Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Mighty Wind's A-Blowin' ...

Insert sound of wind above.
The first major cold front of the season is sweeping through the greater Houston area, my corner of Katy included. The wind is gusting up to 20 mph in some areas, accounting for an unusual fit of prudence on my part: I have deemed it best NOT to work in the gardens today and risk a relapse of my recent respiratory troubles.  We leave on Thursday for a long weekend in the Big Apple and I'd like to be healthy enough to enjoy myself thoroughly.  I've been checking the weather for New York City and it promises to be brisk, although nothing like the post-blizzard conditions we experienced during our January visit.  This time I hope to see some of the gardens of New York City: the High Line is tops on my list of must-sees, as well as the Conservatory Gardens in Central Park.  

Head Undergardener In Charge of Basking, doing her usual stellar job
Meanwhile, back at Wit's End, the gardens will have to fend for themselves.  I'm hoping the housesitters/undergardeners will live up to their promise to keep containers watered.  I've been working to reduce the number of containers in the gardens so their chores shouldn't be too onerous.  The Head Gardener will be traveling with me, of course: the woman and I are inseparable ... some might say indistinguishable.   I have concrete evidence that proves otherwise but I'm keeping it under wraps until such time as I deem it imperative to bring it forth.

Speaking of concrete, there's a new book coming out from the good folks at Timber Press.  Concrete Garden Projects "offers up an inspiring array of creative projects that can be made for next to nothing".   To celebrate the book's release, some lucky gardener will win not only their own copy of the book, but a $25 gift certificate to Home Depot  and a set of foam number molds as shown on the Timber Press website's video.  The contest ends on October 21st, so head on over there and enter (click on any of the links in this paragraph to get there).  I'm looking forward to receiving a complimentary copy of the book from Timber Press in return for mentioning the contest here.  (Note to FTC: No other consideration was requested/given by Timber Press or given/requested by me in exchange for this mention.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

If It's The 15th, It Must Be Bloom Day!

Here at Wit's End, it seems like Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day sneaks up on us each month.  At least the Head Gardener and I have an excuse this time: we've been battling a nasty cold virus that sapped us of energy and led, as it inevitably does, to a bout of bronchitis.  We've spent very little time in the gardens this past week but we are happy to report that we're on the mend.  We felt well enough to venture out with camera in hand and capture images of some of the many blooms on this corner.

Number one on our list of plants we need more of: Asters!  Aren't they glorious?

Barbados Cherry (Malpighia glabra) may be the #1 heat- and drought-tolerant plant we grow. This is just one of several that sailed through summer.

Rose 'La Marne' responded quite positively to last Sunday's rain.

 Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus) is another summer stalwart.
The pollinators are giddy with delight over the abundance of blooms.
True confessions time: I'd planned to paint the inside of the fence around the back gardens this month.  Because it would require removing the vines so the painters could work, I've postponed the project until there's not quite so many creatures dependent on the vines.
'Belinda's Dream' is blooming but she had a rough summer & it shows. Those leggy canes of hers aren't attractive.  I'm hoping some judicious pruning at the right time will result in renewed vigor.
In the midst of this thicket of Turk's Cap 'Pam's Pink' and Mexican Bauhinia (B. mexicana), I  spotted a splash of  violet-red and made a happy discovery.
A lone Clematis bloom, variety unknown. Gorgeous, isn't she?

I fear the bottlebrush bloomed just a few days too late for the hummingbirds.  

Butterfly Vine (Mascagna macroptera) may be the definition of acid yellow. 

Cuphea 'David Verity' in front of Panicum 'Ruby Ribbons'

Dwarf Pomegranate blooms are embarassingly voluptuous.

Miniature Hamelia has smaller leaves and bloom clusters than the big-leaved varieties. The blooms are beyond plentiful, though.

I don't know why I thought I didn't like Ice Plant (Delosperma).  The starry yellow blooms are enchanting!

Cosmos, Castor Bean (Ricinis communis) and Texas Sage 'Rio Bravo' are a gaudy combination on the corner.

The bees are abuzz over Justicia 'Fruit Cocktail'.  

I bought a Patrick's Abutilon at Barton Springs Nursery in Austin last year.  I've had limited success with Abutilons before so I'm delighted this one is doing so well.
If asked to name my favorite fall-blooming perennial, I'd be lying if I said anything other than Toad Lily (Tricyrtis).  They're not showy but I adore them beyond reason. 

I plan to add more of this Scutellaria 'Fuchsia Fountains' out front.
As always, a tip of the trowel to the Head Gardener at May Dreams Gardens, who originated Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.  Check out the links to other bloggers' posts!

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again ...

An ex-Aster made it through the summer & is celebrating fall!
Summer's hellatious temperatures and fiendish humidity levels have finally given way to the kind of weather that makes living in south central Texas not merely bearable but a real pleasure.  Even the normally cranky HG has mellowed and has yet to remind me that we're liable to go back into the 90s at least once more before fall weather settles in for a stay on our corner of Katy.  She's so blissed out by the need for a light jacket in the early morning, when we sit in the garden for our first jolt of java, that she scares me a little.  She gets over it, though.
The white cardinal vine is not very mannerly but because it's host to hummingbirds and pollinators, I'm allowing it free run of the back fence.
While the temperatures have moderated, the drought is still a real and present danger.  While strong thunderstorms rolled through the greater Houston area Thursday evening, and Katy was drenched,  the rain apparently did little more than refresh foliage.  Over an inch of rain fell in the course of several hours, but only the mulch was moist in my gardens: the soil below remained dry.    Even more depressing was hearing predictions from a state climatologist that this drought could last until 2020.  To think of the devastation this year being repeated for another nine summers is heartbreaking. Even one more summer like that of 2011 could mean a vastly different landscape for much of Texas, and especially for Houston.  Houston has always been a city of trees: according to a recent article in the Houston Chronicle, 660 million trees grace the eight-county area of and surrounding greater Houston. An estimate in that article puts losses at 10 percent. 66 million trees gone ... mind-boggling.

The Texas Olive (Cordia boissieri) is just starting to bloom.  Why haven't I grown you before?
Well, shoot, I didn't start this post with the intention to spread a message of gloom and doom - that's the HG's domain.  You'd think she'd clouted me in the head and taken over this post, much as certain garden fairies in Indiana are wont to do!  I wanted to celebrate the change in the weather, not continue my lamentations about how much awful I've had to suffer through.  I do occasionally feel the need to justify all the whinging I've inflicted upon my readers about the weather. More than that, though, I want those of y'all outside of Texas to understand the larger reality behind my  own petty complaints.  I also write to remind myself how fortunate I am that my own gardens continue to bring beauty and inspiration to me and to others. 
Amen and Damn Skippy!