Desert Sunflower Roulette

Gardening is a lot of fun, but it is also a lot of work. Based on my experience the work component can be more or less difficult depending upon the garden’s location. In the desert, there seems to be an ongoing struggle during the warmest months.

There are roadside sunflowers along the trails and highways of Sonoran Desert that seem to tolerate the harsh growing conditions. After seeing this desert-adjusted specimen growing in the Phoenix area, I decided to try to grow the more showy, standard sunflowers in our cultivated garden.

My main concern was the sun’s intensity. Heat is one thing, but the searing intensity of the sun’s rays is another. There can be a more than one hundred days with temperatures of one hundred degrees or more. The one factor in my favor is that our gardens receive irrigation and drought will not be a factor for this experiment.

With this idea in mind, I visited one of our local stores and purchased a package of mixed sunflower seeds. I wanted a selection that would perhaps offer up at least one variety that is less prone to fail under our extreme conditions.

The package indicates that the plants will bloom from summer to fall, but I did not anticipate that long a blooming season in the desert ecosystem.

This is our second year growing these sunflowers. Each spring we pour a selection into a container and make our choice of five random seeds. Once they become viable seedlings, we select the strongest three for final planting.

This year we had a false start because a large squirrel entered our courtyard and devoured our first group of sunflower seedlings. You can read about that HERE.

Bushy-tailed squirrels are not the only culprits in an area where nutrients and water are scarce. Birds, lizards and a variety of rodents prowl the premises looking for greenery to eat. Packrats are especially problematic because of their size and climbing ability.

Did I mention rabbits? There is an abundance of rabbits in our neighborhood and they constantly probe our gardens for weaknesses to exploit.

The situation is not insurmountable, but vigilance is the key. Every day I make the rounds of our gardens to check for damage or potential breeches in our “bulwarks.”

Last year we had two sunflowers from our chosen group that stood out.

This multi-headed beauty enhanced our front courtyard for a number of weeks.

Another seed produced a plant that yielded a single and rather unremarkable flower which was disappointing. Our last chosen seed graced our rear patio with an orange-hued flare. While it did not flower as long as the courtyard specimen, it did give us several nice blooms.

After the destruction of our initial plantings by the squirrel this year, I started additional sunflower seedlings. I was concerned that we missed the best growing window with moderate temperatures, but we had little to lose.

After careful cultivation and coddling, we were able to appreciate the fruits of our labor.

As we were about to leave for a one week, out-of town visit, we watched this one bud get larger and larger and hoped that it would bloom prior to our departure. Sure enough, the day before we left, the flower opened. The plant is a bit taller than I am in the picture above and considering that it is in a pot, I estimate it was 6’3″ tall; give or take.

The close up view (above) shows that there were more flowers to come and we hoped they would survive our time away. Upon our return a week later, we were greeted with this…

This morning, I was making the rounds in our front garden where we have two other sunflower specimens progressing toward their blooming stage and I noticed that there was some destruction on one of them.

We have cutter bees in our town and there is little gardeners can do to prevent their damage. They cut circular patterns in the leaves, but they are relatively small circles or semi-circular holes. I knew this was not their work.

Then I noticed these black dots on some lower leaves

and around some of the large buds heads.

This was a sure sign of a caterpillar, i.e. a larva of a butterfly or moth. Sure enough, I hunted it down and sent it packing! The plant will do fine as long as I continue to monitor the situation and prevent other significant damage. The caterpillar did not eat any of the buds, practically destroyed the one leaf pictured above, but did little else to the plant.

It was not all dismay and gloom with the courtyard sunflowers as this beauty opened this morning.

It was a deep, burnt orange color; nearly red. If it produces well, I might try to collect some seeds from it for next year although it may be cross-pollinated and not true to the mother plant. It would most likely have strong color.

I don’t know if we will continue to grow the showier cultivars of the sunflower family, but it has been fun and fills our mornings with hope that we will be greeted with yet another marvelous flower.


All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2019 –

The Queen Now Has A Crown!

Queens Wreath from 2015

Our Queen’s Wreath – 2015

Readers of JBRish who have been following along for a while might have read a bit about our Queen’s Wreath (Antigonon leptopus) vine (see links below). Up until recently, this plant has been a show stopper and then something happened…

The plant was just not filling out the way it did during the previous years. Instead of a full, swath of leaves and stems this what we saw.


Bare, sparse stems

A close up revealed how sparse the leaves where in relationship to the lush coat of heart-shaped leaves we anticipated.

closeup of sparse growth

It was only a vague shadow of its former glory and far from queen-like.

full side view - - sparse

Instead of the abundant bouquet of blooms in the first picture, this was the extent of the flowering.

single strand of paltry blooms

We examined the plant over time looking for insect damage, making sure the water was being amply applied and noting that we used the same fertilizing regimen of the past. At the base, the leaves were more lush so we looked more closely and then it hit us. Rabbits!

Rabbits were eating away at the base

Those pesky rabbits had decided that they now like the Queen’s Wreath and that it would become their salad bar. This was not an issue during the three or so seasons of beauty preceding this problem.

We knew what we had to do even though we didn’t relish the thought. Like other plants in our landscape, this would have to be rabbit-proofed. We erected a plastic barrier approximately thirty inches high.

a picture of the plastic fence

To completely thwart rabbits, some method needs to be used to keep them from digging under the barrier. Most of the time, having the “fencing” flat on the ground for several inches creating a lip and then topped with rocks will be discouraging enough. When done correctly, it forms a resistant border. (See yellow arrows below)

Fencing lip topped with rocks

We were sure to have the water supply located appropriately before fastening the barrier and now we had the fence around the entire plant. I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. I knew I had to do something with the existing plant material. Some flowering vines (as well as other plants) will react negatively to a severe trim and the bloom may be lost for the current gardening year.

After all of this trouble, I didn’t want to risk that so I hedged my bet and severely trimmed one side while only moderately trimming the other side in hopes of preserving some of the flowers for this current season.

Luckily the plant began to flourish as in the past and now, at the end of the season, both sides have evened out and the plant is showing why it is called Queen’s Wreath.

Queen's Wreath glorious once again

Sprays of flowers cover the vine

Beautiful, blooming Queen's Wreath

You have to admit, although small, the plethora of blooms do put on a show.

Closeup of coral blooms

We are hopeful that this will be a long-lasting resolution to the Queen’s Wreath’s care and provide years of charming color!


Showy Queen’s Wreath – October, 2015

Reinforced Trellis Support – Reduce Metal Fatigue


Read more gardening posts HERE


All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross 2014 – 2018 –

Capture Mood and Emotions in Photography

As the readers of JBRish know, I am not a professional photographer even though I really like photography and I appreciate the creativity of experienced professionals and more advanced amateurs.

I was reading through a number of blog posts the other day and I came across the article below:

8 Tips for Better Pet Photography

Although I am not generally interested in pet photography, I do like cats and dogs and there are some wonderful pictures included in this article. The main reason I am writing about this essay, however is because of the following picture which was part of the article.

young woman with pet dog

Doesn’t this photographer do a wonderful job in capturing the love and emotions being shared between this dog and the owner? This picture speaks to the viewer and conveys so much. The photograph is simply remarkable!

If you are interested in pet photography or if you would just like to view nice pictures of pets, I encourage you to read it:

8 Tips for Better Pet Photography

This picture is copyrighted by the original photographer with all rights reserved!