Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Watch Out, Chicago, Here We Come!

Another unknown daylily

Starting tomorrow, the Windy City will play host to over 50 garden bloggers from around the country as we meet for the second Garden Bloggers' Spring Fling. Those of us who attended last year's fling in Austin are looking forward to renewing the friendships made during that event as well as meeting more of the bloggers we know and love to read. We'll tour gardens both public and private, including Chicago Botanic Garden, the Lurie Garden at Millenium Park, the Lincoln Park Conservatory and even renowned chef Rick Bayless' private urban kitchen garden.

For me, one of the highlights of the weekend will be the opportunity to see in person many of the plants that we're unable to grow here and which I've only seen in pictures. Those of us who make it into town tomorrow will enjoy the special treat of a tour of Squirrelhaven, the gardens of Mr. McGregor's Daughter: we're told we might just get to see her tree peony in bloom! Excitement is mounting and by the time I get there tomorrow morning, I expect to be positively giddy (which giddiness may run rampant when greeted by the cooler temperatures predicted there)!

I do leave with a certain amount of trepidation regarding my own garden's wellbeing in my absence. Despite my stated intention of drastically reducing the number of containers that must be watered this summer, I still have numerous plants in pots that didn't make it into the ground this spring. The Executive Producer and the No-Longer-A-Teenager (as of yesterday) had agreed to keep an eye on things but as the time to leave drew closer, I decided that I'd best bring in some paid outside assistance to ensure the continued health of such plants as the Big Sky Sunrise yellow Echinacea pictured at the bottom of this post. An able young friend who is soon to be a grad student in audiology and speech pathology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville will visit Wit's End twice during my absence and take care of the watering chores. I'll enjoy myself much more knowing that she's on duty! Thanks, K.H.!

I'd also like to thank Laura Haynes Weisman of the Houston Chronicle, who graciously provided swag for me to bring along for my fellow bloggers. The bloggers are lucky to have her!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, May 25th

Today's edition of TTGG should be subtitled BEFORE AND AFTER. I spent most of the day spreading cedar mulch in the beds and the path, which of necessity involved a great deal of pulling of weeds, digging of spiderwort, and resituating of rocks. The humidity levels continue to be lower than usual but they have risen enough over the past couple of days that I was grateful to take a couple of breaks in my neighbors' pool. We have a great deal going: I water their plants and pick up their mail when they're away, and use of the pool is my compensation. What a deal! Those breaks were mighty welcome today!

The before shots, taken just after 8:00 a.m.:

Texas Persimmon (which I've dubbed Ulysses S. Grant), Echinacea, Rose 'Hermosa',
bonariensis, Rock Rose Pavonia

The vitex at top, Laura Bush petunias and Mexican Feather Grass bisected by the sun

Some of the stepping stones are still wet from a brief rain shower yesterday afternoon.

This is just me being artsy ... I like the way things look through the Italian parsley blossoms.

I was trying to capture the daylily (the blob of yellow at top) but the gaura on the left jumped out & took the spotlight!
Now for the after ... these were taken at 7:45 p.m.

The yellow daylily glows in the evening light. As usual,
I'm not sure which one this is. It's a beauty, though.

Can you see the difference between this morning & this evening?
The petunias have been cut back quite a bit and the
path has a fresh layer of mulch.

The vitex again. In the upper right quadrant, the sun is
going down on the Texas Persimmon. That one is Robert E. Lee.

The frenzy of activity over the last few days is due to the Head Gardener's upcoming visit to Chicago for the 2009 Garden Bloggers' Spring Fling. She wanted to accomplish as much as possible before she left, knowing that her absence means that watering chores will fall to the non-gardening members of the household. It is with more than a little trepidation that she takes her leave of the garden on Thursday ... but she's also filled with anticipation of seeing the friends made at last year's GBSF and meeting other bloggers who will become new friends! She hopes to come home with lots of pictures to share with y'all and even more happy memories.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Carpe Hemerocallis!

Before I got started on the garden chores for today, I grabbed my camera and did walkies around my corner of Katy so I could share some of the daylilies with y'all. As I noted in my Bloom Day post, a lot of them are missing labels and have gone unidentified for way longer than I want to admit. While the Head Gardener can be faulted in many instances, there are some whose labels have faded or gone missing. I have a fairly decent list of what I've bought over the years so I'm working on matching plants with their names. I bought copper plant tags at Target last year (love that One Spot area) and I numbered them from 1-20 using a marker that's guaranteed (ha!) not to fade. When I find one that's missing a label, I take a picture of the bloom with one of the numbered tags. The tag remains with the plant; once I've made an ID, in theory I'll add the name to the tag. The only drawback to this system is that plants have to bloom in order to be recognized!

OK, on with the show. If anyone has a possible ID on some of these, please let me know! UPDATE: I e-mailed Paula Payne and she was able to identify several of them. I've noted that on the captions.

This one is growing along the split rail fence of the rose bed, so I had to stoop to capture it.
I love the darker red eye on this one.

Mambo Maid, maybe?

Nordic Nights? (Paula says no.) Eddie Gage?

I know where I bought this one, just can't remember the name. Payne's in the Grass Daylilies
in Pearland, Texas is well worth a visit during bloom season if you're in the Houston area. Paula said this is one of their seedlings ... nice work, Paula & Leon!

I think this one is Enon.

Bittersweet Holiday
This one has the wow factor going for it! Small Tempest is the name.

Cimarron Knight, my favorite this year thus far

Seize the daylily, my friends! Seize the daylily!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, May 18th

In the cool, cool, cool of the evening ... take a walk with me through the garden gate and see what I've been working on today.

I did some pruning on the Texas Persimmon that's just to the left of the gate, lifting the canopy a little and removing the suckers that were shooting up from the base.

The barely controlled chaos that characterizes the back bed in spring has given way to a more serene look. I'm still pulling up spent larkspur, eliminating spiderwort wherever possible, and putting down cedar mulch. I found a Texas Native Red Cedar mulch at Lowe's and I really do like the color and texture. It's more of a dark brown than a red, and unlike the cedar mulch I've bought from the LETCO soil yard down the freeway, this mulch is finely shredded. The light cedar aroma is very pleasant, too.

The vitex is putting on quite a show. We had another band of storms come through on Saturday but thankfully, we avoided the deluge of last time. There was still enough rain to cause the branches of this vitex to droop pretty seriously. I'm going to need to do some pruning once it's done blooming.

Dare I hope that you notice a difference in the messiness level of the path compared with last week's picture of this area? I actually got several plants out of their containers and into the ground today! The Head Gardener, as seen through the garden gate, seems to think she deserves a rest after a day's work. Good help is so hard to find!

Each Monday, I take a look through the garden gate to see how things change from one week to the next. I'd love for you to join me and share the views through your garden gate!

Friday, May 15, 2009

May the Blooms Be With You: Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

We all knew it was coming ... it happens every month on this date ... and yet earlier this week, gardeners around the country (and perhaps around the world) could be heard lamenting the fact that May 15th seemed to have sneaked up on us. That's the official date for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens; due to heavy gardening activity, I'm late posting about what's blooming on my corner of Katy. May is a pretty floriferous month here: I took over 100 pictures as I wandered through the gardens earlier today and still didn't capture everything that's in bloom!

The beauty below is Triumphator, a lily that's a cross between an Oriental lily and an Easter lily. The Houston Chronicle's Kathy Huber had this to say about it last year:
Triumphator lily (Lilium longiflorium/Oriental hybrid): Absolutely the best? This outstanding 4-foot-tall naturalizing lily carries huge, wildly fragrant flowers. They're great for cutting, and the thick petals are especially long lasting if you remove the pollen anthers after the flowers open. Plant in a sunny, organically enriched, well-draining bed. The stems are thick so the plant rarely needs staking. Expect blooms around Mother's Day. Allow the foliage to die down in the fall. Bulblets will form, increasing the clump size. This plant is doubly special because it was a gift from my friend Tricia, who I met through my late friend Amy. Tricia and I made a trip out to Enchanted Forest last month to check on the progress of the tree planted in Amy's memory; we found this there and Tricia decreed that I must have it. I am so happy she did ... thank you, Tricia!

There's a little something for everyone here on MCOK. Looking for wildflowers or native plants? From left to right, top to bottom: Indian Blanket, Engelmann's Daisy, Rudbeckias, Berlandiera/Chocolate Daisy, Calylophus, Ratibida, Echinacea, Queen Anne's Lace, Asters (in MAY?), white Callirhoe/pink skullcap/Gaura on a corner, Heartleaf Skullcap, Echinacea & Gaura, Pavonia, Gaura, and (yes that's the same) Gaillardia. (I was having issues w/Picasa today.)

Some gardeners prefer the old fashioned flowers, as seen below: Mutabilis rose, Zinnias, Hermosa rose, Vitex, Gartendirektor Otto Linne & Scaiosa, Evening Primrose & Pink Skullca0p, Verbenas, Souvenir de la Malmaison, more Verbenas, Hot Lips Salvia, Profusion Orange Zinnias, Butterfly Weed (Silky Gold), Stokes' Aster, Madame Alfred Carriere rose, Texas Betony, and a Pink Rain Lily.

For the daylily enthusiasts, here's some shots of what's in bloom right now. I never have gotten around to getting them all IDed. I know, I know ...

If tropicals are more your thing, here's a few of those for your blooming pleasure: Pineland Meadows Hibiscus, Coral Porterweed, Batface Cuphea, Bauhinia galpinii, Tropical Water Lily Lindsay Woods, Rangoon Creeper, Duranta, Erythrina crista-galli, Royal Purple Skullcap, Mexican Bauhinia, Variegated Turk's Cap, Pink Jatropha, Hibiscus again (@#$* Picasa!), Bower Vine, Duranta AGAIN?

I've saved the best for last, or at least what I'm most excited about this Bloom Day. This is my Oakleaf Hydrangea. She's been in this spot for about 3 years now and this has definitely been her year to shine!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, May 11th

I'd like to be coherent, really I would ... but it's just not in the cards for today. I fear my ability to string words together into pretty sentences has been severely impaired by the early onset of summer. I am unaccustomed to being driven inside by the heat and humidity before 2 pm in May. June, yes ... July, certainly ... August, indubitably ... but to have it happen in May feels a positive injustice. My brain is frazzled, Picasa has been behaving very strangely when I upload photos, and the idea of chucking it all and running away is most appealing. If you don't hear from me next week, you'll know I'm outta here! The only question will be where to go: most likely you should look for me in Hawaii where I shall obtain work at a bar and grill, and call myself Tex, as I did in a former life. It does get a tad warm there, too, though ... perhaps I should hie myself to Colorado and seek employment at the delightful and eclectic Gwynne's nursery in Longmont or at Denver Botanic Gardens. And I do hear that the Pacific Northwest has near perfect summers: I have a friend on Bainbridge Island and there's a splendid nursery there, too. Right now, though, I'm going to finish this post and abscond to the grocery store. It's a pretty safe bet that I will return (and that a bottle of wine will make it home with me). Without further ado, I bring you today's views through the garden gate.

Is That A Garden Cart in Your Path or Are You Just Glad to See Me?

Contemplate coneflowers.

Not quite as overblown back there as it has been! Most of the
spring annuals are past their prime, so I've been yanking them
with wild abandon.

Gartendirektor Otto Linne ... I just call him Otto.

I may finally have found the right spot for Scabiosa!

Brugmansia positively dripping with blooms. (OK, I'm cheating: this is
from my 2006 visit to family on the windward side of Oahu, Hawaii ... there IS
a garden gate in that stone wall, though!)

Since I showed one from Hawaii, it's only fair I show a picture from the Denver Botanic Garden: I did have to go through a garden gate to get in!

I can't find any pictures from my visits to Seattle, though, so I'll leave
you with one final shot through my garden gate. Uncropped, untouched, untidied: this is what it looks like around here much of the time. It's a work in progress: today I feel like there's a lot of work and very little progress to show for it!

Gail from Clay and Limestone is joining me today to take a look through her garden gate: you can read her delightful post here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

But, Mommmmmmmmm, It's Not Fair!

That your Clematis look like this and mine don't!

What is your secret? Are you holding out on me?

Is it a real estate matter? Location, location, location?

Or are you secretly feeding them some kind of exotic fertilizer? (If we still lived next door to Dr. Johnson, I'd suspect him of slipping you his patients' blood samples! After all, that's how he got such magnificent roses back in his rosarian days.)

WhatEVER. If you won't tell me, I'll just keep on coming over to enjoy yours while I try to replicate your success!

This gorgeous clematis is NOT growing in my garden, as you might have gathered. I thought I'd share the superstar of my mother's garden with y'all in honor of Mother's Day, and my mother, who passed along the gardening gene to me (but not the clematis growing part of it, evidently!).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, May 4th

Before I came inside for the day, I ventured out with the camera to capture a few glimpses through the garden gate. Summer's well on its way here: it was feeling a mite warm out there this afternoon. The morning was pleasantly cool, though, and the air was a bit drier than it has been. I savored it all the more knowing that it won't last long.

You'll notice that you can see the path again: the plants that were flattened by the downpours last Monday and Tuesday have sprung back up. You might also notice, if you enlarge the pictures, that I did some whacking back and pulling of the spiderworts. I've also been pulling spent poppies, toadflax and larkspur almost daily. My kitchen table has baskets and boxes and bags scattered at one end because spent plants = seeds for next year!

The vitex which was in such low spirits last week has recovered fairly well. I'm doing a little careful pruning here and there to lighten the load on its limbs ... I'm not doing too much because it's getting ready to bloom.

I stood at the gate and took this shot looking through the Italian Flat Leaf Parsley. Its blooms have been quite popular with lovebugs.

Hmm, what's all that red doing in the mostly pastel back garden? You don't suppose the Head Gardener made a trip to a nursery and purchased a few plants which are in the holding area out back? Could it be that some variegated Pentas and Brouhaha Coleus have found themselves at Wit's End, sharing space with a chartreuse Alternanthera and some tropicals from Zone 9 Tropicals in the Heights?*

If I stand at the gate and use the zoom on the camera, I can get a shot of this white Phlox pilosa on the other side of John Smithley rock bed. Gail of Clay and Limestone raves about her Practically Perfect Pink Phlox: it's one of her signature spring plants and deservedly so. I found this white-blooming variety at a local nursery and it has certainly been a stellar performer in its first year. Gail will be happy to hear that I've also got a small plant of PPPP coming along at the front of this bed. I'm hoping to rave about her in tandem with Gail this time next year!

The tangled tresses of Mexican Feather Grass make a good backdrop for the Laura Bush petunias.

The white blooming form of our native Texas Callirhoe reseeds for me much more readily than the wine-colored one does.

Anjelica caninus, commonly known as Annie, enjoys sunning herself on the path.

* I visited Zone 9 Tropicals ( at the urging of Houston Chronicle garden blogger Randy of Jungle Heights. I don't grow a lot of tropicals, but this nursery could convince me to do so! I came home with a Red Iochroma, Red Plumbago and Compact Purple Cestrum. Do NOT ask where I'm going to put them. I'll do what Randy says he does when he buys a new plant and brings it home: stand in the middle of the garden with plant in hand, turning round and round and saying to yourself "Now WHERE can I put this?" (I wonder if wearing a pair of emerald slippers and clicking our heels three times while repeating that mantra, would make it easier to find a spot for the plant?) Randy deserves a big shout out for his gracious response to my suggestion that he host a meeting of the Chronicle bloggers. Our visit to his delightful home and garden on Saturday was all that we could have hoped. What he's done on an urban lot is truly amazing and a HECK of a lot of fun! I'll leave y'all with a shot of the leafy green jungle lurking behind his bungalow.