Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Ode by The Head Gardener On the Occasion of a Tragic Loss

Oh, scissors bright of rosy hue,
What has that woman done with you?
Does she not know the pain she breeds
When she trifles with my simple needs?

Oh, scissors red with blades that shine,
Searched long I have in hopes to find
You resting safe in a sheltered place,
Returning a smile to my sad face.

Oh, scissors lost that cut so well,
Like your kin the pruners by the company Fel,
She laid you down I know not where 
So I mourn you now in deep despair.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Three for Thursday: Things To Ponder

Lynden Miller, garden designer and champion of public gardens, spoke in Houston today on "The Power of Public Gardens".  Three things she said caught my attention:

1.  Public gardens are not an unnecessary frill. They soften and civilize city life.

2.  Public gardens are sanctuaries for the soul.

3.  What you need for a successful public garden: money, energy, plants, soil, volunteers, knowledge and stubborn optimism.

Thanks to the River Oaks Garden Club for bringing Mrs. Miller to Houston to speak at the 21st annual Sadie Gwin Blackburn Environmental Lecture.  From the ROGC site:  "Lynden B. Miller, Principal, Public Garden Design from New York, is a public garden designer and director of the Conservatory Garden in Central Park which she rescued and restored beginning in 1982. Ms. Miller speaks throughout the country promoting cities to get involved in beautifying their public spaces. Ms. Miller's book, Parks, Plants and People, Beautifying the Urban Landscape."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: January 2011

There are still blooms on my corner of Katy despite two nights of sustained sub-freezing temperatures.  Unlike last January's Bloom Day, the daytime temperatures have risen into the 40s and even the 50s, giving plants a break from continuous cold.  The garden still doesn't look all that great, as you'll see in tomorrow's Foliage Follow-Up: there are too many plants with shriveling and blackened leaves.  But like Scarlett O'Hara, we'll think about that tomorrow ... today let's celebrate the blossoms that survived to make me smile despite ongoing gray and dismal weather.

I love combining blue and white flowers: this planter features Lobelia, Dianthus and Viola.

I am deeply enamored of Corsican Violets (Viola corsica) and am contemplating a trip to the grower to buy an entire flat for the bed where they're planted.

Helen Mount Violas  bloomed early this year and although the Verbenas have slowed down to a crawl compared to summer's furious pace, there are still a few blooms on the creeping fern-leafed varieties.  The Verbena on a stick, V. bonariensis, had spent blooms.

Aloha oe!  The Duranta next to it managed to hold on to a few of its purple flowers despite the cold but they're shriveling quickly.

This Clematis jackmanii did its best to open for Bloom Day but there just wasn't enough sun to coax it all the way.

Alyssum bloom even in summer but they much prefer this time of year: their foliage is a much more vivid green and the blooms more profuse.

All the Alyssums in the garden come from seed. I buy a couple of packets each year to augment the reseeded plants. Sometimes the purple & white varieties get a little amorous with each other and their offspring can't quite decide who to favor.

You'll notice that garden gnome Fergus is sporting a new look.  I took a paintbrush to his hat on a sunny day (love the name of the color: Emerald City).  He's due for the rest of his makeover when the sun returns.

Toadflax( Linaria maroccana) is my favorite spring annual and I'm not at all unhappy that some of the plants are already blooming. There are a few blooms on the Salvia too.  The Coneflowers are fading but I'm leaving the seedheads in case goldfinches are inclined to nibble.

The white sport of Mrs. B. R. Cant is one of many roses blooming in the gardens here at Wit's End.

The pink rose blooming in this bed is La Marne.

This picture really doesn't do this particular Echinacea justice. It positively glows on this dreary winter day. 

Spirea 'Neon Flash" seems to like being pruned severely: it rebounds and blooms again each time I whack it back.

This Clerodendrum thomsoniae var. delectum, aka Bleeding Heart Vine, is in a protected corner on the south-facing wall of the house.  It took a partial hit from the freeze but as you can see, that didn't stop it from continuing to flower.  It's not in a pot or a garden bed. It's growing up through the granite path!

A few Asclepias curassavica, Butterfly Weed/Milkweed, are still in bloom in the front gardens but most show damage from the freezes.  You can see the discoloration on the leaves of this one.

Leonotis leonurus, Lion's Ear/Mane/Tail (I've heard it called all of those), held onto a few flowers, although you can see that they're burned at the tips.

The Abutilons really surprised me.  Clearly they prefer cooler temperatures. 'Marilyn's Choice' is to keep blooming!

'Patrick' refuses to let her do so alone.

'Country Girl' is one tough plant.  Don't let her pretty pinkness fool you!

As warm as the Indian Blanket it's named after, Gaillardia is a bright note in the corner bed.

I think this is the lone Zinnia left and it's going down fighting blooming.

Chocolate Daisy (Berlandiera lyrata) has a few flowers.

This rose was one of the plants Otahal and I chose at Treesearch Farms. I have to look the name up every single time: Chi Long Han Zhu.  If there's an English translation of the name, I can't find it.

Madame Antoine Mari continues to be one of my favorite roses, despite her lack of fragrance.  Her blooms, foliage and growth habit all earn her that distinction.

There are a few other paltry blooms scattered about the garden, but only the roses really seem happy with the recent weather. Not so the Head Gardener and me ... all those years without a real winter spoiled us. We're both antsy for some sunshine and a few days in the 60s so we can get out there and do our thing!

Visit my pal Carol of May Dreams Gardens, the originator of garden bloggers' favorite meme,  to find more Bloom Day posts from around the world.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Yet More Evidence ...

That my sister is absolutely the best, most generous and indulgent, awesomest sister ever ...

Thank you, Laura!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Three for Thursday: Quotations for Gardeners

Thank you, Baby Sister!
The wonderful amazing Dr Laura, my generous and indulgent sister, sent me a little book of GARDEN LOVERS QUOTATIONS recently.  Edited by Helen Exley and published by Exley Publications in 1992, this slim volume contains words of wisdom and humor from poets, statesmen, royalty, garden writers, novelists and more.  Although there were many whose names I did not recognize, I recognized myself and my fellow gardeners in almost all of the quotes.  So today I thought I'd share three of my favorites with you.

"And there will you have a little garden and a well which will be so easy to get at that you can water your seedlings without having to use bucket and rope. There you will live, becoming fond of the hoe, tending your tidy garden which will produce enough for you to give a banquet to a hundred vegetarians. It is something, in whatever place, in whatever corner, to have become the lord and master of even one single lizard."
JUVENAL (60-140 AD)

"It is utterly forbidden to be half-hearted about gardening.  You have got to love your garden whether you like it or not."
W.C. SELLAR & R.J. YEATMAN, Garden Rubbish

My absolute favorite:
"In Houston, Texas, bandleader Buddy Brock is so fanatical about the quality of his compost that a neighbor said, 'I hope I'm never run over in front of Brock's house. He'd throw me on the compost heap and then boast about what a good source of minerals I was.'"
from Newsweek


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Case of the Stubborn Ocimum

The meteorological pundits were correct in their speculations and the mercury did indeed fall to uncomfortably chilly levels here on my corner of Katy.  26 degrees was the reading on my patio thermometer at 7:30 a.m.  It's currently hovering in the mid40s ... the sun has vanished after a brief appearance and skies are overcast, making it a good day to be inside.  

As I mentioned on December Bloom Day,  I've been loath to pull the sweet basil since it was still a major focus of attention for the bees.  But the longer it's lasted, the more I've tired of seeing it in that space: the Head Gardener plopped it down there in one of her fits of industry, despite my warnings that it would grow too big for that spot. [Interjection from the HG: may I respectfully suggest that She Who Must Be Obeyed is confused about who did the plopping and who did the warning?]  

When I mentioned that a hard freeze was predicted and that it might finally put paid to the Basil, I was subjected to numerous and lengthy remonstrations by some of my fellow garden bloggers (you know who you are*) regarding my attitude.  I was exhorted to cover the basil to protect it from the freeze and I did give some consideration to doing so.  Even though some bloggers would have it that I intentionally and purposefully, with malice aforethought, did leave said basil in an unguarded and vulnerable condition, or that it was a subconscious effort to harm the plant, the truth of the matter in the end is that I simply forgot. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

*Leslie of Growing A Garden in Davis, Frances of Fairegarden, Barbara of Mr. McGregor's Daughter, Gail at Clay and Limestone Confess or suffer the tortures of the comfy chair!  And by the way, you'll notice that there's one branch of green basil still on the plant, which I'm sure you'll tell me I should protect from tonight's freezing temperatures.  I hope I don't forget.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter To Make An Appearance on MCOK?

Clerodendrum thomsoniae var. delectum
Here we go again, y'all ... we must have missed Mother Nature's farewell words last January: "Same time, next year!" If the forecasts play out as predicted and she carries through on that threat, the gardens here on My Corner of Katy will look very different in a week. 

I know gardeners across the greater Houston area are planning for plant protection.  Frost cloths are flying off the shelves at garden centers, I hear.  Old sheets and towels will be pressed into service here at Wit's End.  Large nursery pots work well, too, but I donated all mine to Otahal, dang it.  There's not a lot that needs protection out there, thankfully.  The 'Macho Mocha' Manfredas are my biggest concern: I'll use extra covers on them to ensure they come through the Arctic blast in good shape.
I'm much less worried about how the garden will fare than I was this time last year.  As difficult as it was at the time, last January's spell of winter weather taught me a lot about the resilience of the plants in my garden.  Some of them took longer to recover than others: Fairy Dusters (Calliandra emarginata)were particularly slow to emerge and the Bleeding Heart Vines (Clerodendrum thomsoniae var. delectum) were late to bloom.  For the most part, though, the plants came through unscathed.

For those who are worried about their own gardens in the next few days, I offer my method for determining whether perennial plants and shrubs need added protection or are able to survive on their own.  Do some research on your plants' hardiness zones: if they're hardy to temperatures below 20 degrees, they should be able to handle our bouts with winter weather just fine.  Many of them may suffer foliar damage and die back to the roots; that's what perennials do!  I count that as my most valuable gardening lesson of winter 2009-2010: after all these years of gardening, I was finally able to see perennial plants behave as nature intended. 

Wonder what lessons I'll learn this year?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back on My Corner of Katy ...

Maybe it's all the rain we've had lately ... maybe it's the swings from winter to spring and back again ... or maybe the plants are just too excited to contain themselves any longer ... but I came home to several unexpected blooms here at Wit's End.

Phlox pilosa 'Forest Frost'

White Plumbago

'Neon Flash' Spirea
There's even a self-sown Delphinium opening buds but she was being a Diva and refusing to allow me to get a decent picture of her.  The Head Gardener might have had better luck but she was being a Diva, too!  Maybe by the weekend the Delphinium will be less contrary ... I know better than to think the HG will!

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Must Go Down to the Sea Again ...

My daughter has inherited my love of the ocean ... like me, she could happily spend hours watching the waves. This picture was taken on the north shore of Cozumel at Punta Morena, and I wish we'd had hours to spend there enjoying this view.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dang That Man!

And by that man, I mean my darling husband who is ever worried about meeting deadlines.  He was so worried that we wouldn't get back to the ship on time that he hustled me out of the Cozumel marketplace before I could wander my way to this planting.  My thanks to my son's girlfriend, who took this photograph with her iPhone.   I found it interesting that I didn't see very much in the way of blooms in Cozumel, other than Bougainvillea, which looked spectacular cascading over walls. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year from Cozumel!

The path leads to the fertility arch at the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio.
 True, it's not the kind of fertility the Mayan women had in mind when they traveled to the temples of this Mayan community to ask the blessings of the goddess IxChel.  But I hope the year to come will be a fertile and productive one for your gardens, your imaginations, your hopes and dreams, your families and friends, and more!