Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Message From The Head Gardener

Papaya blossom at San Antonio Botanical Garden

I am informed that my presence is required in North Carolina for the next five days. Evidently She Who Must Be Obeyed does not trust me enough to leave me alone on "her" corner of Katy while she attends a garden writers' conference. Never mind that she has been buying plants from venues both near and far, with nary a thought as to how they would fare in our absence. One can only hope that the Executive Producer and his Number One Daughter will remember their watering duties as SWMBO so blithely assumes. I am less than sanguine about the likelihood of their doing so. However, mine not to reason why, mine but to accompany her on on her journey and then figure out how to pack the plants she will undoubtedly purchase at Plant Delights Nursery. Mind you, I could do without her frequently repeated references to PDN as "a gardener's mecca" and her rapturous musings about the wonders she expects to see there and elsewhere on this trip. However, I am somewhat mollified by the prospect of a visit with the eminent horticulturalist Hortense Hoelove. SWMBO assures me that she is a close personal friend of Ms. Hoelove's cohort, Carol, of May Dreams Gardens and that she has every expectation that Ms. Hoelove will be in attendance at the conference. I understand that Ms. Hoelove, like myself, is camera shy so I cannot promise there will be any pictures of this historic meeting. However, I will endeavor to capture some shots of Carol and Cindy together.

This is the Head Gardener bidding you a reluctant farewell. SWMBO will report back upon our return.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Three for Thursday: September 17, 2009

I rescued two four inch pots of Lantana from Lowe's clearance table a few months ago. They were small but in good condition and I just couldn't leave them there to languish until they expired. I planted them in the rose bed that's on the back corner of the side yard near the alleyway. I wasn't sure they'd do much of anything but for 50 cents each, I figured it wasn't any great loss if they didn't. The Head Gardener says I underestimated them and I guess she's right. They each cover a four foot square area and are about 24 inches tall. For this week's Three for Thursday, here are 3 blooms from those plants ... the color variations never fail to intrigue me AND make me smile!

"I call that a bargain, the best I ever had ..." (What? No, Who ... The, not Doctor.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bloom A Little Bloom for Me

Callicarpa americana, Beautyberry

I'm going to be away from the garden a lot over the next 2 weeks and I'm starting to get a little apprehensive about how the plants will fare without me. It doesn't help that I'm behind on my gardening chores due to a bout of sinusitis. Due to my inherited tendencies towards respiratory problems, it's all too easy for sinus problems to become a full on attack of bronchitis. (If we lived in the Pacific Northwest or Alaska, this could pose a real problem since my coughing fits tend to resemble the mating calls of a moose.) I got to the doctor quickly this time, though, and have made a concerted effort to stay inside and take it easy.

Today I finally felt well enough to venture forth and see what I could get done in the cooler weather (not cool, but cooler ... 82 was the temperature at 2:30 when I came in). I got several recent purchases into the ground before calling it quits and coming inside. Then the plumber arrived to replace an elderly toilet (and OHMYGOSH, people, what a difference is all I can say). I was sitting on the sofa entertaining the dog when I remembered that it was the first day of yoga class ... so that entailed a hurried 5 minutes of changing into yoga togs, grabbing my mat and dashing off to arrive 20 minutes late and not quite in a calm and centered frame of mind. After 50 minutes of navel contemplation (it's the first time in 4 months my navel's been sucked in that much), I was in much better spirits. Then I got home and remembered that I still needed to take pictures for bloom day! And despite the repeated and vicious attacks by mosquitoes, that's what I did. I'll let the Head Gardener take over from here since she says I'm too wordy ... she says today's about the blooms and I should let them do the talking!

Justicia fulvicoma, Pinecone Shrimp Plant

Rosa 'Lafter'
Tecoma stans, Tangerine Esperanza

Rosa 'Aloha'

Melochia tomentosa, Pyramid Bush

Align CenterThryallis, Golden Showers

Rosa 'Old Blush'

Lantana camara, Unknown variety (50 cents on Lowe's clearance table!)

Malpighia glabra, Barbados Cherry

Much as I'd love to share more of what's blooming on my corner of Katy, I must bid y'all adieu and get busy packing so I can get on the road to Austin in a couple of hours. 14 days till October 1st!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Through The Garden Gate: September 14, 2009

16 days until October 1st ... although I may think fall is slow to make its way to my corner of Katy, the sprout below proves that it is indeed on its way. What is it? The most beloved of Texas wildflowers, the Texas bluebonnet! I'm going to take that as a sign that I can start seeding them in various parts of the garden. I've got a paper grocery sack full of seed in the potting closet in the garage. There may be some other stashes of bluebonnet seed elsewhere. Does anyone else collect seeds and then find them stored in odd places around the house and/or garage, or should I speak to the Head Gardener about her appalling lack of organization?

Salvia sp. 'Otahal' reseeds quite freely about the garden but is easily pulled. It's named after plantsman David Otahal, who grew up here in the Houston area. In fact, he attended Hartman Junior High in southeast Houston at the same time as the Head Gardener. They worked together in the library for Mrs. Michalak although the HG doubts Mr. Otahal will remember that! (He's older than her.) If you're attending the Houston Plant & Bulb Mart in October, stop by the daylily booth and ask him if he remembers!

I just had time to catch this shot before the last of the evening light vanished. Blackfoot daisies, prostrate rosemary, more Otahal Salvia, Blackie Sweet Potato Vine (that's actually in a pot, which is why it was allowed to remain) and Profusion Apricot Zinnias are all part of the anything but quiet riot going on behind the garden gate.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Three for Thursday: September 10, 2009

Notice anything different since Monday? My talented arborist, Shawn Geiman of Shawnee Trees, visited my corner of Katy on Tuesday morning. If you look at the Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texana) in the corner of the fence, you'll see that it has been limbed up nicely. Now more sunlight can get to the nearby banana shrub (Michelia figo), as well as to the pond. The birds still have plenty of spots in which to hide but you can see the twists and turns of the branches off the trunk ... I love the sculptural look it adds to the tree. You might also notice that the Montrose Purple Vitex is no longer blocking the view in that direction. Shawn and I had a frank discussion about the direction that Vitex had been taking in its life. He suggested cutting the existing tree down and training some of the suckers from the base into multiple trunks. The Head Gardener had been itching to cut it down, as you might remember, so she's quite happy with the decision (and so am I)!

Neither of us, however, are very happy with what's left of the Big Sky Sunrise Echinacea. Compared to how it looks now, which is too depressing to show, it looks almost OK in this picture. It had spent the summer in a pot, protected from the afternoon sun, and receiving regular waterings. Purple coneflowers are vigorous and prolific on MCOK but these hybrid varieties are the opposite. I'm not sure how many more tries the Head Gardener and I have left in us. We do think this specific plant might have fared better had I planted it right after I purchased it in May, washing the soil off the roots first and shading the foliage from the sun for a week or so. We've also heard that some growers recommend removing the first blooms from these plants upon purchase to direct the plant's energy into the roots rather than the blooms. If I succumb to the siren call of yet another Echinacea hybrid, I'll see if following those suggestions yields better results.

Thank goodness for tough native plants like Fall Aster, which are loving the slightly cooler and wetter weather we've had recently. More, please?

20 days till October 1st!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Through the Garden Gate: Monday, September 7th

In the interests of full disclosure, the Head Gardener insists that I tell you the above pictures were actually taken on Saturday, September 5th, and not this sultry Labor Day. Whatever! We were busy out there on Saturday and it was truly a day of labor, therefore I say it qualifies. As much as I enjoyed seeing the Blackie sweet potato vine spilling over and around the borders by the garage wall in back, I was growing ever more concerned that their rampant growth was negatively affecting other plants. Much to my chagrin, I was right: I lost several Peachie's Pick Stokesias in that area. My theory is that they do not like being overgrown by other plants and vented their displeasure by rotting where they were planted. The Stokes' Asters were such stellar performers in the spring that I am most upset with the Head Gardener for allowing the Blackies to run amok. So those pools of dark purple in the photographs above are the SPVs that were unceremoniously yanked and consigned to compost. The center photograph shows the fence outside the garden gate: the Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much sign was a gift from my baby girl and the Garden Tours sign is something my boy found when he was gallivanting around Louisiana with friends. They're pretty special (the kids AND the signs).

So today the Head Gardener did battle with weeds in the rose and daylilies beds. A very helpful lawn crew came by at my request last week and cut new edges on my front beds, taking out a good foot of grass along the length of those beds. I'm happy with how that looks, especially now that most of the weeds and some of the manky zinnias have been dispensed with. Much as the Head Gardener and I hate to yank zinnias, since they're such butterfly magnets, we're at the point where we've got to clear some of them out. There are still quite a few left and we have no fear of there being no zinnias sprouting next season. In fact, any of y'all who want Alleyway Mix Zinnia seeds, let me know. I hate throwing away all those potential plants and would be delighted to share them.

The Head Gardener and I continue to be stymied in our efforts to grow Abutilons. They evidently believe that they are Abusedtilons on my corner of Katy and sulk accordingly. A Marilyn's Choice that was in tiptop condition when purchased at the nursery has gone steadily downhill since then. When it was recently determined that to allow it to continue to grow where it was planted would be akin to a death sentence, the Head Gardener dug it up and discovered that there were 3 separate plants jammed together and competing for root space. @)(&#$_&(. Confounded growers. This really ticks us off. All that remains of a once beautiful plant is two lanky stems and a few pitiful looking leaves. Then there's the trailing Abutilon ... it puttered along for several months pretending that all was well ... this week it stopped pretending. So today as we were aerating the root area, we found that it had never really rooted into its new home at all. What's more, there were 2 separate plants jammed together. ARRRGGGGHHH! One plant went into a pot, since its trunk was not in great shape; the other was replanted in a different spot. The Head Gardener is making a note as I type that we must not neglect to water the little diva. (That would be the Abutilon, not the HG. Although truth be told ...)

For those who are wondering, we did get some rain last night but you could barely tell in most areas. We shall not complain, we shall soldier on, we shall be valiant and stout of heart. Maybe. HOWEVER ... the Head Gardener wishes me to report that the following words neither of us ever thought to hear ourselves utter, to wit: we were excited to see that the first Oxalis of fall unfurled a leaf this week! This would be the weed version of Oxalis, which my chere amie Amy felt should be investigated as an alternative fuel source, given how plentiful it is in our area throughout fall and winter. Mind you, the HG and I did not allow said Oxalis to remain in the ground. It was consigned not to compost but to the rubbish bin. Why, might you ask, if we hate Oxalis that much, are the HG and I celebrating its arrival? Good grief, people, do we have to spell it out for you? It's a fall weed! That means that fall is really and truly on its way. 23 days till October 1st!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Three for Thursday: September 3, 2009

How does a week get away from me like that? I had every intention of blogging more often ... those who know me well know that I am rarely at a lack for words ... but somehow it just didn't get done. Maybe it's the late summer doldrums: 27 days left till October 1st and my enthusiasm for my garden is at the lowest it has been or will be all year. It's ironic since we've had several mornings of cooler temperatures, an earlier than usual foreshadowing of what fall will bring. The down side is that the weather inevitably returns to its usual hellatious levels, which are even more difficult to work in once we've had that hint of cooler weather. I slogged about out front today, slapping mosquitoes and wondering who told the grackles to hold a meeting in my trees, while despairing over the renewed absence of rain. By the time I came in, I was so disgruntled, disheveled and disheartened that I took to my bed like a Victorian gentlewoman.

Still and all, if I stop and think about it, I can find things that make me smile and remind me that it's all worth it. So for this Thursday, I offer three things that have made me smile this week.

A daylily whose name escapes me: this is one of 4 that have rebloomed in the last 2 weeks.

Finally, FINALLY, I'm having success growing Berlandiera lyrata, Chocolate Daisy. I've tried them several times and lost them but mulching them with river rock (aka egg rock) seems to have made the difference. I've also found that cutting them back after bloom brings on new growth and more flowers. And, yes, they really do have a lovely chocolate fragrance!

I bought this sign at a pottery in Rockport, Massachusetts back in 2001. It reminds me not only of my visit to a delightful little town but the reason for my trip to the East Coast.
A member of my e-mail group, the Garden Bobs, was getting married and another member of the group was hosting the wedding at her home in Vermont. Many of the group had never met each other but we gathered from across the country to celebrate the happy event of M&N, who each looked across the Thanksgiving dinner table the previous year and found a kindred spirit. Her son and his daughter were the hosts for that dinner so M&N are now both step-parents and in-laws to the younger couple. Each time I look at the sign, I think about what a wonderful trip that was AND how funny life can be. Oh, yeah, that's a white Cypress vine, seeds for which were given to me by Peter, another member of the Bobs.

We did get a brief rainstorm about an hour ago and the radar shows some serious storms just north of us. Will they move in our direction? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps!