Explain types of clouds? – Cirrus, Stratus, and Cumulus

Most of us have fantasized while admiring clouds; but have you ever wondered why clouds float?  As long as the cloud is warmer than the outside air around it, it will float.

angels in the sky
cloud that looks like an angel

The height of the cloud in the atmosphere depends on the temperature and amount of water vapor of the rising air.  For example, drier air has to rise higher to cool enough to start condensation.

Microburst Monsoon cloud
vertically developed – cumulonimbus clouds

Cumulus clouds can grow into cumulonimbus clouds which are larger and often spread out in the shape of an anvil or plume. Cumulonimbus may produce heavy rain, lightning, severe and strong winds, hail, microbursts, and even tornadoes.

Clouds are grouped by their shape and by their height in the atmosphere.

Arizona storm clouds monsoon
Nimbostratus – rain bearing clouds

The characteristics of clouds are established by the elements available, including amount of water vapor, temperatures at the height, wind, mountains and other air masses.

The names of clouds come from Latin words that describe their characteristics. The main types of clouds are:

  • Cirrus means “curl” or “fringe”,
  • Nimbus means “rain-bearing”,
  • Stratus means “layer”,
  • Cumulus means “heap” or “pile”
arizona desert clouds
Cumulus cloud

Cumulus clouds are probably the most recognized clouds. These clouds form below 6,000 feet but in some extreme cases they can be in altitudes as high as 39,000 feet! They look like white, fluffy cotton balls. The reason cumulus appear fluffy is because bubbles of air, called thermals, linger in the cloud.

In mountainous areas, clouds may form lines at an angle to the wind. Wave clouds do not move downwind as clouds usually do, but remain fixed in position relative to the obstruction that forms them, for example: mountains.

clouds and wind
cumulus wave clouds by a mountain

Lenticular clouds form on the downwind side of mountains and are lens-shaped. Wind blows most types of clouds across the sky, but lenticular clouds seem to stay in one place.

clouds that look like UFOs
lenticular clouds are lens shaped

Strato-cumulus clouds form in altitudes below 6,000 feet.  Below photo shows a low layer of strato-cumulus clouds spreading the remains of larger cumulus clouds.

cumulus and stratus clouds
Stratocumulus clouds

Alto-cumulus clouds differ from Strato-cumulus  because they are slightly smaller. One easy way to determine if the cloud is alto-cumulus or strato-cumulus is to hold your hand up to the sky,  alto-cumulus clouds are about the size of a human thumb nail while strato-cumulus clouds are the size of a fist.

cumulus clouds
Strato-cumulus and Alto-cumulus clouds

Stratus clouds belong to the low cloud (surface-2000m, below 6,000 ft) group.  They are uniformed layered, gray in color and can cover most or all of the sky

stratus fog clouds
stratus clouds can look like fog

Stratus clouds can look like a fog  and are associated with overcast weather. Only drizzle comes from stratus clouds, if heavier rain falls then their title is changed to nimbostratus.

The most common of the high clouds is Cirrus.  These clouds are composed of ice and are thin, curly, wispy, feathery clouds. 

long cirrus clouds
wispy CIRRUS clouds

Cirrus clouds are usually white and predict fair weather even though they are so cold and composed entirely of ice.  They are the fastest moving cloud because the wind current is very strong at that high altitude.

identify clouds white long
Cirrus clouds

Cumulonimbus clouds belong to the thunderstorm clouds or clouds with vertical growth group. Reaching heights to 10km, high winds will flatten the top of a cumulonimbus cloud out into an anvil-like shape.

monsoon cloud in arizona
Thunderstorm clouds

Cumulonimbus clouds, also called Storm Clouds, cause heavy rain, lightning, hail, snow and tornadoes.

Cumulus clouds, which indicate low-level atmospheric moisture often precede storms. In this picture of a Cumulonimbus cloud or thunderstorm cloud, much lightning was occurring with the winds increasing rapidly.

Arizona monsoon weather storm clouds
Cumulonimbus cloud – Thunderstorm clouds

Mammatus clouds are pouches of clouds that hang underneath the base of a cloud. They are usually seen with cumulonimbus clouds that produce very strong storms.

storm clouds cumulus
mammatus clouds

Mammatus clouds look like a field of tennis balls, melons, or like female breasts. That is where the name comes from.  

Cirrostratus clouds form in the 18,000 feet and above. The refraction of light by the ice crystals in the Cirrostratus clouds cause a halo around the sun or moon.

stratus clouds
Cirrostratus clouds

You can not see the halo when this happens but the sun or moon will be less visible because the Cirrostratus clouds condense too much for clear visibility. Clouds are usually white and predict fair weather. These clouds often follow Cirrus clouds therefore Cirrostratus clouds are indicators of good weather.

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Growing Sunflowers in Pots – facts about sunflowers

The sunflower has a tall, thick stem crowned by what seems like a single giant flower. Interestingly, this flower is no flower at all;  but a constellation made up of hundreds of small flowers called the sunflower head.

sunflower in Arizona
sunflower in Arizona

Although the sunflower head resembles a huge flower with yellow petals and a brown center, it is actually the brown that is the constellation of flowers, with the yellow leaves acting more as a protectant to the sunflowers during the flowering and seed development phases.

happy sunflower field
common sunflower

The sunflower’s cheery facade plus its sheer height make it a wonderful plant that everybody will enjoy, either in the vegetable garden or at the back of a flower bed.

Sunflower in pots
Arizona Sunflower in a container

A sunflower can grow to become well over 10 feet (3 meters) tall and the head can become quite wide. Once open,  the sunflower head will start to follow the sun while it is moving across the sky.

species of sunflowers
Large Sunflower Head of “LEMON QUEEN” variety

The flowers in the center of the sunflower will then start to grow fruits, sunflower seeds, and after a while these seeds will loosen and scatter across the ground.

Once that is done, the life cycle is complete and it will eventually wilt and die so that the new seeds can grow to become sunflowers in the next growing season.

When growing sunflowers it is important to consider where you want to plant them because they will need full sun to mature successfully. Many people grow sunflowers close to walls since the sunflower can be quite sensitive to the wind;  but, planting close to a wall will unfortunately come at a loss.

sunflower with multiple buds, blooms

Sunflowers are sensitive to the amount of sunlight they obtain, and how much water required to optimize their growth.  Too much water may result in the soil loosening and becoming far too unstable to support the weight of the sunflower head as it sways in the wind.

wild sunflowers arizona
SONJA sunflower variety

Planting a larger grouping of sunflowers has the benefit of helping to stabilize the immediate area of soil and helps to create some barrier to wind damage. I put stakes into the ground close to the sunflower stem making sure it stands strong and stable on its own. Next, you can tie small pieces of thick string,  florist ties or velcro around the stake and the sunflower, thus helping them to support each other.

sunflower in container
sunflowers in pots

Currently we have several sunflowers growing in large pots.  Sunflowers do not do well if they sit in water so it is important that your pot or garden container drains well. You can use a layer of sand or rocks in your container. The garden soil you choose needs to be full of nutrients.

When placing your sunflower seeds in a pot, do not put them close together. Depending on the size of your container, space them at the minimum of 3 inches apart.

Typically, sunflowers, Helianthius annuus, require absolutely no pruning at all.

sunflower seeds to harvest
sunflower seeds to harvest

To enjoy the seeds of your sunflowers here are simple harvesting tips:

  • When the backside of the sunflower head turns yellow be sure to protect them from birds, squirrels and other animals that eat sunflower seeds!
  • Once the back of the sunflower head is brown it means time to harvest!  Cut the head off about 12 inches down the stem
  • Then rub the head using your hand and the sunflower seeds will fall off
seeds ready
sunflower seeds ready to harvest

extra tidbit:  If pressed, sunflower seeds will give you sunflower oil. This oil can be used for many purposes and ongoing research is mapping new and improved uses every day. First of all, sunflower oil is great in cooking and will give food a very mild but distinct taste, similar to mild olive oils. Sunflower oil can also be transformed into lubricants for engine parts and can even work as a fuel for engines.

Desert Bird of Paradise quick facts

Arizona’s well-known desert bird of paradise shrubs burgeon with vivid red flowers or delightful yellow blooms.  The red bird of paradise, Caesalpinia Pulcherrima, is our favorite and we have several constituting a border.

drought resistant shrubs with flowers
drought tolerant bushes with red flowers

This Red Bird of Paradise is a drought and heat tolerant shrub that relishes full sun with its lively red- orange flowers cultivating out of long, thin stalks.

drought tolerant shrubs
Desert Bird of Paradise with red flowers

All the Desert Bird of Paradise bushes are Perennial (only plant them once).  Pruning and trimming is standard since these desert plants are easy growers; reaching over 10 feet tall.  PRUNING your Desert Bird of Paradise

Looking for detailed information on the Mexican Bird of Paradise pictured below?

drought tolerant desert shrub
Mexican Desert Bird of Paradise with yellow flowers

Caring for your Desert Bird of Paradise:

  • Exposure: full sun,  gets leggy in shade and blooming is reduced
  • Water:  deep irrigation; twice a week while blooming; height & growth rate determined by water supply
  • Propagation: been pod seed, very easy; peat pots provide easy transplanting
  • Soil: very tolerant, needs good drainage
  • Hardiness: damaged at 32°F, with increasing damage as temperature decreases
  • Leaves: fern-like, normally bright green turning red in winter, sometimes leafless in winter
  • Range:  common throughout Arizona Sonora desert, Mexico and naturalized in Texas
  • Maintenance:   pruning every year; sometimes pruned to ground in winter, periodic trimming to keep it shaped
Texas yellow bird of paradise
Yellow Desert Bird of Paradise with long red stamen

More details for the Yellow Bird of Paradise shrub pictured below.

tucson texas bushes with yellow flowers
Yellow Bird of Paradise bush with red stamen

PROPAGATION:

Peat Pots are great and make growing and transplanting your Desert Bird of Paradise seedlings easy. Start your seeds indoors and when you are ready to plant simply put the entire pot in the ground. Roots will penetrate the peat pot and the pot disintegrates enriching the soil.

germinating seeds
dissolving pots for Bird of Paradise seeds

To germinate Bird of Paradise seeds,  soak the seeds from the bean pods (pods need to be brown) in water for 48-72 hours.  Next plant them in peat pots, barely cover the seeds.  You may prefer to use the paper towel method to germinate your seeds; if so, when a white shoot (root) appears, plant it with the white root DOWN. Cover the seeds lightly with damp soil.

germinating and planting seeds
planting the seeds from the bean pods

Bird of Paradise seeds need at least 8 hours of sun, but not direct sun; it will be too hot! You can start to give them a little more direct sun after the first leaves appear.

phoenix heat tolerant plant with flowers
Red Bird of Paradise shrubs with cactus

These resilient desert bushes THRIVE in intense heat and look stunning with cactus, succulents, Lantana, even Bougainvillea!

What is a Century Plant? Maguey – aka Agave Americana Plant

Maguey or Agave americana is a native plant from Mexico, but is now cultivated in many parts of the world. This drought tolerant plant, also known by the name century plant or American aloe, is neither an aloe nor a cactus, but pertains to the Agavaceae family.  The unique architectural Agave is one of the best xeriscape plants for your garden.

several species of Agave

 

agave cactus good for containers pots
Blue Glow Agave looks like a flower

Maguey Plant is one of the many species of agave plants (commonly called cactus)  that exist in the Americas. They grow in semi-arid environments from sea level to an altitude of about 9000 feet.

The largest Century Plant in the World

Above, is one of the largest Agave Americana Plants, Maguey Plant or Century Plants in the world.  (photo courtesy of statesman.com)

In ancient Mesoamerica, (Middle America), maguey or agave, was first collected and then cultivated for many uses.  Native people used the agave leaves to make ropes, construction materials and textiles.  See the picture below of Agave felgeri, also called Mescalito.  Mescalito is native to Mexico and is found in many desert gardens especially in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona.

Mescalito, Agave felgeri

 

pruned agave

Ancient Mayans used Agave thorns in bloodletting rituals, Royal Maya Blood Sacrifices to communicate with the gods. However, the most important product the Mayans obtained from maguey, agave,  was a mildly alcoholic beverage called pulque, obtained by the fermentation of the sweet, milky juice extracted from the agave plant.

100 year old cactus Century Plant
Agave Century Plant

Agave americana (aka Century Plant) is a massive plant.  There are many varieties of agave in cultivation, with some being excellent for smaller gardens or pots, and some being too large; therefore used for botanical gardens or ranches.

different cactus agave species
Agave potatorum Kichiokan

 

cactus plant for making tequila
Tequila Blue Agave

 

century cactus plant with blooms
smaller species of Agave americana

Agaves are called century plants since some species take 100 years to flower in the wild. However, in cultivation with adequate summer moisture, most agaves flower between 10 and 15 years of age.  When they do flower, the tall bloom stalks attract many hummingbirds!

the cactus that dies after it blooms
century plant, agave cactus in the desert

See the photo below of a field in Jalisco, Mexico, overflowing with blue agave plants, ripe for harvesting and used in tequila production.

cactus used for tequila
Blue Agave Field used to make Tequila alcohol

Agave americana grows wild in Europe, India, Australia and South Africa.  It has become naturalized in many areas such as California.  In southern California there are massive plantings of Agave american, Century Plants, along the highways.  This Century Plant, Agave american, is a common species of agave that is beautiful but very aggressive.  Many gardens in California and Mexico use Agave americana as a living fence.

stalk of the century cactus plant
bottom of a century plant, Agave americana

When Century plants or other agave cactus are grown in pots, they will grow to the size of the container.  Please note that containerized century plants must be brought indoors when temperatures drop below freezing.  Below is one of our agaves growing in a pot next to other cacti.  Two Maguey, Agave americanas are in the top right of the picture below.

blue glow agave in a container

Mexican, Yellow, Red Bird of Paradise plants are poisonous

Many have asked – Is the Red Bird of Paradise plant toxic?

Poisonous Mexican Bird of Paradise shrub
Red flowering bush is poisonous

All 3 of the bird of paradise flowering bushes are poisonous.

desert plant with fern like leaves is red bird of paradise
caesalpinia pulcherrima is a bush with orange red flowers

The orange and yellow flowers of the Caesalpinia pulcherrima, make a stunning bush.

the desert Caesalpinia pulcherrima poisonous bush
Mexican, Yellow and Red Bird of Paradise flowers

The true Mexican Bird of Paradise tree has yellow flowers and round leaves.

shrub with yellow flowers and round leaves
round leaves and yellow flowers of the Mexican Bird of Paradise

The Yellow Bird of paradise plant has clusters of yellow flowers with a long red stamen.

bushes with long red string things
Yellow Bird of Paradise Flowering Bush

All of these beautiful desert bushes belong to the genus Caesalpinia.  But DO NOT eat any part of the 3 Bird of Paradise plants.

desert bush with red stamens, yellow flowers, bean pods
poisonous Yellow Bird of Paradise shrub

Caesalpinia is a genus of flowering plants in the legume family, FABACEAE.  The fruit of these Bird of Paradise desert bushes is a long, flat seed pod.

The seed pods are toxic!  Watch small children and pets around these shrubs.

The level of toxicity for the bird of paradise plants is low.   The leaves contain hydrocyanic acid.  The toxins in the bean pods are tannins. The role of tannins in many species of plants is to protect it from predators.

Ingesting any part of  bird of paradise plants can cause gastrointestinal irritation. Nausea, diarrhea and vomiting are symptoms of bird of paradise poisoning.

yellow flowering small tree with round leaves
Mexican Bird of Paradise with yellow flowers

While the Red, Yellow and Mexican Bird of Paradise’s toxins are not life-threatening; keep in mind that diarrhea and vomiting can produce dehydration. These symptoms should be taken seriously and you should seek medical treatment.

 

Cormorants, crested ducks, cottonwood trees and more… at Fort Lowell Park in Arizona

Our Arizona travels brought us not only to a gentle bird refuge; but the historical Fort Lowell Park in Tucson.  This wildlife oasis streaming with ducks, cormorants, turtles and dragonflies was an United States Army post from 1873 till 1891.

City of Tucson Ft Lowell historic park
Fort Lowell’s wildlife pond in AZ

The most prominent building at Fort Lowell was the hospital, the adobe remnants still stand under a protective structure.

Arizona parks for wildlife, bird watching
Tucson’s historic Ft Lowell in 1900

Ft. Lowell lay in ruins for numerous years. The City of Tucson eventually converted the bulk of the former post into Old Fort Lowell Park, which features ball fields, tennis and racquetball courts, a large public swimming pool, and the Fort Lowell Museum dedicated to its days as an active military installation.

**This is a superb choice if you are looking for Tucson activities.

Tucson Parks with history and wildlife birds
adobe remains of Fort Lowell military installation

A lane lined with cottonwood trees, aptly named Cottonwood Lane, glorified the area in front of the officer’s houses.

Historic Cottonwood Lane in Tucson Arizona
large Cottonwood Tree at Ft Lowell Park

Following World War II, the Fort Lowell area grew into a small village which the predominantly Mexican local residents called El Fuerte.

The Fort Lowell Museum is located in the reconstructed Commanding Officer’s quarters.

Stroll from the remains of the Ft Lowell Hospital towards the wildlife pond to enjoy crested ducks with the latest updos.

ducks with hair on their head in Tucson
Brown colored Crested Duck

Catch a glimpse as a pigeon tries to remember the secret code to get passed the duck security.

Fort Lowell park in Tucson, AZ
pigeon stand off with ducks

Dedicated community members adopted Fort Lowell Park to keep it clean and build a protected area for birds.

During our visit we spoke with some of the impressive volunteers with “Friends of Fort Lowell Park” as they were planting trees and tidying up the nesting area.

Tucson Arizona wildlife park with water
nesting area created by Friends of Fort Lowell Park

A regal Neotropic Cormorant bird was standing by to make sure we didn’t decide to jump in and go swimming.

bird watching parks in Tucson Arizona
neotropic cormorants at Ft Lowell Park

Many species of cormorants make a characteristic half-jump as they dive and under water cormorants propel themselves with their feet.

wildlife oasis park in Tucson Arizona desert
community effort at Fort Lowell Park

Thanks to the collaboration of The Friends of Fort Lowell Park and Tucson Parks and Recreation for giving residents and guests a place to enjoy outdoor activities and wildlife in the Sonoran Desert.

tennis handball swimming park in the Arizona desert
Parks to visit in Tucson – Ft Lowell Park

Local historians have found evidence that Fort Lowell Park sits on a site endowed with a continuous supply of underground water and has been occupied by humans since ancient times.

Great Blue Heron in AZ – Facts and pictures about this Wading Bird

The Great Blue Heron is sometimes seen flapping casually over the desert. It hunts in typical heron fashion; standing by the water’s edge to skewer fish or clinch other aquatic creatures.

Ardea herodias,  North American herons
Great Blue Heron in Tucson Arizona, Ardea herodias

This towering bird is the most common and largest of North American herons. The Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, is in the family, Ardeidae.

grey blue wading birds Arizona
Great Blue Heron bird fishing

This wading bird is found as far north as the southern Canadian provinces.  ** From the southern United States southwards and on the Pacific coast,  Great Blue Herons are year round residents.

Arizona desert birds by water
Great Blue Heron, tallest Heron bird

As a rule, Great Blue Herons feed while standing still or leisurely wading in shallow water; it strikes at small fish swimming by with its spear-like bill.

blue heron bird exhibit
Great Blue Heron exhibit at Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

You will find Great Blue Herons close to bodies of water and routinely nesting in bushes or trees.

AZ tall Wading birds with blue gray feathers
Great Blue Heron bird

These stately herons are expert fishers. Great Blues capture their prey by walking slowly, or standing still for long periods of time and waiting for fish to come within range of their long necks and blade-like bills.  Talk about patience!

It is not uncommon for a heron to make a 20 or even 30 mile round trip in its quest for a worthy foraging site.

tall wading birds in Arizona Desert
Great Blue Heron at Agua Caliente Park in Tucson

A Great Blue Heron’s deathblow is delivered with a quick thrust of their sharp bill, and then the prey is swallowed whole. Though these birds are best known as fishers;  mice and frogs are also part of their diet.

  • How tall is a Great Blue Heron?  Their height is 3.5 to 4.5 ft  (1.2 to 1.4 meters).
  • What is the Great Blue Heron’s wingspan?  Up to 6.7 ft  (2 meters).
grey birds that look like dinosaurs
wingspan of the Great Blue Heron

How fast can the Great Blue Heron Fly?  This large heron can cruise at 20-30 miles per hour.  (32 to 48 kilometers)

fishing birds flying in Arizona
wing span of the Great Blue Heron

The mature Great Blue Heron has plumes on the lower back at the start of the breeding season.

Below is a short,  incredible video of a deer with a Great Blue Heron.

A heron’s bill is dull yellow, becoming orange briefly at the start of the breeding season.  Their lower legs which are gray will also become orange at the start of the breeding season.

wading bird with long legs and gray feathers
older Great Blue Heron bird with long feathers

Young Great Blue Herons are duller in color, with a blackish-gray crown, and the pattern on the flank only weakly defined; the young herons have no plumes, and the bill is dull gray-yellow.

Great Blue Herons breed in colonies. The male chooses the nest site and displays to attract a female.

pair of heron birds  in Arizona
Male and Female Great Blue Herons with orange bill for breeding season

Great Blue Herons prefer their nest site in a tree 20 to 60 feet above the ground, although shrubs are sometimes used.  The female lays 2 to 7 eggs in a platform made of sticks.

Great Blue Heron in a nest of sticks
nest of the Great Blue Heron

The eggs, which are protected and incubated by both parents, hatch in 25 to 30 days. Herons feed their young regurgitated matter.  Chicks can survive on their own by about two months of age.

large heron wading bird
a young Great Blue Heron in Tucson Arizona

These dignified birds have exemplary eye sight and that is how they locate their food.  Great Blue Herons feed at the water’s edge both day and night; typically dawn and dusk.

Truly Nolen Classic Cars strike again – antique cars you can buy

One of the largest pest control companies in the world, TRULY NOLEN,  was founded in Miami, FL in 1938 by Truly Wheatfield Nolen.

Truly Nolen vintage cars Tucson
1952 Ford, Truly Nolen Classic Cars

Mr. Nolen was known for his complete dedication to his customers; said to be a hard worker; spending 7 days a week at building his business. Truly Wheatfield Nolen passed in 1965 but his legacy lives on through his children and his grandchildren. Truly Wheatfield Nolen’s son, Truly David Nolen, runs the business with the corporate office located in Tucson, AZ.

Antique Cars in Tucson
Parked cars with Truly Nolen
Truly Nolen automobiles
1952 Ford Customliner, Classic car

Truly Nolen America was founded by the son, Truly David Nolen who also started the franchise opportunites.

classic Truly Nolen vehicles
Truly Nolen antique cars in Arizona
photo of classic Nolen cars, 1957 Chevrolet

According to Willie Langdon, garage manager for Truly Nolen in Florida, the car restorations are effected in the shop at the rear of the offices.

parked classic cars Tucson
Classic, vintage autos with Truly Nolen
Nolen vintage cars for sale
Truly Nolen 1957 Ford Fairlaine
classic cars on Tucson streets
Ford Vintage Cars for sale, Tucson Arizona

There are several shops throughout the country that Truly Nolen owns to restore classic automobiles so advertising can be displayed. The main antique car restoration shop is in Tucson, ARIZONA.

Vintage automobiles in Tucson
A mini classic car – Truly Nolen
Classic automobiles Truly Nolen for sale
1957 Nash Metropolitan, vintage car

These cars are all for sale!  You can check the prices for these antique classic cars on the Truly Nolen Website.

Truly Nolen cars autos
1954 Buick Riviera is pictured here

Truly Nolen America and Truly Nolen International are one of the largest family-owned pest-control companies in the world, with some 90-100 service centers and franchises in ten states and more than 41 foreign countries. Not only are the TRULY NOLEN cars extraordinary; but their pest service is to!  We have used them for years and give high recommendations.

Truly Nolen vintage cars
photo of the classic Riviera, Nolen antique cars

Grow your Bougainvillea Plant in containers and pots. They LOVE IT !!

Will my Bougainvillea plant grow in a container?  Yes and it will be a very happy plant.  Bougainvilleas do great in most types of pots and containers.  These plants are not easy to transplant so make sure the pot you choose is big enough to last the Bougainvillea for years to come.

Although they like their roots crowded in a container, Bougainvilleas do not like standing water.  Make sure your pot has good drainage so the Bougainvillea does not get root rot.

Bougainvillea flowering bush shrub
Growing Bougainvillea in large pots

Fill your container with potting soil and place the bougainvillea plant inside.  Find a sunny location and it will be easy to keep your Bougainvillea happy and healthy.

growin Bougainvillea in pots
Bougainvillea plants on your patio

Bougainvilleas have beautiful red, pink and purple colored bracts, which are specialized leaves that contain the plant’s white slender flowers.

Bougainvillea plants can grow rather large so they must be kept pruned in pots and containers.  You can train your Bougainvillea to grow up a trellis or in the shape of a tree.

growing bougainvilleas shrubs
Pink Bougainvillea thriving in a large container

During the winter, Bougainvillea plants can be most striking and provide gardens with abundant color.  Winter is when Bougainvillea Vines and Plants reach their peak color.

heat resistant plants Bougainvillia magenta blooms
Bougainvillias are tropical plants, magenta flowers, heat tolerant

The small heart shaped bracts of the Bougainvillea are quite delicate to the touch, and are crinkly in appearance.

can I grow bougainvilleas in containers
Bougainvillea potted plant growing up a trellis

How long will a Bougainvillea plant display their color?  The length of time depends on how much sun and heat it receives and how healthy the Bougainvillea plant is.

Typically, a healthy Bougainvillea will bloom for about 3 weeks.

Bougainvilleas love sun and more sun.  They are heat tolerant and the hotter the better.  At the very minimum Bougainvilleas need at least 5 hours of direct sunlight.

Desert flowering vines
Bougainvillea pink leaves and white flowers

Supply your Bougainvillea with regular monthly fertilization.  Nitrogen and phosphates are critical to flowering.  One of the best Bougainvillea fertilizers I’ve come across so far is BOUGAIN.

Pink flowers on Bougainvillea plants are leaves
large containers to grow Bougainvillea Plants

You can prune your Bougainvillea any time during the year because it does not affect bloom initiation.  If you want the Bougainvillea to grow up, then prune the outer branches.  If you want your Bougainvillea to grow out, then prune the new growth.  Trim your Bougainvillea drastically before bringing it inside for winter.

Bougainvillea tree plants
Bougainvilleas blooming in pots

Bougainvillea plants and vines have a BLOOM CYCLE followed by a rest cycle whether you trim them or not.

I recommend a little trim or pinching at the end of each Bougainvillea bloom cycle as it promotes more budding for the next one.  Our plants just ended a bloom cycle so I will be trimming Bougainvilleas this week.

Pruning Desert Bird of Paradise bushes and shrubs

flowering desert shrubs fern leaves Texas
AZ TX Desert Bushes with Red Orange Flowers fern leaves

When should you prune desert bird of paradise shrubs?

Caesalpinia pulcherrima plant with red flowers fern leaves
Red Bird of Paradise shrubs orange flowers and fern leaves in the AZ TX desert

Pruning your Red Bird of Paradise,  Caesalpinia pulcherrima , which is what I have, should be in late winter or early spring.

Arizona bushes with red flowers
Red Bird of Paradise is sometimes called Mexican Bird of Paradise

I pruned mine a few weeks ago with a sharp pair of garden sheers. Many people cut these plants almost to the ground. I don’t, I prune my Red Bird of Paradise bushes about 18 inches from ground level.

Red Bird of Paradise cutting
Trimming Caesalpinia pulcherrima – pruning desert Bird of Paradise bushes

Red, Yellow and Mexican Bird of Paradise bushes, trees, and shrubs thrive in dry conditions; once established, they are drought tolerant plants, with fern looking leaves blooming with orange, red or yellow flowers.

Texas shrubs with orange red flowers
Red Desert Bird of Paradise, drought tolerant plants
bushes with bean pods orange flowers
Red Bird of Paradise shrub in AZ TX CA Mexico

The Yellow and Mexican Bird of Paradise need very little pruning.

Caesalpinia gilliesii is a drought tolerant desert shrub
Yellow Bird of Paradise has red stamens and yellow flowers

Caesalpinia gilliesii, or sometimes called Yellow Bird of Paradise or Desert Bird of Paradise is a shrub that has been naturalized in Texas;  planted as to give an effect of wild growth and may some year be considered native in the rest of the southwestern US.  In the photo below see the yellow bird of paradise, Caesalpinia gilliesii.

TX bush with yellow flowers and bean pods
Yellow flowering Bird of Paradise, Caesalpinia gilliesii

This yellow flowering desert shrub has clusters of beautiful yellow flowers with long red stamens.  The Yellow Bird of Paradise is a fast growing, upright shrub that is originally from Argentina.  Pruning your Yellow Bird of Paradise bush will encourage dense growth.

Caesalpinia gilliesii mistaken for Mexican Bird of Paradise
Yellow blooming Bird of Paradise desert bush in AZ TX CA

Yellow Bird of Paradise is drought tolerant and very durable, also cold and heat tolerant. Exposure to full sun is best for ALL Bird of Paradise Plants.   The yellow bird of paradise shrub is toxic.  

drought tolerant desert bush shrub
Yellow Bird of Paradise bush with Red Stamens bean pods

This Hardy Bird of Paradise shrub can grow to the height of 10 ft.

In the early Spring, prune to remove dead or damaged stems.  In the summer water your Yellow Bird of Paradise every week.  Water it deeply to stimulate an effective root system and tap-root.

The Mexican Bird of Paradise bush can be pruned and trained into a small tree, see photo below.

Bushes with round leaves yellow flowers desert
Mexican Bird of Paradise bush yellow flowers round leaves
desert shrub with yellow flowers in Arizona
Caesalpinia mexicana, Mexican Bird of Paradise with yellow flowers round leaves

In the photo ABOVE see the yellow flowers and rounded shape of the leaves on the Mexican Bird of Paradise bush or tree.

Caesalpinia mexicana yellow flowers
Mexican Bird of Paradise tree shrub with yellow flowers

Whether you pick the Yellow, Mexican or Red Bird of Paradise shrubs or trees,  you are certainly choosing a winner for your desert garden!

shrubs with bean pods red flowers
Desert bush with orange red yellow flowers, bean pods

Old Man hairy Cactus – a cactus with white hair

There are over 1,300 species of cacti with many forms and textures.  Today I am highlighting one of my favorites called The Old Man Cactus, Cephalocereus senilis.  This hairy column cactus gets its name from the white strands that grow long side the yellowish spikes.

Old Man Cactus with his white hair

With all this white hair The Old Man Cactus is fittingly named.  There is a purpose to the hair on this popular cactus.  First of all it conceals the sharp thorns and second it gives  shade from the Arizona desert sun.

cephalocereus senilis hairy cactus
Cephalocereus senilis, Old Man Cactus

This old man is sitting comfortably in the xeriscape area of our AZ yard.  Cacti are the best drought & heat tolerant plants.  Caring for this white haired cactus is easy as long as it receives plenty of sun and is not over watered.  I placed the Old Man Cactus in soil that is well drained.

If your Old Man Cactus is not growing hair it may need more sun.  The sunlight stimulates the hair growth on these desert plants.

Keep an eye out for mealy bugs.  If your cactus is infested you will see a white cottony area. There is a species of mealy bug that attacks the roots of cacti.  If your cactus is sick and not growing take it out of its container and check the roots.  Insecticides work fine to eliminate the mealy bugs and white patches they create.

white hairy cactus
Old Man of The Andes, hairy cactus

Another hairy cactus species we have is the Old Man of the Andes, Cleistocactus trollii above.  The Old Man of the Andes or Old Man of the Mountain is doing nicely in a pot with direct sunlight.

round cactus with pink flower
old lady cactus, Mammillaria hahniana – hairy cactus

The above photo is The Old Lady Cactus, Mammillaria haniana, that is gracing the area by our mailbox.

Old Man Cactus hairy
Old Man Cactus – hairy cactus

The Old Man Cactus is native to central Mexico and is a columnar species of the family Cactaceae.

It may take 10-18 years for the Old Man Cactus to bloom with white, red, or yellow flowers.  This white haired cactus has personality and is a very popular potted plant.  If you have your old man cactus indoors place it in a area of good sunlight.

The Thornless Chilean Mesquite is the best tree for Shade

The Shade from this Thornless Chilean MesquiteProsopis chilensis, creates a 10-15 degree cooler temperature in our yard. The dogs use the shade from the Mesquites to stay cool.

Below in the photo is a Hybrid Mesquite that is Thornless, called the Chilean Mesquite. By providing abundant shade, a lush green leaf canopy and graceful fissured brown trunks, Thornless Mesquites are another of the wonderful trees that dispelled the myth that desert landscapes were hot, barren, spiny and uninviting. Chilean or Thornless Mesquite trees are beautiful and one of the best shade trees for your yard.

best shade tree
Our Chilean Mesquite Tree makes the best shade tree

The Thornless (Chilean) Mesquite Tree pictured here is approximately 15 years old.

Shade is a welcome addition to all desert landscapes, xeriscaping, especially in the extreme heat of The Sonoran Desert.  The shade produced by Thornless Hybrid Mesquites, (Chileans) can range from filtered to quite dense which can inhibit the growth and flowering of some under-story plantings.

When deciding where to grow your Mesquite Tree, consider the ultimate shade that can be produced by these trees and how it will affect the growth and flowering of under-story plants. Also note from my experience that any plant, vine, or flower placed too close to the Mesquite will not do well.

chilean mesquite
The Shade from this Mesquite Tree creates a 10-15 degree cooler temperature in our yard.

At maturity, Chilean Mesquites can be up to 30 feet tall and as wide…with dome-shaped, spreading canopies, this Hybrid in the photo below is much taller.  They are cold resistant to 10 to 15 degrees F.  Thornless Mesquites are semi-deciduous, losing  a portion of their leaves in warmer winters in the Phoenix, Arizona and Palm Desert, California areas.

Las Vegas and Tucson, Arizona will have a little more leaf shed due to the lower winter temperatures. Leaves remaining through the winter are shed rapidly in spring just prior to bud break. Mesquite trees are often easily damaged or completely uprooted by the high winds associated with the summer rainy season.  Proper tree staking is essential!!

Below is a picture of our 15 year old Chilean Mesquite Tree, majestic, healthy and strong. This Tree is one of,  if not the tallest Mesquite Tree, or any tree in our area.

huge mesquite shade tree
The Best Shade Tree. The wind was blowing during the photo.

When it comes to shade – this Thornless Mesquite is the perfect tree for shade! It is also loved by the neighborhood birds.

Cactus flowers and blooms – blooming cactus pictures from our yard – Echinopsis

Flowering cactus belong to a tribe called Trichocereeae.  There are 25 members, species,  of these cacti including the night blooming variety.

One of our cacti had a gorgeous white flower bloom in the night.  Shadow stuck his nose in it as soon as I let him outside so this flower must smell wonderful!

Many people call the cactus in the photo below, the Easter lily cactus.  This beauty is part of the large genus called Echinopsis, which contains over 100 species of treelike to globose, (shape of a sphere or ball). 

flower cactus
night flowering cactus plant

Along with Shadow, bees and hummingbirds love these cactus blooms!

cactus white flower
Easter Lily Flowering cactus

Echinopsis cactus species are known for the great size of the flower tube.  See the size of the tube on the cactus photo below.  The Flowers from these cacti tend to be much larger than you would expect.

Echinopsis
white cactus flower with long tube

This cactus bloomed during the night.  We adore our garden surprises from our variety of cacti.  Sadly the flowers only last for a day.  The cactus flower shrivels up and by morning you won’t even know it was there.

Caring for your flowering cactus is quite easy.  Cactus should be grown in full sun and well drained soil.  The soil for Echinopsis cactus species should never be saturated, as the soft fibrous roots will rot if kept wet for any length of time.

Tortoises can not swim! – Sonoran desert tortoise – adopting a tortoise as a pet

Where do Desert Turtles / Tortoises live?  The Desert Tortoise  lives in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts of southeastern California, southern Nevada, south Tucson, Arizona into Mexico.  The Desert tortoise is more active in summer and seeks shade under large rocks and boulders.

tortoise can go over a year without drinking water. One of its defense mechanisms when picked up or disturbed is to release the contents of its bladder, which can deplete its water supply and can cause harm or death for the tortoise during a drought. Is it ok to pick up a tortoise?  NO.  The tortoise releases its bladder, (water storage).  DO NOT PICK UP TORTOISES.  Exception, if it is going to be hit by a car…

arizona turtle tortoise
Arizona Desert Tortoise

The Desert Tortoise is an herbivore that will reach 9 to 15 inches in upper shell length (carapace).   A carapace is a dorsal (upper) section of the shell or exoskeleton.  In turtles and tortoises, the belly or underside is called the plastron.

The Tortoise shell is used as protection against predators.  In certain species there is a hinge between the abdominal and pectoral scutes allowing the turtle to almost completely enclose itself.

Desert Tortoises like to eat Creosote bush, burrobush, mojave yucca and blackbrush.

desert tortoise
a neighborhood desert tortoise

In this picture above is one of the 3 desert tortoises that live by our home in southern Arizona, outside of Tucson.  Our tortoise buddy must have been in a battle with a predator and lost its right foot.  This Tortoise is still going strong and I look for him every summer.  I call him “Stumpy”.

Desert Tortoise
Arizona Desert Tortoise / Turtle – protected

Breeding captive tortoises is discouraged because of the number of young tortoises already available for adoption. Occasionally, an adult female tortoise may lay eggs in a backyard that results in tortoise hatchlings.   It is important that Tortoise hatchlings, babies are kept outside, so that their shell and bone development can benefit from sunlight.

Do tortoises swim?  NO, tortoises do not have web feet and cannot swim!

tucson tortoise turtle
Stumpy the tortoise eating

A desert Tortoise can live up to a 100 years old.

Arizona Game and Fish Department’s TURTLE PROJECT works to manage and conserve all six species of turtles/tortoises.  See the link below.

http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/turtlemanagement.shtml

They receive hundreds of young and adult Tortoises that have been displaced due to construction or raised in captivity.  The TURTLE PROJECT has Tortoises available for adoption.

Mourning Doves are vigilant parents – baby, mourning dove feeding – Part 2

The mourning dove babies are six days old.  I have been blessed to watch the dove parents safeguard and feed their hatchlings.  Think me silly or emotional?  Doesn’t matter.  If all human moms and dads were as attentive to their young as mourning doves, this world would be a better place.  With all due respect to the mourning doves, I will give short recaps of the hatchlings days.

Eyes still shut unaware of a new life…  See previous post, below, of newborn dove babies.

http://tjsgarden.com/2012/08/05/mourning-doves-eggs-hatching-baby-chicks-incubation-feeding/

hanging planter as dove nest
doves nest in the hanging planter

A male and a female mourning dove, turtle dove, found love in southern Arizona.  Their courtship includes the paired doves grooming each other’s feathers.  Later, the male takes his mate to potential locations for a nest.

Arizona sun can be very hot but no worries, the female Mourning Dove chooses the best nest site.  The male dove travels about, gathering material like twigs & grass to bring to the female for building the nest.

Our female mourning dove chose the top hanging basket on our front porch to lay her 2 white eggs.

Both parents incubate and nurse their squabs, nestlings.  The mom and dad take turns so perfectly as if to synchronize their watches.

new born baby doves
baby mourning doves

This new life of four days;  knowing nothing of this earth. Brother where are we?  What do we do?

Sister, just be.  Just be.  “Love will bring us health allowing us to grow and become strong.”

No worries sister, love is coming.

mourning dove feeding babies
daddy dove taking the day shift in the nest

I took the above picture through a window because I do not want to do anything that will scare the dove parents.  Mourning doves will abandon a nest and babies is they feel threatened.

Daddy mourning dove arrives in the early morning to relieve mom and take the day shift.  The male dove arrives approximately 7am and does the later switch with mom about 5pm.

Mourning Doves eat mostly seeds, but the young are fed crop milk from their parents.

What is the food the female dove feeds to her babies?  Mourning dove birds have an extra lining, called a crop or croup,  that is near the throat.  The dove’s food is temporarily stored in the crop before digestion.

In Mourning Doves the secretion in the lining of the crop produces crop milk that is regurgitated for the young doves.

mom mourning dove
female mourning dove watching her nest

While dad is babysitting the two youngsters and tidying up the nest, mom keeps a watchful eye across the garden.

Mrs. Mourning Dove tries several locations in the yard until she finds the perfect area to have full view of her cherished family.

A male white winged dove landed on the ground and the female mourning dove turned into SUPER MOM.  In a split second and without fear she flew down to defend her territory.

Female Mourning Doves are much smaller than White Winged Doves especially the male dove birds.  I let the dogs out to scare the intruder away.  The mourning doves and our dogs seem to have a mutual respect for one another.

mourning doves 4 days old
dove hatchlings in their nest

One of the squabs, dove babies, is bigger and more alert.  Hopefully it is a male, female difference?   I yearn for these young mourning doves to be healthy and strong enough to survive.   These newborns deserve an opportunity to experience their life and God’s creation.  xxoo

Part 3 is in the making…..   stay tuned!!!