Friday, February 25, 2011

Through the Garden Gate: I See Hope for the Future!

I had planned to post about winter's effect on my corner of Katy, most particularly the front gardens.  It was an absolutely perfect day here, weatherwise, so much so that I decided a small celebration was in order when I was through working for the day. I popped a split of champers and sat out back to toast the beginning of spring.  As I lazed in a chair, sipping and gazing,  the sun slipped lower in the sky and dusk began to fall.  I thought of my friends in cooler climes who are even more winter weary than I am and who can only dream of spring's awakening.  So when I'd polished off the Pommery, I grabbed my camera and took some pictures through the garden gate for all of y'all whose gardens still slumber.  I hope they will give you hope for your future gardens!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Three for Thursday: Here Comes The Sun!

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter ... (more on that tomorrow) ... but here comes the sun in six-petaled splendor, shining bright and telling me that it is indeed all right.

Narcissus x intermedius 'Texas Star'
I posted last fall about my visit to the Arbor Gate in Tomball to hear Chris Wiesinger of Southern Bulb Company speak about heirloom bulbs for Southern gardeners.  His enthusiasm and experience convinced me that my need for such Texas tough plants was imperative. He only failed me in one respect: he didn't remind me that when they started blooming, I would be so enchanted that I would regret not planting MORE! 

I don't recognize this Narcissus!
I thought I had kept better records of what I bought and where I planted it.  I thought wrong.  This one is in an area where I thought I had planted only yellow bloomers.  I thought wrong again.  Anyone recognize it?

Narcissus tazetta orientalis 'Chinese Sacred Lily' (I think)

Little darlings, the ice has long since melted and while we've had so many gloomy days that it still feels like years since it's been clear, the smile is returning to my face and I hope to those of my fellow gardeners. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Slim Pickens without Minnie Pearls This Bloom Day

To fully understand just the significance of what you are about to see, may I ask you to take a trip back in time with me? Let's go back to February 2009. What a beautiful day that was in my gardens ... there was so much in bloom that I had to create a photo collage to show them all.  

Not so today.  The following photographs represent the sum total of what's blooming on my corner of Katy.  

Alyssum, Moss Pink Verbena, Violas, Leucojum, and Toadflax are dotted about the back garden.
One Bluebonnet has bravely soldiered on despite the weather. 
Only the white Violas are blooming today: the white Dianthus and Cyclamen are taking a break.
One stem of 'Homestead Purple' Verbena is blooming.
I'll add more Corsican Violets next fall.

That's it. The Head Gardener is venting her frustration by ripping mushy succulents out of pots and composting them, muttering all the while. I'm steering clear of her today!

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is the brainchild of the inimitable Carol of May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to see who else has posted about what's blooming in their gardens and to leave a link for others to find your post.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gardening: Good for What Ails You

Hippeastrum/Amaryllis 'Gervase'
If you'd asked me Friday night what I'd be doing the next day, I imagine my reply would have included something about pain and suffering.   As I was attempting to inflate my balance ball, I made a wrong move and set off another riot in my lower back.  Once the pain was down to a dull roar, I alternated between a chair with a hard seat and good lumbar support, and the floor.  Hissssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss ... that's me in Cobra position.  

Winter damage at Wit's End
If you'd asked me Saturday morning what I'd be doing that day, my reply would have been something about attempting to avoid doing anything that might set off further discomania.  My chiropractor having assured me that walking would be beneficial, I put on a light jacket and strolled around the front gardens in the sunshine. Despite the scenes of carnage and devastation that greeted me everywhere I looked, it was good to be up and about on such a beautiful day.  But what to do about the plants that were still sporting their motley assortment of sheets, towels and frost cloth?  I had no intention of aggravating my back further by bending over to lift them off ... the Executive Producer wasn't home to help ... and the HG refused to do it.  So I got creative: I grabbed a hoe from its rack in the garage and used it to lift the covers off the plants.  I managed to get all of them uncovered without incident: in fact, it seemed to help my back to keep moving.  So I used the hoe to remove a few pesky Oxalis and chickweed I spotted while ferrying the covers back to their basket.   
Since walking was recommended and my usual Starbucks is not all that far from my house, I deemed myself in need of a therapeutic dose of iced green tea.  I had a lovely walk there and back and came inside to check e-mail and see what was going on.  Just a few minutes in the chair, though, and my back was stiff again.  Only one thing to do: head outside and keep moving!  I spent much of the afternoon doing light pruning on plants I could reach easily: no bending, twisting or stretching allowed!  

Phlox pilosa 'Forest Frost' ... undaunted by winter
If you asked me this morning what I'd be doing today, I'd reply that it would be a shame not to spend such a beautiful springlike day inside, and to look for me out in the garden, exercising my back and my imagination.  I have renewed hope that both my garden and my back will recover in time for spring. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Head Gardener is Tired of Winter ...

Through the Garden Gate: 2/10/2011
And she is just itching to get outside to continue the massive cleanup effort that faces us.  She insisted that we make a start last Saturday and we spent several pleasant hours removing mushy foliage on herbaceous perennials and cutting back dead wood on woody perennials and shrubs.  There are piles of dead limbs and foliage scattered about Wit's End, all of which must remain there until we can find assistance in removing them.  For you see, dear fellow gardeners, there was an unforeseen consequence of that extended period of intense activity after several weeks of  relatively little gardening.  As I was contemplating changing into my gardening clothes after church Sunday morning, I turned slightly to the right, leaned down no more than 10 degrees and introduced myself to a world of pain.  One or more of the discs in my lower back had finally had enough abuse and could stay silent no longer.

The first of Amy's tulips to emerge, looking a bit worse for the weather
As I see it, the HG has only herself to blame for our inability to take advantage of today's sunny skies and milder temperatures (a high of 52 is predicted).  She strong-armed me into doing all that work on Saturday, even as I protested that it was too much too soon.  I was thinking in terms of the woody plants ... conventional wisdom here in south central Texas is to leave dead wood on plants such as Hamelias and Durantas until the danger of a hard freeze has passed, to protect the live wood from freezing temperatures.  The HG being the experienced and opinionated gardener that she is, however, persuaded me that all of the plants being pruned had proven themselves able to handle such treatment last winter.  As she also pointed out, the bark was peeling away from the trunks just a few inches above the ground.  That wood was history, future freezes or not.  I did convince her to let me leave a good 10-12 inches of dead wood unpruned on most plants so freezing temperatures would be less likely to make it into the roots.

Narcissus 'Grand Soleil D'Or' (we think)
So here I sit at the computer with a sulky Head Gardener and an aching back.  I've promised her that we can take frequent walkabouts around our corner of Katy, pen and pad in hand, so she can dictate notes to me on how various plants responded to this winter's low.  We'll share the results of our walkabouts in a future post (later today, if the HG has her way ... since sitting too long exacerbates the back issues, however, she may have to wait.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Episode in Which The Head Gardener & I Go To Extremes

This is the closest the HG and I got to anything resembling a garden. Wait, where'd the HG go? She must have ducked behind the conifers!
In an effort to better prepare ourselves for the upcoming Arctic blast, the Head Gardener and I spent this past weekend in the snowy conditions of New York City.  It was our hope that our exposure to "real" winter conditions would enable us to handle the next four days with quiet dignity and grace but I can tell you already ... that's not gonna happen!
I've only spent brief periods outside today, covering plants with whatever's handy. Each time I retreat inside to the warmth, I feel like these ornamental kale: battered and wilted from the storm.
And despite what those folks up North might have us believe, we are not winter weather wimps ... I was a lot more comfortable in the snowy 30 degree environs of Central Park on Sunday than I have been in today's 30 degree windchill on my corner of Katy!

One more thing: the NOAA weather forecast for tomorrow.  Wednesday...Partly cloudy. Colder. Highs in the mid 30s. North winds 10 to 15 mph. Lowest wind chill readings 2 to 12 in the morning. Am I really still in Texas?