Growing Quince (Cydonia) from Seed

The following question was forwarded to me by Dr. Marisa Thompson, New Mexico State University (NMSU) Extension Horticulture Specialist (see, who hosted a quince harvest day at the NMSU Los Lunas Agriculture Science Center in December, 2021. Many volunteers who had helped Dr. Thompson through the summer and some other people participated in the harvest. We talked a while about growing quince (Cydonia) from seed taken from the fruit harvested:

From Debbie, one of Dr. Thompson’s volunteers:

How are you doing? Do you remember when we harvested quince last fall?  Well, I saved the seeds in the refrigerator and now they are sprouting, Yay.  My problem is that I do not remember what Curtis Smith said on how to plant them. Can you get that information for me or send me a link on what to do next?  

Thank you


The seeds should be “stratified’, that is treated to cold (approximately 40 degree F), moist storage for 6 to 8 weeks before planting. This may be accomplished in a refrigerator, or the seeds may be planted outdoors and kept moist. Outdoors will it will take longer to fulfill the seeds’ “chilling requirement” (needed length of exposure to cold temperatures required to sprout). I place my seeds on moist paper towels in resealable plastic bags in the refrigerator. Other people put them in moist sand in the refrigerator. Debbie’s seeds had begun sprouting in the refrigerator and she was asking what to do next.

My “trick”, what I have done in the past, with quince (apricot, rose, apple, and other) seeds after they have begun sprouting in the refrigerator is to carefully transplant them to moist potting soil in a large clean, reused styrofoam cup, or 4 to 6 inch flower pot. I cover the seed with moist soil so that the root points downward. If leaves have developed I leave those leaves above the potting soil. I keep the potting soil moist and put the new plant in a sunny window or under led lamps until the chance of freezing has past. I can then transplant the container grown seedlings outdoors at my convenience. The longer I leave it in the pot, the better the root development, but also the greater the chance of circling roots if I leave it too long. My first quince stayed in a large styrofoam cup for 5 years (way too long), but it exploded with growth when I planted it outdoors. Plants grown in this manner are quite forgiving if their basic needs are met (adequate water and light).

 In October, 2020, I planted seed from flowering quince (Chanomeles – not the edible quince), “stratifying” them (cold moist storage in the refrigerator in resealable plastic bags on moist paper towels) for several months until roots began to appear. By February, 2021, they had begun to sprout and I did what I described above, putting them in 6 inch pots. Then in the summer I planted most of them outside. They are now (March, 2022) showing signs of resuming growth. Two of them (the smallest ones) I kept in the pots in the garage over the winter, watering as needed, until mid-February. I then moved them to a bright, warm, sunroom and within two weeks they had begun growing. I will plant them outside this spring. 

I recently planted an apricot seed (pit not removed) that I stratified last summer. It had developed numerous roots and a shoot with blanched leaves (no chlorophyll developed in the refrigerator where I had kept it too long), but it was healthy. The resealable plastic bag had kept the paper towel and roots moist. After potting into a 6 inch pot, I placed it under an led lamp on the sun porch. It has greened up and is beginning to grow. I’ll be planting it outside in late April or early May.

Growing many temperate zone plants from seed is quite easy if you understand their need for the cold, moist pretreatment to simulate their exposure to winter conditions. They will not sprout without this because this is a mechanism to prevent them from sprouting too early and then being killed by cold winter temperatures. It is also important to understand that some of these will not be “true to type”. Due to cross pollination, the seedling will usually not produce fruit exactly like the parent fruit from which you took the seeds. Some will produce very poor quality fruit; however others will be of good quality. There is even the chance that you will have a superior fruit, better than the parent. Some, like the quince, will be of good quality. I hope you have fun producing your own new plants from seed you save from temperate zone fruits. Oh yes, it may take from 3 to 7 years, or longer, for some seedlings to begin bearing fruit.

Garden Phenology 2021

It has been a while since I posted about Garden Phenology. I have noticed that the differences from year to year are usually only a few days in the flowering and beginning of growth of plants in my garden. The Phenology I post today will include the 2021 records and records back to 2017. Like the 2018 Phenology page I include some activities in the garden so that this is also a garden calendar.

Garden Phenology 2021

Jan. 31 daffodil leaves first appear

Feb. 2 wood hyacinth leaves appearing

Feb. 8 Santa Rosa plums buds swelling, showing green color, both east side and west side trees

Feb. 9 Spring Satin Plumcot buds swelling, showing green color

Feb. 20 Grape hyacinth flowers appearing in the leaves

Feb. 24 Balaton cherry (east side wall) buds swelling

Feb. 24 Black currant buds swelling

Feb. 26 Red Heart plum buds swelling

Feb. 27 Quince (west side) buds swelling

March 3 Apricot buds swelling

March 4 Grape hyacinth blooming, purple-leaf plum (east side) buds swelling

March 5 Oriental pears buds swelling (west side)

March 6 ‘Carmine Jewel’ bush cherry, persimmon, plums (Carol’s house) buds swelling

March 7 ‘Aromatnaya’ quince (east side) buds swelling

March 8 Lilac buds swelling, showing green

March 9 Red peonies sprouting, ‘Santa Rosa’ plum (east side) first bloom open

March 11 Apricot first bloom open; ‘Pineapple’ quince buds swelling

March 13 Old apple tree buds swelling

March 14 ‘Spring Satin’ plumcot first flower open

March 15 Bartlett (semi-dwrf) pear buds swelling

March 22 Littleleaf mockorange buds swelling; Red heart plum flowers open

March 29 Wood hyacinth first blossom spike visible deep in foliage

March 30 20th century Asian Pear, Pyrus ‘Nijisseki” first blossom open; Golden current blossoms open

April 1 Concord grape (front yard) buds swelling; Hosui Asian Pear flowers open

April 2 Mockorange buds swelling; Fragrant ash buds swelling

April 3 ‘Honey Crips’ apple buds swelling

April 5 Quince (west side) blossoms open; apple blossoms open

April 7 ‘Bianca’ grape buds swelling

April 8 Lilac blossoms opening; ‘Catawba’ grape buds swelling; Dwarf False Indigo buds swelling; Desert                 Willow buds swelling; New Mexico Olive buds swelling for real!, Wood hyacinth blooming in                 entryway.

April 10 ‘Balaton’ sour cherry blossoms open

April 13 Chinese Pistache buds swelling; ‘Regant’ grape and ‘Flame’ grape buds swelling; blackberry        leaves out; iris bloom stalks coming up

April 23 Iris beginning to bloom

Garden Phenology 2020

Feb. 13 – daffodil leaves up (2”)

Feb. 24 – (after my return from Moldova) – ‘Santa Rosa’ plum buds swelling;

                Plumcot buds swelling;

                Golden currant buds swelling

Feb. 27 – Purple leaf plum and Redheart buds just beginning to swell;

                quince (NW corner) buds swelling

Mar. 3 – Oriental Pear buds swelling;

                ‘Redheart’ plum buds swelling;

                Lilac buds swelling;

                ‘Santa Rosa’ plum (east) blossoms beginning to open

Mar. 4 – Apricot buds swelling;

                Purple leaf plum buds swelling;

                ‘Aromatnaya’ and ‘Pineapple’ quince buds swelling;

                daffodil blossom opening;

                red peony sprouts appearing

Mar. 10 – Littleleaf Mockorange buds swelling;

                grape hyacinth blooming;

                aspen catkins coming out

Mar. 11 – ‘Balaton’ pie cherry buds swelling

Mar. 12 – Apple buds swelling;

                ‘Carmine Jewel’ bush cherry at Carol’s house buds swelling

Mar. 14 – white peony sprouts appearing

Mar. 21 – Golden currants blooming

Mar. 22 – Hops sprouting from ground

Mar. 23 – Red oak catkins coming out

                New Mexico olive buds swelling

                Golden Rain tree (Carol’s yard) leaves appearing

Mar. 27 – Fragrant ash buds swelling

Mar. 29 – Chinese pistache buds swelling

                Zoysia grass showing some green growth

Mar. 30 – Blue sage sprouting from the ground

                Quince (‘Crimea’),  west side, blooms opening

                Wood hyacinth first bloom

Mar. 31 – Bartlet pear blossoms opening

April 1 – Asparagus shoots appearing

                ‘Bianca’ grape buds swelling

April 2 – Apple blossoms opening (original unknown tree)

                ‘Honey Crisp’ apple buds starting to open

April 4 – ‘Catawba’ grape buds swelling

                Desert willow buds swelling

                Lilac blossoms opening

April 5 – ‘Regant’ grape buds swelling

                ‘Concord’ grape (back yard) buds swelling

                ‘Flame’ grape buds swelling

                ‘Balaton’ tart cherry blossoms opening

                Iris bloom stalks coming up

April 11 – Dwarf false indigo buds swelling

April 14 – hard freeze last night (23F).  Grapes in back yard burned badly, ‘Catawba’ least damaged.  Concord in front slight damage.

April 15 – hard freeze last night (20F).  Now watching to see if I lost most of my plums, apples, pears, quince, maybe even golden currants

April 17 – Iris beginning to bloom

April 25 – Mustang grape buds swelling; ‘Bianca’ grape buds redeveloping up the stem; ‘Regent’ grape bud growing at base of plant; North garden ‘Concord’ grapes growing from base and some from up the stem; ‘Muscat’ grapes budding out again up the vines; ‘Flame’ grape some sprouting from the base, some up the vines a little

Garden Phenology 2019

Feb. 1 – daffodil leaves have appeared

Feb. 4 – Santa Rosa plum buds swelling, showing a little green;

                wood hyacinth leaves have appeared

Feb. 28 – Apricot flower buds swelling

                Purple leaf plum buds swelling

                Quince (west) buds swelling

March 5 – Spring satin plumcot buds beginning to swell

March 7 – Grape hyacinth blossoms beginning to open

                Santa Rosa plums (west) beginning to open

                Lilac buds green and swelling

                Bartlet pear (semi-dwarf) buds swelling

March 8 – Quince ‘Aromatnaya’ buds swelling

                Quince ‘Pineapple’ buds swelling

                Cherry ‘Balaton’ buds swelling

                Plum ‘Redheart’ buds swelling

March 9 – Apricot blossoms opening

                Hops sprouting

                Lilac buds open to show panicles

March 18 – Red peony sprouting

March 20 – Red oak and Shumard oak buds swelling

March 22 – Littleleaf mockorange buds swelling

March 25 – Asparagus growing

                Black currant flowers open

                Zoysia grass turning green under the brown

March 27 – Red oak catkins out

                Blue sage (front yard) sprouting

March 29 – Fragrant ash buds showing green

March 30 – Concord grapes (front yard) buds breaking

                ‘Honey Crisp’ buds opening

                Oriental ‘Nijisseki’  pear flowers opening

                White peony sprouting

March 31 – Wood hyacinth (front porch) blooming

                ‘Bartlett pear’ (semi-dwarf – blossoms opening

April 1 – Quince (west side) flowers opening

April 2 – ‘Bianca’ grape buds swelling

                ‘Catawba’ grape buds swelling

April 3 – Apple blossoms opening (large tree suckers)

                Chinese pistache buds swelling

April 5 – desert willow buds swelling

April 6 – lilac blossoms opening

                ‘Balaton’ sour cherry flowers opening

April 8 – ‘Regant’ grape buds swelling

                ‘Flame’ grape buds swelling

April 18 – ‘Mustang’ grape buds swelling

                ‘Aromatnaya’ quince flower open

April 19 – first iris blossom open

                Mustang grape buds swelling

                Anisacanthos buds swelling

April 23 – pecan (rootstock?) buds swelling

Garden Phenology 2018

Jan. 30  – wood hyacinth leaves appeared in entryway garden

Feb. 5 – Santa Rosa plum buds swelling, showing some green

Feb. 6 – Daffodil leaves appearing in front yard under the oak tree

Feb. 10 – Quince buds swelling, scales opening at the tip of some buds

Feb. 12 – Golden currant buds swelling

Feb. 26 – Apricot buds beginning to swell.  Quince buds expanding in spite of low temperatures as low as 12 F.  Santa Rosa plum flower buds do not appear to be injured by the 12 F last night.

Feb. 28 – Lilac buds swelling. Quince buds “exploding”! Santa Rosa plum buds beginning to show white (petals).

March 1 – Purple-leaf plum buds beginning to swell – a bright purple bud obvious near the base of the small plant (1 ft. high).

March 3 – Daffodils begin opening flowers

March 5 – Pear buds swelling (opening at the tip); Santa Rosa plum blossoms beginning to open

March 8 – Apricot blossoms beginning to open.  Santa Rosa plums show no injury from the cold weather.

March 10 – Grape hyacinths blooming

March 12 – Asparagus coming up

March 14 – Lilac buds opening to show panicles

March 16 – Redheart plum (planted Feb. 28) buds swelling; pear flower buds revealed in opening buds; quince flower buds revealed above new leaves in opening buds; golden currant flower buds revealed.

March 19 – Balaton pie cherry buds beginning to swell.  It was 26F in the garden last night, but the buds are still swelling. Red peony shoots appearing above ground.

March 20 – Hops are sprouting.

March 21 – Texas red oak and Shumard oak buds swelling.

March 23 – Littleleaf mockorange (Philadelphus microphyllus) and fragrant ash (Fraxinus cuspidate) buds are swelling; apple buds (one of the varieties on the big backyard tree) has buds opening – other apples not yet opening; dwarf North Star pie cherry buds beginning to expand; first golden currant flowers opened.

March 24 – White peony shoots appearing.

March 25 – Blue sage (Salvia azurea) starting to appear in front yard.

March 26 – First quince blossoms opened, black centers may indicate cold damage; first Oriental pear blossoms opened, they look good, but low temperatures coming.

March 30 – Texas red oak catkins formed

March 31 – Concord grape buds swelling; Desert willow buds beginning to swell; Zoysia grass sprouting. Dwarf Bartlett pear buds swelling.

April 1 – Lakota pecan buds swelling.

April 2 – Honeycrisp apple buds swelling,  Anisacanthus quadrifidus var wrightii buds swelling.

April 3 – Dwarf bearded iris blossom scapes developing; Texas red oak and “Shumard’ oak leaves appearing; Leucophyllum leaves developing; first chocolate flower blossom opened.

April 4 – New Mexico olive (Forestiera neomexicana) buds swelling.

April 5 – ‘Regent’ grape buds swelling.

April 6 – Chinese pistache buds swelling; Mexican evening primrose (Oenothera Berlandieri) blossom open.

April 7 – ‘Flame’ and ‘Catawba’ grape buds swelling.

April 9 – ‘Balaton’ tart cherry flowers open.

April 11 – ‘Aromatnaya’ quince flower open.

April 12 – ‘North Star’ tart cherry flowers open; Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum) blooming; Mimosa (Albissia julibrisin) leaves forming.

April 16 – Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) leaf buds opening.

April 18 – Fragrant ash (Fraxinus cuspidata) flowers open.  Frost (26F) damaged ‘Lakota’ pecan, ‘Flame’ grape, ‘Bianca’ grape, ‘Regent’ grape – all had new tender shoots.  All tender shoots on the pecan were damaged, maybe it will be able to resprout; only some of the tender shoots on the grapes were damaged, so they should regrow and produce a crop this year.

April 26 – One codling moth in pheromone trap in apple tree; ‘Lakota’ pecan auxiliary buds below freeze killed shoots and dormant buds that had not begun growing are swelling and showing green – the pecan may survive!

Garden Phenology 2017

Feb. 6    – daffodils sprouting in front yard

Feb. 7    – Santa Rosa plum buds swelling, showing white

Feb. 16 – Quince flower buds swelling

–  Black current buds swelling

Feb. 17 – Apricot buds showing pink

Feb. 19 – daffodil flower buds show in center of foliage

Feb. 22 – Black current leaves beginning to expand

March 1 – Santa Rosa plum blossoms beginning to open

March 4 – Lilac blossoms beginning to expand, showing panicle

March 5 – Apricot blooms opening

March 8 – Daffodils under oak tree in front blooming

                – Grape hyacinth next to planter box blooming

                – Concord grape layers in pots show buds swelling, no swelling on other Concords or other grapes

March 9 – Hops coming up, still under mulch

                – onion transplants arrived from Dixondale Farms

March 12 – Sour cherry buds swelling, showing green

                – large apple tree buds swelling, showing green

                – wood hyacinth inflorescence visible deep in foliage

                – plum leaves forming

                – apricot leaves beginning to form

March 13 – red peonies coming up

                – black currant flower buds evident

                – quince flower bud visible at tip of new growths

March 14 – Bartlett pear buds swelling

                – grape buds swelling

March 16 – Black currant flowers opening

                – Oriental pear flowers opening

March 17 – planted onions

March 18 – Flowering ash buds beginning to show green

                – Quince flowers pink, not yet open

                – finished planting onions

March 19 – Lilac first florets open

                – Quince flowers open

March 20 – Philadelphus microphyllus leaves appearing

                – Desert willow leaves appearing

                – Blackberry ‘Chester’ leaves appearing

March 21 – Bartlett pear blossoms opening

March 22 – Apple blossoms opening

                – Chocolate flower open

March 27 – Balaton sour cherry blossom open

March 29 – Star of Bethlehem first flower opened

                – Blue salvia coming up

March 21 – White peony coming up

April 4 – North Star sour cherry blossoms opened

April 5 – hard freeze – 20F; apple blossoms, pear blossoms, some cherry, lilac blossoms turned brown!

April 10 – New Mexico olive (Foresteria neomexicana) transplanted from backyard to side yard a month ago is showing green in the buds.

April 11 – Fragrant ash (Fraxinus cuspidata) flowers turning white

April 12 – blue salvia sprouting (again after being frozen down)

April 18 – Crepe Myrtle buds breaking

April 21 – sprayed spinosad – apples, pears, currants

April 26 – Joy died

May 1 – sprayed spinosad – apples, pears, currants

Cottonwood tree suckers invading lawn from neighbor’s recently cut cottonwood tree

I received a question from a New Mexico County Extension agent confirming the identity and potential solutions to a problem. This is an advantage of the Cooperative Extension Service Program – numerous resources to diagnose, confirm, identify, and solve problems. I am glad Sara reached out, it shows she is working to provide the best possible information.

Do these look like Cottonwood??… I was inclined to think Bradford pear, but maybe I am wrong. Also do you have any advice on how to get rid of it? – Sara Moran, Extension Agent

Sara had received the following request from a homeowner with cottonwood sprouts infesting her lawn:

Attached are photos of runners that are popping up around my home.  They are a result of my neighbors two houses down having a cottonwood cut down (non-cotton making type).  There is one house between my home and the neighbor’s home who had the tree removed.  The owners of the three homes (theirs, mine, and the neighbor in between us) are fighting the battle together.  The photos included show where it they are coming up in my lawn, but they are also coming up near the foundation of the home and lifting weed barriers.  They grow significantly in 48 hours.  We are pulling them as soon as they come up, but your guidance and help with how to best attack this problem will be greatly appreciated.

Cottonwood tree suckers in lawn
Suckers from nearby cottonwood tree
Cottonwood tree suckers pulled from lawn
Cottonwood tree suckers removed from lawn
Closeup of cottonwood suckers pulled from lawn
Closeup of cottonwood tree suckers removed from lawn

My comment to Sara, for the homeowner, was:

I think it is cottonwood.  This is characteristic of cottonwood in an area where a cottonwood tree has been cut down.  Sprouts develop from the roots.  It is possible for other types of trees to do this, but less common, and usually not as widespread through a lawn.  Regardless of which type of tree, the treatment will be the same.

Herbicide management

If the homeowner doesn’t object to chemicals (herbicides), a broadleaf, translocated, herbicide (2,4 – D based and similar lawn herbicides to kill broadleaf weeds) applied as a spot spray to the leaves of the tree sprouts in the lawn (be careful as you get near, in the root zone of desired trees and shrubs).  Mix the chemical according to directions, apply late in the evening or early in the morning to slow drying and allow more absorption.  The chemical should translocate into the roots, especially now in late summer and fall, and kill a portion of the roots remaining underground – there may be more sprouts, but this will reduce the number.  Irrigate well before applying the chemical and then wait a couple of days before irrigating again to minimize leaching into the soil and being absorbed by desirable broadleaf plants.

Non-chemical/Manual Management

If the homeowner objects to using herbicides and other chemicals, manually dig with a long spade (sharpshooter/tile spade) to remove as much of the clump and source roots as possible and to do minimum damage to the grass.  Shove the spade deeply into the ground to cut the sprouts and root (if possible) and pull the clump of sprouts up.  Press the sod back.  Water well before doing this to facilitate cutting and pulling the clump.  Then lightly water the sod that was pressed back down to facilitate new root development.

Some Basic Science:

1 – Botany – Morphology: the leaves in the photograph do appear to be those of a cottonwood tree. Cottonwood trees often renew themselves in natural settings by reproducing by means of root suckers produced by adventitious buds formed on roots. This is not desirable in home landscape settings.

2. Plant Physiology: In late summer and into the autumn the tree translocates materials produced in the leaves to the roots more than at other seasons as the tree prepares for winter and stores food in the trunk and roots. When you apply herbicides applied at this season, the chemicals will be more translocate to the roots and more effectively control the development of sprouts. This will not preclude the development of sprouts next year, but it should help speed the depletion of food stored in roots and used to produce sprouts in the future.

3. Plant Physiology: When you remove of the newly formed leaves and shoots it is beneficial, even if when you do it manually by digging. The tree used stored foods to produce the leaves and shoots. If you remove the new leaves before they can begin storing food in the roots (first two weeks or so), the food stored in the roots will eventually be depleted and sprout formation will slow and ultimately cease.

4. Root morphology: The roots and sprouts will not grow under the foundation of a house in the arid Southwest unless there is water under the foundation. This is most often caused by over-watering or leaking plumbing. If you do not have leaking plumbing and do not water sufficiently for water to collect under your house, the roots should not cause a problem.

5. Plant Physiology: The sprouts coming up under weed barrier may be a nuisance, but this is good for your purpose. Unless light penetrates the weed barrier, the new sprouts will not be able to photosynthesize and put food into storage. These sprouts will only draw resources from the root, more rapidly depleting the food stored there and then ultimately die. This will help you reach an end to the problem more rapidly. Do not remove the weed barrier or the new sprouts under the weed barrier unless the sprouts create a tripping hazard in your landscape.

Flanders Poppies

Flanders poppies (corn poppies – Papaver rhoeas) are blooming in my yard. For more than 10 years I have watched them moving through my neighborhood in Albuqueque. I first noticed them in my church parking lot and a vacant lot about 5 city blocks east of my home. They moved to the west, against the prevailing winds and now I have seen them miles to the west of where I first noticed them. They are pretty, they have historic significance (see the poem below), but they can be somewhat weedy. They are winter annuals, sprouting in the winter, blooming in the spring, shedding their seeds, and then dying by the heat of summer (here in Albuquerque).

These are the flowers written about during WWI by Canadian John McCrae –

In Flanders Fields
Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae
Canadian physician in WWI

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Interviewed by Larry Ahrens on KCHF – time to irrigate trees and shrubs.

This morning I was honored to be interviewed by Larry Ahrens on KCHF tv’s “Coffee and Conversation with Frank and Larry”. He asked about things to do at this time of year (early March) in Albuquerque gardens. We discussed soil preparation, garden planning, and the importance of seeing that there is moisture in the soil to a depth of 2 to 3 feet for trees and shrubs. This is the time of year that tree and shrub buds are beginning to swell, indicating that they have broken dormancy and are producing hormones (auxins) that translocate to plant roots to stimulate root growth. It is important that these tender new roots, hair roots, and root hairs are produced in adequately moist soil to prevent their desiccation and death. In a few weeks leaves, flowers, and new growth will be produced in the branches of the tree and those new roots must be alive to send moisture to support the new growth. This past winter was pretty good as far as moisture in many places, but January, February, and March are often dry months, so it is up to us to provide the moisture necessary for the new roots and later for the new growth in the branches. Probing the soil with a soil moisture probe or irrigating now are ways to be sure these new roots get a good start in life.

When I check the depth of soil moisture in my garden with a soil moisture probe this morning, I discovered the soil was moist to a depth of 1.5 to 2.5 feet in areas where I have not irrigated or where have not irrigated since January. In areas that I irrigated in February, the soil was moist to a depth of 2.5 to 3.5 feet. Even though the winter provided some precipitation in my garden, it is drier than I thought, I am glad that I did irrigate some during January and February. It is time to begin irrigating again.

Silverleaf nightshade – the beauty is a beast

Attractive flower of silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade flower

Silverleaf nightshade is a beautiful plant, but the beauty is a beast!  The silver leaves are attractive, but their blue flowers with prominent yellow stamens attract a lot of attention.




This plant’s attractive characteristics hide some unattractive features.  It is related to deadly nightshade and is itself listed among  plants toxic to both humans and livestock.  More than that, it is listed as a noxious weed in several states and acknowledged as a weed in most others.  It is, however, a relative of tomatoes, tomatoes, and chiles.  These are all members of the Nightshade family, Solanaceae, and most members of this family do contain toxic elements in some of the plant parts.

Spines on stems of silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade spines

If that was not enough it produces spines on most above ground parts of the plants.  While some plants produce more spines than others, and it has been reported that plants growing in humid climates produce few or no spines, for gardeners in the Southwest, this plant produces some spiny problems.


There are even spines on unopened flowers of silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade spines on unopened flowers

The unopened flower buds produce spines.





Spent flowers, leaves, stems, buds of silverleaf nightshade have spines
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade spines on all parts

The spent flowers have spines. Spines can be found on leaves, buds, everywhere above ground!





There are spines on fruit of silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade spines on fruit

Even the fruit produce spines on their  sepals.





Clump of interconnected silverleaf nightshade plants
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade cluster of interconnected plants

Silverleaf nightshade is a weed with a deep taproot that allows it to survive in very arid environments.  Even a small piece of root left in the soil will generate a new plant.  Plants in a clump are often attached to each other by underground stems, so that they can help support each other.  This makes them survivors, it also makes them weeds.


As weeds we try to remove them, but be careful, the spines easily break after piercing your skin and become difficult to remove.  These spines can sometimes even penetrate leather garden gloves!

So can there be anything good said about these plants?  Well, they are beautiful, but the beauty is a beast!  They are toxic, but like many toxic plants, the toxic principles can be curative when used properly.  They were used medicinally and as beneficial plants by native people.  They were even able able to use the ground, dried, fruit to curdle milk to make cheese.

Never the less, the beauty is a beast!

Golden Currants consistent production even in drought

Ribes aureum – Golden currant fruit ready for harvest

Golden Currants, Ribes aureum, are a reliable, consistent producer in my garden.  The black berries must be picked individually by hand, but make a delicious jam or preserves.  In this drought year when the garden has received only about 2 inches of precipitation since October, none from October to January and none in April, it still made a crop.  I did irrigate a few times, but only minimally.

Ribes aureum – Golden currant fruit many ready for harvest even after over 2 gallons of berries harvested

Even after harvesting over 2 gallons from a few plants, there is much more to harvest.

Birds and a berry moth (their larvae) are the primary problems, but I still have a bountiful harvest of tasty berries.



Golden Currant blossoms
Ribes aureum flowers

Fragrant golden flowers followed by abundant harvest, even in times of drought, make these reliable producers a good choice for gardens in New Mexico.

Black currents fruit of the Golden Currant - Ribes aureum
Ribes aureum – Golden Currant fruit ready to harvest

Hare barley is a harmful plant

Hare barley seed heads showing awns that can be harmful to pets
Hare barley seed heads showing awns

Hare barley and some other grasses,  such as foxtail barley and purple three awn grass, have characteristics that can be harmful to pets.  These grasses are harmful plants that have awns, long threadlike extensions from the florets in the seed head.  These awn have very small backward angled spines.  These awn can enter a pets eyes, nostrils, ears, or even penetrate their skin.  The backward spines prevent the awns from working out the way they entered, they only work deeper into the eyes, nostrils, ears, or skin.  A few years ago my pet Brittany, Joy, had one enter between her toes and work deeply into her paw.  She began limping and the veterinarian had to extract the awn.  This is when I learned that this is an extremely common problem for pets.

Hare barley seed heads developing
Hare Barley

In a year like this year when there has been little rain (just over 1 inch from October to late April), anything green seems to be a blessing, but that may not be the case, especially if you have pets.  In garden hare barley and foxtail barley are sprouting and the hare barley is beginning to produce seed heads.  I think I have eliminated purple three awn grass from my garden, but I will be watching for it.  All these grasses are pretty, so it is tempting to allow them to remain, but if you have pets it is best to eliminate these grasses.

There are herbicides labeled for management of these grass weeds and other harmful plants, but if you are like me and have pets you may prefer to use manual means of weed management.  Hoeing them when they first appear in late winter is helpful.  If they are numerous and you cannot manage them by hoeing, you can use a torch to burn them, but be careful that you do not start a fire or damage desirable nearby plants.  This year’s drought has been a blessing in limiting the number of plants that are growing to a relatively manageable few in my garden.  I have been pulling, digging, and hoeing them for several months.  Now, as the seed heads form and I can specifically identify the worst of the weed grasses, those with harmful awns, I can specifically target those plants.


I’m a little late with this.  The renewing has begun!



The world is still and quiet out

The trees their leaves are now without

Just sticks of gray and brown to see

And Winter now depresses me.


The flowers long ago did die

The leaves turned brown with somber sigh.

The silence of the falling snow

Has hushed the sound of plants that grow.


Alone and sad I now recall

The life I saw ‘fore leaves did fall.

In crushing pain I now await

The return of Spring’s appointed date.


A cluster of white oriental pear blossoms with pink stamens against a blue sky and out of focus pine tree behind the blossoms
Oriental pear blossoms

And then, oh joy, will life arise

The gift of God will feast my eyes

As gold, then green adorns the tree

And flowers in the meadows be.


Pink quince blossoms and pubescent new quince leaves
Quince blossoms

And though I know of winter’s need,

To rest the life and cool the seed,

I still rejoice when spring does show

And melt away the winter snow.


Fresh food I’ll have to please my taste

Such pleasure after winter’s wait.

A time of joy when life anew.

And Easter calls to mind the Truth.



How to see the bright side garden problems

There is an old song “Count your blessings.”  I was thinking of this and its relevance to gardening.  There are many ways it is relevant; there are many blessings to be gained from gardening.  However, in an unusually dry year is there a blessing?  A “bright side”?

As I was looking at my garden, the dust, the rock-hard, dry soil, and the need to irrigate, I began to notice the bright side – there are very few weeds growing in my garden.  Where I irrigate there will be weeds, but that is where I will need to manage weeds – another bright side!  Where I do not irrigate, there will be no, or at least, few weeds.

So in this dry year, I will count my blessings, I will see the bright side.  Then when the rains do come I will enjoy the moisture and enjoy the silver lining to the clouds, literally and figuratively.  I will see the blessings!