Saturday, August 29, 2015

August Showers Yield Golden Flowers!

A basket of bounteous beauty to come!

Last Tuesday after an appointment with my recent medical providers, as I turned off the Beltway onto Memorial Drive in heavy rain, I passed a vacant lot with splashes of golden sunshine beaming from various spots.  Those were gardener's gold: beautiful yellow rain lilies popping up to thank Mother Nature for the gift of rain. As I passed, I noted there was a For Sale By Owner sign with a phone number.  

So, yes, I did what any gardener would do: I circled back around and pulled over to write down that number. And then I called and spoke to the owner to ask if I might dig some of those golden delights.  He said I was the second caller in as many days :-)  I told him there were plenty of bulbs for both of us so he consented graciously.  

I confess, even though I'm working hard to keep to my restricted activity level, I went back the next day and dug up a few myself.  Give me points for not trying to dig them in the rain! I was careful in my movements and I didn't dig nearly as many as I'd have liked.  The HG is still chiding for not taking pictures to share with y'all. Hush, woman. 

Fortunately, I'd had the foresight to check in with my pal Otahal and ask if by any chance, he and his crew might be in the Houston area this week. They were indeed working on a job near downtown and Mr. Otahal kindly consented to stop by the vacant lot and have his crew do some more digging for me.   They stopped by yesterday evening with a bounty of rain lily bulbs which he thinks are Zephyranthes sulphurea. 

I have big plans for these little bulbs in the front gardens. I am so appreciative of Otahal and his hard-working crew for doing the hard part of the work.  And for then going above & beyond by taking down the rest of the vitex trunk with their chain saw, which I'd spotted in the back of the truck. The HG considers me a shameless opportunist but Otahal and I go back a long, LONG ways and I'm careful to make fairly minor requests when he and the crew are on the road home after a hard week's work.  I frequently repay him in plants: yesterday he took home a contractor's grade 39 gallon trash sack of Louisiana iris.  He was happy to get them and I was happy to see them go!

David Otahal during the Great Rockout of 2010

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall ...

As might be surmised from my previous post, the Head Gardener and I were beginning to doubt the truth of that old adage. So we were delighted when rain began to fall last Sunday. Over the course of the week, we got almost 2 inches of rain here on my corner of Katy.  Most of it fell slowly and gently over the course of several hours each day so it had a chance to soak in and do some good.  The HG and I are consequently a little happier with how things are looking out back. 

The Persian Vitex in 2008. Why we don't have or can't find
any more recent pictures, is probably due to our lamentable lack
of any semblance of organization in our iPhoto files.
There was one major casualty, however.  The Persian Vitex (V. trifolia) near the pond hadn't been pruned in a while and the weight of the rain on the limbs proved too much for the trunk to support. It split about 2 feet up from the ground, with most of the tree falling forward into the bed and path. 

The Persian Vitex as of August 20, 2015, above and below.

All is not lost ... there are sprouts at the base of the tree and once the EP takes what's left of the trunk down to the ground, it will regrow.  The HG and I are currently in a disagreement about whether or not we had to cut it to the ground after the hard winter of 2009-2010. I think we did; she says we pruned it back to live wood and then let it regrow from there. Whatever.  The point is that we're not worried we'll lose it.  We are, however, pondering whether we want to keep it; replace it with a tree or large shrub that won't need quite as much pruning to keep it in check; or remove it and plant that area with smaller shrubs and perennials. 

I tend to lean in favor of keeping it: I love how the trunk of this species tends to contort itself in such sculptural ways.  It's also a fairly fast growing tree, which is important because there are shade-loving perennials - toad lilies and bletillas - planted under it.  I also have to consider how difficult it would be to take it out since the root system is both extensive and healthy. The HG thinks it should go and is currently enamored of the idea of smaller shrubs and perennials.

There's no hurry for us to decide.  Until The Awful ends and the temperatures drop into the 80s during the day, we have no desire to venture forth even if our activity restrictions are lifted!

The remains of the trunk ... did I mention that the Executive
Producer is not known for his finesse?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day August 2015: These Are The Times That Try Gardeners' Souls!

Pink Skullcap, Scuttellaria suffrutescens, considered one of the most heat
& drought tolerant natives for Texas gardens.  That's how bad it is.
I promised Carol aka Indygardener aka Indy of May Dreams Gardens, the GBBD instigator, that I would post SOMETHING for this month's Bloom Day.  There's precious little out there to choose from, at least in the back gardens which is as far as I can venture this evening.  The Head Gardener and I had a little nipping and tucking done at the end of July and have been on orders to restrict our activity ever since.  Unfortunately for us, our inability to get outside comes during a worse spell of heat and drought than we saw in 2011. Hand watering was all that saved the back garden that year since there's no irrigation system set up for those beds. This year, we can only watch in horror as plant after plant - most of them heat and drought tolerant - wilt, wither and die.  By the time we get our doctor's clearance to get back out there and work, we're expecting much of that work will involve pulling up dead plants amidst much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The white plumbago has probably been the best performer in the back garden throughout July and this first half of August. It's had no supplemental water that entire time. 

Fireworks gomphrena has absolutely blown me away with its ability to survive without moisture in 100+ degree temperatures.  Once or twice it's gotten a bit droopy in the afternoon but by the next morning, it returns to its usual perky self.  That's ONE plant. 

This is one of a few Serenity mix hybrid verbenas that has managed to keep going.  

And this is, of all things, a rain lily.  We did get a brief intense storm on Wednesday evening and this brave little plant responded as nature intended! 

While we're stuck inside, the HG and I are doing a lot of thinking about what kind of changes we'll make to the gardens when cooler weather is here and we've seen the extent of the summer damage.  The only thing we're sure of is that we've got to simplify ... and we are unanimous in that!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day June 2015: I Can't Grow That!

Camassias and tulips
A week ago today, I returned home from the Garden Bloggers' Fling 2015 in Toronto, reeling from the absolutely splendiferous array of blooms and foliage that I CAN'T GROW, DAMMIT!!!!!! Most of the Flingers are used to, and probably weary of, my mandatory whine upon seeing some beauteous botanical bibelot ... "I can't grow that."  I'd even started a Twitter hashtag #Ican'tgrowthat and posted a couple of pictures before Verizon notified me that I'd exceeded my data limit (so much for the data plan I thought I'd signed up for).  So I thought I'd use Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day to whine some more ... and I trust that y'all will recognize my tongue is very firmly in my cheek.  Should a Toronto gardener visit my corner of Katy, s/he'd probably have the same whine!



Conifer (I don't know what kind, I can't grow them!)

I have never ever ever seen this poppy in the Houston area.

I can't remember what this delightful little tree is. 

Weigela, one of the many cultivars in that genus which I can't grow!

Japanese Painted Fern. I've tried. Believe me, I've tried. OVER & OVER & OVER.

Lupine. Definitely not texensis. 

Luscious apricot and pink Peony

Weigela, ANOTHER one of the many cultivars in that genus which I can't grow!

Pink and white Double Clematis, misidentified as Columbine. I still think
it's too delicate by far for Katy. Maybe I should try it & see!

Bath's Pink Dianthus with The Head Gardener ... they rot here (the Dianthus,
not the HG ... although ...)

OK, this one I'm not so sure we can't grow: it's not that different from
the yellow Phlomis.

Bearded Iris

The most incredible array of Bearded Iris I've ever seen

Viburnum plicatum 
Angelica, I think gigas?
Amorphophallus titanum ... one which I am definitely glad I can't grow!
Thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens, our Bloom day progenitor!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lady Gaga Sighted On My Corner of Katy ...

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while may recall that the corner bed was formerly graced by a Bauhinia galpinii known as Tina Turner, because she took the worst that (Hurricane) Ike threw at her and came out better than ever.  That was 2008 and as the years went on, like any true diva, she took over the stage.  The Head Gardener and I finally had to tell Tina it was time to retire and let another diva shine.  

Now Lady Gaga commands the attention ...

She is surrounded by her beloved Little Monsters, nestled close and making it difficult to get a picture OR evict them from the stage.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

Hot Color on a Hot Day!

I can't say I'm thrilled that the temperature reached 91° today on my corner of Katy. It's made slightly less appalling by the first blooms of the Freesia laxa, also known as Anomatheca laxa, or my favorite of its many botanical names, Lapeirousia laxa. Roll that baby around on your tongue!  The common name for this wee beauty is Woodland Painted Petals. 

I am even less thrilled that a mosquito was buzzing me as I was outside writing this post.  Wrong. Just plain wrong.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Let's see how this mobile blogging works!

This morning, as I was wandering the perimeter, some neighbors stopped to tell me how much they enjoyed my garden. Chuck and Christina moved here from Alabama in August. They are eager to create gardens at their new home and I'm delighted at the prospect of having some fellow gardeners in the neighborhood.

I told him how to find my blog and suggested they look at the past posts to see the evolution of the garden. I admitted somewhat ruefully that I have been remiss in posting in recent months. Got me thinking: what if I tried blogging using an app on my phone? How would that work?

So here we are, about to find out! It's a beautiful spring like day on my corner of Katy and I am sitting outside with coffee and breakfast, enjoying the sunshine and mild temperatures. That's the view from the chair at top. 

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.