Sunday, January 31, 2010

Confinchion 2010

Despite the economic downturn and the possibility that it would cause their host to cut back on catering, a confinchent of American goldfinches voted to hold their annual Confinchion at Wit's End. Although the group is smaller in numbers than that of 2008, the Head Gardener continues to fill feeders with sunflower chips on a twice daily basis. Confinchion growers are delighted that this prized delicacy remains on the menu.

We've reproduced the report on the 2009 Confinchion below. Take it away, HG!

This just in: American Goldfinches have converged upon a suburban corner lot in Katy, Texas for their annual confinchion. Attendees agree that the new meeting place, a wood and cattle panel trellis built after Hurricane Ike destroyed the longtime confinchion center, is a definite upgrade from the old facilities. With more room to maneuver, sturdy wire upon which to perch while awaiting turns at the thistle socks, and adjacent bathing/sipping arrangements, it's not surprising that these colorful winter visitors give two wings up to the new construction.

There have been some complaints, however, by those who prefer sunflower chips to thistle seed, that confinchion hosts have been less than diligent in refilling the tube feeders. The picture below would seem to bear out that allegation. However, when questioned on the matter, the Head Gardener noted that she was having great difficulty keeping up with what she called the unusually heavy demands of the chip-loving confinchioneers and that restocking those feeders twice a day is not always feasible.

A small confinchent of birds is seen below, resting up from confinchion activities in the Vitex Lounge. Oaks and pine trees are conveniently located nearby for overnight accomodations.

Although there was widespread panic at the appearance in the vicinity of a member of the feline persuasion, and great sadness over the loss of one or more confinchiongoers to his felonious activities, birds are encouraged by the Head Gardener's efforts to deter such activity. They also commend the Head Gardener for her rescue of a finch who strayed from confinchion grounds and found himself in the unfamiliar environs of a back patio. Unable to fly through a door to get to the confinchion center, the stunned bird was given shelter until he recovered his wits and was able to return to the festivities.

As is customary, confinchion attendees have not indicated how long they will remain in the area. The Head Gardener will be restocking the sunflower chip supply later today and has vowed to be more diligent in refilling the feeders. In fact, that's where she's headed right now.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Olly Olly Oxalis Free ...

That's what I wish my garden would be! It's discouraging to go for a stroll around the garden and discover that the number one source of green is that most hated of weeds here at Wit's End, Oxalis. True, the Head Gardener and I celebrated seeing it back in September, as related in this look through the garden gate. But that was many months ago after a long and hellatious summer. We knew we'd come to curse its existence again, as we have many a fall and winter before. We continue to dig it out when we have the time, energy and inclination to do it properly. Occasionally the HG gets so fed up with it that she abandons her organic intentions, fills the pump sprayer with glyphosate and lets 'er rip. That hasn't happened yet this winter but I have no illusions that she won't yet resort to such extreme measures.

I find it ironic that the only Oxalis that will NOT grow vigorously in the ground here on my corner of Katy is Oxalis triangularis, she of the lovely purple foliage. This particular plant was brought to me from Biltmore some years back by my good friend Laura. I placed it in the ground where it promptly began to sulk and languish like a delicate flower of Southern womanhood on a hot summer afternoon. I pulled it out and placed it in this pot, where it has resided happily ever since.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I've Got Sunshine On A Cloudy Day ...

Chinese Sacred Lilies from Brent and Becky's Bulbs

A cold front blew in and brought thunderstorms to my corner of Katy in the wee hours of Friday morning. Although the rain moved on by the time the sun was up, the skies remained cloudy and the temperatures were pretty chilly the rest of the day. It made me very glad I'd allowed some of my bulb-loving fellow bloggers to persuade me I should force some Narcissus inside. One of the great things about this variety is that I should be able to plant them out in the garden and enjoy their blooms again in years to come. I know I should allow their foliage to fade before planting them. My dilemma is whether to store the bulbs inside until next fall and plant them out then, or plant them in a few weeks when it's warmed up. Any Southern gardeners know the answer to that?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Speaking of Companions ...

Meet Loki ...

This handsome young fellow was retrieved from the wheel well of the Executive Producer's car on Sunday. I'd been out working in back and heard plaintive mewing coming from under the car. Thinking that it was our part time cat, Sweetie Pie, who belongs to a neighbor but resides in our garage due to their other cat's bullying, I was surprised when I couldn't see her anywhere. The mewing continued unabated and I was brought up short by the sight of this little face peering at me over a tire. After a few minutes spent prying him from his perch, I carefully carried him inside and roused my sleeping daughter to take charge of him, warning her that we'd have to find him a home or take him to the vet to do so, since I'm allergic to cats.

I took some antihistamines, then visited with neighbors and called several friends in an attempt to find a taker. By that night, no one had expressed interest and Hayley was already thoroughly enchanted by him. After a night of his sharing her pillow, I resigned myself to taking daily doses of Allegra and called the vet to ask when we could bring him in for them to check him out. We were sobered to learn that he'd have to be sedated for blood work so they could rule out feline leukemia and HIV, as well as heartworms. Both of the former would require his being euthanized. Happily, he tested negative for all three problems and we were allowed to bring him home on Wednesday morning. We'd been referring to him as a her until we learned otherwise from the vet ... which necessitated some rethinking on the subject of names. Since he's going to be Hayley's cat, she had the final say. I'm hoping that he will NOT live up to his mythical namesake, who is said to be crafty and malicious, associated with magic and trickery.

Annie the garden terrierist is feeling a bit threatened by this interloper but we are pleased that she's not been in any way hostile to him and hope that they may eventually become friends. Here's Hayley reassuring Annie that she's still top dog as Loki keeps an eye on the garden.

I was told by a neighbor that she saw three kittens climbing a fence last week, one of them striped like Loki. It is my fervent hope that the siblings have found other victims ... er, homes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Gardener's Constant Companion

I had the pleasure two weeks ago of hearing plantsman Tony Avent, owner of Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina, speak at the Nancy Stallworth Thomas Horticulture Lecture, sponsored by the Garden Club of Houston. Having visited PDN in September during the Garden Writers of America symposium, I was eager to hear more from the man behind the plants. His talk was both entertaining and enlightening, as he expounded on the subject of "hot plants for hot climates". That title was a bit ironic, with the talk coming as it did just days after our extended hard freeze. Tony acknowledged that and then told us, "You've been in zone denial for the past 15 years and it's finally caught up with you." I don't think I imagined the rueful tone to the laughter that ensued from the audience: he's all too right and we knew it. We imagined that we had our weather all figured out and we grew comfortable planting even tender tropicals out in our gardens and landscapes. Then came the great "blizzard" of December 4th, 2009 and 4 days of below freezing temperatures in January. Whoops.

This past weekend I was reading an article in the Houston Chronicle by Ray Sher of Houston's Urban Harvest, in which he discussed the effects of our hard freezes on his winter vegetable garden. Those of you who garden in colder climes would probably be interested in reading it, if only to see how different our growing schedule is from yours and to understand just how different this winter has been from those of the past few years. His closing words were what struck me, though: Farmers, backyard gardeners, fruit tree growers, plant enthusiasts all have the weather as a constant companion.

That's why Tony Avent stressed that we should be mindful to "plant for what's coming" and choose plants that can take the extremes that our weather throws at them. It's not so hard to remember that our summers have days on end of 95 degree or higher temperatures and that nighttime lows are in the 80s. We've been dealing with that for several years now and we're painfully aware of how tough that is. But it's been so long since we've had a real winter that we've forgotten that our plants must also be able to handle temperatures below freezing, possibly for several days at a time as they did earlier this month. I think we also underestimate how hard it is on the plants to cope with such extremes in the space of a few months.

The weather is a gardener's constant companion. After all these years of gardening AGAINST the weather, I believe it's time for me to start gardening WITH it. I'm not saying that I'm going to completely redo my entire corner of Katy or that I'm going to stop pushing the limits and stretching the boundaries when it comes to planting zones. I'm just saying that Tony and Ray have encouraged me to be more mindful of the weather in my gardening and to think of it as my constant companion, a friend who's always with me when I'm outside. Be she fair or foul, we're in it together.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Spidey Sense

It looks innocent enough, doesn't it? Such a pretty little flower in a delicate shade of lavender ... how could a native charmer like this be anything but welcome in the garden? When you discover that it has siblings that bloom in deeper shades of purple or violet,

or a vivid orchid pink,

You're so deep in love that the possibility never crosses your mind that you may someday come to look upon this plant and see not the beauty of the bloom, but the thug behind that pretty face. The first year of your love affair with Tradescantia virginiana, you're enchanted by how prettily it blooms from spring until fall and how little care it needs. It's drought tolerant, pest and disease free, and oh, yes, it's so pretty! What a trooper, you tell yourself, and when you deadhead the plants, you scatter the seeds far and wide across the garden. And when your friend tells you that she regrets EVER having introduced spiderwort into her garden, you laugh at her and wonder whatever could possess her to feel that way. You feel certain that you will never rue the day you planted such a darling and delightful perennial.

In the second year of the affair, when you find yourself pulling seedlings on a daily basis, you begin to wonder if your darling is truly the plant you thought she was. But then she blooms again and you sigh in delight, and tell yourself having to pull those seedlings is a small price to pay for the dainty blossoms. You remind yourself that you're the one who scattered all those seeds and decide that perhaps you need not do that quite so freely in the future. And when you decide that a larger plant really needs to be relocated to another spot, you marvel at the extensive and sturdy root system. You think to yourself that perhaps that's why it was given the name Spiderwort, because the roots do spread out much like the legs on a spider. You relocate the plant to an area where you somehow failed to spread seeds and think how great it will look to have spiderwort blooming amongst the other plants in that bed.

Then comes the third year. The bloom is off the rose, so to speak, and you find yourself speaking harshly to the mature plants, chastising them for their wanton ways, for by now you have discovered that they not only reseed quite prolifically but increase by clumping, becoming ever larger and more established. When you have to spend several minutes digging out a larger clump, chastising becomes cursing. You find yourself throwing huge clumps into the trash can: they certainly can't be allowed to contaminate your compost! And there's no way you're going to continue placing them in pots and offering them to other unsuspecting gardeners. Seedlings are dispatched with glee and the remaining plants are warned that their days are numbered if they don't behave. But then they bloom at just the right time, and they look so lovely with the other plants that are blooming then that you tell yourself they're worth the effort it takes to keep them in check. As the months go by and the plants cycle out of bloom but seedlings continue to appear, you begin to rethink your previous position.

By the fourth year, anger turns to despair of ever being able to eradicate all the seedlings that you missed before and chagrin that you still find yourself smiling when the spiderworts bloom. You're even excited when you discover a plant that has white blooms and dismayed when you forget its exact location and start removing spiderwort in that area. You fret that you inadvertently yanked that one instead of a blue or purple variety. You tell yourself that the white one took so long to appear, it's doubtless better behaved than its siblings and well worth keeping around. You watch anxiously for it to reappear and hold out hope even when you know in your heart that your ruthlessness has put paid to that particular plant.

And by the fifth year, you've resigned yourself to the fact that you will always have spiderwort somewhere in your garden and you will always have a lingering fondness for its blooms. You accept your inability to totally eradicate it from the beds and borders and acknowledge that you can only do so much. Your focus turns to keeping what you have under control and in check. You clear the areas where it's important to you that other plants not be crowded or overwhelmed. You tell yourself that this has been a learning experience and that it will serve you well in choosing future additions to your gardens. And you almost ... not quite but almost ... believe it!

This is the Louisiana Iris bed behind the pond, where I spent quite a bit of time yesterday clearing out spiderwort. I missed a spot on the right so if you'll excuse me ...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Special of the Day: Elephant

Question:"How do you eat an elephant?"
Answer: "One bite at a time."

Cleaning up the garden after a freeze is much like that. You just have to get started and keep going, steadily working towards reducing the piles of debris you've accumulated in the weeks since the freeze. You take Felcos or scissors in hand, whichever best suits the materials at hand, and you start cutting. Then you keep cutting. You'll pause periodically and wonder if you'll ever get through all of it, then go back to the job at hand after dragging one of the garden chairs over so you can sit while you work. You'll pause again and survey the slowly dwindling pile of branches, stems, twigs and leaves ... and you'll think that maybe you should make a plan for how to deal with it. Then you realize that if you just keep working, you'll get way more accomplished in the time you could spend thinking about how best to accomplish it. So you keep cutting. You'll pause when neighbors stop on their walk to ask a question about how to deal with freeze-damaged ginger plants, or quiz you on whether you think winter is done with us. Then you return to your cutting. Little by little, the piles dwindle. Where once there were four piles, now there are two. And you feel proud that instead of putting all that dead plant material in trash cans to be carted away to a landfill, you've applied the principle of mulching in place. You reflect on the fact that you'd been following that practice for a while before you read THE PERENNIAL CARE MANUAL and discovered that author Nancy J. Ondra is a firm believer in "your" method. You wonder how many other gardeners also cut their debris into small pieces and use it as mulch. You indulge in some wistful longing for an electric chipper-shredder, knowing it would save you time and energy you'd like to use elsewhere in the garden. You think ruefully of the bulbs you discovered this morning in a refrigerator drawer, out of sight and therefore out of mind. You acknowledge that you really should plant those today ... and then you do your Scarlett O'Hara imitation and tell yourself you'll do it tomorrow. After all, you've already reached the limit on the recommended daily allowance of elephant!

The photograph at the top is of the first bloom on the Violas that reseeded from last year.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Off With The Old and On With the New!

The Head Gardener wears many hats here at Wit's End. Her favorite has long been this Shady Brady model, as worn by Julia Roberts in RUNAWAY BRIDE. She swears that when it was inew and in prime condition, people were constantly mistaking her for Julia. Uh-huh.

As you can see, however, the old hat is definitely Old Hat and no longer offers the protection from the sun so necessary here in south central Texas. Last week the HG and I finally sat down and perused the offerings at Garden Shoes Online since I won a $50 gift certificate from them back at the May 2009 Chicago Spring Fling*. I have to say that we are very impressed with the speed of their response to our order and its delivery. We placed the order on January 15th and it was shipped within 24 hours. We received it on Friday, the 22nd, as promised. Here's the hat I ordered, the Tula Hats Outback model. I had to laugh when I read the tag: it's made in Austin, Texas! The Head Gardener has already worn it and pronounced it very comfortable. We hope it has a long and illustrious career protecting our noggin(s) from the sun!

*If you're a garden blogger who hasn't already heard about the wonderful, fabulous, amazing plans being made for Buffa10, the garden bloggers' 2010 meetup in Buffalo, click on the logo up at the top of this blog and visit the Buffa10 blog site. We'll meet July 9-11, just prior to the Buffalo's famed Garden Walk, in which hundreds of private gardens open to visitors. Many of those gardens have agreed to allow the bloggers early access. Damn skippy, I'll be there! I hope you'll join us!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sing it, Maria!

"I have confidence in sunshine ... I have confidence in rain ... I have confidence that spring will come again! ..." (THE SOUND OF MUSIC, Rodgers & Hammerstein)

We've had 2 days of sunshine, clear skies and temperatures in the 70s ... perfect weather for gardening. I decreed that the Head Gardener must spend most of her time outside, despite the lingering traces of bronchitis, believing that Vitamin D would be good for that which ailed her. I was right: I felt much better after spending those days working in one area of the garden and another. The work itself not only made me feel better physically but was also mentally and emotionally uplifting. Clearing out foliage and stems that were damaged by the recent hard freeze was therapeutic for the garden and the gardener. Everywhere I looked I could see reasons to be optimistic that spring will indeed come again.

The Oriental Poppies (Papaver somniferum) are poppying up all over: the cold weather didn't faze them in the least. Many of them are self-sown from last year's plants but I did scatter a few seeds here and there. ACK ... that reminds me, I have seeds sent to me by Mr. McGregor's Daughter and I must plant them post haste!

There are Toadflax (Linaria maroccana) seedlings (yes, I ought to thin them but I rarely do and they seem to tolerate overcrowding pretty well). Toadflax is my favorite spring annual, bar none. The blooms aren't big and showy like those of the poppies but I can't imagine my garden without them.

The first of the Hyacinths from Brent & Becky's Bulbs is up. I hope it will grow to the proper height before it blooms instead of blasting as so many Hyacinths before it have done. Brent & Becky pre-chilled the bulbs for me (thanks, y'all!) and I hope they're not sulking about how much warmer it is on my corner of Katy than it was in their cooler!

Narcissus 'Avalanche' are poking their heads up. These are supposed to naturalize for us down here in Texas and I certainly hope they will. I dream of having Narcissus scattered throughout the back garden and these are a step towards realizing that dream.

The Delphiniums have buds! I purchased 4 inch pots of Delphinium x belladonna 'Connecticut Yankee' at a local nursery and planted them out in December. Last year's Delphs did so well that I'm hoping to repeat that success. I saved seeds from last year's plants and scattered them a while back. I see some seedlings that look more like Delphs than Larkspur so I'm hopeful they made, as we say in the South.

I'm really excited that the Calochortus bulbs my sister sent me are sending up shoots. It's a start ... now to see if I can get them to bloom. 'Golden Orb' is the variety. I've never grown these but my wonderful, generous, indulgent sister, Dr. Laura, sent me a box of several different kinds of bulbs from Easy to Grow Bulbs. Thanks, baby sister!

Also in that box from Dr. Laura were Babiana stricta, commonly known as Baboon Flower. The name comes from their being a favorite food of Baboons in its native locales. Babiana are South African in origin and should grow well for me, if weather conditions provide them with dry winter dormancy. We'll see how that goes.

This is the first of the Byzantine Gladiolus to make an appearance. I'm hoping they will indeed naturalize and grace Wit's End for many years to come. It might help if I mark the places where they're planted so the HG or I don't inadvertently dig them up while in a planting frenzy. These small-flowered Gladiolus are the most wonderful shade of magenta, absolutely shocking in the intensity of the color.

Buttercream Poppies reseeded last year: we have a grand total of 2 seedlings! Shock and awe, right? I'm not sure what works against germination of the California type poppies here at Wit's End but I continue to buy more seeds each year and celebrate however many choose to stick with me from germination to bloom!

There are other plants quietly going about their business, growing and thriving despite the worst winter had to throw at them. The Engelmann's Daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) did lose bloom stalks to the cold but the rosettes of foliage are healthy and unaffected. A variegated Myrtle (Myrtis communis) that was planted in November heaved out of the ground a bit, exposing its roots, but the foliage is unscathed. What a trooper! It doesn't really surprise me that spring bloomers like Hinckley's Columbines (Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana) and the native Ranunculus macranthus suffered not a whit. It does lift my spirits to see them and know that it won't be that long before they're blooming.

I have confidence that spring will come again!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tiny Charmer or Little Thug?

Do any of y'all recognize this plant? Several of them have appeared in the rose bed, an area where the Head Gardener and I are prone to scattering seeds without recording what those seeds might be. It's possible that this is indeed an elfin delight which will be tidy and mannerly in its habits and if so, we want to encourage its presence. It's not more than 6 inches in diameter and only an inch or two tall; the leaves seem to stay small as the clump grows.

Those very qualities, however, are what make us nervous about it. It's been growing in that bed for a couple of months and hasn't gotten any larger or shown any signs of buds. I fear it's not a desirable addition to the garden but a weed that will cause the Head Gardener to give me Speech Number 21A, in which she reminds me of my mistakenly identifying Pigweed/Devilweed seedlings as Lavender Skullcap, thereby setting us up for what will doubtless be a lifetime endeavor to remove the former from this corner of Katy.

If anyone recognizes it, or knows of a good site for plant/weed identification, please leave a comment and help us decide ... tiny charmer or little thug?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Whither the Weather: Winter

Y'all heard me fretting the other day about the possibility of an ice storm in February. I discovered in looking at one of last January's posts that I'd expressed the same portent of doom in 2009. And yet no ice storm materialized. That might be the reason my skills as a meterorological prognosticator aren't in demand. The thing is, I wasn't mentally prepared for December's or January's freezes and the garden suffered as a result. My dire predictions are an attempt to keep myself from adding insult to injury by getting into spring cleaning mode too soon.

So where might you have found me today? Why, out back in the garden, of course, Felcos in hand and a gleam in my eye as I threw caution to the winds and pruned with reckless abandon. Yep, I live life on the edge here at Wit's End: I prune dead wood and even cut plants back to the ground before our last freeze date. I certainly wouldn't advise anyone else in my growing area to do so unless they're confident that they can handle the fallout if Old Man Winter decides to spend a little more time with us. Most of what I worked on today falls into two categories: either (1) I-won't-be-crushed-and-I-might-even-be-secretly-happy-that-it-died or (2) There-are-so-many-of-them-on-MCOK-that-so-what-if-I-lose-a-few.

In Category 1, there are the variegated Durantas and the plant formerly known as Clerodendrum ugandense (now Rotheca). The purple Iochroma was very popular with the hummingbirds last year but its growth habit makes it a borderline Category 1, so it got whacked back. And don't fall over in shock when I say that I also pruned the Rangoon Creeper pretty heavily. It's planted in a half barrel and it really needs to be in the ground. I should just buy another one and stop making noise about taking this one out of the barrel. It's going to be a real diva about that ... hence, my assigning it to Category 1.

In Category 2, there are the Barbados Cherry plants (Malpighia glabra). Besides, they were crowding the summer snowflakes almost thuggishly in one area and I wouldn't have been able to see the delicate bells of the Leucojums if I hadn't cut back the Barbados Cherries.

The Crinums aren't in either category. It's a good idea to remove the mushy foliage on those, so that's what I did. I see that several of the rain lilies (the Zephyranthes) had some freeze damage to foliage, too, so I cut back a couple in passing. I stripped dead leaves from the Sweet Almond Verbena and resisted the urge to cut it back, since most of the wood is still green and healthy, even at the tips. That's a hardiness level I didn't expect of it. I also did a little pruning to shape one of the Texas Persimmons.

The Head Gardener and I still have a LOT more work ahead of us but this dratted bronchitis is hanging on longer than we'd hoped it would so we're pacing ourselves accordingly. While inside, we spend a great deal of time staring out at the back fence line. We're in serious confabulations about what we should add in the way of trees and shrubs: we are agreed that plants of height are desperately called for both to screen less felicitous sights from our view and to add some structure.

We did find one unexpected delight hiding in the half barrel under the detritus of the Rangoon Creeper, a pink Hyacinth in bloom! I dug it and potted it because it was overwhelmed by the diva. It makes me wish I'd gotten more!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ma Chere Amie

Tomorrow, January 19th, would have been my friend Amy's 58th birthday. Later this week I'll gather up the 100 Ivory Floradale tulip bulbs that have been chilling in my garage refrigerator since October and I'll head over to her garden to plant them in the island bed. The post below is one I wrote after last year's planting session. I miss you, Amy, today and always.


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).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Shadow of His Former Self

The blizzard of December 4th, 2009 had reduced the lavender form of Salvia 'Anthony Parker' to dry brown sticks atop a tiny clump of foliage. So I was shocked to find that it was not only still alive after the early January cold spell but that the foliage and stems still had some healthy green to them. I took a picture for my records ... when I uploaded the picture, I discovered these cool shadows on the rock beside the plant. They're very other worldly: the one on the right looks like some sort of alien to me. (It reminds me that I still haven't seen AVATAR and really need to do so!)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Foliage Follow-Up: There Must Be Foliage Somewhere ...

Pam of Digging suggests that we post pictures of the non-flowering features in our gardens as a follow-up to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: she reminds us to look for examples of foliage, bark or berries that are as worthy of our attention as the blooms we celebrate the 15th of each month. Since I spent the morning working at the Harris County Master Gardeners' Fruit Tree Sale, and the afternoon recovering from being out in chilly damp weather, I only have one picture to offer. The graceful foliage of Nassella tenuissima, Mexican Feather Grass, sailed through the recent cold weather and continues to add movement to the garden, if not a lot of color. That's OK, it blends in beautifully with the other browns and tans that are so prevalent right now!

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Few, The Proud, The Blooms On My Corner of Katy ...

The Head Gardener and I went on a brief scouting expedition here at Wit's End this morning to see if we could rustle up any blooms for this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. We found a few ... a very few ...

These Kalanchoes were moved inside the day before the freeze. They seem happy and I'm enjoying the burst of color in that spot, so I believe I'll leave them there for a while longer. I didn't notice until I uploaded the picture that there are buds on the Paperwhites.

I'd bought some cool season annuals in November and December and planted them out in the back. The 21st Century Phlox made it through the cold spell with only a little leaf damage, although I don't think the colors are as vivid on this purple one as they were prior to the freeze.

Its nearby sister is pretty in shades of pink.

I do grow other roses besides Gartendirektor Otto Linne. He's just the only one still in bloom. This bush is a good illustration of the difference in microclimates within my own garden. It's planted under a south facing window with a brick wall to one side and suffered not at all from the cold weather. Another bush planted only a few yards away near the fence was not so lucky: every single leaf on the bush was zapped by the cold.

I'd planted pansies, lobelias and some bulbs in this pot. The lobelias may be a cool season annual but they did not like flat out cold! The pansies are still blooming, at least.

Since our GBBD hostess, Carol of May Dreams Gardens, is such a friend of the garden fairies, I made sure to include the fairy house in the picture with these Sorbet Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Violas.

The Cutie Pie Violas have lived up to their name.

I bought two Calibrachoas at the same nursery, same variety, different colors. One of them I removed from its one quart pot and planted in a bigger container with some other plants. It stopped blooming shortly thereafter and hasn't bloomed since. The other one, pictured below, I left in its original quart container and it hasn't stopped blooming. I don't think the freeze even made it droop!

This alyssum that reseeded from last year's plants is one of two plants still blooming in the front and side gardens.

The other plant still blooming is Prostrate Rosemary.

I know I've whined and whimpered a lot this week about the effects of the cold weather on my gardens. But if you take a look back at my Bloom Day post for January 2009, and read the list of what was blooming on my corner of Katy that day, I think you'll understand a little better why it hit me so hard. Thanks for listening to my whinging ... the HG has informed me that as of today, it should cease and desist so I will heed her counsel.