Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Head Gardener & Her Handiwork

Resting not upon her laurels, but her hoe, the Head Gardener agreed to be photographed with her latest creation. With the able assistance of FloraBob, the HG picked up and unloaded two yards of soil today. Time and energy ran out before she could go back for a third but all signs point to her doing so next week.

Here's another shot of the bed: about six inches of soil were added to the expanded areas of the existing beds to the left and right of the new area, as well as under the oak tree. Those rocks and bricks along the curb are just there to hold the soil in until a permanent edging is decided upon. Any suggestions?

Now comes the REALLY hard part: choosing what to plant in all those empty spaces! The Head Gardener is contemplating her options and pondering them carefully. The one thing she knows for sure is that she wants more Hinckley's Columbines. Since we're sticking with hot colors out here, the Head Gardener is thinking about more Anisacanthus, Salvia miniatas, Asclepias and Dicliptera. There are plenty of Copper Canyon Daisy plants that could be moved to fill in as needed. But will they take up too much room? Hmmmm. If she can find more of the native Ranunculus she bought at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center sale a while back, that would rock her world. So would more moss rock to edge the curve under the oak. Time for me to get off the computer and put the HG to work again!

A Work in Progress

As part of the ongoing efforts to make the Executive Producer's life easier* and reduce the onerous burden of his mowing chores, the Head Gardener began stealthily removing sod along the edges of this patch of lawn. It didn't take long for the process to become a tedious one and upon cogitation, the HG came up with a bold but brilliant plan.

An ad was posted on the Houston Craigslist site, offering free sod to anyone who was willing to dig it up and cart it away. The Head Gardener was delighted to have several responses, and even more delighted when the efforts of a father/son team resulted in what you see below.

The Head Gardener went to work raking and cultivating the soil to remove the remaining remnants of sod, and shifting rocks about. Here's how it looks as of this morning.

Now if you'll excuse her, the Head Gardener has to change into her garden togs and hop into FloraBob to make a run to the soil yard. The stiff winds of the last few days have given way to a light breeze ... the sun is shining, the temperature's headed for the mid-60s and all signs point to its being a good day for pitching and spreading compost.

* The Executive Producer thus far does not seem to appreciate the efforts of the HG. Surely when it's time to mow again, he'll come around!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Tale of Two Gardens (GBBD, Part Two)

In Part One of my Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post, I said that I might be accused of Egregious Garden Gloating when I published this second in my GBBD series. I wanted a complete list for my own reference ... even I was surprised by the number of plants still blooming. It's not necessarily due to the extraordinary skills of the Head Gardener, but more to the vagaries of Mother Nature. Also bear in mind, before you read the list below, that more than a few of these are just barely blooming, or are one light freeze away from being toast!
  • Salvias: S. coccinea 'Forest Fire', S. blepharophylla, S. miniata, S. madrensis, S. farinacea, 'Indigo Spires', S. coccinea 'Coral Nymph', S. elegans 'Peach Sage'
  • Roses: La Marne, Reve D'Or, Perle D'Or, Old Blush, Hermosa, Martha Gonzales, Mutabilis, Madame Antoine Mari, Madame Alfred Carriere, Caldwell Pink, Marie Pavie', Mrs. B. R. Cant white sport, Gartendirektor Otto Linne, Highway 290 Pink Buttons, Aloha
  • Summer/fall annuals: Profusion Apricot zinnias, scattered Cut & Come Again zinnias, Tithonia (Mexican torch flower), Rudbeckia hirta, Bright Lights Cosmos, Purple Angelonia, Pentas, Serenity Mix Verbenas, Moss Pink Verbenas, Castor Bean Plant 'Carmencita'
  • Winter/spring annuals: Alyssum, Toadflax (Linaria maroccana), Bluebonnet (! 1 plant !), Nasturtiums (reseeded from those Amy gave me last year), Violas (Helen Mount, Psychedelic Spring, Pandora's Box, a purple/orange one that just tickles me no end, some Sorbet series and one Blue Velour), Morpho Blue Pansies, Dianthus, Indian Paintbrush, purple Scaevola (fan flower/handflower)
  • Cupheas: C. ignea 'David Verity', C. macropetala, Cuphea 'Bunny Ears' or 'Hummingbird'
  • Blue Butterfly Bush (Clerodendron ugandense), Clerodendron vine (red & lavender)
  • Red Pinecone Shrimp plants, pink & yellow Fruit Cocktail Shrimp plants
  • Blooming shrubs: Winter blooming honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), Coral Woody Penta (Rondeletia), Duranta, Purple Iochroma, Red Firespike (Odontonema), 'Marilyn's Choice' Abutilon, Peruvian Pavonia, Sweet Almond Verbena, Red Bauhinia (B. galpinii), Persian Vitex, Red Cestrum, Neon Flash Spirea, Bridal Wreath Spirea
  • Perennials/Hardy Annuals: Butterfly weed, Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemonii), Firecracker Fern (Russelia), Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Engelmann's Daisy, Spiderwort, Australian violet, Pink skullcap, Dianthera candicans, Blue Mistflower (Eupatorium), Osteospermum, Stokesia, Shooting Star Lily (Anthericum), Pigeonberry (Rivinia humilis), Fernleaf Lavender, Purple Skullcap, Tilo, Pyramid Bush (Melochia tomentosa), Sundrops (Calylophus)
  • Vines: Yellow Butterfly vine (Mascagna), Pandora Vine/Bower Vine, LITTLE MAMA! Angel Wing Jasmine
Yes, it's quite a list. Other than the unseasonably cold weather in December, complete with miniscule snow flurries, we've had only a couple of light freezes this winter. While more than a few plants show damage to their foliage, very few have freeze damage beyond the tips of branches and stems. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop ... I'm worried that this could be the year we have a mega ice storm in February. I still have vivid memories of the damage to trees at our previous home when such a storm hit the greater Houston area in February of 1994. All we can do is watch and wait. All that's left for you to do as far as this post goes is to take a look at some of the blooming beauties on my corner of Katy, as pictured below. (I realized only after doing the collage that the captions weren't exactly legible.)

A Tale of Two Gardens (GBBD, Part One)

A few years ago, my friend Amy told me that if she were ever to be known for planting a particular flower, one that would appear throughout her garden in masses and drifts and waves, it would be white tulips. Every year in October, she and I would make a trip to Houston's annual Bulb & Plant Mart to peruse the offerings. Amy's first stop would always be the Tulip booth, where she'd purchase 100 Ivory Floradale tulips to plant in her island bed out front. She continued to dream of the day when hundreds of white tulips would grace her spring garden, but until she could make that dream come true, those 100 bulbs sufficed as her signature flower. When she died so suddenly and unexpectedly late last spring, all of us were too broken-hearted to really consider what would become of her garden. But as Bulb Mart's dates approached, I realized that I could continue her tradition of planting white tulips in that island bed and thus honor her dream and her memory. So I bought 100 Ivory Floradales and brought them home to chill in my refrigerator for the requisite 8 weeks. Wednesday afternoon, I loaded FloraBob, my little red truck, with tools, cow manure and the bulbs, then took off for Amy's house. I spent the afternoon clearing the bed of weeds and dead or dying plants, whacking back the Peruvian Pavonia that was overwhelming its small space, and then digging the holes for the tulips. Per fellow garden blogger Elizabeth of Gardening While Intoxicated, I dug one large trench and planted the bulbs close together, almost touching. I topped them with some of the good rich soil that Amy had nurtured in that bed, adding a bit of cow manure to top dress. This is how it all looked when I'd finished.

As I rested from my labors and looked around her garden, I contemplated the beds she'd created along the curb, sighing over how much work needed to be done to whip them into shape. But the longer I looked, the more I found to rejoice over and to smile about. Yes, it was neglected and a bit untidy without the loving attention that Amy lavished on it ... but all the hard work she put into her soil and her design enabled many of the plants to not only withstand the neglect but to flourish unaided. Since the next day was Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, the brainstorm of Carol at May Dreams Gardens, I decided that I'd share not just my blooms this month, but Amy's. I took a walk around her gardens, front and back, and here's a collage of some of what's blooming in her garden.

Plants, top row: Black-Eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata), Morning Glory (!), Silky Gold Butterfly Weed, Red Firespike. Plants on 2nd row: Abutilon, Pink Knockout Rose (?), Dianthus, and a charming little weed. Plants in between 2nd & 3rd rows: Azalea, Brazilian Button Bush (Centratherum). Plants on 3rd row: Snow on the Mountain (Alternanthera), Rose 'Buff Beauty', Rose 'Felicia' (?), and Summer Snowflakes (Leucojum).

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I share the blooms from my garden and doubtless am accused of Egregious Garden Gloating (EGG) (see this post by Carol of MDG for an explanation).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Misguided Monarchs

No, this is not a post about Prince Harry ...

It's a beautiful winter day here on my corner of Katy so I ventured into
the backyard to water a few containers. I was stopped in my tracks by a bevy of monarch caterpillars munching away on the milkweed. An adult monarch flitted from one coneflower to another, happily nectaring. Their presence is all well and good save for the fact that weather forecasters are predicting a low of 28 tomorrow night. I'd sworn not to cover any plants but I suspect I'll be out there wrapping frost cloth around the butterfly weed in an effort to save my foolish friends. I spent a few moments chiding the matriarch of the clan. "There will be NO ovipositing in this garden today!" Fortunately, there were no human passersby to look askance at my words, only a ruby-crowned kinglet who darted past me and perched briefly on a nearby rose bush to survey the royal photography session.

I'm wondering how
Mother Nature feels about my assistance ... is she ticked off because I'm interfering with natural selection by assisting the caterpillars to live? If so, she'll just have to get over herself (as mentioned, she already plans to take a chill pill tomorrow) (sorry, it had to be said). At least I don't plan to bring the caterpillars inside this time ... not at the moment, anyway. I did that several years ago and let me tell you, when they decide they're ready to spin their cocoon, those little buggers can move mighty fast! I never did find most of them. On the other hand, were I to just happen by the thrift store and find a small aquarium for them, I do have some leftover screen that could go on top.

Meanwhile, Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day approacheth and I believe I'll have some unexpected blooms to share that day. See y'all then!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Different Women in The City Different

Snow showers are in my weekend forecast ... two of my friends and I are headed to Santa Fe for a few days of shopping, eating, drinking, art gazing, and sightseeing. Hilarity and mayhem are also expected as we storm the City Different in search of whatever we can find! This trip is my 25th anniversary gift from my loving and thoughtful spouse, who knew how disappointed I was in October when we were there for a wedding and I wasn't able to visit my favorite haunts (High Country Gardens, here I come!). Thank you, Essence Man ... here's to the next 25 years!

Meanwhile, The Head Gardener wishes everyone a Happy New Year and hopes that all your souvenirs of 2009 will be as lovely as this one!