Thursday, April 28, 2011

Three for Thursday: Friends Don't Let Friends ...

Plant the plants pictured without enumerating at length and in great specificity the reasons why they will eventually come to rue the day ...


For years, I considered Spiderwort Garden Enemy #1.  Look at all the bloom heads on this clump. Yes, they are indeed lovely when open.  And you couldn't ask for a more versatile native plant when it comes to growing conditions: sun, shade, dry soil, wet soil ... spiderwort doesn't seem to care.  It just adapts to the spot it's in and gets on with the business of blooming and making seeds for future generations of spiderwort.  Those seeds germinate in due time and unless pulled by the Head Gardener on a regular basis, grow into clumps as large as that pictured.  Which adapt to the spot they're in and get on with the business of blooming and making seeds ... etcetera etcetera etcetera ... ad infinitum.


Then there's Evening Primrose, Oenothera speciosa. Look at her, so pretty in pink ... dainty and demure, the very picture of innocence.  No matter how hot and dry the locale, she is ever the trooper.  Amy used to describe Evening Primrose as "so brave".  Ha!  Brazen is more like it.  There's a wanton hussy lurking underneath those tissue-thin petals and their delicate blush.  There's a reason you see roadsides and freeway verges covered in these blooms and that reason is what you don't see: a network of roots that may very well run for miles and miles ... no one knows because no one has ever been able to get them all, people!  Go ahead and plant them in a meadow ... or along the road ... but I'm begging you, learn from my mistake and don't even think of planting them in a garden bed.  You will spend the rest of your life attempting to atone for such a mistake.


And here we have the current scourge of my corner of Katy: Heartleaf Skullcap, Scutellaria ovata.  Oh, sure, it's hard to see those subtle sky-blue blooms amidst larger-flowered plants like the Shasta daisies.  How could such a sweet little plant possibly pose a threat to the sanity of the Head Gardener, who has proclaimed herself at her wits' end here at Wit's End?  Surely she exaggerates.  But, sadly, she does not.  This little darling of a plant not only reseeds with wanton abandon, it has an even more extensive root system than the Oenothera, sending its runners into the nooks and crannies of the edging stones, into the crushed granite of the paths, under the flagstones and into the next bed ... And did I mention the odd nodules on the roots?  Those are doubtless some devilishly efficient method of storing water so the plants can survive in even the worst of droughts.  Don't turn your back on this one.  Seriously.  You may think you've gotten all of it out of a particular area but five minutes later, you'll turn around and they're baaaaaaaaaaccckkkkkkk.

Now repeat after me: Friends don't let friends plant spiderwort.  Friends don't let friends plant Evening Primrose.  Friends don't let friends plant Heartleaf Skullcap.   Learn from me, oh fellow gardeners mine ...

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Earth Day Adventure

The Executive Producer and I took a field trip today.  We drove over to Somerville, about 80 minutes from Katy, to fulfill my promise to my longtime friends Jeff and Laura that I would design and implement a butterfly and hummingbird garden for them at their cozy cabin in the woods.  It was a beautiful day in the heart of Texas, sunny and mild.  While the EP and I were wending our way along the country roads, Jeff and Laura and their work crew (aka their sons, Matt & Sam) toiled to remove the Bermuda grass and weeds that covered the area designated as garden. 

By the time we arrived, the bed was roughed out and we were ready to begin the next phase of the process.  While Jeff and Phil headed into Brenham to purchase compost, irrigation supplies and whatever else they deemed necessary, Laura and I took the back road from Somerville to Independence, home of the Antique Rose Emporium.  This time last year, the fields along that road were blanketed in bluebonnets, a beautiful and welcome sight that was not repeated this year.  Until then, I hadn't fully appreciated just how bad drought conditions are throughout Texas.  Washington County is in extreme to exceptional drought; my corner of Katy is rated severe and bordering on extreme.  The entire state of Texas is in at least a moderate state of drought.  The governor of Texas designated this weekend as a time for citizens of all faiths and beliefs to offer prayers for rain.  That's been my most fervent prayer for months now.


Despite the drought, there were still beautiful blooms to be seen at ARE, although they were less bountiful than in years past.  Given the high winds we experienced today, it's a miracle that any blooms were able to stay in place.  We managed to stay upright and were successful in our mission to purchase a Butterfly Rose, 'Mutabilis', and a 'Peggy Martin' climbing rose that I hope will cover the chain link fence. While we were there, I went ahead and purchased a 'Mutabilis'  to replace the one in my rose bed that died, and a long-desired Climbing Pinkie for my back fence.  Now I'm wishing I'd also bought a Peggy Martin for the split rail fence in the rose bed!  An Agastache 'Purple Haze' jumped on my wagon as I made my way to check out.  Funny how those plants know which wagon to choose! 


On the way back to the cabin, we stopped at Discount Trees on Highway 36 to see what they might have on my wish list for Jeff & Laura's new garden.  We had already decided to wait until fall to purchase and install a Mexican Plum in the bed, to give it a better chance of survival.  We did find a 'Bubba' Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) and a Texas/Mexican Olive (Cordia boissieri), both of which should be able to handle being planted in such adverse conditions.  A helpful Discount Trees employee was able to fit those into the back seat of the car and we headed back to the cabin to unload, after which we deemed it time for a lunch break.  If you're in the Somerville area, we can highly recommend The Point, where the burgers are scrumptious and the pies are homemade.  (I could have eaten a bowl or two of the owner's meringue all by itself.)

Back at the cabin after lunch, we unloaded and spread 18 bags of soil and compost.  As promised, all I had to do was specify where the plants should be placed; Laura and her guys did all the digging, with assistance as needed from the Executive Producer.   I did fluff roots and nestle the roses and trees/shrubs into the soil with words of encouragement.   We relocated a Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana) and a Sweet Almond Verbena (Aloysia virginiana) to the bed from elsewhere on the property.   With all plants thoroughly watered and settling into their new homes, the supervisor and crew relaxed with a refreshing adult beverage and admired the results of our labors.


All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend Earth Day: in the company of good friends who so generously share their country cabin with us, make each visit a pleasure, and give me the opportunity to share my love of plants with them.  I'm looking forward to adding more plants to their garden and being there with them to enjoy the winged visitors those plants will bring!

Friday, April 15, 2011

No April Showers Make for Unhappy Flowers

While I have lots of blooms on my corner of Katy, they're a motley crew due to recent weather conditions.  We're under a fire weather warning ... that's how little rain we've had in recent weeks ... nay, months.  We've also had temperatures in the high 80s and into the 90s.  I doubt I need to tell you how the Head Gardener and I feel about all this.

Seen up close and personal, the flowers are indeed a bit bedraggled but thankfully, the overall views are still lovely enough to make my heart sing.  Above you see the view through the garden gate.  My neighbor's redtip photinias have matured to a nice shade of green, with only a hint of red, a change which makes the HG and me sigh in relief.  We are unanimous in our hatred of the screaming red color of the new growth, which clashes with the mostly pastel shades of the blooms in the back gardens.  We're also not too thrilled that the root systems of these large shrubs suck moisture from the bed along the south fence.  We hate hate hate loathe despise and hate redtip photinias.


This small island bed is long and narrow and has been quite the showoff recently, possibly because it's easier to water than larger beds.  Blooms include Verbenas, Laura Bush petunias, Blackfoot Daisy, Mexican Feather Grass, Louisiana iris, Heartleaf Skullcap, Violas, Alyssum, Phlox, Salvia 'Otahal', Byzantine Gladiolus, Larkspur, Linaria and Gulf Coast Penstemon.


When I went in for a closeup of this Louisiana iris (don't ask me which one, I've long since lost track)(can you hear the HG tsking?), I had to put my camera down to remove a baby snail, doubtless the culprit responsible for the chewed up edge at the bottom.  Like Elvis, said snail has left the building.

Gail of Clay and Limestone will recognize this plant!  Last year I took divisions of her beloved Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and planted them in another bed.  It's doing so well in both locations that I plan to take more divisions this year and plant them in the rest of the back garden beds.


I love the faded mauve of this 'Earl Grey' larkspur. I think I first planted it in 2008 ... or 2009 (I asked the HG, but she can't remember either). The seeds came from Renee's Garden, one of my favorite sources. I need to remember to save some seeds from this plant so I can sow some near the Verbascum 'Southern Charm', whose blooms are similarly muted shades of palest yellow and mauve.

I've always said that "Friends don't let friends plant spiderwort."  But every year, when they begin to bloom, I fall in like with them again.  Once the blooms fade and they start reseeding everywhere, I'll be cursing them for their prolific nature.  (This could be one reason the HG calls me 'fickle'.)


Another anonymous Louisiana iris ... since I can't grow bearded iris, I plant Louisianas instead.  The Executive Producer here at Wit's End is New Orleans born and bred, so it seems appropriate.  Not that he has any interest in them, mind you.  He is not of a horticultural bent.

The bottlebrush is in full and glorious bloom but I haven't spotted any hummingbirds around the garden yet. I hate that they're not here to enjoy the nectar.  I love this small tree but I wish I'd chosen to plant it elsewhere.  I find the color jarring when viewed from east to west.  The small tree next to it is a Mexican bauhinia, which I adore.  I need to find something that will grow between them that will soften the effect of the bottlebrush.

The Indian Pinks survived their move from the rain garden last fall to a bed with less sun.  As long as I remember to water them regularly, they are quite happy in their new spot.

I am head over heels in love with these blooms. 


Out front along the dry stream, I'm delighted with this combination: Copper iris (I. fulva) and Texas Betony (Stachys coccinea).  The copper iris came from a small native plant grower in Virginia and was purchased at a garden fair in Little Washington back in 1998.  Every time I see it, it brings back fond memories of that trip.  That original plant has been divided and planted in other spots around the garden. 

Wouldn't this native Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) look great with the copper iris and Texas betony?  I must make that happen!

It's not such a great photograph of the Dyckia blooms but I wanted y'all to see them.  I had no idea that Dyckias bloomed and I'm tickled yellow-orange that they do!  The foliage is way cool, too.

Any day now the bloom spike will open on this Mangave 'Macho Mocha'.  I can't wait to see it!


I've started pulling up Toadflax (Linaria maroccana) but this stand is being allowed to stay for a while because it's blooming so profusely.

OK, that's it for April's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, just one of the many creative ideas from my friend Carol at May Dreams Gardens.   Mosey on over there and you'll see a list of posts from other avid gardeners around the world. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And Just Like That, It Was Over ...

 My annual spring love affair with the poppies has ended as it usually does, with my yanking them up and consigning them to the compost. 



Look at the difference in the number of blooms compared to my last post!
Notice the manky foliage!

They've struggled valiantly to hang on despite too little water and too much heat.  But there's just no denying that the poppies are sloppy.

That's a mighty big pile of poppies you have there, ma'am.
Most years, I'm obsessive about letting the poppies languish in their mankiness until the seed pods begin to rattle, signaling that they're ready to cut and collect.  Most years, I cut off each and every seed pod and save them for the next year.  This is not most years.  Between the seeds that fell before or during the harvesting process, and the seeds that I scattered last winter in various beds, I was positively overrun by poppies this year.  I spent nearly two days thinning out the seedlings in the corner bed to give the plants more room to grow, and they were still too crowded.  So I have been positively merciless in my poppy removal process the last few days, consigning the majority of the pods and stalks to the trash can.  My ever helpful garbage guys dumped five 32-gallon trash cans full of poppies into the compactor and just like that, they were gone.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Breaking News!

In an unexpected move that sent shock waves reeling through the gardening community on this quiet corner of Katy, the Head Gardener tendered her resignation today, leaving behind
her badge of office, her trademark shock of platinum hair, and an as yet undeciphered (and reputedly incomprehensible) letter of resignation.   Rumors of HG sightings are now running rampant: while some rumors have her stalking off to the west while singing an off-key version of Aloha Oe, and others have her lurching towards the east tunelessly humming fragments of New York, New York, all sightings include a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck champagne in one hand and a pair of Felco 13s (that appear to be freshly sharpened) in the other.  Gardeners in all directions are advised to be on the lookout.