Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday, Monday ...

It's a cool and windy Monday morning here on my corner of Katy. But the sun is shining and the sky is blue, so like Dear Prudence, I hope to go out to play in a bit. I thought I should spend a little time here playing catch-up first, not having posted since Bloom Day. I have every intention of posting more frequently in the months to come since I know my readers are crushed each day that passes without my posting. (Humor me, people, and play along with my fantasy.) It's not that I find myself at a loss for things to talk about ... it's more that I don't have the time to spend writing a lengthy post each day. I should have been an editor: to write, refine and rewrite each post takes at least 2 hours. I'm always thinking of a better way to say something (I just rewrote this sentence twice). I'm approaching my first blogiversary and so I'm setting a goal for my 2nd year to post more often and use fewer words! It's occurred to me before that I don't always have to write at such length ... I tell myself that shorter, pithier posts are possible. Are they probable? I suspect oddsmakers would say not!

At the risk of being accused of Egregious Garden Gloating (EGG ... see this post by Carol of May Dreams Gardens), I can account for my absence by saying that we've had some beautiful fall weather here recently. I've been so busy gardening that I've had no time to write about what I'm doing. And before I get more EGG on my face, let me also say that the spells of good weather have been rudely interrupted by a return to heat and/or humidity several times during the last 12 days. Each time the temperatures drop, I think we're finally done with summer ... only to be stunned within a couple of days by 85 degrees, high humidity and mosquitoes that put Dracula and Lestat to shame. I'm optimistic that by next week, however, the 80s will be behind us. Note: the '80s, however,
appear to be making a comeback: I saw legwarmers in this week's Target ad. A whole new generation gets to be embarrassed by their fashion choices.

I hope I will not be similarly embarrassed by my plant choices when I look back upon this fall's purchases. A trip to Houston's annual Bulb Mart on October 9th netted a Clerodendron wallichii (to replace the one I dug up that took grievous albeit not fatal offense at the indignity); an Alice Staub Toad Lily, pictured above; a Callicarpa dichotoma, Dwarf Chinese Beautyberry; Pipit jonquils; Kronos hyacinths for forcing; and 100 Ivory Floradale tulip bulbs (there's a story behind those, which I'll tell in a forthcoming post.) On a visit to Enchanted Forest Saturday I picked up another Aster oblongifolia (Symphyotrichum oblongifolia). Below, a picture of my aster.

I snagged not only the last aster they had, but sitting amongst a group of shrubs, I heard the plaintive cries of a misplaced plant and discovered Agastache Black Adder. I've not had much luck with Agastaches in the past, although most of them have been the more drought tolerant A. cana varieties. I'm hoping this one will be be so grateful to me for having rescued it that it will settle in and reward me with a profusion of blooms to be enjoyed by the butterflies and hummingbirds.

Yesterday my mother and I took a little trip to Tomball to visit The Arbor Gate, which I've not visited in several years. As it turns out, the directions I found online routed us the VERY long way, taking us 38 miles via I-10 and TX 249 to the nursery's location on FM2920. We learned from a nursery employee that we could take a much more direct route to return home to Katy: Cypress Rosehill Road, which eventually becomes our own Fry Road, intersects 2920 just a couple of miles from the Arbor Gate. I will be making much more frequent visits to the nursery: not only is it closer than I realized, it's an absolute treasure trove of plants. What's more, the nursery staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and kind enough to allow us to overstay our welcome past the stated closing time of 5:00 pm! A bounteous bevy of beauteous botanicals now await planting here at Wit's End.

Clockwise from the bottom right, you see:
  • a Creme de Cassis Hollyhock
  • an Aristolochia fimbriata, Dutchman's Pipe Vine. Pipevine swallowtails, please take note, I bought this for you!
  • two Proven Winners Agaves, Blue Glow and Reggae Time. Both of these pots have multiple plants in them, so I'll be able to divide them and trial them in several different spots ... woo hoo!
  • Phlox Pilosa 'Forest Frost'. The tag says it's pink, but local plantswoman Heidi Sheesley says it's a pure white variety. Dang it, I wanted the PPPP so beloved by Gail of Clay and Limestone. Now I have to buy another plant. I might even have to make a return trip to Arbor Gate this week. Dang.
  • Stokesia 'Peachie's Pick'. The Peachie's Pick I planted last year bloomed so well that I knew I needed more. If I divide it carefully, this one gallon pot should provide me with at least 2 good-sized clumps of Stokes' Asters.
  • Holmskioldia tettensis, Chinese Hat. I looked this up to find out what the species was and had a bad moment when I feared I'd inadvertently bought H. sanguinea, which has bright red blooms. I wanted the pink and purple blooming variety, and fortunately this is it.
  • White Mist Flower, labeled Eupatorium havanense. My blue mist flower is doing so beautifully this year, I decided I'd take a chance on the white one.
  • Salvia Regla, Mountain Sage. I have one plant already, bought either at a fall sale at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center or at the Corpus Christi Botanical Garden. It looks lonely by itself ... in fact, I think maybe I should get one more. I can't plant in even numbers, it violates a cardinal rule of gardening!
  • Not pictured are one Black Prince pansy and a Silver Lace artemisia. I'll stick them in pots somewhere.
It's 11:09 am as I wrap this up, 2 hours since I started writing. What'd I tell you?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Rainy Bloom Day

My sentiments exactly, a fact known to my good friend Genny, who gifted me with this sign recently. It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day so I shall demonstrate herewith that I am indeed incapable of having just one! But first, a visit to Little Mama: since I last posted, she has rebounded from the drastic pruning I gave her and is now sporting several of these tender green shoots on her carefully rearranged trunks. By next spring, I do believe she'll be lovelier than ever and well on her way to reattaining her original moniker of Big Mama.

We've had some lovely rain showers the last two days. The rain was much needed and therefore entirely welcome ... but it does make photography sessions in the garden a little problematic. I walked outside this morning, camera in hand, intending to take pictures and then spend the morning inside composing a brilliantly worded and beautifully illustrated post. That intention was foiled by the absolutely horrendous humidity level, which caused my camera lens to fog. No matter how quickly I wiped it and then focused, I wasn't quick enough to beat the humidity. I gave up and focused on other things instead (cleaning and organizing the garage, taking the dog to the groomer, more c&o of the garage, picking up the dog at the groomer, watching DVR of HOUSE with daughter). By the time I'd done all those things, there was a break in the rain and I headed back outside. This time the lens didn't fog so badly and I was able to get a few pictures of flowers (with raindrops). (As I review this post before publishing, at approximately 10:15 pm, it is raining again ... that's the second time tonight.)

Summer bloomers continue to provide bursts of color throughout the garden.

Bauhinia galpinii is still recovering from Hurricane Ike but continues to bloom.

Although I've pulled out the older ones, another generation of Zinnias insists on making their presence known in the garden. I love this color with the Blackie Sweet Potato Vine.

Red firespike is strutting its stuff ... I hope there are still some hummingbirds around to enjoy it!

This is a recently planted Dianthera candicans
(kindly pardon the white sheet in the background which
is protecting the roots of a shrub form Evergreen Wisteria
[Millettia] which I liberated from its container and then forgot to plant
before I left for a long weekend in Santa Fe.)

One of many Abelmoschus which have seeded themselves
throughout the gardens.

Although the summer bloomers are loathe to give up their place in the spotlight, autumn beauties are coming on strong.

The leading lady of the back garden right now is this lovely aster.
Formerly known as Aster oblongifolius, she now goes by
the more exotic name of Symphyotricum oblongifolium.
Her tendency to be a rangy beauty can be checked by
cutting her back in spring and summer.

I've also learned this year that toad lilies respond
well to a little pruning in summer, at least here
in south central Texas.

The Cassia splendida/Senna splendida is also coming into its
own as fall makes its way to my corner of Katy. This particular
Cassia can be a shrub or tree. Most of the Cassias at Wit's End are
in the 4 to 6 ft range but I've seen one towering over the roof of a
garage at a fellow gardener's home. One of my favorite things about Cassias:
they're a larval food source for butterflies in the Sulphur family.

There are a few plants that seem to be confused about the season, however, one of which you see below.

After being blown about by Ike and then experiencing an early cool front, the Bridal Wreath Spirea decided it must be spring. I wonder if this will affect the spring bloom?

The roses and clematis can bloom year round here at Wit's End. Roses in bloom right now include Carefree Beauty, Souvenir de la Malmaison, Caldwell Pink, Martha Gonzales, Mutabilis, Madame Antoine Mari, Lafter, Reve D'Or, Highway 290 Pink Buttons, The Fairy, Old Blush, Belinda's Dream and Perle D'Or.

Perle D'Or

This Clematis is either 'Fireworks' or 'Doctor Ruppel'. It's one of the
100 pots of Clematis I brought home from Lowe's clearance
shelves last year. The price? $10.00. Yep, ten dollars.
I distributed them amongst my friends, family and myself. The old
adage that a clematis wants its head in the sun and its roots in the shade
has held true with this one: it's growing in the midst of more
Blackie Sweet Potato Vine.

And now for a list of everything else that's blooming in the garden today (in the order in which I remember them): Cosmos, Verbenas (various), Gaura, Pink Skullcap, Lavender Skullcap, Rudbeckia, Erythrina crista-galli, Batface Cuphea, Hummingbird Cuphea, Echinacea, Rosemary, Silver Oregano, Salvia 'Anthony Parker', Salvia Leucantha, Salvia greggii, Salvia coccinea, Calylophus, Salvia miniata, Turk's Caps (Pam's Pink, Native Red, Mexican), Cuphea ignea 'David Verity', Cuphea macropetala, Pentas, Pink Salt Marsh Mallow (Kosteletskya), Blue Mist Flower (Eupatorium), Duranta, Hamelia, Justicia spicigera, Justicia (Pinecone Shrimp Plant), Bottlebrush, Calliandra, Clerodendron (red/lavender vine), Coral Vine, Sweet Almond Verbena, Persian Vitex, Verbena bonariensis, Ruby Crystals Grass, Miscanthus sinensis, Anisacanthus, Lantana (Denholm White, native pink/yellow), Salvia 'Henry Duelberg', Salvia 'Otahal', Salvia 'Indigo Spires', White Plumbago, Barbados Cherry, Coral Porterweed, Profusion Apricot Zinnias, Spiderwort, Jatrophas (Pink & Red), Rangoon Creeper, Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium), Philippine Violet, Pigeonberry, Australian Violet, Texas Betony (Stachys coccinea). How in the name of Chipping Sodbury did I end up with so danged many plants????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Weight Loss Secret Revealed!

Warning: The following contains material that may be unsettling or too graphic for some viewers. Full Frontal Plant Nudity depicted, as well as instances of horticultural abuse.

Yes, folks, in the space of one morning, Big Mama shed those excess pounds! Thanks to the Head Gardener's judicious use of pruners, limb loppers and pruning saw, Big Mama said goodbye to the dead weight that had been dragging her down since Ike paid a visit to her corner of Katy. The Head Gardener is most appreciative of the support and encouragement she received from readers. It was your input that gave her the wherewithal she needed to help Big Mama, who shall henceforth be known as Little Mama.

The newly svelte Little Mama strikes a provocative pose,
unashamedly flaunting her lack of foliage.

Since we chose not to dig out the concrete footings of the old posts, the new trellis is positioned several inches farther out from the site of the old one. That change of siting, together with the drastic reduction in size of the Angel Wing Jasmine vine, not only increased the size of the bed on the back side of the trellis, but the sun exposure. I've already had to move a few ferns and the Forever & Ever hydrangea (a $2.00 bargain plant from Lowe's that has gone into a slow decline since purchase ... I refuse to give up on it yet). I'm cogitating over what to plant there that will work with the jasmine when it has regrown and is once again lush and fragrant. It occurred to methat I could plant sweet peas against the trellis to fill in while the vine grows. That would be a great temporary fix and it's the right time of year for us to plant them. I also have a Rangoon Creeper (Quisqalis indica) that is begging to be liberated from its whiskey barrel and allowed to grow free and unfettered in the ground.

This is what happens in my garden when I come across a plant that I absolutely adore and simply must have, only to bring it home and find myself unable to decide where to plant it. So I plop it into a container and then leave it there for an unspecified period of time (please don't ask, there's only so much self-revelation I can offer in one post). There it becomes root bound and languishes underfed, underwatered and underwhelming. But what if ... WHAT IF ... I planted it against that trellis, where it would have room for its roots to spread and it could ramble up and over? Wouldn't that be splendiferous? I am convinced that it would be and that the RC and AWJ could co-exist quite happily together. Here is where you say to yourself, "well, what's stopping her? Just do it already." Well, that leads me to another of the many dilemmas (real or imagined) which I face every day in my garden, to wit: I am unconvinced that the Rangoon Creeper would look splendiferous blooming in tandem with the Vitex tree that causes passersby to stop and ask its name when it's in full and glorious bloom. I suspect they will not be seriously unharmonious, just enough so that it will bug me when I see them together. On the other hand, it's possible that their bloom cycles will not coincide and it will be a non-issue. Have I mentioned before that I overthink these things? A lot?

This is one of the things I love about Plurk. Sure, it's way too easy to get caught up in trying to up your karma so you can get more emoticons to use, and it's also way too easy to spend more time than you should there. BUT when you're fretting about how to deal with one area of the garden or another, and not sure how to proceed, it really does help to have access to other gardeners who can give you a different perspective on the problem, or even just commiserate about similar difficulties in their own gardens. It's especially helpful when those others are also sitting at their computers and in the mood to chat! This morning was one such time. In the process of Plurking with Mary Ann of Idahogardener, Elizabeth of Gardening While Intoxicated, Carol of May Dreams Gardens and Barbara of Mr. McGregor's Daughter, I ended up heading outside with my camera to shoot a pictorial tour of my gardens. They've heard me talk about the fact that I have a large corner lot but taking the tour gave them a much better idea of the extent of the gardens here at Wit's End. While their growing conditions and their experiences as gardeners may be very different from mine, we all share a passion for gardening as a process, and an appreciation of a garden as a living work of art. It was a great way to spend a lazy Sunday morning: enjoyable, entertaining and educational. Thanks, Plurkettes!

ADDENDUM 6:59 PM: I ran outside with my camera and took a picture of my neighbor's Rangoon Creeper and a closeup of its blooms. THIS is what it can do if it's in the ground and happy.