Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You Don't Know Jackmanii ...

That's precisely how I feel sometimes out in the garden ... when one plant or another isn't cooperating with me to grow as I think it should.

Growing Clematis has been an exercise in patience for me and like most exercise, it has been frustrating and exasperating. But like most exercise, it has also proven rewarding. It's a lesson I work to learn over and over again ... perhaps I get a little better each time.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The View from My Chair

As I sat on the patio sipping coffee this morning, I took note of how nicely my neighbor's Crape Myrtle (Basham's Party Pink, maybe) contributed to my view. Later in the day, as I spent some time cooling off in the pool, I watched petals wafting through the air and falling on the water, casting strange and wonderful shadows on the bottom of the pool.

Three things to be thankful for today: coffee, that beautiful crape myrtle, and generous neighbors.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Week in Review: June 21-27

This week was a pretty slow one, garden-wise, thanks to a summer cold that turned into a mild case of bronchitis. I spent a lot of time inside reading and resting.

Monday: I up-potted up the trial plants from Proven Winners' ColorChoice Shrubs: 5 double-flowering quinces and 2 roses went into the next size. I'd already bid farewell to one of the orange quinces last week: all it takes with that peat-based potting mix is one summer day of improper watering. I also moved the Republic of Texas rose into a larger pot. The Variegated Gardenia, which has creamy yellow marked leaves and small lightly fragrant blooms, has been languishing in the bed where it was planted for several months now, so I dug it and potted it up. (What does it WANT, anyway?)(Other than to be growing in the Pacific Northwest or something.) All of these went into heavier soil in hopes they can make it through my upcoming absence in July. We had a nice little thunderstorm around 5:30, just enough to refresh the foliage.

Tuesday: I spread 8-1/2 bags of mulch this morning. 1-1/2 bags went into the rose bed to augment what had settled. The other 6-1/2 were spread on an area along the south fence where purslane was attempting to gain a stronghold. I harvested one Giant Marconi pepper but I waited too long and it was a little wrinkly. The big news today is the small fry I found in the pond: there are four baby Japanese fantails! Obviously this means that Larry, Darrell or Brother Boy is not who he seems: I suspect Brother Boy, who has been renamed Tammy Wynette. I also found a bloom on what I think is the Rosemoor Clematis (pictured at top).

Wednesday through Friday: I pretty much hunkered down inside feeling puny. We got a nice hard rain on Wednesday or Thursday night, can't remember which.

Saturday: I made a run by Lowe's to take a look at the clearance plants. There were none to be found but most of the garden center should have been on clearance, things looked so bad. They must have been short-staffed because the plants were in DIRE need of watering.

Sunday: I finally felt up to getting back into the garden a bit. I'd noticed the other day that my Cypella from Plant Delights Nursery didn't look so good and this morning it was clear I had to dig it up to have any chance of saving it. It was rotting: the soil was probably too rich and moist in that spot for it to do well. 3 small pieces w/root remain and though I doubt they'll make it, I put them in vermiculite and will monitor them. This is one I'll reorder because it's so lovely. I also worked on clearing unnecessary items (plants, furniture, decor) out of the courtyard. It looks much better without it!

OK, duty calls. Every couple of months, the Executive Producer gets together to play bridge with friends. I get to cook (oh joy).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Armchair Gardening

I'd heard good things from gardening friends about THE NEW LOW-MAINTENANCE GARDEN by Valerie Easton so I was well pleased to find it at my branch library yesterday. I brought it home and plunked down in my cool and cozy corner of the sofa to take a look. I'm an impatient reader ... I tend to charge through books, skimming passages that don't interest me. This one, however, I find myself taking my time to actually read and ponder. I've been thinking a lot in the last year about ways to reduce my workload in the garden so I'm looking forward to seeing what this book has to teach me. I already suspect I'll need to purchase a copy of my own.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friend or Foe?

Does anyone know what this plant is? It's growing in the bed underneath the pine tree, which was cleared out and expanded when Otahal's crew was here at the end of April. That means it went from germination to bloom in two months. I suspect it's a weed but it's not one I recognize. I don't want to regret pulling it if it's something special and unusual ... but I don't want to regret not pulling it if it's something noxious and invasive!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ...

I took a brief turn about the back gardens today and discovered, much to my dismay, that a half-dozen or more of the 'Carmello' tomatoes had been gnawed on by one critter or another (squirrels? mockingbirds? unspeakable creatures of the night?). So I picked those that were starting turn red and placed them on a small table on the patio to continue ripening in the sun. I thought they would be safe from harm there. I was wrong.

I don't like the looks of those that I've ripened on the kitchen windowsill and it seems to affect the texture so I wanted to ripen them outside in the sun as much as possible. Here's the solution I came up with to protect them ... we'll see how well it works. Now that I look at it, a squirrel could easily dismantle that and a mockingbird's beak is probably long enough to reach through the mesh. Still, it's the best I can do right now.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday: Texas Bluebells

Texas Bluebells : click link for the Wildflower Center's information

I purchased three 4-inch pots of a hybrid variety of this lovely native and planted them out several weeks ago. Their fragile beauty is deceptive: they are actually pretty tough little plants. Even these hybrids are flourishing in my garden in full sun with little supplemental water. As lovely as they are, I'm even more wowed by the true natives. When we were in Burnet for a weekend getaway in 2008, I took the picture below of a clump of Texas Bluebells by the roadside. The Hill Country's drought situation was already dire but these hardy beauties were blooming profusely on roadsides and in open fields.

Gail at Clay and Limestone sponsors Wildflower Wednesday on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Thanks, Gail!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tina Turner's Got Legs!

Tina Turner Bauhinia (B. galpinii) in March

Baby, look at her now!

I really need to get out there and give Tina a pedicure! It will have to wait for a few days, though. I've been nursing a chest cold since I got home from the lake and I'm feeling punier by the hour. I'd like to believe that getting out there with my Felcos would be beneficial to me and Tina both but I'm going to err on the side of prudence. Right now I'm headed to the comfort of my sofa with a good book!

Monday, June 21, 2010

This Is Not A Crinum!

I mentioned in my end of the week post yesterday that there was a big fat bud about to open on the Crinum.

I was wrong.

This is most definitely not a Crinum.

It is a Hymenocallis.

Which begs the question: Where in the heck did it come from? I thought it was a division of the Crinum Amy gave me years ago. I can't remember if she had Hymenocallis or not. I thought perhaps it was my pal Jean at Dig Grow Compost Blog but she says no. MSS at Zanthan Gardens gave me some plants last year: I don't remember it being one of those. I know it wasn't Otahal. I guess I'll call it Hymenocallis 'Misterioso". Whoever it was, thank you! I'm very happy to have it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Week In Review: June 14-20

Monday: I pulled some weeds in the corner bed but the sun drove me out before I could make much of a dent. I did manage to spread mulch in the path behind that bed, clean the birdbath and fertilize the Heart of Gold cantaloupe seedlings. They do not appear to have grown much, if at all. I discovered that the Perennial Morning Glory vine (a gift from Otahal) is making excellent progress on climbing the trellis where it's planted. Meanwhile, the nearby Angel Wing Jasmine is working on becoming Pretty Mama once again.

Tuesday: I didn't do a darned thing outside today, I don't think. I might have watered a couple of things. Truth be told, I'd run myself ragged over the previous few days and I needed a day to recover.

Wednesday: I found a bud on one of my Crinums! A big, FAT bud.

Thursday: FloraBob and I made 2 trips to Lowe's for mulch, 10 bags each time. While they were loading the bags the first time, I took a look at the clearance racks. Those were pretty picked over and there were some mighty sad plants in their death throes. I did find two small pots of Forever & Ever Groundcover (TM): Leptinella squalida 'Platt's Black' and Isotoma fluviatus, pictured at top. At 50 cents each, they were worth the gamble! Otahal called to say he and his crew could be here for the day Friday if I wanted them to tackle my remaining projects. Hot damn, did I ever!

Friday: Otahal and crew arrived just after 9 AM and consulting with him took up quite a bit of time. In between sessions, I watered as much as I could and attempted to pack and shop for 2 days away. In the haste of it all, I came away wearing my favorite pair of sandals, which were not suitable for trekking about the countryside or lake. The Executive Producer stopped at Wal-Mart in Brenham and I found a pair of lime green flip-flops that were just what I needed. By 6 pm, we were relaxing under the shade of the covered patio, sipping rum punch and watching our cares slip away.

Saturday: A lazy day ... I sat outside in the morning to sip my coffee and watched a horde of dragonflies dancing over a field. Late in the afternoon, we headed over to Yegua Creek Park on Lake Somerville for some time in the water. (That's pronounced Yeh-wah.) The lake was cool and refreshing and the warmth of the day made it all the more so. Despite my recent lamentations about how many days of awful remain to get through, we were all happily surprised at how much time we were able to spend outside. We lazed about on the covered patio in the mornings and evenings ... as long as we had fans going, we were comfortable. Our pal Jeff even set up a makeshift outdoor movie theater: hang an old white sheet folded in half on the walls of the shed, set up a projector and DVD player, and you're set! We did have some uninvited guests during the movie on Saturday night, when spiders decided to rappel down from the rafters. They were quickly escorted to a more hospitable location.

Sunday: We returned from our weekend getaway this afternoon pleasantly exhausted from our time relaxing. Of course, the first thing I did was go check on the garden. Most of the plants I left behind survived my absence fairly well. The Grand Parade Monarda that I'd planted maybe 2 weeks ago took grievous exception to not being watered daily. I'll be cutting it back and hoping that will reinvigorate the plant.

Looking ahead ... what do I hope the week will bring? That's an easy one to answer: RAIN!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Head Gardener Regrets ...

That She Who Must Be Obeyed is unable to post today. Since she's off gallivanting about Central Texas, it is my intention to take advantage of her absence and do a little gallivanting of my own. We'll see how the garden fares without either of us here to attend it. SWMBO asked Hayley to take care of watering duties which I feel quite sure means we'll return to find crispy critters. Mine not to reason why ... mine just to get while the getting's good!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mulch Ado On My Corner of Katy

I spent most of yesterday picking up, unloading and spreading bags of mulch in the rose bed. When I had to spend time weeding that area again after just having done it last week, I decided it was time to take defensive measures. (Pardon the shadows ... I took these pictures in the morning since I'll be out the door before the light changes. We're headed to the lake for a weekend getaway with friends.)

I've not mulched this area heavily in several years because I wanted the annuals to reseed freely. However, since the annual weeds are also reseeding freely, I decided it was time to lay down a few sheets of newspaper and top it off with several inches of cedar mulch. I can scatter more seeds this fall.

I had to do the job in two shifts. I got the alleyway side of the bed (pictured above) done in the morning and then waited for the sun to go down before resuming my labors.

This area will look a bit different upon my return Sunday. Otahal and crew are here working in that area to remove some of the river rocks that line the edges of the bed and add moss rock along two sides. He's also working to redo the path in back. I'll be gone before he finishes but I'll do my best to show y'all the results next week!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Head Gardener's Lament: (#22 of Many) & A Lesson for Those Who are Willing to Listen

'Carmello' Tomato

Far be it from me to protest the vigorous growth of a healthy Lycopersicon, especially one as productive as this beauty. No, my quibble is not with the plant but with She Who Must Be Obeyed, who once again blithely ignored my gentle suggestions as to the siting of said tomato and the necessity of proper support. She also ignored my more pointed remarks about the meaning of 'indeterminate' as it pertains to the Lycopersicon genus and the folly of underestimating the determination of an indeterminate tomato to achieve garden domination.

SWMBO has variously utilized an old shovel, a vintage metal hose reel, a galvanized watering can and several woefully inadequate garden stakes in her efforts to support this plant. Support issues aside, I would have no problem with its sprawling habit were it not for the egregious error she made in planting this tomato in front of the 'Heritage' rose.

Look closely at the above photograph, oh fellow gardeners. Double-click to enlarge and perhaps you can spot the rose foliage valiantly holding its own against the handsome and strapping signore who obscures its more delicate beauty. Herein lie both my lament and my lesson for today: planting tomatoes, like real estate, is all about location, location, location. Choose that location carefully and remember that today's 6 inch tall tomato plant has big plans for its future.

Monday, June 14, 2010

107 Days of Awful ...

For years, October 1st has been my personal benchmark for fall on my corner of Katy. As I was painfully reminded on that date last year, though, fall does not arrive with the turn of a calendar page. It was a typical hot and humid Houston summer morning today and nothing out of the ordinary occurred to make me crankier than any other summer day. But when I came in from the garden, I found myself looking at the calendar and counting just many days I could continue to expect such infelicitous gardening weather. 107 days of awful ... that's what we have left.

Yes, there's a lot to celebrate in the garden despite the hideosity of Houston's summer weather. Tomorrow is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and I'll share some of the beauty on my corner of Katy with you then. I've been chided recently for not having an attitude as sunny as this summer day. But little Mary Sunshine I am not and whining/moaning about the weather is one of the ways I'm able to continue living here. I acknowledge the awful as well as the sublime ... I threaten to run away to Hawaii, where at least summer's heat and humidity are offset by the beach and the ocean and tropical breezes (not to mention Kalapawai Market, the most awesome convenience store in existence) ... or I abdicate all responsibilities to curl up and read in the coolest corner of the house, where my sofa is conveniently situated. We all have our coping strategies: these are some of mine.

Today I'm adding one more: you'll see a new gadget in the sidebar, counting down the days until October 1st!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Winding Up Another Week

Anisacanthus wrightii

I thought I'd start using Sundays to journal the week's garden related activities, both on and off my corner of Katy. I try to make notes as I work so I can record significant plantings or events in my Lee Valley 10 year garden journal. Since there are only 5 lines for each day's notes and I frequently have more than 5 lines worth of activities/events/comments/observations, I'm thinking that posting a weekly summary will be useful, not only to the Head Gardener and me but hopefully to some of y'all as well.

Monday: I weeded out the rose bed and dug up some Belladonna lilies in the process. On purpose, mind you. These have been in that bed for almost 2 years now and have never bloomed. I was optimistic when I saw healthy foliage emerge this spring but then it began to die back at the tips. When I dug them up, I could see soft spots on the bulbs, some of them already rotting. I rinsed them off, let them dry out and set them aside, then did some research on them. Well, duh. If these are the same Belladonna lilies as sold by Brent & Becky's, the foliage should die back around now and be followed by leafless bloom scapes in the fall. The HG is shaking her head and wishing she'd cautioned me to research first, dig second. Sigh. I guess I'll replant them and see what happens. I will put them in an area with leaner, drier soil this time.

Today I finally planted the Heart of Gold Cantaloupe seedlings that I'd started in May. Carol of May Dreams Gardens sent me the seeds and I do so hope they'll produce tasty melons. There's a bloom on one of them ... that's a start. They were watered in by a nice shower that night.

Tuesday: Rain and a root canal kept me out of the garden. The storm that morning was pretty intense but no flooding. The Weather Underground station nearest me only recorded 0.5 inch of rain but there were 2-3 inches in various containers around my garden.

Wednesday: Although the skies to the north were stormy and I had hopes of more rain, it never materialized. By the time I realized it was a lost hope, it was too warm and sticky to venture out. I've found over the years that if I get started by 9:00 AM, I acclimate to the heat as it builds and I'm good until noon. I will say that I've been exceedingly thankful to my former neighbors, who put their house on the market when they moved in May, for giving me access to their pool. I average about 3 visits a day when I'm gardening. I'll certainly miss it when they sell the house! Maybe I can strike a deal with the new owner ...

Clematis armandii

Thursday: I finally planted the Clematis armandii I bought at Barton Springs Nursery in Austin 2 months ago. I'd been waffling about where to plant it and I finally picked a spot along the back fence, which needs some evergreen interest. The HG is worried that the afternoon sun may be too intense in that spot. We'll be watching it over the next couple of weeks to see.

Unnamed Sedum: any ideas?

Friday: I spent several productive hours at the Chronicle today, adding entries to the Plant Database. On the way home, I stopped at Thompson & Hanson nursery since I haven't visited them in quite a while. I found an interesting Sedum, no species or variety listed ... anyone recognize it? I didn't buy that one but I did bring home three 2-inch pots of another succulent. I love the colors of both of them.

This one came home with me.

Saturday: Although I didn't get started outside until after 10:00 AM, thanks to my trip to World Market, I still managed to get some time in outside. I spent some time being an outstanding gardener, standing in one spot staring at the daylily bed, which needs a major overhaul. I'm going to do that in the fall, though. It's not worth risking heat exhaustion! I want to lift all the plants in that bed, then add soil and replant. The daylilies have already lost their status as the focal points of the bed, thanks to the reseeding abilities of Violas, Gaura, Verbena bonariensis and Echinacea. All of those will be seriously thinned out when I rework the bed.

I also took pruners to one of the Texas Persimmons in the back. It's shading the pond so much that the remaining water lily is not happy. The sun was too much for me and I decided that the Persimmon needs the attention of my tree guy. Even with Shawn's help, that spot may still be too shady. I may need to expand the pond into a sunnier area. The HG says that she has her doubts the Executive Producer would be thrilled at the idea of spending $$$ to make a $40 water lily happy.

Sedum spurium 'Tricolor' and Elfin Thyme

I paid a visit to Lowe's for mulch and a perusal of the clearance rack. I came home with 2 small succulents, 2 bags of cedar mulch, 3 Sunny Knockout Roses for $2 each, a Sedum spurium 'Tricolor', and an Elfin Thyme. I spent the rest of my time outside working in my neighbors' garden. I weeded several areas in the back garden and planted the 3 roses there along the fence. I thought I owed them a little something in return for the pool privileges!

Oh, yeah, a note re the thyme: I was delighted to find it at Lowe's and recognize it as the groundcover I've been admiring planted in a neighbor's mailbox bed. It's slow-growing, adapts to shade and stays about this height, based on what I've seen of it in that bed.

OK, that's it for this week. Tomorrow is Monday and we shall see what the day brings!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday The Head Gardener Went Shopping

The way it was

It's been well over a year since the talented Isidro and his able assistant Blas completed laying the flagstone in the courtyard. Yet the courtyard has remained unfurnished while the Head Gardener and I wrangled over what kind of furniture should grace its confines. Then several weeks ago, we saw a World Market ad for a 4 piece outdoor furniture set at the unbelievably low price of $199. We agreed that we liked the looks of the set from what we could see in the picture and that it deserved a visit to the nearest store to scope it out up close and personal. Sadly, we delayed our visit too long ... by the time we made it, there were none of these sets to be had. (We felt slightly better to learn that they had sold out of them on the first day.) The sales staff advised us that a new shipment was expected to be available on June 12th and cautioned us to get there at opening time if we could.

So bright and early this morning, we hit the road in FloraBob, the little red truck, and motored over to the Galleria area store, arriving at 7:30 for a 9:00 opening. Seeing that there were no other vehicles parked and thus no line of eager customers at the door, we made a run to Starbucks for an iced green tea and some yogurt to sustain us while we waited. Around 8:15, another customer arrived and positioned herself at the entrance to the store. When another customer got out of his car at 8:30, we hied ourself over to stand in line. By the time the doors opened, there were 4 or 5 other customers there for the same item. Thankfully, there were enough sets for all of us. As we paid, the HG and I learned that by signing up for the World Market rewards program (a freebie), I'll receive early warning of future great deals. Sign me up!

After a stroll around the store to make sure nothing else was calling our name, and purchasing some much needed placemats for the kitchen table, we watched as they loaded the boxes into FloraBob and away we went. Much to my surprise, not only did the Executive Producer unload the boxes right away, but he assembled the furniture this afternoon. Only one minor glitch occurred when he put the seat of one chair on upside down. (The HG laughed at him.) And here it is, now gracing the courtyard and making us cogitate furiously on what we need for the walls and containers in that area.

We will be looking for new cushions for the bench and chairs. Not only are those included too thin but they are outgassing fumes something fierce. I may return to World Market with the 10% off coupon I received with my Explorer membership and buy some of the tropical/floral prints we saw that we really liked. The Head Gardener and I also went back and forth all afternoon on whether we should have purchased a second set. We do need seating on the south wall. The HG feels very strongly that another set would have been, to quote Tim Gunn, too matchy-matchy. Since the sets doubtless sold out within a day once again, we'll look for something to coordinate.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Devil You Say ...

Or maybe you don't? I'm not sure if this Crocosmia/Montbretia is indeed 'Lucifer' or another cultivar. Whatever it may be, I'm grateful to a generous gardener named Diane who was moving to Wimberley and offered on Craigslist to let fellow gardeners dig plants from her West University garden. I think of her every summer when these flaming blooms appear in my garden. I hope she's enjoying life in the Hill Country as much as I'm enjoying these handsome devils.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Wanna Go Home With the Armadillo ...

The Executive Producer had some minor foot surgery yesterday and is not up to his usual pre-bedtime stroll round the block with the fierce beast. So it fell to me tonight and I found myself happy about that for several reasons. Not the least of those was the soft summer night ... if only every night of summer felt like this one, I'd have a lot more patience with our hot and humid summer days. A light but steady breeze accompanied us on our walk and the temperature and humidity levels were low enough to make being outside a real pleasure. If I had a camper's headlamp, I'd be outside working in the garden instead of here at the computer!

As we rounded the corner to hit a few spots on the side street, I took a look at the corner bed and was happily surprised by the different perspective offered after the sun goes down. I'd love to tell you how romantic and beautiful it is in the moonlight but I can't ... there's a streetlight smack dab at the front of the bed, which lights up my corner of Katy. The light's bright but not harsh and it makes me happy to know that passersby in the wee hours can still see the blooms in that bed.

And the main reason I'm happy I had to get out there and do walkies myself was that I saw something I never would have expected to see. As we passed a neighbor's house at the end of the cul-de-sac, I saw movement on their roof. Twas not, as I thought, an errant cat. Nor was it a possum or a raccoon, both of which have been seen here on Langton Court. No, my friends, it was unmistakably an armadillo. I had no idea they could climb ...I've never seen one anywhere but on the ground. This one scuttled across the roof and down, then into the alley. I still can't believe I saw that. (My incredulity at the sight reminded me of one of my favorite moments from WKRP IN CINCINNATI.) I've named the armadillo Ray Wylie Hubbard. I may have to start walking with the EP and the beast just to see if I spot him again!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Through the Garden Gate 2010: #6

No, there's not a filter over the lens ... it clouded up from the humidity as soon as I walked outside. It's summer in Texas, my friends.

Even though I wiped the lens before taking the picture above, it still has something of the same misty quality.

An hour later, this was the view down the alley as a storm system from the Gulf approached. It looked much more threatening just moments before I took this picture ... the storm moved in quickly. By the time I'd stepped inside and hooked up the camera to upload the pictures, the rain had begun and the wind was howling around the corners of the house. I shut down the computer shortly thereafter and settled into my corner of the sofa to keep my anxious Annie company. She starts shaking at the first rumble of thunder. Although she's happier now that the storms have passed, she wasn't all that thrilled about having her picture taken.

No gardening for me today unless I pull a few of the countless weeds that have popped up since the rain stopped an hour ago. The Head Gardener can tell me all she wants that it doesn't happen that quickly ... I remain unconvinced!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hola, Senorita!

Que bonita!

Senorita Rosalita Cleome ... te amo!

I've read rave reviews of Senorita Rosalita from several fellow garden bloggers and I'm looking forward to seeing what this beauty from Proven Winners does in my garden. Given where I've planted her, it would be best if she didn't reach her full height ... and given my climate, it's likely that she will! (The HG is shaking her head at my refusal to follow her advice yet again.) Despite the disclaimers that this Cleome doesn't have the pungent odor of the other varieties, I find her fragrance less than delightful so I put her where she could be seen but hopefully not smelled. I'm looking forward to spending the summer with her!

For those living in the Houston area, I found one gallon pots of Senorita Rosalita at Another Place in Time on West 11th & Tulane in the Heights. I did follow my rule of removing the potting medium before planting and puddling in the plant. You can read a post about that here.