Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Honey bees are really attracted to the pale blue flowers of my Rosemary shrubs, and they arrived today to collect pollen from the flowers that opened yesterday. The flowers of have a fragrance just like the needles. The Latin word Rosmarinus means 'dew from the sea' and this shrub was so named because the flowers are supposed to resemble dew.
I've always loved the fragrance of Rosemary, and buy shampoo, soap and other products with the fragrance. I think it smells especially good when combined with mint or sage. I occasionally make an herbal tea from several sprigs of fresh rosemary. Many people use this tea to help a cold, but I just like it as a change from my regular herbal teas.
The top spines of this unidentified cactus are especially red in this specimen. I would guess it's a young Pachycereus pringlei, commonly called Mexican Giant Cactus or Cardon. If it is the genus and species that I suspect, I've placed it in an inappropriate place! The cactus started out as one of the small cactus specimens in a dish arrangement, and as dish became crowded, they became landscape plantings. This one is under the filtered shade of a Mesquite tree. If it turns out to be a Cardon, this thing can reach 40 feet tall!
I'm a fan of cactus dish gardens, especially when they are on sale. I can get five or six small cacti and succulents, as well as an nice pot, for far less than if I bought each separately. There are a couple of problems with this, though. The first is the "glue" the supplier uses to hold the gravel top dressing in place, probably to keep it from spilling in transit and in displays. When the time comes to dissemble the dish garden, the stuff must be carefully peeled off to free each cactus. It takes time and patience. The next problem is the mixing of cacti and succulents in the same pot. Many succulents take far more water than cactus and have different dormancy requirements, and root rot can occur to the cacti if watering for the succulent. The final and most irritating issue for me is the lack of identification of the contents. Most all of the unidentified cacti in my collection started out as one of the plants in a dish garden!
Jojoba is a dioecious plant found only in Arizona and California, and maybe the Sonoran Desert area of Mexico. These are the first flowers on my three year old Jojoba plant. The plants must experience a certain number of chilling hours before buds form on new growth. The buds open in response to late winter rains. The yellow clustered, insignificant flowers prove that this plant is male. A female plant would have single pale green flowers at each leaf node, rather than clusters. The female flowers look more like a seed pod.
Most people are familiar with Jojoba as an oil used in cosmetics. Early Native Americans in our region used the seeds as food, as a medicinal aid, and cooking oil, among other uses.