Friday, July 24, 2009

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

I've been meaning for weeks now to post some pictures of heat and drought stricken plants, lawns, etc. so y'all could see that I'm not just whining for no reason. Yesterday's rain put a small glitch in my plans, though! It's amazing (and uplifting) how one good rain shower can bring plants back to life.

That's all right, I'm not complaining about now having fewer photo ops to share with you. Hear me and hear me well: I vowed after the droughty summer of 2006 that I would never again complain about rain. I hereby renew that vow in the presence of you, my trustworthy and stalwart witnesses (well, some of you ...). Hand on heart, I do solemnly swear that I will never complain about rain and that the words 'too much rain' will not pass my lips. So help me Mother Nature. OK, that done, I shall return anon. I'm headed out to take pictures.

And I'm back! These are a few examples of what I'm seeing around the neighborhood.

Fried ferns on a north-facing fence

These might have been azaleas.

One of the reasons Crape Myrtles are planted so much in our area
is that they're such tough plants. It's all been too much for this one, though.
It's possible this is a reaction to some kind of chemical application, since
several others in this stretch look healthy.


This is a utility easement between two alleys. Think nothing
can bother Coastal Bermuda Grass? Exhibit A says otherwise!

This planting of Ligustrums (Privets) and Asian/Asiatic Jasmine on a nearby corner really illustrates how dry it's been. Compare the healthy dark green foliage at the bottom of the Ligustrums with the badly stressed top growth. It takes a lot to stress both Ligustrums and Asian Jasmine. We've had a lot. Also note the sorry state of the St. Augustine Grass in front of the bed.

As for my corner of Katy, it's not as bad as what's shown above. We do have a sprinkler system in the front and side yards; I usually switch the system on in June and then shut it off around November. When we installed this system about 10 years ago, there was a lot more lawn and way fewer plants. Every year it seems I need to call on my handy-dandy irrigation guy, Ricky, to tweak one sprinkler head or another to allow for plant growth or changes in bed layouts. As helpful as it's been in keeping the front gardens watered, our main reason for installing it was to help keep the foundation of the house stable. Our clay soil can cause some real problems with foundations settling and adequate moisture does make a difference.

Since I can't stand to leave you with such ugly pictures in your heads, what say I provide a few parting shots of some hotties from my corner of Katy?

Lantana camara 'I forgetitia'

Fruity Pebbles Lantana (named for its fragrance,
and yeah, it does smell a bit like Fruity Pebbles cereal)

A rescued Bougainvillea (I just learned this year that they bloom
on new wood, which explains why letting them get leggy does no good)

Latah, dahlinks!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Mystery On My Corner of Katy

It was 2 or 3 weeks ago when I first noticed three of these plants growing in the bed along the trellis. I'd spread my homecooked compost in that area so I knew they were most likely something in the cucurbit family. But just which of its many members is this? Lovable Uncle Zucchini, crazy Aunt Pattypan, mellow cousin Yellow Crookneck or even the Big Daddy of them all, Watermelon? Can someone identify this character? (Pay no attention to those pinecones under the leaves ... they're there to keep Night the Marauder from feline misbehavior in the area.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In The Heat of The Moment ...

It's hard to get motivated for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, the brainchild of Carol of May Dreams Gardens, when all around you are signs of pending devastation. As I ankled it around the garden looking for blooms, I found myself sighing in frustration and despair. When even the Barbados Cherry plants, those most stalwart of drought tolerant natives, lose their healthy green color and droop, I know the garden is in dire straits. Nonetheless, I do have blooms to share, although many of them are a little worse for wear at the end of the day.

Blackfoot Daisy actually looks pretty good. Not so the birdbath.

At the end of the day, the vivid red-orange blooms of the Bauhinia galpinii
are a shadow of themselves.

Batface Cuphea are one of the stalwarts in the summer garden.

Profusion Apricot zinnias tolerate the heat and drought well.

Abelmoschus, however, has a tougher time.

That this poor daylily is blooming at all is a wonder. This morning, it was a clear bright red with an almost black eye. At day's end, however, it's lost much of its luster.

Thank goodness for Bright Lights Cosmos!

This Cleome 'Sparkler Rose' was planted about 10 days ago. I washed off the peat mix
and puddled it in. It hasn't skipped a beat.

This is one of the Clematis I rescued from Lowe's last year, either Fireworks or Dr. Ruppel. It's coming along slowly but I have
high hopes for it.

I am really taken with Calliandra aka Fairy Duster aka Powderpuff Plant.
Once established, they seem to handle heat and drought really well.

I might have to plant more Mexican Bauhinia trees. I love these delicate
blooms. It does seem to be a very slow grower.

Lantana's blooming quite happily and the foliage hasn't
been attacked by spider mites yet. I expect they'll show up, though.

This is one of many Hamelias planted throughout the front gardens.
When I first started gardening, I didn't like these plants. Now I can't
imagine the garden without them.

Erythrina crista-galli, Fireman's Cap, never fails to wow me
with its intense red blooms.

This mystery Salvia is probably Mystic Spires. It was one of the Head Gardener's clearance table purchases at Lowe's.

This white Plumbago gets NO water whatsoever. It's planted in a
utility easement on the back fence and has to fend for itself. Take
note, heat zone gardeners!

Purple Iochroma isn't quite as blue as it looks in this picture (that
would be pretty cool, actually). It's a lovely rich purple, though.

We'd be at our wits' end (instead of at Wit's End) were it not for verbenas.

And Zinnias ... thank goodness for Zinnias!

I guess the Head Gardener shouldn't be quite so downcast about the state of the garden. There's a lot in bloom despite the inclement heat and the continued lack of substantial rain. I still plan to have her out there first thing tomorrow morning, though, wrangling hoses. We've got to do what we can to make sure there are a few blooms for August's GBBD!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, July 13th

The view through the garden gate hasn't changed much since last week and the sun is beating down mercilessly in that direction. So I thought I'd show a view through the other garden gate, the one that leads from the front garden to the back. The sign above is one of my many purchases over the years from a booth at the semi-annual Warrenton antiques fair.

Standing at the gate looking into the back gardens, I see that I really need height against the fence. The plants that should provide it have not cooperated. Evidently they are less than happy about the heat and drought. Or maybe they're just in the wrong place. I'll have to do something about that this fall.

This is the view looking towards the street (pardon the neighbor's trailer and truck. He has a bad habit of parking things there and leaving them for months on end.) I still love my dry stream bed. There's a bit of color out here but most of the plants are small flowered so the colors aren't showing up in this picture.

I'd love to know the name of this agave. It's similar to Whale's Tongue in form and color ... if it gets that big, the Head Gardener isn't going to enjoy wrestling it into a new spot.

Okay, true confessions time, in which the Head Gardener admits to not having done her research and is now ruing the day: I planted this Butterfly Vine (Mascagna leptidoptera) on the front side of the fence to the right of the gate. I didn't realize just how vigorously it would grow (hello? It's a vine and this is Houston! What you mean is you were hoping that it would behave as you wanted it to, and not as nature intended.) I've pretty much eliminated all shades of yellow from the back gardens but this little charmer has snaked its way through the fence slats. No way can I untangle it without doing it harm. I've been meaning to plant some butterfly weed there, one of the red and yellow varieties, in the hopes that would bring harmony to that corner. Why the Head Gardener hasn't gotten that done yet, I'm not sure.

In addition to taking a look through a different gate, I thought I'd use these Monday posts to recap the week in the garden a bit. Here's what I've been doing in the small windows of opportunity afforded me before the sun drives me inside.
  • You may recall that the Head Gardener was pretty glum last week because the rain had passed us by. Happily, it did not do so on Tuesday morning. We got maybe 1/2 an inch of rain in 20 minutes. It was enough to refresh both plants and gardener. Just as much appreciated were the lower temps: at 12:55 pm that day, it was 81.2 degrees! Of course, two days later, we were back to business as usual: dry, dry, dry and 100 degrees.
  • The new fountain purchased at Nelson Water Gardens is now adding sound and movement to the courtyard. I bought this at their annual Ding Dang Sale, which started on July 4th, and let me tell y'all, this sucker is heavy. It sat in the truck bed for several days before I found guys to unload and install it. It took 3 guys a lot of effort to get it off the truck and into the courtyard. I think the pump will need a valve added to reduce the flow rate: it's just a tad too rapid and therefore more noisy than soothing! Y'all will have to wait for pictures until I get a little more done in the courtyard. The rock wall remains unbuilt. Yeah, that's what I want to do in the dead of summer, haul rocks around in the sun!
  • My oldest child turned 25 last Wednesday: for the first time in his life, I didn't seem him on his birthday. It was a bittersweet rite of passage for me but I'm so proud of the person he is and happy that he's making a good life for himself. Someday, maybe he'll come to me for advice on gardening but that day will be a long time coming, I think.
  • I harvested about 25 tiny Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. Probably due to lack of attention in the water and fertilizer departments, these were smaller than they should have been but no less tasty!
  • I dug up a Carefree Beauty rose from under a Mexican Buckeye, thinking I'd put the Rangoon Creeper there. Then I changed my mind. The slightly less carefree and much less beautiful rose is being pampered in a pot ... we shall see if it forgives me for disturbing it at this time of year.
  • News flash: a Mexican Flame Vine can be grown in a pot but if you don't water it, it stops growing. Another news flash: if you then transplant it from the big pot into a smaller pot because it's not as well rooted as you thought, and forget to water it, it becomes seriously unhappy. The Head Gardener is forced to interrupt whatever she's doing when she remembers she forgot to water it and run outside to remedy that neglect. Too little, too late?
  • I did some actual planting in the ground on Saturday: two Hamelias, a variegated Turk's Cap, and a Marilyn's Choice Abutilon. The Hamelias haven't even skipped a beat: I shook the soil off their roots a bit (not a peat mixture), puddled them in, pulled the soil around them and then watered thoroughly. I haven't checked on the Turk's Cap (do y'all see a pattern here?) The Abutilon is dropping leaves but looks as though it's only sulking and not in a serious snit.
  • If any of y'all in zones close to mine grow Iris cristata, I'd like your input on whether mine are dying or just going dormant. I can't remember what they looked like last year at this time. I know they were stressed but what I'm seeing concerns me. The fans are sunburned, which doesn't help. Many of them are dying back to the ground and the rhizomes left don't look healthy to me. Chime in, y'all! HELP!
As for the week ahead, the Head Gardener is still less than cheerful about the predicted weather. She's still threatening to run away to cooler climes. Bainbridge Island outside Seattle is a candidate, as are Vermont and upstate New York. For now, however, you'll find her in the coolest corner of the house, waiting for the LAPD to cheer her up once again.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, July 6th

The Head Gardener is not in the best of moods so this week's installment of TTGG is a brief one. When she saw earlier today that the rain promised to her corner of Katy was heading for Louisiana instead, she began to pout. Even a new pair of shoes and dinner out failed to console her much. Since she's at her wits' end at Wit's End, it's thought best that she retire to her corner and do a little light reading and maybe watch some TV ... perhaps Lt. Provenza will do something on THE CLOSER tonight to improve her mood. That's a mighty big perhaps, though, so we're hedging our bets and providing her with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc to sip while she sits.

Before she goes, she wishes to share the pictures she took this morning. This is the usual view: thank heavens for Otto Linne and Laura Bush, without whom the view would be bleak indeed.

That rock wall in the picture below was an impromptu effort brought on by the need to move the rocks left in the path by the stonemasons. They removed a rock edging along the sidewalk in order to put down the flagstone, and placed those rocks in the checkerboard path that meanders between beds. The HG's original plan for the back included stacked stone/rock borders but budgetary constraints rendered that impractical at the time. One would think that the record-breaking temperatures we've been enduring here would discourage the HG from rocking out. One would be wrong, as evidenced below. The HG rather likes the effect of this low stacked wall/edging. She will not be constructing more such walls until cooler weather, however.

St. Fiacre can't believe his eyes: are those newly purchased plants in those black plastic pots below him? What can the Head Gardener be thinking??????????? (Her answer: "no comment").

Moss Pink Verbena, Profusion Apricot Zinnia, and a Mexican Feather Grass don't mind the heat.

This handsome amphibian blends in with his surroundings pretty well ... he's one of several such fine fellows (dis)appearing nightly to serenade the residents of Wit's End.

And now, if you'll excuse me, the Head Gardener best be provided with the aforementioned glass of wine lest she turn surly.