Saturday, September 27, 2008

In Which The Head Gardener Attempts to Untangle the Twisted Web Woven by Ike

OK, maybe that's not strictly accurate, since the vines have been growing on the old trellis for 7 or 8 years now. However, thanks to all Ike's huffing and puffing and blowing the vines' house down, the Angel Wing Jasmine is a tangled mess. There are three separate plants, two of which I think reseeded from the mother plant. The picture below shows Big Mama resting against and thus obscuring the air conditioning unit.

I'd insisted that EM remove the old trellis because there was no way to cut the vines free without decimating the plants. What I didn't reckon with is the incredible weight of that much vine! There's no way I can lift the mass by myself. Shoot, the vine on the far left side was hard enough to manage: even with careful handling, I ended up with several broken branches and was forced to do some serious pruning. I was able to get some of it lifted and tossed over the new trellis, then threaded other branches through the openings. The middle vine was easy, since it has only a single trunk and had to be severely pruned due to breakage. But as you can see from another view of Big Mama, she's anything but easy.

Yesterday I went at her from a couple of different angles to prune broken and dead branches. Because the vine's been in that spot for so many years, there's a lot of dead wood, older growth that was shaded out by the top growth. I'd pruned some of the dead wood out this summer but with the undergrowth exposed, I can see how much more of it there was than I realized. Unfortunately for me, the dead wood isn't really the problem: it's easy enough to prune or break off and it's lightweight. It's the live vines that pose a dilemma: I've come to the reluctant conclusion that I'm not going to be able to do this all by myself if I want to keep the bulk of the vine. Finding helpers is easier said than done: landscape crews are hard to come by right now. Even assuming I can find some helpers to lift the vine onto the trellis, I'm going to have to work slowly and carefully to arrange the vines. Breakage is inevitable and I have to wonder if all that hard work might not bring me to the same result as a less painstaking approach. Is it worth spending all that time and effort to keep Big Mama's tresses long and luxuriant when I may end up giving her a buzz cut anyway?

My dilemma is further complicated by the fact that this
trellis has historically served as a privacy screen for my breakfast room. There are three large windows that face the street, a fairly busy one. I removed the miniblinds from the windows several years back and the old trellis served as a more than adequate privacy screen all this time, thanks to both the latticework and the vines. However, in constructing the new trellis, I decided to use cattle panel wire fencing rather than sheets of lattice for a cleaner, more contemporary look and sturdier construction and I'm very happy with the results as far as looks go. Here's a view of the completed trellis with the smaller, more manageable vines in place, although the arrangement may be temporary. The vines at the bottom of the middle and right sections of trellis are Big Mama's tangled tresses.

So here I sit, still trying to decide what to do. Yes, I could whack Big Mama back to a faretheewell and wait for her to grow back. I thought about doing just that several times yesterday, growing ever more frustrated as I worked and pondered and fretted. Did I mention that if I start at a trunk and attempt to untangle it from the heap of vine on the ground, it gets me nowhere? Whacking it back would certainly be the easiest way to deal with the problem. What it comes down to is that I'd be sacrificing not only privacy but some really beautiful and healthy top growth and lovely fragrant blooms. It's the latter sacrifice that I'm reluctant to make. The privacy issue can be managed from inside with window coverings, if needs must, much as I dislike them in this house (they take away from its open and airy feel.) I know she's going to lose more branches, however I go about this, but it's deciding how to minimize the damage that's got my knickers in a twist. Maybe I'm overthinking things, but I tell y'all what: come on over here to my corner of Katy and look at Big Mama, I think you'll find yourselves doing the same thing!

So I'm back to the idea of having helpers lift her onto and over the trellis. IF I can find helpers willing to do that, because dang, Big Mama is HEAVY. Once we get her up there, then I have the pleasure of pruning and placing, all the while thinking of the numerous other post-Ike cleanup chores still to be done. And the plethora of fall gardening chores. And the planting of the
umpteen containers that I am determined to get into the ground so I don't have to water them in the dead of summer, as well as the planting of recent purchases from Nelson Water Gardens, Buchanan's, Another Place In Time and Joshua's. AND I must remember to water those already planted!

Although I may sound overwhelmed (I AM!) and less than upbeat, I should note that things are slowly getting back to what passes for normal here on my corner of Katy. My trusted and
talented arborist, Shawn Geiman of Shawnee Trees, came by on Tuesday to remove the large oak limbs that had broken in the wind. There's still a lot of smaller limbs and dead branches, etc. that need removal but I agreed that those could wait until the pace slows down a bit for these guys. Driving around Houston, it's easy to see why they're so much in demand. Houston's trees were by far the biggest casualty of the storm. Many of them will not recover from the damage; mine will recover but I doubt they'll ever be as pretty as they were.

A fine crew of workers from Harris County spent a lot of time removing the piles of debris from my yard with only minor damage to the grass (dang it, I was hoping the pile on the south side had killed the already stressed patch of St. Augustine). By the time the remains of the oak limbs were added to that pile, it was almost as tall as the Head Gardener! I spent most of my time in the garden last week clearing leaves, twigs and small branches on the south side of the house and cutting back plants in those beds. My shrub rake saw a lot of action, as did my pruners. This is how it looks at the moment. It's pretty empty compared to pre-Ike and immediately post-Ike! On the far left, you'll see the upended remains of the largest lost branch. I asked the crew not to take it. It's destined to be yard art of some kind.

That's the patch of grass I'd hoped would die. It may yet give up the ghost with a little assistance from The Head Gardener, who wants to make that whole side of the yard a planting area. What will she put there? Decisions are not her strong suit, so she will doubtless agonize about this for days on end.

Another sign of progress: the front gate has been repaired and the courtyard is private once more. You can't even tell that the brick wall was damaged. Brickmason Greg Oertli and his son did a very nice job and I'm so thankful to them for their hard work.

Today, however, there will be no agonizing while pacing to and fro, muttering curses and imprecations: the Head Gardener is taking a break from the gardens. Perhaps I should emulate the laissez faire attitude of the sparrows, who are quite comfortable with Big Mama's downed vines, as seen in a picture shot through my kitchen window.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thank You, Thomas Edison!

I've been thinking that this past week has been all about power: it may sound trite, but a hurricane is a sobering reminder of how little power we have over nature. In the days leading up to Ike, we could tell ourselves that all our preparations and precautions would see us through safely. Given that my corner of Katy is 70 miles inland from Galveston and we've so often remained unaffected by storm systems that cause major problems in other areas of Houston, we felt fairly confident that it would prove much the same with Ike. We expected to lose our electricity, and to have a little debris to clean up. Life continued as normal for the most part: even as the winds began to pick up, just before noon on Friday, we were able to be out and about, making one last run to the grocery store or the gas station. Throughout the afternoon and evening, we watched the news coverage on TV and began to realize that we would be saying goodbye to Galveston as we knew it. I still wasn't too worried about what the storm would bring to us here. Looking at the projected path as it moved inland, Katy appeared to be on the outside edge and I wondered if we would see a repeat of Hurricane Rita, when not even one drop of rain fell on my corner.

The balance of power shifted just before midnight, when the wind began to blow in earnest. Around 11:30 pm, the double glass front doors blew open: I'd unlatched the right hand door a week or so previously to give us room to move some furniture out and forgot to relatch it. I held the left door to keep it from blowing and EM relatched the right door. We closed and locked them, then moved a large chaise against them as insurance; they continued to creak throughout the night. EM moved a dresser in front of our bedroom door, since it's been known to blow open in much less windy circumstances. After making sure there were flashlights at hand if needed , we went to bed and slept until about 3:30 am. When I woke, the blinking of the digital clock told me that there had been at least one power surge. Unable to sleep, I got up to look around and discovered that the latched double front gates had blown open and were swinging wildly in the wind. I might have ventured out to relatch them, had the chair not been in front of the doors and had I not been more than a little afraid of going out.

Around 4:00 am, I heard the boom of a transformer blowing and our power flickered off, then returned. At 4:30 am, the power went off for the duration, not with a bang or even a whimper. In a weird way, it was a relief to have it over and done with. Proof: I went back to bed and slept surprisingly soundly. It was after 8 am when we finally rose and began to survey the damage. Although it was raining, it was not the torrential rain we'd been warned to expect, only a moderate steady rainfall. The winds had died down by then, but they left behind evidence of their ferocity. The front gate and its hinges were blown off the wall, taking several chunks of brick with them.

Here's what I saw when I looked out the door.
Here's the view from just outside the front gates. I just now noticed that dark spot above the front door, a brass sign that I forgot to remove pre-Ike. I can't believe it wasn't blown down.

A close-up of the sign taken this morning. I'd been debating whether the garden should be known as Wits' End or Coneflower Corner. I think this settles it.

Many thanks to brickmason Greg Oertli for his prompt and careful attention to rebuilding the brick wall! The left panel of the gate is propped up to look as normal as possible.

By-mid morning, the rain had stopped and it was safe to venture outside again. The gate wasn't the only casualty of the storm. The wood trellis outside our breakfast room windows fell over, bringing with it most of the angel wing jasmines that were planted against it.

The trellis on Saturday afternoon

Happily, the root systems all remained in the ground. Since the trellis was built over 15 years ago of untreated wood, I'm not surprised it didn't hold up to the wind & the weight of a wet vine. At my request, EM demolished the trellis, working around the vines so we could save as much of them as possible. With any luck, my contractor will be able to get a new trellis and gate built next week. I hadn't realized how much privacy that trellis afforded us: with no coverings on those breakfast room windows, I'm feeling a wee bit exposed. The silver lining to this cloud: I'm finally able to reach the dead wood that was under the vines' top growth. I'm hoping the vines will be healthier and more vigorous than ever after I finish pruning them. Here's how they looked this morning.Although numerous fences in the area, including some on our alley, were demolished by the storm, our longest stretch of fence was untouched, a big disappointment to me. The fence is starting to show its age and will need replacement for aesthetic reasons soon. I was hoping it was just frail enough that a hurricane would do it in and our insurance would cover a new one. It didn't budge so much as a fraction of an inch (not even when I gave it a good hard kick). EM says if it's strong enough to withstand Ike, we don't need a new fence!

Like most of our neighbors, we spent Saturday afternoon outside, beginning the long and tedious task of post-hurricane cleanup. Unlike most of our neighbors, we continue to slog our way through post-hurricane cleanup here on my corner of Katy. (This is the only instance in which you'll ever hear me say I wish I had less garden and more lawn!) The large limbs and smaller branches have been cleared from where they landed, and three large piles await pickup by the contractors hired by city & county to haul the debris.

This pile of debris in our yard is just of many throughout the neighborhood.
Crews were out yesterday picking up bagged debris. There are still leaves, clumps of leaves, twigs, etc. all over the back beds and paths. Since I don't know how reasonable the yard police will be about a timetable for cleaning up, I've concentrated my efforts on the front gardens. I've taken the time to do some fall pruning as I work on clearing the beds. Wind damage isn't just about split limbs and broken stems: on some plants, the foliage was really affected by the sustained winds.

This variegated Philippine Violet suffered
severe windburn thanks to Ike.

The willow oak still awaits the attentions of my arborist. His helper came by today to assess the damage and agreed that it will indeed need ladders, chain saws and stronger, younger men than he to deal with it. It was difficult to get a picture that showed both the snapped off limb and the crown of the tree hanging upside down, caught in the tree (picture is of the latter).

As we've been out and about in the Katy area since last weekend, we've seen ample evidence of Ike's visit. Neighbors lost a pine tree that toppled into the street and had to be cut up in order for traffic to proceed. There are numerous smaller and/or younger trees that were uprooted by the storm. Many businesses lost their signs or marquees; lettering on buildings was ripped off. The plant center down the street had the top ripped off a greenhouse. We feel very fortunate overall. A fieldhouse was destroyed at Taylor High School just blocks away from us: as one friend said, it looked like a giant had stepped on it.

May I just say for the record that I love electricity? I absolutely adore it, truly I do. We were only without power for 18 hours and I was already starting to get cranky by the time it came back on. I'd turned the thermostat down to the low 60s earlier in the evening, hoping it would take the house that much longer to warm up to uncomfortable temperatures. It did seem to help. The cool front that blew through late Sunday/early Monday was a real blessing to those without power but even so, I can imagine how miserable the many people who are still without electricity must feel. My son was one of those have-nots until early this morning; he's been camping out in the air-conditioned comfort of friends' apartments. He did spend Monday night here with us, and spent most of the afternoon helping his dad with clean-up. His downtown office has been closed all week due to the power outage. There's not much that IT guys can do if the computers are down. Throughout the greater Houston area, there has probably been a marked increase in the number of books read, cards and board games played, and conversations held this week. I'd imagine there were a few more marital arguments than usual, too. In the interest of neighbors' marital harmony, we invited the couple across the street to spend time here as needed, since they were without electricity until Wednesday afternoon. He came over to watch TV and use the computer; she stayed home and enjoyed the time alone!

Rather than include all of them in this post, I've uploaded my before and after pictures to Picasa. Use this link to view them. You'll see several of the red bauhinia (hey, I'm struggling to cope with its dramatically altered appearance). I've been assured by others who have suffered through wind storms that trees will reshape themselves without help, and I think I see signs that it's already doing so.

Happily, the Turk's Caps fared much better and have been the subject of territory wars amongst the hummingbirds. I could hear them as I took this final shot but they evidently didn't wish to be photographed!

Monday, September 15, 2008

AbsoBloominLutely Thrilled to Still Have A Garden

Ike has come and gone, and a messier (and more unwelcome) guest I have never seen! If you're wondering whether I have any blooms left for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I am happy to share with you these pictures from a trek around the garden this morning. Mind you, one does not stroll the garden at this point in time ... one navigates with all the caution taken by those venturing deep into the Amazonian rainforest.
The butterflies have a navigational advantage, as do the hummingbirds.
Both were out in full force, working the flowers for every bit of nectar
they could. This Gulf Fritillary paused in his endeavors to soak up some sun.

The coral vine covers one of the Texas persimmon trees; both
emerged from the storm unscathed.

A bumblebee on the Salvia 'Otahal'. This blue and white variety is named
after native Texan plantsman David Otahal, an old friend of mine
from Hartman Junior High School in Houston.

We put the birdbath on the ground so it wouldn't be toppled by the winds.
This Profusion Apricot Zinnia is a cheery sight.

Unlike its nearby neighbor, which I pulled out a few months ago,
this Blackfoot Daisy is not sulking from a surfeit of water.

Near the melampodium, a 'Serenity' mix verbena sports bright pink blooms.
Would you call this color Fuchsia or Magenta?

The hummingbirds are happy that there are a
few blooms left on the red Firespike.

This Salvia (not sure it's a greggii or a macrophylla)
is a little less vibrant pink than it was pre-Ike.

Okay, folks, steel yourselves. Remember my beautiful red Bauhinia of which I posted Friday before last? The pride and joy of my corner bed? The good news is that it's still alive. The bad news is that the wind whipped it around six ways from Sunday and it's thoroughly contorted. Behold it and weep.

I'll do my best to put together a post tomorrow detailing our experiences during and after Ike, and share the pictures I've taken. For now, I'll just say that we were very fortunate, all in all. We had some minor property damage and the oak trees in front took a real beating. I think there are as many leaves on the ground as on the trees, no joke. I spent today attempting to do some cleanup and I swear things look worse afterwards than they did before! I have to keep reminding myself to think of this as an opportunity to make some changes. It was a little easier to do pre-hurricane, before I was faced with such an unholy mess!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

A view of the garden from the back gate.
This is after I cleared out all the pots and yard art ...
note the absence of the hose which usually appears in pictures of this area!

With Hurricane Ike's landfall about twelve hours away, I'm as ready as I can be for whatever it may bring to my corner of Katy. It's been 25 years since I experienced a major hurricane. As we hauled things into the garage this morning, EM and I were reminiscing about Alicia, a category 3 hurricane. We had just gotten engaged and picked out a ring at Tiffany's when the storm blew into Houston; EM had to postpone giving me my ring because of it. Alicia also cost us our once in a lifetime opportunity to see Simon & Garfunkel in concert; they cancelled their Houston appearance due to the storm.

Back then EM was living out in southeast Houston, not all that far from the coast, and rode the storm out in the company of neighbors, They played cards, drank champagne before it could get hot and go bad, and watched EM's storage shed sail off in pieces which fell to earth in other people's yards. I lived just off Montrose Boulevard near downtown Houston, in an old fourplex. A large oak tree was uprooted by the storm and fell across the driveway, coming to rest against my back door. I must have been in the shower at the time, because I didn't hear it fall. The first I knew of it was when I walked into my kitchen and saw it pressing against the back door. I screamed and ran into the other room to hide. I don't know what I thought it was but it scared me good! I've always thought that would make a great horror movie scene ...

We won't be on the "dirty" side of the storm, based on what they know right now, but it does appear that we could get hurricane force winds out here. I'm hoping we get generous amounts of rain as well. High winds would add insult to injury: the soil is so dry that plants in my gardens are already suffering. EM has moved all the hoses into the garage so I can't water unless I'm willing to haul buckets back and forth. I don't think I have the energy left to do that. Hour upon hour of hauling countless pieces of yard art inside, not to mention way too many pots and containers, have sapped my strength. Plants will just have to wait for the rain to start falling. For those who have never been through a hurricane and are wondering why all this effort, it's not a good idea to leave anything outside that could be picked up and flung about by the wind, or that will roll around and smash into other things that could break and be picked up and flung about. If we get strong winds and heavy rain, we'll have enough to worry about with tree limbs, and other debris.

As much work as it was to take the garden down to its bones, I'm grateful to Ike for giving me the opportunity to see my garden divested of all the usual pieces of whimsy and rusty stuff. My reaction has been very different from what I expected. As I stood at the gate to take a picture, I looked out at the garden and realized that with all that STUFF gone, the plants were much better able to take their rightful places as stars of the garden. I'm not sure I want to put it all back. I'm surprised that I feel that way but I think it's evidence that I'm ready to evolve as a gardener. What will the next stage of that evolution be? I don't know but I'm excited to find out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where Did The G Go?

Last week's purchases: Dianthera candicans, Caryopteris 'Blue Myth', Lantana, Red Porterweed, 2 freebie daylilies (Skechers clogs just happened to be sitting there & I love the color so I left them in the picture)

WARNING: Ranting may run rampant!

Over at Plurk, where several of the garden bloggers hang out to talk about manky plants and horticultural dreams, we found ourselves lamenting the sorry state of HGTV. Although the network has always emphasized HOME more than GARDENING, there was a time when their schedule of shows justified that G in their acronym. 5 out of 5 garden bloggers surveyed
now agree, however, that there's precious little gardening to be found.

On a network supposedly dedicated to home and garden, check out the schedule for the week and you'll doubtless agree with us. After taking a closer look, I'm even more appalled than I was previously. I counted approximately 284 shows in a week: the vast majority of those shows were on buying and/or selling a home. Only eleven shows of the 284 were on gardening or landscaping. LANDSCAPE SMART, OUTER SPACES, LANDSCAPER'S CHALLENGE and
GROUND BREAKERS focus on someone else's stepping in to renovate an existing space: all are more geared towards the creation of outdoor living spaces than what I and my fellow garden bloggers think of as gardens. Gardening is about much more than just making your house look good: it's a highly personal and emotional journey. Each gardener's journey is unique and yet each gardener shares some of the same experiences on that journey: our joys and frustrations, our questions and dilemmas, our doubts and our delights.

It's their failure to recognize that that has cost HGTV my viewership. I'll admit to DVRing A GARDENER'S DIARY, in which gardener Erica Glasener visits gardens across the country; it's the one show out of 284 that I know won't disappoint me. My disappointment in the direction they've taken is shared by others, including Carol at May Dreams Gardens, Mary Ann at Idaho Gardener, Robin at Bumblebee Blog and Mr. McGregor's Daughter. If gardeners like the five of us are dissatisfied with their offerings and disinclined to watch, surely there are others like us out there. Speak up, y'all, and let HGTV know that we're putting them on notice. They want that G, they need to earn it!

Three Fishies: this week they're Little Ricky, Ricky & Lucy

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fabulous Friday

Bauhinia galpinii

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!