Monday, April 27, 2009

A Special Tuesday Edition of TTGG

Today I braved the post-thunderstorm heat and humidity to bring you a special Tuesday edition of Through the Garden Gate. Yesterday's pictures were pretty pathetic, taken as they were at what I thought during what I thought would be the last of the storms. Mother Nature had quite a surprise in store for me, though. If you read my Soggy Saturday post on the 18th, you'll know that heavy rain can lead to flooding not only on my corner of Katy, but throughout my neighborhood. Evidently those storms were merely a dress rehearsal for today's production, staged in the wee small hours of the morning. Soggy Saturday now looks like a gentle spring shower in comparison.

Around 2:30 a.m. I awoke to the sound of a downpour, accompanied by thunder and lightning. The wind blew open my front gate, giving me a view of the front sidewalk and glimpses of the garden on either side: most of what I could see was under water. The flooding usually stops at the end of the island bed set into the aggregate sidewalk but not this time. The rocks by my front gate were covered by water, although I think the beds on either side were spared. The water did come up to the recently built rock border surrounding the willow oak.
Looking out across the cul-de-sac I could see that the water was within a couple of feet of my neighbor's house. Another neighbor across the side street has 2 planter urns at the end of her sidewalk that are about 20-24 inches tall: they were submerged about 3 inches from the top. The street looked like a fast-flowing river: river rats would have enjoyed shooting the rapids of Laverton Drive. (I wish I could have gotten pictures but I wasn't venturing out into the lightning & thunder.) Marble sized hail fell for about 2 minutes at 3:45 am ... it was coming down hard enough that we worried about windows breaking. The storm finally moved on sometime between 5 and 6 am.

We weren't done dealing with it, though: when the Executive Producer got up this morning, he noticed some wet spots on the bedroom carpet and one of the mats in the bathroom. He assumed the garden terrierist was responsible.
I wish he'd been right. I walked into my closet and the carpet squished. Evidently the water came up so high on the south side of the house that it was over the foundation. I spent over an hour this morning pulling up the carpet and pad in the closet. The bedroom carpet is wet along that wall and I've got the dehumidifier running. We needed new carpet in there anyway but my closet carpet was in great shape until today. Let me tell y'all, if you've never lugged sodden carpet, it's not an experience I'd recommend.

So without further ado, let's take a little journey through the garden gate:

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, April 27th

Today's pictures are brought to you at great personal risk ... another gullywasher came rolling through the greater Houston area today. The rain started falling about 3:45, catching me just as I was preparing to come inside for the day. Within half an hour, we were being pounded with rain, exacerbated by strong winds and accompanied by lightning and thunder. As of a few minutes ago, over 400 cloud to ground lightning strikes have been recorded. And yet there I was, sheltered under the golf umbrella (metal tipped), to capture a couple of shots through the garden gate ... not even very good ones, at that. That blur of gray-green you see in the long shot is my poor Vitex. A close-up of its wind-whipped branches follows.

Earlier today I went out to Nelson Water Gardens and bought a flat of herbs: golden oregano, golden sage, Archer's Gold Lemon Thyme (sensing a theme?). I bought a flat of annuals, too: Splash coleus, Strawberry Fields Gomphrena, Profusion Orange Zinnias, a sedum & some Pentas. I managed to get all of them except the sedum & Pentas planted out front on the south side. Here's hoping they haven't washed away!

Annie from Austin, of The Transplantable Rose, is joining me today in looking through the garden gate. Welcome, Annie, and thanks for sharing your beautiful views!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, April 20th

I've been outside messing with the rocks again but I came in at the behest of the Executive Producer, who has big plans for us this evening, as indeed he does every Monday. Chuck will have the pleasure of our company for an hour ... then we'll get a few thrills from Jack Bauer. Before those menages a trois, though (oh, come on, you know all of you were thinking along those lines), here's a few images through the garden gate. After perusing my images, won't you head over to see Robin at Getting Grounded, who's going to join me from Austin each week to share the view from her garden gate. If you'd like to participate next Monday, I'd be delighted to see YOUR view!

The back patio

I 've encountered technical difficulties providing pictures of the usual views so I'm going to delete the X-boxes and will make another stab at it when I'm at my home computer.
What's that creeping through the bed?

Why, it's Leon Hale, the only armadillo I'm happy to
see in my garden. He's named after the inimitable
Leon Hale, longtime columnist for the Houston Chronicle.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Soggy Saturday

That dry stream bed in my most recent post? It's not quite so dry after 2 days of often torrential rain. The last two stepping stones were under water about 2 pm today. That lake you see is my street. Uh-huh. My thoughts exactly.

It's somewhat comforting to know that at least I got the pitch of the bed more or less right. That area above the bull rock is where I currently plan to add soil and then plant creeping, cascading type plants to spill over the rocks. I say currently because as y'all may have noticed, I change my mind a lot.

Somewhere under that water is a stepping stone ...

Looking down the sidewalk from the front gate:

This is why I don't plant really xeric plants along this stretch of curb. Plants have to be able to tolerate both extreme drought AND extreme moisture.

I'm extremely grateful that I made it home relatively unscathed and I hope that tomorrow will find me able to say the same about my truck. I spent the morning at the Harris County Extension Center, working the spring plant sale held by our Master Gardener group. We're very appreciative of all the folks who braved the weather to shop with us. The Extension Center is an area that is prone to flooding in storms like today's: by the time the sale started at 9 am, the connecting road from one major street to another had to be closed due to high water. It was still open in the other direction when I left but a couple of miles down Highway 6, the feeder road along I-10 was underwater for a stretch. A few cars stalled out along there but FloraBob made it through and we headed down the freeway for home. What we found in the neighborhood was an even bigger challenge: most of the roads looked like this one below. This is the side street on the north side of my house; I'm standing in the alley entrance to take the picture.

Fortunately, the alleys were less flooded than the streets and I was able to use those to get through the neighborhood. I had to do some turning around and backtracking a couple of times. When I got to the intersection below and saw how high the water was, I gritted my teeth and took a chance that FloraBob could handle it for that short distance.

A few minutes later, I spotted someone for whom it was no challenge at all.

This neighborhood teen posed for me before heading to see if he could help a stranded motorist a couple of blocks away.

The rain is still falling as I write ... I'm hoping the downpours are over for my corner of Katy but radar does show a small storm cell just west of us. Other parts of Houston are still getting pounded and the entire area is under flood and tornado watches and flash flood warnings. I hope it clears up tomorrow as predicted: I have 40 bags of primo compost waiting to be unloaded from my truck. The upside of the low attendance at the plant sale: we didn't sell out of compost! I didn't get a chance to buy any plants, sadly, but I'm hoping to make it to our monthly meeting on Tuesday evening and have a chance at them then. A reminder for Houston area gardeners: the meeting will be open to the public and today's plants will be available for purchase. If you missed the sale, don't miss this chance to get some beautiful and healthy plants; you can also hear Dr. Carol Brouwer speak about these and othergreat plants for Houston. The program starts at 7 pm at the Extension office in Bear Creek Park.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rock Me Gently, Rock Me Slowly ...

OK, so about the rocks ... as seen above, I've finally gotten the moss rocks stacked to form a low wall/edging around the willow oak. I've trekked back and forth to the soil yard at least 3 times in the last week to pick up more rock to supplement the 3000 pound pallet of moss rock I started with. I did make a note of how much I bought on Monday: 977 pounds. That was done in two trips and yes, I unloaded it all myself (without injury to my back ... I was very careful.)

Below is the view from the street of the rock wall and the confounded dry stream bed
that starts near the gate and runs down to the street. I say confounded because there's the crazymaking task of choosing and placing flat rocks to serve as stepping stones through the dry stream: just when I think the configuration is right, I take another look and hate what I see. Doubly confounded because I've lost count of how many times I've had to shift the dratted bull rock. I swear it's easier to move the big flat pieces ... but moving them it what causes me to redefine bed edges and necessitate bull (rock) shifting. After spending the better part of 4 days working on this area, I finally had an epiphany: I had reached my limit and I needed help! The good folks at Living Earth Technology, where I purchased the rock, referred me to a knowledgeable and helpful local landscaper: Edgar and his crew will be here Monday to work on placing the large rocks like the one below, my favorite of those I picked out. (I hear a song from the late 60s every time I look at it. Anyone know which one?) They will also be shifting the bull.

This is the view looking from the gate towards the street. Edgar and his crew will do some digging to better situate the rocks in their locations, to make the "stream" flow more naturally.

From the street, here's an overview of how it looks right now. To the right of the dry stream bed, I'll add more soil and plant that area out so things drape over the rocks a bit. The area to the left, though, is tricky. Building up and planting out the bare area on the left would still leave me with an area just in front of the rock border that needs to be accessible to foot traffic. I'm thinking I should create a flagstone path that meanders over to the sidewalk, starting at the curb and going up and over in front of the moss rock wall.

Here's the flagstone path I laid in front of the gate to the back gardens. I'm happy enough with how that turned out that I'm already plotting how to pave the path in back with flagstone. It really is similar to doing a jigsaw puzzle! When I first started working on that area, I could see that the flagstone was going to be too high for the gate to close properly. Then I remembered my new reciprocating saw: I whipped that baby out and cut off each picket about 2 inches and the gate closes just fine. It even looks good where I cut it. Where has the reciprocating saw been all my life????!!!!

And finally, a few shots of the courtyard, post renovation:

OK, don't laugh: I really think I need some bigger moss rocks to edge that small bed. I guess I'll head back to the soil yard next week!

Garden Bogger's Bloom Day: Concentrating on Columbines

It's the 15th of April and we all know what that means ... lesser mortals may be frantically pounding their calculators and racing to the nearest Post Office 5 minutes till midnight but not garden bloggers! We're too busy with something really important: Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, sponsored by Carol of May Dreams Gardens. I chose to concentrate on columbines this bloom day (mainly because I'm still spending every spare moment shifting rocks from one spot to another ... I'm about to cry uncle and hire someone to help me ... more on that tomorrow). For now, here are some pictures of Aquilegia hinckleyana and Aquilegia canadensis.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, April 13th

I've been out front all day, rocking out big time: 1100 pounds of rock picked out, unloaded and placed in the front yard between 10 am and 5 pm! So this week's TTGG is an early evening edition.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, April 6th

Here it is Monday again, and time to take a look Through the Garden Gate. Something new this week: I present Video Episode 1 of TTGG, the riveting saga of a garden in south Central Texas.

Dang, after listening to this, I certainly do sigh a lot! Blame it on the wind ... my friend Mimi in Vermont tells me that Frank Ronan, writing in Gardens Illustrated, says the wind affects you differently and makes it impossible to work outside, not because it's cold or blows things away, but because it's annoying by its ever-presence. I've been in a funky mood lately when it comes to working in the garden and I think maybe that's why.

For those wondering about the rock festival on MCOK this weekend, here's an update. The courtyard, like most such renovation projects, has turned out to be more costly and labor-intensive than expected/planned. After watching my two talented and industrious stonemasons, Isidro and Blas, working so hard on this project, I am very happy that the Executive Producer and I didn't attempt to do it ourselves! Even with the help of friends, it would have been too much to handle. Isidro and Blas are here again today and hope to finish up this evening. I love how it looks thus far. As for the retaining wall out front, I haven't gotten to that yet. The wind, folks, the wind ...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rocking Out on My Corner of Katy

Come Saturday, these slabs of flagstone will be
transformed into flooring in the courtyard.

Farewell, bare dirt, I will not miss you.

While the contractors are working their magic in the courtyard,
I'll be endeavoring to create a low retaining wall around the willow oak.
These moss rock pieces are pretty substantial and I won't be
surprised if I have to avail myself of the contractors' services
in that area as well.

This is a shot of what I should be seeing plenty of today and tomorrow: bluebonnets and other wildflowers. I'm off to spend some time in Round Top with my traveling buddies Genny and Laura, visiting the numerous antique and junk dealers and artisans participating in one of the most time-honored rites of spring in this part of Texas. Catch y'all later!