From Mélie’s Garden
Continuing my gardening travels of last month, I was curious to see what was growing in the Southwest US in late March. Santa Fe at 7,000 feet above sea level still had patches of snow, but fruit trees looked like they were thinking about blooming and some daffodils were appearing.
Moving on to Arizona there was not much evidence of the desert coming into bloom due to the lack of rain, except for a small yellow poppy close to the trail Sarah Moody and I were riding on.
I was interested to see snapdragons happily growing in the desert climate in large colorful beds at the ranch. Watering systems and the cool desert nights must appeal to them. Containers were filled with geraniums and the Moody’s had a wonderful large orange tree full of oranges to pick and a glorious climbing rose about to pop out.
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Moving on to Palm Springs, CA, colorful snapdragons still seemed to be the plants of choice to brighten flowerbeds, again enjoying the warm days and cool nights. Bill Hall has a delightful garden there filled with a lovely collection of annuals that he puts in each fall. He is very skillful planting different combinations of plants and his flowerbeds were charming. Perennials don’t often survive the intense summer heat, but Bill’s beautiful rose garden survives through the summer with irrigation and comes into glorious bloom in the fall. The roses will bloom again in the spring after a radical pruning in early winter.
Closer to home, my husband and I visited Windy Acres Farm in Calverton, NY, which is on the North Fork of Long Island. Austin and Rita Funfeld have grown fig trees there for many years. John discovered the Farm when he went out to that part of Long Island to have some pre-1970 car shock absorbers repaired by Apple Hydraulics, which was across the street from the nursery. I had planted a “Chicago Hardy” Ficus Carica fig tree in my Fishers Island garden about three years ago, which I bought at Logee’s Nursery in Danielson, CT. Last fall it produced a good crop of figs and we enjoyed the fig preserves I made all last winter. Fig trees can also be raised in large containers, but they must be brought into a non-freezing area in the winter. Since I don’t have such a place to winter my tree, I need to leave it in the ground in the garden. Mario Torres and I cut the tree back to about three feet the beginning of November and then wrap the tree up in insulation with a large tarp over it. Mario is an expert in tying it all up so it doesn’t blow apart in our winter winds.
I was therefore interested to learn that there was an actual Fig Tree nursery in our difficult growing area. So I happily accompanied John when he went back to Calverton to pick up his repaired shock absorbers.
Austin Funfeld greeted us both warmly and showed us around his large hoop house that was filled with fig trees. His favorite varieties are ‘Turkish Brown” and “White and Italian Purple”. He said that the key to growing figs outside in our climate is to not unwrap them until May 10th due to the cold wind off the ocean. And that it was fine to cover our tree up as we did as long as it is in a somewhat protected area, which it is being planted against the garden stonewall. It has been amazing to see how quickly our tree grows once it is unwrapped in the spring. I bought a “Turkish Brown” from Mr. Funfeld, who was delightful and informative to talk to, but he was a bit disappointed when John and I turned down his offer of homemade blueberry brandy that he clearly had been enjoying before our arrival.