Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Rain Gauge Runneth Over ...

Rain lilies
 Okay, I'm exaggerating.  Aside from the fact that my rain gauge doesn't even have a measuring device attached (which would make it just a rain gauge holder), we didn't get anywhere near enough rain to fill such a tube (if I had one, which I don't because I broke it last year). (Don't ask me how, it was an accident, OK?)(And why do they make glass tubes for them anyway?) (And what's with all the parentheses all of a sudden?  I was cautioned against them in a writing class and yet here I am, flinging them about with wild abandon.) We DID get rain, though, 3 days in a row.   The proof is in the plants!

'Rio Bravo' Texas Sage in full and riotous bloom

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Bountiful Bloom Day on My Corner of Katy

So here are some of the many reasons I have to be happy with my garden this Bloom Day.

Zinnias are still providing bright pops of color.

Blackfoot Daisies haven't stopped blooming all summer.

The Turk's Caps have burst into bloom just as the hummingbirds are making their way through.

There's also Anisacanthus wrightii for their dining pleasure.

'David Verity' Cuphea will make them happy as well. Other birds may like the seedheads of the Panicum 'Ruby Ribbons'. 

Castor Bean 'Carmencita' sports spiky red balls.

The Gaillardias and Calylophus in the corner bed are hot but not bothered.

If you double-click to enlarge the picture, I hope you can get a better view of the Justicia 'Fruit Cocktail'.  The bees stay busy on this one.

The small but happy surprise this GBBD was this 'Little Lime' Hydrangea received at GWA in 2009 or 2010.  I'm amazed that it even survived the summer from Hades but to bloom for me under such trying conditions makes it a keeper!

This grass was given to me by Otahal last year during garden renovations.  He didn't have a name for it but said it was something someone passed along from the National Botanical Garden.  Anyone recognize it?  The plumes are much fatter than the picture shows and the mounding habit is quite nice.

This is a Kidneywood tree, a tough Texas native that has the pollinator community all abuzz. I love its graceful habit and the airy white blooms.

This is one 25 cent pot of Lantana bought on clearance at Lowe's last year.  Talk about getting my money's worth and then some!
Another Otahal contribution: look how perfectly Mother Nature coordinated the bloom color with the foliage color.

After two frigid winters in a row, the Bauhinias galpinii, Tina Turner and Cher, took their time going out on tour.  They are now rocking both the north and south corners of Wit's End.
This 'Bright Lights' Cosmo wanted its turn in the spotlight ... she leaned over and insinuated herself into the picture as I was photographing Tina.

The Lion's Ear/Lion's Tail (Leonotis leonurus) has cycled in and out of bloom all summer.

The butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and more adore the blooms of the Duranta.

Pigeonberry (Rivinia humilis) may be the hardest working bloomer in the garden. While it prefers shade, it grows for me in sunny areas as well, which surprised grower Heidi Sheesley of Treesearch Farms when I told her.  The foliage color isn't as vibrant, though, so I'll move some of those in the sun to shadier spots in a few weeks when it's cooler. (Note my optimism.)

The Pinecone Shrimp plant also adapts well to sun or shade.

I think this is Salvia 'Otahal' but it could also be a cross between that and 'Henry Duelberg'.  There are several blue Salvias around the garden that look almost the same and yet not quite.

The Susans - as my dear friend Gail of Clay and Limestone, calls the Rudbeckias - are covered with sunny yellow blooms.  There are tall ones ...

And there are short ones, like these little darlings sheltering under the branches of an Arizona Cypress.

I'm a few days late but I'm always happy to be a part of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, which sprang from the fertile mind of Carol of May Dreams Gardens.   Her garden fairies would probably take credit for it, given the chance!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rethinking the Summer from Hell

As I trudged through the gardens on Saturday, hose in hand, pondering the expected return of August's 100+ degree temperatures had me in a funk.  Not for the first time this summer, I felt a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the gardens and gardening.  Why do I continue to garden in such inhospitable conditions?  And how long can I continue to do so before I throw up my hands in despair and allow heat and drought to do their worst?  Mental histrionics, it's true, but I've been pushed to the very edge of my limits this summer as never before.   

I've been teetering on that edge for the last month but Saturday evening, I was rescued by a seemingly unlikely group of benefactors.  When the doorbell rang and I opened the gate to a director from the community association, my first thought was, "Oh, frass! What did I do to provoke the yard police?"  It's been over five years since we've received any negative feedback on our unconventional landscape but I've remained wary of offending those who monitor such things for our homeowners' association.  It was a happy surprise to hear the director say that they appreciated all the hard work I put into the gardens and to receive a sign proclaiming ours the "yard of the season" for summer 2011.

Sometimes the support you need to keep calm and carry on comes from an unexpected source.  I am truly grateful to the Nottingham Country Community Improvement Association for recognizing and acknowledging my efforts, and thereby encouraging me to look at this summer's gardening experience differently.  Yes, it's been an undeniably hellatious summer but the gardens are far from bereft of blooms and foliage.  I'm still not happy about the heat and drought and I hope never to experience a summer like this again, but there's beauty on my corner of Katy and I'm not ready to give up after all!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch ...

Since I returned from my trip to Indianapolis for this year's Garden Writers' symposium, I'm finding it hard to get back into blogging mode. For once, I can't blame it on the heat ... my first morning home, something had changed and I could feel that first faint hint of fall weather to come.  Even the quality of the sunlight was different.  We've had over a week of coolish nights and pleasantly warm mornings, and that weather has made being outside a pleasure again.  The Head Gardener and I are less than happy that the forecast calls for our temperatures to return to triple digits by Monday and continue throughout the week. 

This picture was taken in Indianapolis, where's it also been warmer and drier than usual.
Although my family tells me it did rain the day I left for Indy,  we haven't had rain since I returned, so I'm still spending way too much time of my time outside dragging hoses around.   Even more depressingly, it seems that I will be doing it for many months to come.  La Nina, the periodic cooling of the Pacific Ocean, is back and forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter.   What this means for Texas isn't good and it's a wonder I didn't weep hysterically when I read this quote from Texas climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon in SciGuy Eric Berger's blog: "Four years out of five, Texas has a dry November through March when La NiƱa is in place. We need above normal rainfall to break this drought, and we’re probably not going to get it. This is looking more and more like a multi-year drought. Anyplace that doesn’t get lucky with tropical moisture in the next couple of months is probably going to be in bad shape for a long time."  
No amount of hand watering can make up for such sustained lack of rain.  While some of my fellow garden bloggers tell me that a drip irrigation system will help in the back gardens, I still have some doubts, due to what we'll call my rather haphazard method of garden design.  That said, I recently saw pictures of the garden I planted this spring at my friends' cabin in Somerville and the plants are thriving despite only being watered once a week by the drip system they installed.  The Head Gardener and I are cogitating over ways to get our pal Jeff over here to survey the gardens and tell us how he thinks a drip system should be set up.

At least one thing doesn't need water to stay green.  My sister, the estimable Dr. Laura, asked me this week why I hadn't posted pictures of Wit's End since we had it painted.  Thanks for the reminder, baby sister ... your wish is my command.