Friday, November 14, 2014

Dodging Bullets On My Corner of Katy

Gomphrena 'Fireworks'
When the reports first began to appear of a polar vortex swooping down upon south central Texas to wreak havoc and destruction in the form of a historically early freeze, the Head Gardener and I scoffed.  In 17 years on my corner of Katy, neither of us can remember the mercury dipping below freezing before December ... and we were unanimous in that.  That in itself is as rare as a freeze in November!  

'La Marne' rose, Country Girl mum, Salvia 'Henry Duelberg'
But as the forecast dipped lower and then lower again over the course of the week, I confess that we both began to wonder if perhaps we'd been too hasty in our judgment.  By mid-day yesterday, models were showing a sustained period - 3 to 6 hours - of temperatures in the 28 to 30 degree range.  The HG and I had to make a decision: did we unearth the frost cloth and old sheets from the depths of closets and the garage, then venture forth into the chilly and breezy afternoon to cover those plants which were not only tender, but valued?  

Coral vine
Readers, we did not.  We sat in our warm and comfy living room, read the latest Darling Dahlias cozy mystery from Susan Wittig Albert and told ourselves that we'd leave the fate of the garden up to Mother Nature.  The frost cloth and sheets remained in the closet and garage, and we remained warm and comfy.  

Ribbon Bush, Hypoestes aristata
And we chose well ... The HG's first thought upon waking was to check the temperature.  37 degrees is unseasonably cold but not cold enough to damage most of the plants on my corner of Katy.  We haven't gone walkabout yet to survey the garden but when we do, we don't expect to find anything of real concern.  We were ready to say goodbye to the coleus, anyway!
Coleus after being slapped around by Mother Nature

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Where We've Been ... and Where We're Going: July 2014

Bees do love the poppies!
When last we posted, a brief report for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day back in April, the Head Gardener and I were in serious spring gardening mode.  Much to our delight, spring hung around longer than usual throughout the Houston area and the temperatures were remarkably pleasant in May and even into June.  
Rudbeckias blooming at Industrial Country Market on
Highway 71 West going towards Austin

We took full advantage of the balmy weather in May.  In the midst of cleaning out spent spring annuals, pulling weeds and spreading compost, the HG also talked me into enlarging the paths in the back garden, which necessitated moving moss rocks around and toting bags of decomposed granite from the truck to the back.  She SAID that reducing the beds in size would make them easier to maintain and she was unanimous in that.  As frequently happens with these ideas of hers, we traded future ease of maintenance for some damned hard work in the here and now.  First my left knee and hip began complaining and once they'd settled down, the right knee joined the party.  I keep telling her we should hire some stronger younger helpers but she refuses to listen, obstinate woman that she is.  However, she did agree to wait until fall to finish enlarging the paths.  

Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana) blooming at the
Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum in Savannah. I didn't
know it was even possible for them to be that floriferous!
May was also notable for the long weekend spent in Savannah, Georgia with some garden blogging compadres. We saw some delightful gardens, met some wonderful Southern gardeners and came home refreshed and ready to get back to work here at Wit's End.

Purple coneflowers, all self-sown
June was notable for a less than felicitous reason: as I was working in iPhoto on my MacBook, one second I had 14,700+ photos ... and the next, they were gone.  With the help of the Genius Bar at the Apple Store, perhaps 9500 of them were retrieved.  The rest are gone, including, I fear, those I took at Garden Bloggers' Flings in Seattle, Asheville and San Francisco.  I've stopped kicking myself for not backing up my files but thinking about it does make me sad.  

Last week in the front gardens ... the Crocosmia/Montbretia
have been spectacular this year!
Speaking of the Garden Bloggers' Fling, this time tomorrow the Head Gardener and I will be in Portland, Oregon for the 7th annual Fling.  We're excited to visit a city which we've heard praised for its gardens and we were looking forward to the cooler temperatures Portlandia usually boasts in July.  I say were because the forecast is now calling for 90+ degrees all 3 days.  This happened in San Francisco last year ... I'm beginning to think we Texas bloggers are a jinx.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Time Marches On: Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day March 2014

This is the sight that greeted me on the morning of March 4, 2014, a day that shook my faith in my skills as a meteorological forecaster.  Next year, when friends and passersby ask me at the end of February or beginning of March if I think it's safe to plant/prune/whatever, I have an answer ready: "remember what happened this time last year?"

I am thankful to report that despite being laid low by the combination of rain and an extended period of sub-freezing temperatures, the garden has rebounded somewhat as of this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day*.  True,  the toadflax are still flopping, much to the displeasure of the Head Gardener, who would prefer we be much more ruthless in our thinning of seedlings.  

Many of the roses were set back by the unforeseen cold snap: tender new growth and younger buds were damaged.  The blooms on the 'Anna' and 'Dorsett' apple espalier were at a critical point. Tiny apples were just forming and those are now dropping off the branches.  New blooms have taken their place, though.  

And the formerly bedraggled bluebonnets are bursting into bloom!  

*Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.  Thanks, Indy!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's Not Like I Haven't Thought About It ...

Blogging, I mean ...

I thought about it when I was in Austin at the end of October, enjoying the spectacular views from Mount Bonnell and the balcony of my friend Marcia's amazing home nearby.

I thought about it in mid-November when the Mexican Plum and 'Rising Sun' redbud put on their fall colors at least 6 weeks ahead of their usual time.  

I thought about it on my birthday on November 23rd ... which was one of those milestone birthdays that you can't imagine yourself actually being when you're in your 20s. 

I thought about it in the unseasonably cold days following my birthday, when temperatures dipped almost to freezing on a couple of nights.  Truth be told, I was glad to walk outside when it warmed up and see that the blooms on the coral vines had been zapped by the cold.  I'd been wanting to whack that vine back for a while but I held off so the bees could enjoy it as long as possible.

I thought about it when I saw the first goldfinch of the year at the feeders during that cold spell.

2009 Confinchion
I thought about it when I did whack the coral vine AND the passion vine back the weekend after Thanksgiving. When I stopped in the middle of the process to check my FitBit tracker for my step count, the FitBit wasn't there, necessitating a careful but worried search which took me almost an hour.  I finally found it in the pile of discarded plant material on the patio, caught on one of the vines.  

There was almost this much vine to go through. Picture from 2008.

I thought about it when I built a fire in the firepit I created from what I think is an old sugar kettle found at an antiques shop on Magazine Street in New Orleans, old grates from a Jenn-Air cooktop and a firepit cover plucked from a neighbor's on trash day.  

I thought about when I made my annual pilgrimage to Glenwood Cemetery on December 5th to work at my friend Mary Beth's gravesite.  She always made much of the fact that I was 12 days older than her and affectionately called me an old hag.  Since it was a milestone birthday, I spent some time enlarging the area to include her parents' gravestones, then took a break to go shopping at Wabash Antiques and Feed Store on Washington Avenue. My sincere thanks to the good folks at Wabash who loaned me a watering can so I could water in the herbs I bought from them to plant in MB's bed. Just after I began to dig, the sprinkler system in that part of the cemetery kicked on.  Oh, how MB would have laughed to watch me attempting to dig and plant in between dodging the sprinklers!

Today, though, I didn't just think about blogging ... I did it!  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: October 2013

The lantana was purchased on clearance at Lowe's a couple of years ago for
 the whopping sum of 25 cents. I believe this plant has offered the best rate
of return on investment ofany in the garden!
The Head Gardener and I are cautiously optimistic that we have seen the end of 90+ degree days ... we're not celebrating just yet but give us another week and we'll break out the good champagne and congratulate each other on having survived another summer. It was touch and go there for a few days in early October after a trip to San Francisco had us fearing our ability to tolerate hellacious heat & humidity had been forever compromised.   But what a difference rain and cooler temperatures have made in the gardeners and the gardens of Wit's End!  Smiles are plentiful and blooms are bountiful!  Here's a sampling of the latter for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

The ex-Asters are in full and glorious bloom.

Russian Sage, Fernleaf Lavender & Ex-Asters share a
bed with Rock Rose and Pink Muhly Grass.

The purple Salvia 'Amistad' has been spectacular.
That's white lantana in the foreground.

It's been a good year for the coral vine.

Cassia splendida 'Buttercream' 

Hamelia, Pink Turk's Cap and Thryallis
are the dominant plants in this picture.

The corner bed: Cuphea, lantana, Bauhinia, Abelmoschus,
Pink Muhly Grass ... and more!

Another view of the corner bed: Pink Muhly Grass, Gaillardias,
Calylophus, Lantana, Turnera ... and more!

These zinnias keep pumping out the screaming red-orange blooms.
The HG shudders at the mankiness of the foliage but I remind her
that the butterflies, like honey badger, don't give a ...

The bed along the garage wall has been a real feast
for the eyes this year.  Giant aloe, spiderwort, coneflowers ... and more!

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month.  Thanks, Indy Gardener!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday: On The Road to Round Top

It's that time of year again ... just when the Head Gardener and I are both thoroughly sick of summer, and quite certain that nothing could make being outside worthwhile, the roadside fields of Central Texas go wild.  All along Highway 237 and Highway 159, they'll be popping up everywhere ... those harbingers of fall that bring joy to even the HG's hardened heart.  

I speak, of course, of the antiques and junk dealers who blanket said fields with all manner of rusty stuff.  Heat be danged, the HG and I are on a mission!  We saddle up FloraBob, the little green truck, and we're off to explore the highways and byways in search of yard art.  Sometimes we also find botanical treasures that make our heart sing and so it was today.  All along the roads to Round Top and Warrenton, we saw white rain lilies blooming profusely.  Happily, we were able to pull over and grab some quick pictures to share with y'all for Wildflower Wednesday.  

And, yes, not only did Central Texas get some blessed rain this past week ... so did my corner of Katy!!!!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Now Blooming In Someone Else's Garden: Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day September 2013

Over the weekend, my pals Genny, Laura and I traveled to Oklahoma to visit our friend DeAnna in her new home outside Oklahoma City.  A longtime Katy resident, DeAnna is new not only to OKC but to gardening.  Fortunately, I know just the person to steer her in the right direction and even more fortunately, Dee Nash of Red Dirt Ramblings graciously invited us to visit her country cottage gardens.  Thank you, Dee ... it was a treat for all of us!  

Summer Phlox (P. paniculata) in Dee
Nash's Oklahoma garden 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday: The High Line in August

Y'all might recall that I had a little surgical adventure back in November of last year. I would have preferred to wait until summer when the weather turns evil and time outside is necessarily limited by the heat and humidity.  The Executive Producer was loath for me to wait, so I acquiesced, not altogether gracefully, given that this surgery required I spend 8 weeks of great gardening weather under serious activity restrictions.  What really made me cranky, though, was not getting the results I needed from the surgery.  By March it was clear that tweaking was necessary but I was danged if I would miss out on spring gardening.  Evil weather arrived in July, as it always does, and I scheduled the follow-up procedure for August 9th.  I'm happy to say that improvement was immediate and the restrictions are less onerous this time.  But I still had to take it easy that first week.

So I was sitting in my comfy chair the week after surgery, feeling pretty good but fed up with the weather and to be quite truthful, the garden as well, at least that which can be seen from the vantage point of the comfy chair. Too little rain and too much heat has the back garden looking pretty sad.   I had the Sunday edition of the New York Times at hand and was reminded once again how much I wanted to see a couple of shows in particular.  And that's when I got a little crazy and booked myself a flight to NYC, tickets for 2 shows and a night's stay in a hotel for this past weekend.  I left Houston at 11 AM and by 3 PM CST, I was sitting in Bryant Park with a glass of prosecco, enjoying cooler air and the delights that only New York can provide.

Me in Bryant Park
Saturday night, I took myself to the Music Box Theatre to see PIPPIN.  What a visual feast: the Players outdid themselves in their dancing and acrobatics.  My only regret was that Andrea Martin was on hiatus this month so I didn't get to see her Tony award-winning performance.  

Sunday morning, I had the pleasure of the company of fellow blogger Monica Hemingway of Gardening Products Review, who took the train in from Connecticut so we could visit the High Line together.   Although I've been to the High Line on most of my trips to NYC, this is the first time I've seen it in full and glorious bloom.  The prairie/meadow wildflower plantings are spectacular, made all the more so for their juxtaposition against their urban setting.  So here are a few pictures from my iPhone of the High Line Players, as colorful and varied as those I saw onstage!

I can't find this one on the plant list or I don't recognize it. Anyone?

I think this one is Amorpha canescens, Lead Plant.

Liatris aspera, Blazing Star

New York Ironweed, Vernonia boracensis 

This was probably our favorite planting area.

On the street below, backhoes and construction equipment
have scraped the ground raw. What a contrast!

The Amsonias absolutely glowed!  Oh, to get them to do that here.
Hello, my name is Cindy and I'm a hopeless believer in lost causes.

The rich colors of Helenium 'Rubinzwerg' make me sigh. 

One of my favorite things about the High Line is the inclusion of these staggered beams 
that echo the old rail lines and provide niches for plants.  I'm betting many of these are

Monica and I enjoyed lunch at Colicchio and Sons, followed by a stroll through Chelsea Market, before parting ways in the Theater District.  I was privileged to attend the final performance of VANYA & SONIA & MASHA & SPIKE and to witness possibly the single most brilliant monologue ever performed, by the inimitable David Hyde Pierce.  Christopher Durang's play was hilarious and poignant ... and well worth almost missing my flight home!

Wildflower Wednesday, on the last Wednesday of each month, is hosted by Gail of CLAY AND LIMESTONE.  Do stop by her blog and see what other wildflowers are blooming and where!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Making Friends In The Garden

Gaura 'Siskiyou Pink' from David of Tropical Texana

One of the best things about gardening on my corner of Katy is the opportunities it gives me to meet other gardeners and garden enthusiasts.  That's partly how I became acquainted with David of Tropical Texana, now counted as a dear friend. We exchange plants and stories of our successes and failures: I am happy to report that after numerous failed attempts to grow Gaura 'Siskiyou Pink', the plant David gave me is thriving!  When David first started blogging and I became one of his readers, I had no idea that he was the same Mr P who taught at the elementary school my children had attended.  I knew that Mr P was a gardener because we'd met and talked at a daylily sale once years ago.  It was something of a "well, duh" moment when I finally put it all together.  It also turns out he was a regular drive-by visitor to my corner.

Green Anole on the Gaura
Last Saturday, as I was working out front, I met another drive-by regular, who brought her mom by to see the gardens.  She asked if I had time to give them a little tour and of course I said yes. There's nothing I enjoy more than sharing my gardens with appreciative visitors, unless it's sharing it with fellow gardeners!  Maria and her mother Maria were both and I so enjoyed strolling around the gardens, sharing plants and seeds with them and hearing about their gardens. Maria Senior had a beautiful accent: when I asked where she was from, her daughter Maria told me they were Portuguese and had emigrated here from the Azore Islands in 1967-68.  That's one of many places I'll probably never see but now I have a connection to it through them.  And so my world expands ...

Speaking of expansion, here's another friend in my garden: a green anole lizard, inflating his dewlap in his search for female companionship.  I knew what that pouch was called thanks to David, who shared info about the Green Anole in his most recent post.  It makes me happy to think about how much larger my world has become since I became a gardener.  Then I think about how much larger it WILL be because of gardening and it boggles my mind!