Friday, September 5, 2008
While my fellow gardeners in cooler climes are lamenting the passing of summer, those of us who live in Texas are celebrating! Yesterday morning, I was roused into wakefulness not just by EM's alarm going off but by a voice on the radio telling me that it was a cool 75 degrees outside. I found out why the word cool was used when I went out to feed the fish: a weak front had blown in, bringing us drier air and making that 75 degrees an absolute delight. I'd told myself that I'd take yesterday off to run errands, blog, and take care of other minutiae, but one step outside and I was a gardening goner! Such a beautiful temperate day this early in September is a gift that requires the proper appreciation :-) I haven't been able to stay outside past noon for months now but yesterday I didn't come in until almost 3:00 pm. While it's not quite as pleasant today, that's OK. Yesterday was a harbinger of good things to come ... that first breath of fall enables us to hold on until it's well and truly here. I love the way my garden looks in spring, but I love the way it feels in autumn. Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings posted earlier this week about hearing this time of year referred to as Second Spring. I'm not sure I can get behind that phraseology: spring being followed inevitably by summer makes that term less than felicitous in its associations for me. The best thing about fall for me is knowing that once the mercury drops below 90, and the humidity levels decrease, I have 6 months of reasonably pleasant temperatures to enjoy!
The lack of humidity yesterday made time toiling in the garden a much more enjoyable task. I spent most of my time outside working on the corner bed. The red bauhinia (B. galpinii) continues to wow me with its show of blooms (andwoe me with its seemingly indeterminate growth habit). The area in front of the bauhinia has been a riot of color all summer with Zinnias, Rudbeckias, batface Cupheas, Texas Betony, Calylophus, Tithonias, Red Rocket Russelia and white Gaura. Heat and drought have taken a toll on the Zinnias, Rudbeckias and Tithonias. It's difficult to yank the Zinnias when the blooms are still plentiful but I made myself do it, since there are plenty more in other spots in the gardens. I did leave a few here and there but will probably pull them in the next week or so. Manky zinnias, you're on notice! That word is a British term for horrible or disgusting. Garden blogger Carol at May Dreams Gardens won an award for the Mankiest Tomato this week, courtesy of the Emsworth Village Show. You didn't have to be a Brit to enter ... had I known, I'd have entered a manky Zinnia! (The one below is only semi-manky.)
As I work in one spot and another, I'm finding myself craving a bit more structure and symmetry to the garden. There's no rhyme or reason to most of my plantings; although passersby and garden visitors may not see the lack of design, I do! Since I'm the one who sees the most of the garden, it behooves me to listen to myself on this matter, don't you agree? The fine folks at Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension Service are offering a 2 day garden design course later this month, which I plan to attend in hopes it will help me formulate more coherent and cohesive planting schemes for various areas. I really enjoyed this post by Frances at Faire Garden: our thoughts have been traveling along very similar garden paths!
One area that I've been working on is coming along nicely: the pond is already becoming my favorite spot to relax. I visited Nelson Water Gardens last week to buy plants for the bog and fish for the pond. Three gorgeous Japanese fantails now call my corner of Katy home. Their names are subject to change upon a whim: since their arrival, they've been dubbed Larry, his brother Darryl and his other brother Darrell. (Unlike their namesakes, they move fast, too fast for me to get a picture!) The bog is now planted with Louisiana Iris, dwarf variegated Acorus, Melon Sword (Echinodorus osiris), Red-leafed Crinum, variegated Acorus, and water purslane. It looks a little bare to me but I'm giving the plants some time to settle in before I add more. Heaven knows I have a surfeit of Louisiana Iris to find spots for, so I can always add those to the bog area! This is a view of the pond from yesterday evening. The water lily bloom is Lindsey Woods; a closeup of the bloom is on my header. It's not only beautiful, it's meaningful and purposeful. This article from Nelson's website tells the story of its propagation and the courageous young woman in whose memory it's named. Since 1999, Nelson's has donated over $31,000 of their sales proceeds from this waterlily to Texas Children's Hospital. I like being a part of their effort.I spent quite a bit of time this week working on the area behind the pond. With EM's assistance, I vanquished (well, I hope I did) the stump of the messy vitex that was sited behind the pond. I say I hope I did because I did NOT dig the stump out. After sawing it off, EM and I hacked at the subterranean remains with a hand ax, severing the roots and hopefully pretty well destroying any chance of viability. Am I overly optimistic? I guess we shall see. After pouring a bit of stumpicide on the shreds of its dignity, I got to work filling the area with a mix of compost, manure and humus. I'm undecided what I'll plant in the space where the vitex was (just to the right of the blue vase/urn/jug in the picture). There's a Clerodendron wallichii not quite visible to the left and I may move it to that spot. It would get a bit more sun there, and fit in nicely with the rest of the plantings. I originally thought to go with a green and white color scheme in the bog and behind the pond. The danged red-leafed crinum interfered with those plans. It's a very cool plant, though, and I think I can forgive its horning in on the pond party.
On the other side of the pond, behind the as yet undisguised electrical box, I've removed an untold number of Barbados Cherry plants (Malpighia glabra). Over the years, they've become aggressive to the point that nothing else could grow in that area. To keep them from spreading, and from growing too high, also requires a fair amount of regular attention. Regular attention is in short supply here at Wit's End and that's one of the considerations in retooling my planting schemes: maximum beauty with minimum effort is becoming a focus when choosing plants. I still need to add new soil to that area and perhaps some organic fertilizer/soil conditioner to help rejuvenate the existing soil. The Harris County Master Gardeners' group usually offers a pelletized chicken manure fertilizer called Microlife at its plant sales: September 20th is the fall sale, if you're in the area. Rabbit Hill Farm products are good, as are those from John Dromgoole and the Natural Gardener, but the granddaddy of organic gardening products in Texas for me is Gardenville. I think I've just talked myself into a trip to town to purchase some!