Thursday, September 30, 2010

Three for Thursday: Live With Art, It's Good for You!


The coolest garden clock ever created, an original work of art by Linda Hudgens of the Pink Elephant. Based in Tennessee, Linda creates only two garden clocks a year, one for the spring sale and one for the fall. Linda will spend months searching for the right found object to use as the clock face: this one is an old Dr Pepper sign. You can find The Pink Elephant in the North Gate Village in Warrenton on Aisle F (maybe F1, can't remember). Tell Linda you found her here first!


'Kolomikta' joins 'Table with Legs' in the courtyard: clearly I'm going to need some much bigger and more dramatic plants to go on either side of Doug Sargent's works of art. You can find more of his work at www.doug-sargent.com. Take a look at 'Unity' ... wouldn't it look fabulous in my courtyard? I need an anonymous benefactor to make it happen, though. Sigh.


And finally, the sculpture that captured my heart, mind and soul yesterday at Warrenton: an untitled piece by Al Roche' of Things A.T. Roche's. He has some stunning pieces out there that are way too big for my garden and my budget ... another heavy sigh.   As I took these pictures earlier, neighbors on their morning walk came over for a closer look.  One of them said she saw it as a heart around the earth.  So I think I'll give it the title "Love Your Mother".

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rambling On ...

As a card carrying member of the Harris County Master Gardeners Association, I honor my commitment to put in at least thirty volunteer hours each year by working the credit card machine at the plant sales and pick up the rest of my hours here and there in the gardens.  When our Extension Agent sent out a request via e-mail for a volunteer to pick up twenty-one roses at the Antique Rose Emporium outside of Brenham by Thursday, I raised my virtual hand.  I knew I'd need a break from the garden and I also considered it a great opportunity to make a return visit to Warrenton in more pleasant conditions. This morning FloraBob and I trundled off to the country in search of treasure.  I came home with not only the roses but a new sculpture for the garden (to be revealed at a future date) and the coolest garden clock ever created (also TBRAAFD)(ack, I'm catching Acronymitis from one of my fellow garden bloggers).  I also found a couple of old garden tools, a bird house, a winged heart and more rusty stuff.

I wanted to share pictures of how the ARE staffer loaded the roses.  He laid the pots down on their sides and stacked them, nestled against the cab of the truck.  He said they would handle the ride home in the open bed of the truck far better this way.  Danged if he wasn't right!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Continued Coolth on My Corner of Katy

Which means I'm spending every minute I can making up for time lost to summer's heat and humidity.  If I'd made a to do list at the beginning of the day and accomplished everything on it, this is how it would have gone:
  • Walkies with dog, coffee, breakfast, newspaper, check in with garden buddies online
  •  Jump in truck and head to Lowe's to pick up 25 bags of Black Kow composted cow manure, which is almost 3 times the price but lives up to the phrase "black gold"
  •  Spend 3 hours unloading bags, spreading newspaper, wetting down newspaper, unpeeling corners I sprayed too hard because I'm obsessive-compulsive about coverage, opening and spreading manure, watering manure. 17 bags total.
  • Unload rest of bags near where I'll use them. Glance to left and once again frown at the unplanted area in front (roughly 7 ft x 4 ft) that Otahal and I designated for groundcover.Can't take it another day. Make snap decision to add more bull rock and make it an extension of the rock swale. 
  • Run inside and change into clean gardening clothes because the others are too dirty to be presentable in public, even if it is the rock yard.
  • Hop in truck and head to rock yard. Discuss how much bull rock truck will hold with manager. Agree that 1/2 yard minimum order is too much weight but 1/4 yard should be OK.
  • While I'm there, remember that I want grab a few flagstones to lay out as stepping stones in corner bed in effort to get myself to stop stepping on the soil and compacting it.  12 stones later, get them weighed, pay bill, have bull rock loaded and head home.
  • Lunch break.
  • Maneuver truck towards curb so I can rake rocks off truck and onto the ground. 
  • Grab tools and bottle of water from garage.
  • Decide truck is not in right spot. Reposition.
  • Attempt to rake bull rock w/cultivator rake. Isn't that what I used last time? Maybe not. It doesn't work so well.  Resort to sitting on side of truck and tossing rocks out for a while. My legs are tired from hauling manure anyway.
  • Return to garage for more tools.
  • Reposition truck again.
  • Finally get all but a few small rocks out of truck and the bare area is no more. Uneven spread to be corrected later. 
  • Exhaustion hits.
  • Shower, rest, play Words with Friends and curse a series of bad letters. Make notes for this evening's visit by Cub Scout Den 8.
  • Play tour guide for 6 rambunctious 3rd grade Cub Scouts and 4 parents. Discuss composting, insects, butterflies, bees, plants for sun and shade, spiders, fish, yard art, veggies, flowers, seeds, and more. Since they're working on World Conservation Badge, we allow them each a turn with the Fiskars Momentum mower.  Grass too short, may have convinced them push mowers are too much work. Boys all want peppers from jalapeno plant. Discuss how best to rid one's mouth of side effects from eating peppers raw.  Finally return to starting point after much digression and laughter.
  • Wine.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Let It Be Known ...

That  this day, the 27th day of September, in the year 2010, has been officially declared the end of awful by the Head Gardener and this writer.  We declare this to be a day of gardening on my corner of Katy ... let the festivities commence!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Are You At Risk?

Gnomeowners, beware!  Unbeknownst to you, that winsome little fellow peacefully surveying your garden from amongst the daisies is a far bigger threat to your survival than "zombies and adolescent vampires".  According to author Chuck Sambuchino, a "class 1 gnome-slayer and gnome defense expert", so real and so close is the danger that he was moved to write a survival guide to awaken clueless gnomeowners to the peril they are in.  HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK is "the only survival guide that instructs you on how to prevent and ward off a home invasion and eradicate [gnomes] from your property."   Difficult as it is for me to believe that Seamus is plotting my demise while he pretends to be a symbol of "merriment and good will", I was nonetheless moved by this book to keep closer surveillance on my miniature music man. 

If you'd like to know more about the book, I suggest you read my friend Mr. McGregor's Daughter's review on Carpe Geum.  Like her, I received a copy of this book from the author and his publisher; all they received in return was an opportunity to educate me on the perils of gnomeownership.

It's just my imagination that he looks a bit more menacing than he did in the first picture ... isn't it? ISN'T IT?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bulbs and Buddies: Lessons In Companion Planting, Part Two

Sunflower Heliopsis (Helianthus helianthoides)(Ants optional)
In yesterday's post, I reviewed the wide variety of bulbs Chris Wiesinger, the bulb hunter from Southern Bulb Company, talked about at the Bulbs & Buddies Bash at The Arbor Gate last Saturday.  Today in Part Two of Lessons in Companion Planting, I'd like to share some of the plants Heidi Sheesley of Treesearch Farms suggests you combine with bulbs for beautiful low-maintenance gardens with year-round interest.  As I said yesterday, I've known Heidi for quite a few years now and she has been the impetus for many of my plant purchases over the years.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and her knowledge considerable, which is evident from her talks ... one on one in front of a plant she's convinced you must have, you are powerless to resist.  Habitat and wildlife gardening, especially for butterflies and hummingbirds, are a special passion for Heidi and many of the plants she grows are designed to provide the winged beauties with the plants they need.  Heidi is also a big advocate of "right plant, right place": while many of the plants she grows are native to Texas, she also grows a great many plants from other parts of the country and the world that are well adapted to our various growing conditions. 
Curcuma Ginger 'Pink Siam Tulip'
Amongst those in the latter category, Gingers are a Treesearch favorite and The Arbor Gate had a great selection of them on hand.  Costus erythrophyllus varieties included a Blood Red Spiral Ginger  and a 'Grey Form' Artichoke Ginger, with spiral foliage and colorful 2 inch flowers.  Although I haven't grown many gingers in the past, Heidi's converting me to the idea with such lovelies as Curcuma 'Emerald Chocozebra', whose blooms sport apple-green bracts that have rich bronze-brown stripes at the base in summer.  Other Curcumas she's growing include 'Kimono Deep Rose' and 'Pink Siam Tulip', both of which have bloomed for her over 4 months this summer.  Critical to success with the Curcumas is leaving the yellowing foliage and allowing them to go dormant after they bloom. As with most bulbs, doing this will help the plants store energy for the next year's blooms.  The tiny yellow and pink blooms of 'Dancing Lady' Ginger (Globba winnitii 'Grandiflora') are best viewed up close while the Kaempferia Gingers such as 'Shazam' and 'Brush Strokes' are grown primarily for their bold foliage.  The Kaempferias' low mounding habits make them great for ground covers in shady areas.  If you're looking for a tall Ginger to grace your garden, Zingiber zerumbet 'Darceyi', the Variegated Pinecone Ginger, has 4 foot tall stalks of green leaves edged in white and produces large green cones with creamy yellow flowers.  Costus speciosus, White Crepe Ginger, grows 3 to 4 feet tall and flowers in summer.
Prairie Aster (A. oblongifolius)
There are numerous sun loving perennials Heidi recommends for our growing area that will provide multiple seasons of bloom, foliage color and texture.  If you don't have fall-blooming asters in your garden, get thee to a nursery, Ophelia, and remedy that! Aster oblongifolius, Prairie Aster, is covered with pinkish-lavender daisy like flowers in fall and is a butterfly favorite in both Heidi's garden and mine.  Anemone sp. 'Alice Staub' also blooms in early fall: the mounding foliage is topped with 2 to 3 foot stems that can bear hundreds of  2 inch wide mauve-pink blooms.  'Country Girl' Chrysanthemum, also known as 'Clara Curtis', has a profusion of pale pink Shasta Daisy type flowers.  Red Oriental Hibiscus, Abelmoschus moschatus, forms a 3 foot mound with 3 inch wide red-coral hibiscus-like blooms from late spring until frost.   Sunflower Heliopsis, Heliopsis helianthoides, has small sunny yellow blooms all summer long.  Don't overlook the white blooming Phlox maculata 'Miss Lingard', which flowers from May to September.  Heidi is also a fan of my favorite spring perennial, Gulf Coast Penstemon, and its tubular lavender blooms that appear in spring.  These are just a few of the many perennials we can grow in sun.  (I'll add lists at the end of this post of the others in each category she discussed.)
'Jitsuko' Ligularia (Farfugium japonicum 'Jitsuko')
Treesearch has a great selection of perennials for shade.  One of my personal favorites in Acanthus mollis, known as Bear's Breeches, for its striking architectural foliage as well as its spiky blooms. Treesearch grow the variety 'Summer Beauty', which flowers from late spring through mid-summer.  Another plant that has handsome foliage is Farfugium japonicum 'Giganteum', Giant Ligularia: 6 inch wide glossy dark green leaves are topped with spikes of yellow daisy-shaped blooms in fall.  New to me is the picture variety F. japonicum 'Jitsuko', which is shorter and has smaller leaves and double flowers.  If you want to plant for the fruit-loving birds that visit your garden, Prunus sp. 'Hirome', Hirome Dwarf Cherry, grows up to 6 feet tall and produces pink blooms in early spring, followed by tart cherries later in the year.  Another personal favorite of mine, 'Samurai' Toad Lily (Tricyrtis formosana) has light purple blooms spotted with darker purple from late summer into fall.
Buddleia 'Attraction'
Sun-loving shrubs such as Buddleias provide sweetly scented blooms that are attractive to butterflies.  These shrubs will need excellent drainage and may sulk after a period of heavy rain.  Since they bloom on new wood, they can be cut back if the mankiness factor gets to be too much for you.  'Attraction', pictured above, is considered the reddest of the buddleias.  One of the new Buddleias available from Treesearch is the compact variety 'Blue Chip', bred by Dr. Denny Werner in North Carolina.  This two foot tall and wide shrub has lavender-blue flowers and is deer resistant.  Also attractive to butterflies is the Mexican Bauhinia (B. mexicana), whose feathery orchid like blooms are white flushed with pale pink.  Like many of the shrubs we grow in our area, this one can be limbed up to become a small tree, as can Sweet Almond Verbena (Aloysia virgata).  In my garden, Sweet Almond Verbena repeat blooms from spring through fall and perfumes the air with what Heidi calls "a heavenly honey-vanilla scent".
'Oscar's Dwarf Yaupon' (Yaupon sp.)
For your shadier areas, Heidi recommends several shrubs that will provide a variety of foliage, flowers and fragrance.  'Oscar's Dwarf Yaupon' is a compact form of the evergreen yaupons so ubiquitous in Houston landscapes; it can be sheared into tidy shapes for a box or knot garden.  Another evergreen that provides a dark green background for bulbs and perennials is Prostrate Plum Yew (Cephalataxus harringtonia).  'Frosty' Deutzia features clouds of white flowers in mid-spring against both dark green and yellow mottled foliage.  A favorite of mine here at Wit's End is Michelia skinneriana, Skinner's Banana Shrub.  This 10-12 foot shrub or small tree has pale creamy yellow fragrant blooms that do indeed smell like bananas; its medium to deep green glossy foliage sets the blooms off beautifully.  'Daisy' Gardenia's fragrant blooms are shaped like daisies, hence the name; this compact shrub blooms from spring through summer.  All of these and more can be found at The Arbor Gate.    Be sure to mention that you read about the plants and the nursery on this blog!

Below is the  list of plants from Heidi not already mentioned in this post.

PERENNIALS FOR SUN
Agastache sp. 'Black Adder' 
Allium texasanum, Native Texas Allium
Alstroemeria sp. 'Dandy Candy', Dandy Candy Peruvian Lily
Antericum sandersonia, Variegated Shooting Star Lily
Baptisia x 'Purple Smoke', Purple Smoke Baptisia
Calliandra emarginata, Dwarf Fairy Duster
Capsicum annuum var. aviculara, Chili Pequin
Cassia corymbosa, Flowering Senna
Dyschoriste oblongifolia, Florida Snake Herb
Hibiscus acetosella 'Maple Sugar', Maple Sugar Hibiscus
Lespedeza liukiuensis 'Little Volcano', Little Volcano Lespedeza
Lespedeza thunbergia 'White Fountains', White Fountains Lespedeza
Melochia tomentosa, Tea Bush or Pyramid Bush
Pavonia peruviensis, Peruvian or Brazilian Pavonia
Phlox paniculata 'John Fanick', John Fanick Phlox
Poliomintha longiflora, Mexican Oregano
Salvia sp. 'Otahal', Otahal Salvia
Stemodia tomentosa, Wooly Stemodia or Silver Stemodia
Stokesia sp. 'Peachie's Pick', Peachie's Pick Stokes' Aster

PERENNIALS FOR SHADE

Amsonia tabernaemontana, Eastern Bluestar
Barlieria striata, Blue Philippine Violet
Bletilla striata, Purple Ground Orchid
Odontenema strictum 'Pink Goddess', Pink Goddess Firespike
Ruellia sp. 'Blue Shade', Blue Shade Ruellia
Spathoglottis plicata, Peach-Pink Philippine Ground Orchid
Spathoglottis plicata, Purple Philippine Ground Orchid

SHRUBS FOR SUN

Buddleia davidii 'Dubonnet', Dubonnet Butterfly Bush
Cordia boissieri, Mexican Olive or Texas Olive
Eremophila sp., Blue Emu Bush
Guauyacan
Ilex decidua, Possumhaw Holly
Ligustrum sp. 'Wimbei', Wimbei Ligustrum
Viburnum luzonicum, Luzon Viburnum
Viburnum obovatum densata, Compact Walter's Viburnum

SHRUBS FOR SHADE

Magnolia x soulangiana 'Anne', Anne Saucer Magnolia
Philadelphus 'Innocence', Innocence Mock Orange



Friday, September 24, 2010

Bulbs and Buddies: Lessons In Companion Planting, Part One

Best Buddies
Last Saturday, I made the trek from my corner of Katy out to Tomball for an opportunity to hear boon traveling companions Chris Wiesinger of Southern Bulb Company and Heidi Sheesley of Treesearch Farms speak at The Arbor Gate nursery, host of the Bulbs & Buddies Bash, A Festival of Bulbs and their Companions.  The overflowing parking lot was testimony to how many Houston area gardeners were eager to hear what Chris and Heidi had to say.  We were not disappointed!

Chris, who is known as The Bulb Hunter, is a warm and engaging young man with a passion for bulbs.  A 2004 graduate of Texas A&M (for which this Rice graduate will excuse him), this is what his website has to say about his venture: The Southern Bulb Company, comprised of two dedicated bulb enthusiasts (plus friends and family), seeks to recapture something that was once "lost" to the Southern gardener: bulbs that thrive in warm climates, many of which are heirloom and rare flower bulbs. Our focus is to provide only those bulbs that will do excellent for the warm climate gardener and any tools, artwork, literature, education or clothing that supports our 'bulb habit.'  

Chris' enthusiasm for bulbs that will grow in the hot and humid South is matched by Heidi's enthusiasm for native and adapted perennials, trees, shrubs, vines, bulbs and indeed any plant material that will also thrive in such climates.   Heidi is a lifelong horthead and plantaholic: when I mentioned Heidi's name to the late Madalene Hill at a seminar in the late 90s, Madalene had fond memories of five year old Heidi's enthusiasm for plants.  The owner and founder of wholesale grower Treesearch Farms, Heidi has been providing interesting, unusual and climate-appropriate plants to the Houston area for almost 20 years.  I've heard her speak several times over the last 12 years and I count her as a friend, as well as an enabler of the highest order when it comes to plants!  Many of the plants growing on my corner of Katy started life in Heidi's propagation facilities.

So what did these two knowledgeable and congenial folks have to share with us on Saturday? Today I'll focus on the bulbs that Chris recommends for the Southern gardener. If it's Narcissus you crave, there's a long list of those bulbs that will do well. Tazetta varieties include 'Golden Dawn', 'Grand Primo','Erlicheer', Falconet 'Double Roman', 'Italicus' and N. tazetta orientalis "Chinese Sacred Lily'. For those who want the large flowered Narcissus/Daffodils with trumpet-like blooms, look for 'Ice Follies', 'Fortune' and 'Carlton'. 'Jetfire' blooms on small compact plants about 12 inches tall, multiplies rapidly and should be divided and replanted every 3 to 5 years. Fragrant varieties included N. x intermedius 'Texas Star'; N. x odorus 'Campernelle'; N. x jonquilla 'Jonquil'; N. pseudonarcissus 'Lent Lily'; and N. 'Orange Phoenix'"Butter and Eggs". Looking for something unusual? Narcissus x medioluteus 'Twin Sisters' or N. bulbocodium 'Hoop Petticoat' are both precious and rare. Chris also carries two newer varieties of Paperwhites for forcing: 'Inbal' and 'Ariel', both from Israel and both with stronger stems than the traditional 'Ziva'.

While Chris does not carry large-flowered tulip varieties, he does offer some delightful small-flowered species tulips. Clusiana varieties include 'Chrysantha', 'Tubergen's Gem', 'Lady Jane' and 'Tinka'. Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' is also available but he cautions that it is best suited for the more northern regions of the South. (I can attest to that, having tried and failed to grow them.)

Crinums are one of the Southern Bulb Company specialties and a favorite of both Chris and Heidi for their robust natures and prolific blooms. The longtime Southern standby is burgundy-pink Crinum 'Ellen Bosanquet' (and just how to pronounce that, no one seems to know)(Ell-unn, y'all). Look for 'J.C. Harvey', 'Stars and Stripes', or 'Summer Nocturne'. Crinum digweedii, the Nassau lily; Crinum powellii 'Album'; and Crinum powellii roseum are also available. Chris tells us that he planted the latter in an abandoned field four years ago and walked away. The bulbs are now large clumps of five or more bulbs, bloom 2 or 3 times per year, and survive on no attention or supplemental watering. Now that's a Texas tough plant!

This bulb-hunting man has a definite passion for Rain Lilies, both Habranthus and Zephyranthes varieties. Since I've been regrettably short-changed in the last couple of months when it comes to rain, I've not had much opportunity lately to get excited about my rain lilies. As soon as they bloom again, I'll remember why I share Chris' fondness for them! Habranthus robustus varieties include the Pink species, 'Libra' and 'Russell Manning'. White, yellow and pink varieties of Zephyranthes include Z. candida, Z. sp. 'White Labuffarosea', Z. sp. 'Citrina', Z. macrosiphon Hidalgo Form, Z. grandiflora and Z. sp. 'Labuffarosea'. I'm especially interested in Z. 'Prairie Sunset', which sports coral and yellow blooms in partial shade or in full sun, and are drought tolerant. The corner bed needs these, don't y'all agree?

Other lily varieties to be found in the Southern Bulb catalog include Spider Lily varieties Hymenocallis acutifolia and H. littoralis, as well as Mexican River Lily, H. riparia. I had no idea that Tiger Lilies, Lilium lancifolium, would grow for us: those are going on my list, too! Both Chris and Heidi are fans of Philippine lilies, also known as Formosa lilies, which can be grown from bulb or seed. Blooms appear before foliage on both Blood Lily, Scadoxus multiflorus, and Flaming Torch Lily, S. natalensis, which flower in early summer: the giant globe-like flower heads have numerous star-shaped blooms. Also flowering before they produce foliage, Red Spider Lilies (Lycoris radiata) are a true Southern bulb: you may know them as Naked Ladies or Surprise Lilies.  A Central Texas favorite, Oxblood or Schoolhouse Lily, was brought to Texas by a German settler of New Braunfels at the end of the 19th century. This September bloomer brings with the promise that cooler temperatures are on the way. (Y'all know that's reason enough for me to plant it!)

Byzantine Gladiolus in my garden
Additional Southern favorites available from Chris include the shocking magenta April bloomer Byzantine Gladiolus (Gladiolus byzantinus), which thrives in the many different types of soil in the South. Leucojum aestivum, which many call Summer Snowflake or Snowdrops, blooms in late winter or early spring and is one of the easiest bulbs to grow in our area. For those of us who love blue, Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) prefers slightly wooded areas and multiplies quickly; Muscari neglectum, Grape Hyacinth, can reproduce by seed and naturalizes in many Southern gardens.

I hope my fellow Houston area gardeners will take a trip out to The Arbor Gate to peruse the bulb selection, thus supporting both a stellar independent garden center and a small but stellar grower.   In an industry that's dominated by chain stores and corporations, who have massive resources for advertising and marketing, it's critical to the success of businesses like The Arbor Gate and Southern Bulb Company that their customers help get the word out there about the advantages to buying from them.  Yes, the prices are often higher than what you would pay at larger stores and I know it behooves us all to save money where we can.  What you gain by paying more, however, is personal, knowledgeable assistance from people who share your passion for gardening and want to support you in your quest to grow a beautiful garden.   Our support of their efforts means that they'll be able to continue in their support of ours.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Three for Thursday: The Question on My Mind

As I strolled around The Arbor Gate last Saturday, I found this gorgeous creature nectaring on an Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata).

Upon my return home, I downloaded my images so I could compare them with those in my go-to guide, John and Gloria Tveten's BUTTERFLIES OF HOUSTON & SOUTHEAST TEXAS guide. The answer to my question was found on pages 144-145: this is Polygonia interrogationis, the Question Mark butterfly, in its winter form (the hindwings are orange with dark spots and not mostly black). Although Question Marks are seen throughout the greater Houston area most of the year, winter adults will hibernate during severe cold spells. Sheltering spots include loose bark or tree cavities; even a pile of old boards is sufficient for these long lived butterflies. On sunny winter days, the Question Marks may be seen sunning themselves on tree trunks or other warm exposed spots.

Those tiny silvery-white dots on its hindwing earned this butterfly both its species name, interrogationis (from the Latin interrogatio, "question") and its common name of Question Mark.  There's no question in my mind that I'd love to see these lovelies in my gardens.  I may have to enjoy them on my visits to The Arbor Gate and other areas where these butterflies' larval food plants, which included various species of hackberries and elms, abound.  Another visit to The Arbor Gate? I'll make the sacrifice!



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday: Prairie False-Foxglove

Today is Wildflower Wednesday, Gail of Clay and Limestone's meme for native plant lovers. As I was driving to the Arbor Gate on Saturday, I saw stands of small pink flowers growing wild along the roadside. Being pressed for time, I told myself I would stop on the way back to investigate. But I came home a different way ... so I jotted myself a note, which has been lost in the clutter of the little red truck.

Much to my delight, as I was ferrying the Garden Terrierist to a grooming appointment, I spotted the same flowers growing along the back road that leads to the shopping center.  After dropping Annie off at the pretty parlor, I trundled down the road a bit and stopped to get a closer look at the blooms.  I didn't swoon but I came close ... I am entranced, I am enamored, I am enthused by the delicate beauty of this flower!


Agalinis heterophylla, known as Prairie False-Foxglove or Prairie Agalinis, is a member of the Scrophulariaceae family.  According to the information from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, it grows 1 to 3 feet tall and blooms from June through October.  That site lists it as needing part shade: while that was true of the site where I originally spotted it growing, it's in full sun where I saw it today.  It's possible that the plants receive some afternoon shade from taller vegetation nearby, though.  The long wiry stems have needlelike leaves, and not very many of those.  Since I was wearing sandals, I couldn't get far enough into its habitat to get a good look at the crown of the plant where it emerged from the soil.  I managed to gently wrest one plant from the ground with root intact and I'm hoping I can get it to grow or reseed in my gardens.  

Trundle yourself on over to Gail's blog and check out the other Wildflower Wednesday posts!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Message from The Head Gardener

SWMBO went to a Master Gardener meeting tonight and came home with another list of "must have" plants.  It is of small comfort that many of the 66 plants on that list from Heidi Sheesley of Treesearch Farms were also on the list from the Arbor Gate Bulbs and Buddies Bash.  The wild rumpus has begun. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Live With Art ... It's Good for You!


What's this?

ANOTHER crate from New York state artist Doug Sargent?
Oh, that's right, I forgot to tell y'all I commissioned a companion piece for 'Table with Legs'.
You'll have to wait for the big reveal but here's one small detail to whet your appetite!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Message from the Head Gardener

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
I have been unable to tear She Who Must Be Obeyed away from the plant and bulb lists she received yesterday ... as I type, she is busily scribbling and muttering to herself about possible sites for this plant or that bulb.  She has speculated that we may need the assistance of Otahal and crew in creating her visions (some might call them delusions).  At the rate she's going, the Executive Producer may want to contemplate a second mortgage on the property.  Perhaps by tomorrow she'll come back down to earth and can be reasoned with.  In the meantime, I've included pictures of a few plants, but by no means all, she's been contemplating. 

Dwarf Flowering Almond (Prunus glandulosa)

Buddleia 'Attraction'

Jitsuko Ligularia (Farfugium japonicum 'Jitsuko')

Curcuma alismatifolia 'Pink Siam Tulip'

Prostrate Plum Yew (Cephalataxus harringtonia)

Heliopsis (ant optional)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Question from A Reader ...

Linaria maroccana (Toadflax)
I received this e-mail from a reader and with her permission, I'm posting it and my answer here.  

QUESTION: My name is Nicole, we recently moved to Houston (Spring - near the Woodlands) from the northeast and I have always dreamed of a cottage garden. But, apparently I suck at growing things, or I just don't plant the right things at the right times, I don't know. Anyway, I come close to giving up, but I can't quite do it, it is becoming a sickness I think. Your garden gives me hope that maybe I can overcome my black thumb and get something to grow here. I love your toadflax, where did you buy yours? My biggest challenge has been finding the plants I want or read about.  Do you have any nurseries you recommend? Any sources you could recommend would be great.

ANSWER: Hi, Nicole!  I'm glad you enjoy my blog.  Take heart, you too can have a beautiful cottage garden!  If you moved here from another part of the country, what you can grow will be very different.  Even in various areas of Texas, there are huge differences in climate and soil from region to region.  The good news is that because your area gets colder than other parts of Houston (like mine), you'll be able to grow some of those perennials that need a period of dormancy to really shine.  "Right plant, right place" should be your mantra!

Toadflax transplants sometimes appear in nurseries in October or November, but more often are found in early spring.  Mine are sown from seed: Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, www.wildseedfarms.com, is my source.  Because they're a reseeding annual, you should only need a couple of packets to get started.  I sow them any time from late October into early March.  UPDATE: Read Elizabeth Barrow's comment for some pertinent information!

My favorite nursery in your area is The Arbor Gate in Tomball.  They have a huge selection of plants that do well in the greater Houston area; soils, tools, seeds and bulbs;
friendly and knowledgeable staff; a tremendous variety of garden decor and home accessories; and gardens scattered all around the property that will educate and inspire you.  They also host a wide variety of classes and events, such as today's Bulbs and Buddies Bash.  
Arbor Gate owner Beverly Welch (in overalls) and Chris Wiesinger of Southern Bulb Co. consult with customers

 Just a teaser about the Bulbs and Buddies Bash: I spent almost three hours today at Arbor Gate.  The warm and humid weather didn't keep away a horde of gardeners eager to hear a talk by the Bulb Hunter, Chris Wiesinger, and the always entertaining Heidi Sheesley, owner of local wholesale grower Treesearch Farms.  They were entertaining and informative, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and I'll post tomorrow on what I learned from their lecture AND the time I spent strolling the grounds with camera in hand.  



Friday, September 17, 2010

Cassandra Has Left the Building ...


Or more accurately, the web.  Working outside yesterday, I walked by to find her hanging on one side of her web, rather than in the center.  Her legs were oddly positioned and she was so still that I began to worry about her.  I found a twig and she did shift her position slightly when I very gently touched the twig to one of her legs.  Later that day, I walked by again and she had disappeared. Most Orbweavers will stay with their web unless it is frequently disturbed or they cannot catch enough food there.  Perhaps Professor Trelawney was searching for a quieter spot or perhaps she moved on in search of better cuisine.  It's possible that she has shuffled off this mortal coil.  Although it's possible for female argiope spiders to live several years in Houston's mild climate, a year is the average life span for these arachnids.



She did leave behind a future generation of Argiope aurantias, now incubating in their cozy sac. Based on the information I found on several  entomology websites, young orbweavers may not appear until spring even if they hatch in the fall.  Hatchlings overwinter in the egg sac if it is too cold for them to emerge.  Given our recent temperatures, though, I expect to be showing y'all pictures of young spiderlings before very long!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Three for Thursday: Name That Plant!

As I was taking pictures for Bloom Day yesterday, I spotted an unknown quantity in front of the courtyard wall.  This delicate charmer is making itself quite at home here at Wit's End despite its never having introduced itself to me!

Here's a closeup of the foliage and buds.
The plant in its entirety

I remember this plant hitching a ride in a pot I brought home from the nursery down the street but I don't remember researching just what it was.  The Head Gardener is appalled at my lack of foresight: if this turns out to be a noxious invasive, she'll never let me live it down!  For some reason, I keep thinking it's a type of Geum.  Am I delusional or does someone out there agree with me?  Chime in, y'all!

I hope you'll join me in posting Three for Thursday, if not this week, then next! Pick 3 pictures of plants from your garden ... tell us about 3 books you've read that you want to share ... rant about 3 things that bug the heck out of you ... show us 3 pieces of garden art or 3 photos of egregious crimes against gardening ... you choose what your three will be.  Just have fun, be creative and leave me a comment when your post is up!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: Yes, We Do Grow Flowers in Texas!

The ants go marching one by one, hurrah! hurrah! ...
Several attendees at the Garden Writers' symposium expressed disappointment that the private gardens on tour seemed to be short on blooms.  Part of it is the time of year: temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s during August, combined with a lack of rain, result in fewer blooms in September.  It did seem that the plant palettes of the gardens I saw were heavy on foliage and texture.  There are gardeners in Texas who are all about the flowers, though, and I definitely fall into that category.  
Pavonia lasiopetala, Rock Rose
Since I'm still catching up on the home front post-GWA, I only have time to share a few pictures but I'll include a list of what's blooming now at the end of this post.

Blackfoot Daisy & Verbena hybrids
Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpeta jamaicensis)



Zinnias, Salvia 'Otahal', Verbena hiding in left corner, Blackfoot Daisy hiding in middle

Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), Old Blush Rose, Barbados Cherry (Malphigia glabra)

And now for the list in no particular order (the HG suggests you amuse yourself by singing it to the tune of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" ... ha!):  Zinnias, Cosmos, Rudbeckias, Calylophus, Cupheas, Turk's Caps, Bauhinia galpinii, Pineland Meadows Hibiscus, Okra Mallow Hibiscus, Salvia 'Hot Lips', Salvias greggii & macrophylla, Sweet Almond Verbena, Pigeonberry, Bauhinia mexicana, Coral Vine, Perennial Morning Glory, Durantas, Desert Willow Tree, Senorita Rosalita Cleome, Blue Mist Flower/Eupatorium, Torenias, Pentas, Ruellia, Echinaceas, Verbenas, Pink Salt Marsh Mallow, Peruvian Pavonia, Alyssum, Dianella, Peristrothe, Spiderwort, Basil, Cestrum parqui, Hamelia, Turnera, Salvia 'Teresa', Country Girl Chrysanthemums, Gaura, Verbena bonariensis, Angel Wing Jasmine, Crossvine, Castor Bean, Lantana, Pinecone Shrimp Plants, Pink Skullcap, Abelmoschus, Asclepias/Butterfly Weed, Patrick's Choice Abutilon, Anisacanthus, Thryallis, Moss Rose/Portuluca, Mussaenda and several different old garden roses.