Thursday, May 29, 2008

What A Difference Some Rain Makes ...

So I took my usual morning walk around the garden to see what's blooming and check on the never-ending battle with the weeds. For the most part, plants (and weeds, dang it) were refreshed by yesterday afternoon's rainstorm. On the north side of the house, though, the crossvine that had reached the roof line now looks like this:
As you can see from the first picture, a few leaves cling to the siding, torn from the plant when it came tumbling down. I lifted the jumbled heap of crossvine to see the impact of the crash on the other plants in that bed: from what I can tell, they're in relatively decent shape.

I doubt I'll be able to get the vine back up, even with help: it's too big and unwieldy. Truth be told, I'm not all that dismayed: that crossvine is the native variety and I've never been too fond of the screaming yellow flowers. I'm thinking this is my opportunity to do something different in that spot. I could plant another crossvine, perhaps Tangerine Beauty or Red Dragon. One of the interesting things I've noticed about crossvine is that it isn't able to attach itself to the shingles on the roof, which could be a problem with other vines. I'm wondering if there's enough sun there for Rangoon creeper or Mexican Flame Vine. Or a climbing rose? There's an incentive to remove the elderly and less than robust pine tree a few feet away! We've been talking about taking out that tree for a while now: my biggest concern is that winds from a tropical storm or hurricane will send it crashing into the house. We're only 3 days away from the start of hurricane season: every year at this time we worry that it's our year to take a hit.

I guess I've postponed dealing with the remains of the vine long enough. I'm heading outside to see what I can do about the carnage. I'll leave y'all with some pictures of today's daylily blooms (no names ... as usual, the labels have been lost).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Before It All Dries Up and Blows Away ...

The annual wailing and gnashing of teeth has commenced here on my corner of Katy. There's been no appreciable rain for way too long and even the drought tolerant plants are drooping in the summer heat, as am I. This would be understandable were it July but to have already reached this point before the end of May is a very scary thing indeed. Although we were under a severe thunderstorm warning early this evening, the rain stayed north of us and I suspect I'll spend some quality time with my hoses tomorrow.

Happily, there are still some blooms to be found throughout the garden. Here's a few shots from earlier this evening ... first up, the Rudbeckia (Cherokee, maybe) that reseeded itself and is flourishing in the rose bed, the length of the yard from where it was originally planted.
While most of the daylilies in the dedicated daylily bed are looking like pale imitations of themselves due to the heat, those in the sidewalk bed out front (which receives dappled sun) are much happier. Lost tags are more of the rule than the exception here on MCOK, but I think this one is Enon:This beauty, however, remains unidentified. This is one of the few that's held its color in the daylily bed :
I wish this last shot had been taken in my garden but no such luck. A friend and her family were in town this past weekend and we met out at Mercer Arboretum to see what delights it had to offer. It's just far enough north that Japanese maples need not struggle to survive.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

What's Stopping Traffic On My Corner of Katy

Vitex 'Montrose Purple', a cultivar propagated by Treesearch Farms of Houston, is absolutely spectacular this spring. The tree is planted at one end of the daylily bed, on the street side of the house, facing north. Compared to the standard Vitex agnus-castus, the spires on this variety are not only a deeper, richer color but far fuller and more lush. It may just be my favorite small tree.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What's Blooming on MCOK

Unbeknownst to me, my spiffy new camera arrived this afternoon while I was outside working (AGAIN) on the daylily bed. I didn't find it until I came in after 5, so there wasn't time to charge the battery and take the camera for a test drive for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. So I headed out with my Nikon and took a whole mess of pictures. I'd already made a trek around the various areas of the garden this morning, pencil and paper in hand, and compiled a list of what I saw blooming. I am appalled at the number of different plants I have ... seriously. And I missed a few things, so I added them to the list when I came in from the photo shoot, adding to my appallation. I really and truly am a horthead and it's clear there is no hope for me. This is why it is so important that gardeners seek the company of fellow gardeners: those who don't garden cannot understand. That's one of the many things I'll miss about my friend Amy: it was understood that we would support and enable each other when plant shopping. Token expressions of doubt were allowed, and occasionally offered, but mostly we just egged each other on. Every gardener should have such a friend.

OK, pictures first, then a list. The daylilies, of course, are putting on a big show. Here's Big Doc:
This yellow daylily was the first to bloom and has been incredibly prolific. I don't know its name, though; I've got a lot of missing tags.
Little Monica's first bloom:

This Gartendirektor Otto Linne rose is one of my favorites. Look at all those blooms!
Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium) is one of my favorite white flowers and a great little native plant.Purple coneflowers (Echinacea) are another fave. I didn't know until last year that they're fragrant. I have several different kinds but of course I can't remember where I got each of them. Here are two of them:

This dwarf Calliandra was labeled Fairy Duster and what a perfect name for it! Another great native plant, white Gaura, sometimes called Whirling Butterflies for the way the airy white blooms dance in the breeze:
Verbena bonariensis, aka Verbena on A Stick :
The corner bed where the red Bauhinia is the star:A vignette from the back 40 of Caldwell Pink Rose, Serenity mix Verbena and Coneflowers:
I'm looking forward to more blooms from this Mexican Bauhinia: And now for the complete listing. Fasten your seat belts, gird your loins, and don't hate me because I'm a horthead:

Calibrachoa 'Tequila Sunrise'
Apricot Sinningia
Snapdragons, alyssum, cyclamen, violas (they don't realize summer's almost here)
Nicotiana
Thunbergia erecta
Freesia laxa aka Lapeirousia laxa (just a few slackers)
Turk's caps: Mexican, native red, Pam's Pink
Red shrimp plant
Cupheas: David Verity, Macropetala, Bat Face, Bunny Face, Pink/Purple of unknown name
Rudbeckias
Zinnias: Profusion Apricot, Cut & Come Again, Flame
Ratibida (Mexican Hat)
Red Russellia (Firecracker Fern)
Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemonii) (STILL)
Verbenas: Plantation Rose, Serenity mix, bonariensis
Iris moraea 'Orange Drop'
Cleome
Miniature Hamelia
Spiderwort
Tangerine Bulbine
Bluebonnets (again not realizing it's summer)
Dill
Gaillardia (Indian Blankets)
Engelmann's Daisy
Calylophus (Sundrops)
Leonotis (Lion's Ear)
Erythrina crista-galli (Fireman's Cap)
Bauhinia galpinii (red Bauhinia)
Mexican bauhinia
Phillipine Violet
Rondeletia (Coral Woody Penta)
Duranta
Pink Dianthera candicans
Dianthus
Pavonia: Rock Rose & Peruvian
Catmint
Vitex 'Montrose Purple' (wonderful cultivar with big fat blue spires)
White Plumbago
Pink skullcap (Scutellaria)
Nasturtiums (yellow & cherry red)
Larkspur
Ruellia caroliniensis (seems less invasive than 'Katie')
Jatropha: Red and pink
Silver oregano
Prostate Rosemary
Stachys coccinea (Texas Betony)
Pink Firespike (Odontonema)
Purple Iochroma
Pentas
Clematis
Diascia
Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue'
Bacopa (Blutiana? blue)
'Voodoo' red Abutilon
Heartleaf Skullcap
Stokes' Aster (Stokesia)
Angelonia
Phillipine Lily
Barbados Cherry
Pandora Vine
Morning Glory Tree (Ipomoea fistulosa)
Petunia Supertunia Mini Silver & Cotton Candy
Fernleaf Lavender
Aster oblongifolius (Fall-Blooming Aster)
Rangoon Creeper
Pink Rain Lilies (Zephyranthes)
Dahlias (from the clearance rack at Lowe's)
Neon Flash Spirea
Clerodendron vine
Nierembergia 'Purple Robe'
Angel Wing Jasmine
Night Blooming Jasmine
Ox-Eye Daisy
Pigeonberry
Pink Salt Marsh Mallow (Kosteletskya?)
Acanthus mollis (Bear's Breeches)
Caryopteris
Buddleia
Alternanthera
Porterweed
Salvias (take a deep breath): Hot Lips, Otahal, Duelberg, Anthony Parker, Giant Blue, Guaranitica, Indigo Spires, Mystic Spires, Leucantha, Miniata, Blepharophylla, Regla, Elegans (Pineapple), Darcyi, Coccinea 'Lady in Red'/'Coral Nymph'/ 'Forest Fire', several Greggiis and Macrophyllas (I'm getting tired ...)
Roses: Belinda's Dream, Reve D'Or, Perle D'Or, Madame Antoine Mari, Mutabilis, Caldwell Pink, The Fairy, Gartendirektor Otto Linne, Mary Rose, Highway 290 Pink Buttons, Marie Pavie, Souvenir de la Malmaison, Cecile Brunner, Carefree Beauty

If there's more, even I don't want to know! Happy Bloom Day, y'all!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Clematis Redux


Is there any greater thrill (at least for a gardener) than walking out into the garden and discovering the first bloom on a favorite plant, especially one that tends to be finicky? This is Clematis 'Jackmanii' (I think ... I remember planting one and I think it was in this spot). I want to say that I'm not any more obsessed with clematis than I am with any other plant that I consider extravagantly lovely. But I would be lying. I blame my continuing obsession on my friend Linda, whose Jackmanii at her home a few blocks from here regularly sported too many blooms to count. It was a memorably glorious display, all the more so because clematis are alleged not to grow well here. She and her mother Billie both had a knack with them, although Billie's vine was not as floriferous, much to her chagrin. (Billie was another of my gardening mentors: she didn't obsess about it, she just did it, with spectacular results.) Linda was certain that her success could be traced to her planting the vines directly into pine bark mulch. I've always found this very interesting, since clematis allegedly prefer a more alkaline soil: our gumbo clay certainly qualifies. A knowledgeable friend told me the reason for the old adage "head in the sun, feet in the shade" was because the clematis prefer their roots to be cool. It makes me wonder if by planting the vine in the acidic pine bark mulch, its roots grow deeper seeking out that alkaline soil and thus remain cooler than they would closer to the surface. I should test that theory on one of the plants that remain from last year's purchase of 100+ 4-inch pots.

I can hear my readers now saying "WHOA! 100 PLUS POTS? Are you NUTS?" Allow me to explain. The Lowe's located a mere 1/2 mile from my corner of Katy frequently puts plants on clearance to make room for new stock. Last year on one of my routine clearance rack patrols, I discovered pot after 4 inch pot of clematis, many of them in good condition, others languishing but still viable, and some all but gone. They had them marked down to 50 cents each but even at that price, there was no way they'd be able to sell them all. So I accosted the manager of the gardening center and asked if she'd like to make me a deal. I walked out with all 100+ pots for $10.
While a fair number of them didn't make it, enough did to make my purchase a real bargain. I sent friends in Tennessee and Iowa about 10 plants each, gave several to my mom and other gardeners, and have lost count of how many I kept for myself that are still with me. This one is either Fireworks or Dr. Ruppel (anyone?):I love the dainty blooms of Clematis pitcheri. It's hard to get a good closeup unless I lie down on the ground and shoot from below, which is not going to happen. Y'all will have to settle for this slightly blurry shot.I was at Lowe's this afternoon and my route to the cash register took me right by the clematis selection. (It DID ... I had to pass them on my way back from the clearance racks.) Tell me I should have resisted when this beauty called my name (anyone know hers? There wasn't a tag but I'm wondering if it's Niobe.) That's actually two blooms jostling for attention.Here's a shot of the Jackmanii today:

I have yet to achieve anywhere near the bloom rate that my friends Linda and Billie did. For that matter, my mother has a 'Ramona' that has been spectacular the last couple of years. I'm determined to crack the 'clematis code', though, and when I do, watch out!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The French Word for Friend is Ami

As I was finishing up my post for last Saturday's Hoedown, I received one of those life-changing phone calls, the kind you hope never to hear or make. It was from the husband of my cherished friend Amy and he was calling to tell me that she had died suddenly and unexpectedly on Friday night from a massive heart attack and stroke. Devastated doesn't even come close to describing how I felt and still feel. It's been a difficult week and I've taken refuge in working in the garden, since gardening is what brought us together initially. (The picture above is of one of Amy's favorites; she couldn't pass a blooming Rangoon Creeper without stopping for a whiff of its fragrance.)

I first met Amy in the 'Gardening Chat' folder on AOL's message boards: we each posted about the challenges of gardening in the Houston area and began to converse both on the boards and then in e-mails about our gardening experiences. I have Amy to thank for my being the gardener that I am today: on my first visit to her glorious gardens, I was delighted and exhilarated by not only the wide variety of plants she was growing, but the personal style and
creativity she was able to express in her suburban backyard. As we walked through the garden, and Amy talked about the plans and dreams she had for its future, she sparked my own imagination and creativity and emboldened me to look for the possibilities in my garden. Ten years later, our gardens and our friendship have grown far beyond what we imagined they could be. We've shared plants and confidences, seeds and histories, joys and sorrows ... our lives have connected and intertwined countless times over.

It's a rare and wonderful thing to find someone who is not just a dear friend, but a kindred spirit, and I know that we both felt blessed that our journey of friendship led us to such a place. Not a day will go by that I won't miss Amy's physical presence in my life and I will grieve that loss for a long time to come. But this is not the first such loss I've endured and I have learned that while death ends a life, it doesn't have the power to end a relationship. Throughout this long and emotional week, I've already felt Amy beside me in spirit, both in and out of the garden. Our lives will continue to connect and intertwine and I will forever be grateful for all that she has been and always will be to me.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Hoedown on My Corner of Katy

The anticipation has been building and the day is finally here ... it's the Garden Bloggers' Hoe Down, hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens! Here on my corner of Katy, only one hoe consented to be photographed for this post. The long-handled Cobrahead I won at the Garden Bloggers' Spring Fling was not only willing but positively eager to show herself off. My other hoe (I know, Carol, only two hoes? The horror!) went into hiding, and search though I might, I was unable to find her. She's grown shabby and rusty over the years and evidently couldn't bear the comparisons with her much younger and more sophisticated counterpart. Cleo the Cobrahead is very photogenic, as you can see in the following pictures. She'd have preferred Annie Leibovitz to do the photo shoot but had to make do with the Head Gardener here on MCOK.

Cleo posed in front of the gate to the back garden:
She's very proud of the work she did in the area around the arch:Cleo asked that I take her picture with the Rangoon Creeper, a favorite plant:That Texas sun gets mighty hot and the right cowboy hat can make all the difference:Finally, when her work is done, Cleo relaxes in the shade of the Persian vitex:

Friday, May 2, 2008

No Matter How You Say It ...

Clem-uh-tiss, Cluh-may-tiss, Cluh-mat-iss ... Here's some pictures of what could be H.F. Young. I'm not sure I had the right tag in the pot, since the color of the clematis doesn't match that on the tag. This first picture is the closest the camera has come to capturing the color that I see.
OK, in this picture taken yesterday, not only is it blue, but it doesn't even look real!


Today I decided to take some pictures using several different settings on the camera just to see what kind of results I got. The color looks about the same in the first three pictures but what's up with the fourth? I wish I did have a clematis that gorgeous shade of sky blue. The last one is closest to the color I see when I look at it. I AM beginning to worry that it's not the camera but my eyesight. If so, maybe I shouldn't ask for a new camera for Mother's Day after all! Former Harris County Extension Agent Bill Adams is going to be at the Master Gardener workday this coming Tuesday to give an after-lunch talk on photography. The MGs have been asked to bring their cameras and the instruction manuals so Bill can give us some hands-on advice. His pictures are always top notch and I hope to benefit from his tutelage. He's an entertaining speaker and teacher, too, so it should be a great learning experience.