works fine in our home gardens, working with thousands of plants in greenhouses has changed the equation. We have created a monoculture situation (albeit with lots of different plants) and monocultures draw bugs.Aphids love columbines--and we have lots of columbines!

We want to see spring come in with lovely, soft new growth, tender, succulent new growth--and no diners! So we're introducing some new predators to the propagation greenhouses. Encarsia formosa is a tiny wasp that parasitizes the eggs of whitefly. They come on a little white card that clips to the plant--very tidy looking.

For mites, we put down phytoseiulus persimilis, a predator that eats eggs, nymphs, and adults.

Fungus gnats are unavoidable in an organic greenhouse. They love warm, moist, organic mediums, and the larva eat roots. We struggle with our seedlings especially. There are a number of natural controls; we mixed beneficial nematodes in water, and have used it on all our new plantings. They eat other nasties too, like the larvae of fleas, webworms and others.

We're trying a new product made from sugars to knock down infestations. SucraShield. There doesn't seem to be any resistance to it: kills on contact.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Basket Gourd Winner

Judy Smith & Alyson
Judy Smith won the raffle drawing for the basket gourd. We're delighted that she came by in time to pick up her prize! We still have several doorprizes that haven't been claimed. Folks can reach us at the usual number which rings through to the greenhouses. We'll be happy to make arrangements for them to pick up their prize.

We finished moving all the plants back to the greenhouses this morning. Whew, what a chore! But now we can work at our own pace getting the plants ready for their long winter dormancy. Like most small nurseries in cooler climes, we'll spend our winter hiatus planting seeds, making cuttings, growing out liners ordered from other growers

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Winners Are...

We had our drawing yesterday, and Susana came in to help pull the winning raffle tickets. We're waiting for everyone to claim their prizes (and get permission) before we identify the lucky winners. We raised over $100 to help Susana replace her art materials (or whatever else, of course) destroyed in the fire (see previous posts).

We also judged and awarded gift certificates for some container plantings. At the beginning of the season, we planted 14 pots for the merchants in Turquoise Trail Plaza. After discussing things with our landlord's executive assistant, we decided to invite the merchants to 'adopt a pot.' They would each be responsible for the planter outside their shops, and at the end of (our) season, the best looking pot would earn the winner a gift certificate to Mountain Gardens. And the winners arrrrrre....

1st Place--Judy Breedlove at Cedar Crest Fitness.
Judy actually had three pots to keep up with which tipped the balance in her favor. But the pot right next door looked so good that we decided to award a second certificate to.....

 2nd Place--Ambrose Rivera at Village Guitarist
                     Congratulations on a job well done.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

ArtFest Over & We're Almost to the End of the Season

ArtFest 2011 went off without a hitch last weekend. We had some wonderful artists, and sold a lot of plants at our end of season sale. By popular acclaim, Our Best of Show winners were Tillery & Regina Dingler of Spirit Ware. They received a $100 cash prize. (Tillery pictured below with presenter, Belinda East)

Tillery Dingler & Belinda East

Richard Elvis
Richard Elvis was awarded 2nd for his mirror and glass art, receiving a $50 cash prize.

Some of our favorite pictures--these flowers were part of Santa Fe artist Gilbert Candelaria's colorful and wildly creative transformation of "mundane objects into art."

Vivian Hartman & Jessica deGruyder taking a break from painting henna designs, and displaying unique jewelry pieces featuring delicate bits of insects encased in resin and plastic.

A chance discovery led Tom Hubbert to explore an unusual media in his painting--asphalt.

Joyce McKenstry was back this year with her fine jewelry.

Marge Larson's oils were both accomplished and interesting--a wide range of subjects too.

 Vicki Hudson of Nature's Way Jewelry made the most amazing pieces working with shells, fossils, wood and other natural materials--and each set beautifully boxed.

We had several demonstrations--Laurie Lange has been studying our native bees and their habitats. (pictured)
Susana Andrews spent time weaving, and Phoenix Simpson painted in water color. 
Fest goers were entertained by the expert fingering of Banjo Bob on Saturday, and by Joyce and Lew Sherrod of "Mis' Behavin' on Sunday. These musicians were really great--I kept overhearing listeners remarking at how much they enjoyed them, especially Joyce's vocals.

And last but not least--a big thank you to Pinkie's Catering for making sure we had food and drink. Pinkies Country Cafe is a great place to run in for coffee and scones, or a quick sandwich and more.

Mountain Gardens last day will be on August 28th. We'll be selling raffle tickets until then--prizes include a Chakra Cleansing with Robert Standing Eagle Marshall, a handpainted basket gourd, a fused glass necklace donated by artist Theresa Dunfree, a reading by Jennifer Lee, and a gift certificate from Pinkie's. The raffle benefits one of our artists from last year who lost her home, studio and art materials in a fire.

We'll continue our sale until the 28th. All trees and shrubs 25% off. Buy one herbaceous perennial and get the second (and others of same cultivar) at half off. Remaining 4 inch annuals, herbs, and veggies--50 cents each.

 We hope everyone has a great fall, winter and spring. We'll see you in April, the third and fourth weekend. Till then, we'll keep posting to the blog whenever something interesting comes up.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

ArtFest 2011 Spaces All Filled

We're very happy that all our booth spaces are filled--and we've had to turn away applicants. But we're keeping everyone on file for next year!  Hard to believe the summer has gone by so fast. The grandkids have already started school.

We're having a drawing this year to benefit one of our artists from last year. Tragically, her home burned down this summer, taking her studio, looms, art and art supplies. The prize is a large, handpainted basket gourd titled Paraiso Manzanos.

We're almost ready. Remembered the trash cans this time! Friday evening we'll get the lot marked off, and Saturday morning the show is on...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tent Caterpillar ?

If you see an ugly mess like this in your shrubs or trees, you can be sure you have caterpillars. The silky webbing is characteristic of tent caterpillars, webworms, and others--most of them moth larvae. The granular matter in the web is frass--caterpillar poop. Following a frass trail is a good way to spot culprits that are better hidden than these characters. Hornworms, the big, bright green caterpillars with the hook on their tail that are chomping your tomatoes to the ground blend perfectly--but they leave big plops here and there.

This is some kind of tent caterpillar (please correct me I'm wrong--I couldn't make a positive id). He (or she, maybe it?) and sibs have been wreaking havoc in the mahonias (Oregon grape holly) outside the gate at Mountain Gardens. Tomorrow I'll dust them with some Bt, (Bacillus thuringiensis) a bacterium that preys only on caterpillars. After eating some, any caterpillar will stop feeding within an hour or two, and die within a day or two. ANY caterpillar--that includes our beautiful butterflies, the champion pollinator hawkmoth and others, so I only resort to Bt after other methods of control have failed--washing off with strong blasts of water, hand picking, etc. We also use them only if the plant under attack  is likely to be completely defoliated (a little munching here and there is part of the cycle). Bt comes in a variety of forms. We use Dipel, a dust, or Thuricide which can be mixed with water and sprayed on your plants. There is a special Bt to use in water to control mosquito larvae. Bt is organic and safe to use--there have been thousands of studies--and it doesn't harm any of the beneficial critters in your garden, or your pets or kids. It's a naturally occurring soil bacterium.

Countdown to ArtFest on August 20/21--only a week to go!? Where has the season gone?

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Many thanks to The Independent for the article in this last issue about our talk Landscaping for Fire Safety! I was surprised to find that none of the attendees had been to one of forestry's firewise seminars. I hope more residents will avail themselves of this excellent resource--especially since it sometimes seemed the whole state was going up in flames this year. We went to one several years ago, and were impressed by the experience. While I was brushing up for the talk, I was amazed to find so much more online. California, Oregon, and Washington states have whole programs on firewise landscaping including plant material which was very helpful.

On a sad note, my heart goes out to the families who lost homes this year, but especially to the Mullanes who own Dixon's Apple Orchard. If you look for Honeycrisp apples every fall, they're usually Dixon apples. The Mullanes lost their home, outbuildings, and equipment but managed to save most of their trees--which they may now lose to the tons of ash carried down from the Las Conchas fires on monsoon rains. There will be a benefit on August 27th. The info is on their FaceBook page (www.facebook.com/pages/Dixons-Apple-Orchard).

There are a lot of things we can plan for--but a lot of things we can't. When it seems like too much effort to design a firesafe landscape, to consider choices carefully, to limb up trees, reposition plants, use good mulches, we should think how little effort that would seem with smoke bearing down on us.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August 2011

The summer is slipping away so fast! We're gearing up for ArtFest--less than two weeks away--most of our booth spaces are filled with artists of every ilk. Photography, painting, jewelry, recycled art, woodwork, pottery. Pinkie's Country Cafe will be there too, with food and drink. We're expecting it to be a great show.

At Mountain Gardens, we're freshening up our pots, and prepping for our big end of season perennial sale--BOGO  (buy one get one) 50% off all gallons of the same variety. Trees and shrubs will be 25% off.

The last talk of the season will be "Success With Perennials," at 2 pm on Saturday. New Mexico natives have confided they've never seen such a season as this has been; the harshest winter with temps ranging below -20 for weeks--we had -30, and some of our customers saw -40!!! Then a balmy April softens our plants up for a second killing spree when May shocks us with one hard freeze after another. All this time the battering winds have never let up sucking moisture out of the hardy survivors which now have to get through the worst drought we've had in a long time. And then we watched rabbits and other varmints steal the last bits of green--because there has been NOTHING out there for them.Wow!

No wonder East Mountain gardeners are confused and depressed.  It's been an education! The rains have finally come--and the toughest of the tough plants are shooting up, taking advantage of the moisture at end of the summer, the falling off of the wind. It's been an eye-opener--to see plants we thought were marginal succeed, and some we had perfect confidence in fail. And it also reveals the importance of microclimate, soil prep, hardening off, good choice of plant material for our zones--and other factors we've been talking about all summer.

We'll touch on all of these in our last talk. Hopefully we won't see another season like this in a very long time--but we want our clients to be well prepared. As always, all talks are free and open to the public--lawn chairs suggested.

We've given two more classes since the pond class, on rainwater harvesting, and landscaping for fire safety (should have scheduled that one earlier given our fire season!). We'd like to hear from everyone on suggested topics for next season. We're game to tackle anything, and love learning new things--but if there's interest in butterfly gardening or more classes on composting--we up for that too. The subject matter (well, must be garden related of course) is nearly infinite--challenge us!

During our winter break when our schedules allow, we're always happy to give talks at garden clubs, etc. You may "sweeten" a fee...really, anything chocolate is good--otherwise, no charge.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Joining the Plant Select Program

We're pretty excited about joining the Plant Select program. Finding new plants that thrive in the mountains at zone 4 & 5 can be a challenge when our local shopping venues are zones 6 through 8. Try explaining to a customer who just drove in to town and came back with a crape myrtle, or nandina, or an ocotillo--why these plants don't work very well up here!

Our growing conditions are more similar in many ways to Colorado than much of New Mexico. That's why the Plant Select program is so attractive to us. The University of Colorado works with the Denver Botanical Garden, and growers to find plants that are especially suited to the Rocky Mountains. Many of the plants are native, but like the catmints, others are from similar  regions of the world.

New Mexico gardeners are already familiar with many of the program's plants--Sunset Hyssop, Sea Foam Artemisia, Orange Carpet Hummingbird Trumpet. These favorites have met a daunting list of criteria; to be chosen for the program they must be beautiful in form and flower, leaf and fruit; adaptable to a wide variety of fairly extreme conditions that consider high wind, sun, altitude, and soils that can vary from high pH, clay, or near solid rock. They cannot be invasive, and must be easily grown by nurserymen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On Sale !

It's the middle of the season--time to move out the veggies and annuals in 4" pots. The veggies are 50% off. It's not too late to put some tomatoes in a 5 gallon pot--easy to bring in for the next hail storm, or carry a few weeks longer at the end of the season. And folks are still replacing cukes, eggplant and others that have been cooked by this unusual heat and dryness--hopefully just in time for the monsoon.

We still have lots of petunias, snaps and pansies. These cool weather lovers like our chilly nights, and will go through the whole season if they're given some shade. Among the old favorites that your grandmother used to love, we have nicotiana, stock, cosmos, dame's rocket, and four kinds of annual poppies. There's still some lobelia, marigold, coleus, zinnia, and others. The annuals are 30% off.

The pond class went very well. We were surprised--every one of the attendees already had a pond! Like everything else in the garden, ponds are suffering. With high temperatures, and no rain, water evaporates faster, and it heats up fast too which stresses plants and fish. Algae has been a problem for everyone including us. We're looking for golden orfe's to tackle some of that algae. We had an old clawfoot bathtub set up as a water feature to demonstrate the ease of today's small pump/filters. Wink built a copper gooseneck to trickle water into the tub. When we get finished painting it, and the plants are installed, it will be a beautiful, whimsical addition to someone's garden--cowboy bathing anyone? Towel's on that branch...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Artists Invited to Submit to ArtFest 2011

Our annual Mountain Gardens ArtFest will be held this year on August 20 & 21. We're currently taking submissions from artists and crafters for booths. Material should be fine arts and crafts mediums including photography, painting, woodwork, jewelry, fiber arts, and more. Deadline for the submissions is August 5th. We will consider all work though we're hoping for a majority of our booths to represent the East Mountains. The booth fee for both days is $50.00 (not payable until the artist is accepted and is sending a signed contract). All work must be original and crafted by the artist. For more information and to print the contract go to mountaingardensartfest.blogspot.com. (see links)

The ArtFest coincides with Mountain Gardens end of season sale. Our last class of the season will be on Saturday, the 21st, at 2 pm. The topic is "Success With Perennials."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer At Last?

What a long miserable spring. I was wearing my long underwear until the last of May! We finally planted the tomatoes, peppers, leeks and squash on the 29th (after telling my customers to wait till the soil was warm enough), and it froze that night!!! Luckily everything but the squash was tucked away in the Wall O' Waters (behind granddaughter Junie who is watering the last of the asparagus.) I'm going to have to start some more squash though, we're sold out.

The other veggies are going fast, too. Many of our customers have been back several times to replace veggies that have frozen. At the veggie class, we discussed putting in cool weather crops like peas, onions, greens early in spring, holding off on the warm season crops (like squash) until the soil temps hit 65 or 70.

A major disappointment--our fruit trees won't be ready this season, and we lost many to the terrible weather last winter. And yet, about a dozen container fruit trees we overwintered in the cold house (even colder than the barn!), came through beautifully. Mature roots make all the difference in this climate.

But summer is here at last. The mad greenhouse season is passing as all the annual and vegetable seedlings are yielding to the perennials--time for root pruning, cutting back, repotting, dividing--and starting the next round of seed to replace plants for next year.

Our grapes are showing promise. We started some 40 of these in the winter from unrooted cuttings, callusing the woody little sticks on the heat mats till roots emerged, then potting them up in the warmth of greenhouse two. We're hoping they'll be ready for sale in a few weeks. There are a variety of cultivars, and though we've still got some on the mat (three of the Swenson Red finally rooted!), there should be a few of each.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

June Classes

We had a small turn-out on Sunday for the Container Garden class. The wind was horrible, so we appreciate those who stayed. Our next class will be on Sunday, June 12 at noon. This class on Composting,  will be given by Ralph Anderson. He is an Albuquerque Master Gardener, a Master Composter and a member of the Mountain Garden Club in the East Mountains. He will discuss the best ways to compost here in New Mexico, and will answer all your composting questions!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011


We will be open Monday, May 30, Memorial Day, from 10am - 5pm. We have all the veggie plants out, plenty of annuals and hardy perennials. We also have vines, grasses, shrubs and trees. Check out the bag goods area, there is potting soil, composted cotton burr, humax and wood mulch. If there is something you are looking for that we don't have, we will try to find it for you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May in the Mountains

May is always an unpredictable month. With the snow and freezing weather, it's hard to tell customers when to plant. Our next class will be on Sunday, May 29 at noon. We will be discussing container gardens. It will be a hands on class, so feel free to bring your pots or containers and we can help you decide what to plant.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


APRIL 30 ***  SATURDAY *****  10:00 am
We will be opening for the 2011 season April 30.
We will have a full supply of soil amendments, potting soil, garden supplies, a few veggies, row cover, shade cloth and lots of good advice for planting in the East Mountains. We also want to hear all the great stories of how everyone made it through the really cold winter. Hope to see all of our old customers and lots of new ones.  Happy gardening!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22--Spring?

It's been trying to be spring. We've gone from the sub-arctic to several weeks of positively balmy weather. But spring comes with a price in the mountains--wind. Yesterday it took the plastic right off greenhouse number 4. It was a frantic, whipping race to get another piece on before dark. Try holding onto 50 feet of sail in a 40mph blow! If it weren't still dropping to freezing (and below) we'd have left if off, but the plants are leaping into growth with these 65 degree days...not dormant anymore. And last night it was cold enough for grapple to fall. Would a little rain be too much to ask?!

We've been pleasantly surprised by the recovery the plants are making. It looks like that -30 didn't do the damage we were expecting. The fruit trees look hopeful, tulips, dafs, and crocus are coming up all over--even things that froze to the ground (like my 4th of July rose) are showing some green. What else is showing signs of life--catmint, of course, enormously tough up here. The dianthus planted outside stayed green, soapwort is greening up, little leaves coming out on the strawberries, big green leaves on the hollyhocks and oriental poppies. The lilacs have fat little buds. The barberries are leafing out. Potentilla and delphiniums too. The peaches in # 6 are flowering! No more arctic freezes, please!

We got #3 & 4 lashed down with line to keep the plastic from billowing. Tomorrow we'll get 6 & 7 roped down. Should of done it last fall...oh well. Can't spend every day dabbling in the dirt.

Monday, February 28, 2011

...later in the month

   It's been several weeks since the last post, and since then we've had a storm that dropped us to -30 (and that's not windchill)! Records were set all over the state. We're still waiting to see what the damage is on the fruit trees outside. It looks as though most of the hardy natives in the unheated hoop houses came through fine, but the heater in greenhouse two failed, and some of the annuals we're getting ready for spring didn't make it. We had just received our big shipment of fruit trees and gotten them potted up. Early to say, but most of them look very good.

And the last several days have been lovely! Except for winds gusting to 50 yesterday--that's New Mexico.  the days warm up--we're longing for spring. Half the gardeners (who know better) start planting, then zing! We get hit again.

We continue to plant seedlings--we've started the onions, tomatos and peppers, and are about to put some greens in the grow box. I had half a dozen flats of leafy greens from last year in number two (I'm cutting them for the chickens), and was surprised at how much cold they took.

It's always a pleasure to go into one of the greenhouses and see something in bloom. Right now, the amaryllis, winter jasmine, bougainvillea (still!), cyclamen, and the fuschias are showing their color. And I brought in a pink daisy today to make cuttings from--it was covered! The days are getting longer, more light (sometimes more heat) is coaxing plants out of dormancy. Many of the potted fruit trees are starting to show buds.

Tomorrow, we give a talk at the local garden club on "What Not to Grow in the East Mountains." Many people get confused because, though we're so close, many of the plants they admire in Albuquerque won't grow well (or at all) in the mountains. ABQ is a heat island--zone 8. In the mountains, we're zone 4, zone 5 sometimes with protection.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Less Snow!

February roars in with about 8 inches of snow and near zero temps. Is there anything more exciting than raking a foot of snow off the hoophouses?! Or plowing a half mile of driveway?  Or hanging plastic over breezy cracks in the greenhouse? Or fussing with the generator when it's only 2 degrees out there? Cold, cold, cold, a wind chill of -12...and another storm front sweeping in tomorrow. Sure glad we topped off the propane tanks we use to heat one and two. The heaters, usually off by 7or 8 am, have been going strong all day. The cisterns are probably going to freeze again too. Ahhh, winter in the mountains...

Monday, January 24, 2011

More Light!

In the dregs of January there is never enough light in the greenhouse for new seedlings. They leaaaan, and streetttccch for the sun--getting too leggy, the stems too thin, and easily bowed over by the gentlest stream of water. But we now have a grow light up and running, a veritable brainchild. The box (see pic) holds fluorescents covered by aluminum insulation--reflects light, holds in heat. The contraption above the light is a lever that allows us to rotate the light up and away from the bench so we can water or whatever.

The framework keeps the light aligned properly over the bench, and when the plants get taller, we can notch the light up on the steel bar.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January Frenzy

 There's never enough room on the seed mats in January! Our new boxes (on right in pic) have helped. We've captured another several square feet of climate controlled space near, if not on, the heat mats. The mats sit inside the styrofoam boxes, holding eight flats of seeds, and letting us add additional six packs to edge where they harden off a bit before moving into the open air. This especially helps hold heat at night when we have to turn the mats down (or off) to save power (being offgrid requires making hard choices--no nighttime tv for us!).

What are we starting? Penstemons, agastache, salvia, daisies, bundleflower, campanula, hollyhock, canterbury bells, scholar tree, privet, dutchman's pipe, geranium, pansies, petunias, passionflower, grasses ,iberis, sundrops, buckwheat, evening primrose, coneflower...and much more. Lots of new annuals, some new perennials too, mostly natives.

So as one batch comes off the mats, another immediately goes on, and the oldest shuttles into stronger light, and cooler parts of greenhouse one, from seedling trays to six packes to 4 inch pots, and eventually into greenhouse two, and come April, we'll be trying to squeeze maturing plants into greenhouses three thru seven.