Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Just one more piece of evidence that my sister ROCKS!*

January 31, 2012

This morning I looked at the radar map on Weather Underground, set it to animate and concluded that the rain would miss my corner of Katy, thus ensuring myself several hours of steady rain.  As a highly self-trained meteorologist, I pride myself on being able to read the radar incorrectly 95% of the time ... or more.  

*For months now, I've been meaning to post about this ab-fab gift from my baby sister.  After seeing a BEWARE OF DOG sign by owner Edward Girrens of Plasma Thought, she contacted him to ask if he could make one that said BEWARE OF GARDENER.  I'm thrilled that he agreed to do so and still think this is the best present she's given me yet.  There have been too many to count over the years, so that says a lot.   I hope you'll visit the PlasmaThought site and peruse a delightful selection of yard stakes, garden markers, wall art and more.  Sorry it took me so long to post about this, Laura!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

And They Called It Poppy Love ...

January 29, 2012

Look at that beautiful bloom!  I swear, I swooned when I saw it, then proceeded to lavish it with compliments.  It's a good thing all my neighbors are used to me doing this kind of thing.  Even the lawn crews that traverse the side street on a regular basis smile and wave when they see me out there.  I tell them I'm Senora Loca ...

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Week of First Blooms ... And A Look Back

Freesia laxa aka Lapeirousia laxa aka Anomotheca laxa aka False Freesia 
Narcissus 'Grand Soleil d'Or' 

I call this Okra Mallow. Abelmoschus spp. (A. moschatus, I think)

Laura Bush Petunia
I've been more than a little remiss in keeping up with my Lee Valley garden journal.  Looking back at my January 27th entries in previous years reminds me why it's both enlightening and entertaining to commit my garden observations to those pages.  In 2009, I noted that it was a "dreary day, gray and 68 at 9 AM".   I "worked at battling oxalis in back.  Upper hand gained for moment."  The HG says that's especially rich, given how much time I spent this week doing the same thing.  In 2010, I counted close to 40 goldfinches at the feeders and noted that  they emptied one feeder within the space of a few hours of its being replenished.   In 2011, I was on my way to New York City, the day after it was hit by 19 inches of snow.  An aside: on the 28th, I learned firsthand why there are signs warning you to beware of falling ice.  A small nugget struck my hand when it fell from the upper story of the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, necessitating a visit to the concierge for first aid.  

Today's entry was relatively benign in comparison: I noted first blooms on Grand Soleil d'Or and queried why I planted that next to a Salvia macrophylla 'Cherry Chief', which is still blooming and creates quite the lurid color combination.   The Toadflax in that area are tiny seedlings or their blooms might serve to lessen the visual pain inflicted on my eyeballs.  I'm adding a note now: move the Salvia!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spidey Sense: 2012

Some things never change here at Wit's End. Two years ago today, I wrote this post about the deceptively demure beauty of Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana, and the process by which you become disenamored of the plant.  So why did I spend most of today the same way I spent that day in January 2010, to wit,  grubbing out spiderwort seedlings around the pond? 

The answer is in the picture above: isn't she lovely?  I'm under no illusion that I got all the seedlings nor am I foolish enough to believe more won't sprout.  But at least for now, I have some illusion of control.  And this year, damn skippy I will deadhead each and every plant before it sets seed!  

P.S. If I ever ask you if you want some Spiderwort seedlings, turn around and run the other way while shouting the mantra "Friends don't let friends plant spiderwort!"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Morning Excitement!

January 23, 2012

The first poppy bud of the season has been spotted!  Will she be red or will she be pink?  I should know in a few days. Funny how much farther along the poppies are out front than in the back: most of those out back aren't even an inch tall yet. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Garden Bloggers, Start the Countdown!

Face it: You know you want to go!  
What are you doing the weekend of May 18th?  If you're a garden blogger, I hope your answer is the same as mine: Asheville, North Carolina, site of the 2012 Garden Bloggers' Fling!  Not only is Fling a fantastic opportunity to tour beautiful gardens and buy plants (that may or may not live in your own climate but what the heck you gotta try), it's an even better opportunity to meet/reconnect with fellow garden bloggers!  The Fling committee has been hard at work planning what promises to be another happily memorable event for us ... and we hope for them, too.   Check out the Facebook page or the link above to learn more and/or to register.  The Head Gardener and I hope to see you there!
A Garden of Heads, none of which look like the HG!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ma Chere Amie

Amy Gregory Kayes
January 19, 1952-May 2, 2008
Happy 60th Birthday, beloved friend.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Bright Spot on A Damp Gray Day ...

My neighbor's somewhat confused Bradford Pear*

I was sitting on the sofa in my bedroom today, feeling grumpy and out of sorts because of the dismal weather which has plagued us so much of January. Overcast skies, temperatures in the 70s and high humidity are not conducive to a good mood, at least not for me. True, it's good weather for gardening but I don't enjoy it as much. It's not the first year this has happened and I'm certain it will not be the last. Every year at this time I talk about getting a light therapy box to alleviate my Seasonal Affective Disorder ... and every year I forget about it as soon as a sunny day comes along.

Today was not that sunny day ... but it was brightened nonetheless by the view out my bedroom door. This is the Bradford Pear tree across the alley from me.  I have no real love for Bradford Pears - they're overused, weak-wooded and suffer from fire blight too often - but today this tree earned my admiration with its vivid fall foliage.  I find it interesting that there's still primarily green foliage on the left side, especially since that's north-facing.  Just another one of those things that makes a gardener go "hmmmmmmmmm ..."

My admiration will doubtless turn to chagrin when those leaves start to fall and are blown across the alley into my garage.  My neighbor hopes to remove this tree and another Bradford Pear this year and I have already offered my help with that task!

* In 2009, I posted about the hatchet job done on this tree.  Don't look if you're squeamish!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Same Time, This Year: Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, January 2012

January 15, 2012

January 2010
As I started working on this post, I was thinking that last January's GBBD was one of the saddest showings we've ever had here at Wit's End.  I was wrong, though.  Despite the bitter cold that preceded 1/15/2011, it was Bloom Day January 2010 that set the record for fewest blooms in January.   That year I had to post pictures of indoor plants ... you'd think I lived in the frozen North!  This is the 4th January I've participated in GBBD, the brilliant brainchild of my friend Carol from May Dreams Gardens, who's celebrating the 5 year anniversary of this meme.  We garden bloggers owe her a debt of gratitude for creating an opportunity for us to chronicle our gardens' bloom cycles.   An interjection from The Head Gardener:  Damn skippy we do!  The memory of She Who Must Be Obeyed is certainly not to be relied upon, as her opening lines demonstrate.  

Excuse that interruption ... I've distracted the HG with a skinny vanilla latte, so hopefully she'll be occupied for a while.  To continue, we've only had two light freezes since early December and the damage to foliage and blooms is minor for the most part.  Thus far, the most objectionable aspect of winter has been - as always-  the preponderance of grim, gray days.  Overcast skies are usually accompanied by warm damp air at this time of year, not the cheeriest of weather.  Thankfully, I have blooms a-plenty to brighten up my days!

Pretty in Pink

Red Hot and Orange You Glad It's Bloom Day?
Purple Bloomers

Sunshine yellow on cloudy days
Happy 5th Blogiversary, Carol!  Here's to many more!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Weed is A Weed Is A Weed ...

January 13, 2012

No matter how artfully you photograph it ...

Or what delicate beauty the flowers possess when viewed up close ...

It's still a weed and it must be eradicated! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hell No, I Won't Go!

January 11, 2012
Subtitle: So much for the neutrality of the Swiss ...

June 2011: The Swiss Chard prior to decapitation (read about it here)
January 2012: Same plant, no lie

OK, true confessions time again: Although I removed the magenta chard completely, I never got around to digging up the green one.  I mean, come on, it was beastly hot and the danged plant had a bulbous root unlike anything I've ever seen.  I should have taken a picture of it then.  Instead, I just now dragged the Head Undergardener in Charge of Watering (aka my daughter Hayley) outside to move the leaves away so I could show y'all what it looked like.  Feast your eyes on this monstrosity!

Man, that thing is UGGGlee!

As summer blazed on, I thought sure the root would dry up and wither away, especially since it was so close to a concrete curb.  Instead, it started putting out new leaves and I decided to leave it just to see how long it could survive.  The answer appears to be "indefinitely".  I still haven't gotten up the courage to taste those leaves, since heat allegedly makes them bitter.  If you're in my neighborhood, though, and you want to stop by and taste them for yourself, go for it!  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Greetings from Lake Langton!

When we asked Mother Nature for rain, the Head Gardener and I forgot to include a request that said rain be of the long, slow, soaking-in variety.  We won't forget next time.  When the rain finally slowed to a light drizzle, I stepped outside with my camera and took a few pictures to share.
Looking west from the front gate
According to a Weather Underground station based in my subdivision, we have received 4.41 inches of rain this morning.  Most of that rain fell within a 90 minute period.  When the rain began to fall in earnest, I was NOT cozied up on my comfortable sofa cuddling my anxious dog.  I was in my little red truck, trundling down the Katy Freeway towards home in a torrential thunderstorm.  Visibility was about 1/10th of a mile and by the time I made it to the entrance to my neighborhood, the streets were beginning to flood.   

Looking north from the sidewalk
It's been a good two years since we've had this kind of flooding in the cul-de-sac.  Fortunately the street drains quickly when the rain tapers off.  The most disheartening thing about such heavy rain can be how little of it actually soaks into the soil.  I'm doing my best to be grateful for that which does soak in.

I stood at the water's high point on the sidewalk to take this southwest-facing shot.
Another band of storms, thankfully MUCH less intense, is passing through as I write.  I'm hoping this gentler rainfall will continue off and on throughout the day.  No more hail or tornado warnings, please, Mother Nature?  
The camera caught a burst of lightning as I looked to the south.
The Head Gardener and I had planned to do some bulb planting this week but we may have to postpone our endeavors until the ground dries out a bit.  That's the kind of change in our plans we'd be happy to see.  The HG says that we can pull weeds instead: she feels I have been remiss in keeping up with my weeding duties, especially where the chickweed and Poa annua are concerned.  We're trying not to think about how many more of those weeds there will be thanks to the rain!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Confinchion 2012

January 7, 2012

Confinchion goers in 2009: read about 2009  and 2010 here.
We're finally seeing more than one goldfinch at the feeders.  Usually by this time the confinchion is in full swing and the attendees are knocking back so much thistle seed that the Catering Director - aka the Head Gardener - must replenish their buffet twice daily.  Fellow garden bloggers and other garden friends in the more northern parts of the US have remarked on the unusually late onset of winter.  Some have even reported seeing goldfinches in their gardens. 

After extensive analysis, the Marketing Research Department here at Wit's End has concluded that the warm temperatures up north are definitely are most likely may be responsible for  low confinchion attendance.  They remain hopeful that attendance will improve as the weather up north worsens.  They have also suggested that the buffet be augmented with sunflower chips, which have been missing from the menu for several weeks, due to depredations by furry-tailed rodents (FTRs).  The Head Gardener had already taken it upon herself to relocate the banquet tables and has noted a noticeable difference in the ability of the FTRs to access the feeders.  

We are also heartened by the acceptance and conviviality shown by the confinchioneers to those birds not of their own color of feather.  Not only house finches, but sparrows, chickadees and woodpeckers, have been encouraged to share the feeders.  Their spirit of cooperation has so moved the HG that she has vowed to exhibit a similar attitude towards me.  She draws the line at FTRs, though.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Left Foot

January 5, 2012

When the stabbing, burning pains in my left foot began to wake me up at night back in October, I consulted my chiropractor, Dr. Mike, who sent me for an MRI and X-rays.  The reports showed what I think are way too many "degenerative changes", many if not all of which I attribute to two bunion surgeries on that foot.  After several weeks of ultrasound therapy and strengthening exercises, we decided to call in my podiatrist, aka Painless Parker.  He did the surgery on my right foot, which is giving me far fewer problems, so I trust his input.  He felt the main issue right now is tendinitis and capsulitis on the inside of my foot: the tendons from the ankle down to the big toe joint are inflamed.  He recommended a course of laser treatments, 6 in all.  After 3 sessions, I do feel some real improvement and am cautiously optimistic that I'm on my way to a happier foot.

I share this to remind my fellow gardeners how important it is to look after our feet.  They say an army marches on its feet: well, gardeners garden on their feet, more often than not.  Whether we're traipsing from back to front and back again multiple times a day, or pushing a shovel into the earth, our feet are under a lot of pressure.   The most important thing I've learned from this injury/experience is to choose footwear that will support and protect my feet.  

For more than a few years now, I've worn garden clogs of one sort or another.  They're comfortable and they're easy to slip on and off.  Supportive and protective, they are not, as I've learned in the past few months.  Dr. Mike told me that the clogs allowed my foot too much freedom of movement, especially considering the uneven terrain I traverse throughout the course of a gardening day.  Not only did he give the thumbs down on backless shoes, he recommended that I look for shoes with a sturdier sole that are designed to keep the foot stable, such as hiking shoes/boots.  I found a pair of lightweight Merrell hiking shoes that met with his approval and I've been wearing them ever since.   I can feel the difference in support and stability and I'm a little ticked at myself for my cavalier attitude towards garden footwear  for too many years.   I hope my fellow gardeners will hear me now and believe me sooner rather than later (sorry, Hans & Frans): let my newfound belief in sturdy footwear serve as a good example and my prior dismissiveness as a horrible warning!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

January 3, 2012: Hyacinths To Feed Thy Soul

January 3, 2012

Hyacinthus orientalis
Hot damn, the blue French Roman hyacinths are emerging!  That was cause enough for the Head Gardener to join me in a happy dance.  She's generally of a more sober temperament but the woman does love (1) blue flowers and (2) the fragrance of hyacinths.   We hope that having had a year to settle into their environs will encourage them to bloom more lavishly than they did last year.  Even if they don't, there will still be dancing when they bloom.  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year on My Corner of Katy

January 1, 2012

Jacobinia carnea 'Thelma's Pink'
On the theory that we should start the year as we mean to go on, the Head Gardener and I spent the first day of 2012 working in the gardens, albeit at a leisurely pace.  Ignore the mutterings you hear from the HG about some people's tendencies to overindulge in champagne ... that has nothing whatsoever to do with the pace at which we're working.  Besides, there is no such thing as too much champagne.  

2011 was a crazy, mixed-up year in the garden and 2012 already seems prepared to continue that theme. We found this unexpected bloom on the north side of the front gardens.  Although this plant is supposed to bloom in cycles from late spring through fall, we have to assume that the extremes of heat and drought had 'Thelma’s Pink' Jacobinia so thoroughly confused that it lost track of the seasons.  We can't blame the poor plant ... heaven knows the HG and I are equally confused by the vagaries of the weather.

If you'd like to know more about this beplumed beauty, this handout from a Fort Bend County Master Gardeners' sale  has detailed information.  That detailed information has sent the HG off on a new tangent and she's now muttering about people who plant things BEFORE they do their research on ALL critical aspects of a plant and fail to allow room for it to grow to its mature size.  Perhaps I can pacify her with a glass or two of Prosecco ... or maybe I'll just drink it myself and let her natter on.   Salut!