Saturday, August 29, 2015

August Showers Yield Golden Flowers!

A basket of bounteous beauty to come!

Last Tuesday after an appointment with my recent medical providers, as I turned off the Beltway onto Memorial Drive in heavy rain, I passed a vacant lot with splashes of golden sunshine beaming from various spots.  Those were gardener's gold: beautiful yellow rain lilies popping up to thank Mother Nature for the gift of rain. As I passed, I noted there was a For Sale By Owner sign with a phone number.  

So, yes, I did what any gardener would do: I circled back around and pulled over to write down that number. And then I called and spoke to the owner to ask if I might dig some of those golden delights.  He said I was the second caller in as many days :-)  I told him there were plenty of bulbs for both of us so he consented graciously.  

I confess, even though I'm working hard to keep to my restricted activity level, I went back the next day and dug up a few myself.  Give me points for not trying to dig them in the rain! I was careful in my movements and I didn't dig nearly as many as I'd have liked.  The HG is still chiding for not taking pictures to share with y'all. Hush, woman. 

Fortunately, I'd had the foresight to check in with my pal Otahal and ask if by any chance, he and his crew might be in the Houston area this week. They were indeed working on a job near downtown and Mr. Otahal kindly consented to stop by the vacant lot and have his crew do some more digging for me.   They stopped by yesterday evening with a bounty of rain lily bulbs which he thinks are Zephyranthes sulphurea. 

I have big plans for these little bulbs in the front gardens. I am so appreciative of Otahal and his hard-working crew for doing the hard part of the work.  And for then going above & beyond by taking down the rest of the vitex trunk with their chain saw, which I'd spotted in the back of the truck. The HG considers me a shameless opportunist but Otahal and I go back a long, LONG ways and I'm careful to make fairly minor requests when he and the crew are on the road home after a hard week's work.  I frequently repay him in plants: yesterday he took home a contractor's grade 39 gallon trash sack of Louisiana iris.  He was happy to get them and I was happy to see them go!

David Otahal during the Great Rockout of 2010

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall ...

As might be surmised from my previous post, the Head Gardener and I were beginning to doubt the truth of that old adage. So we were delighted when rain began to fall last Sunday. Over the course of the week, we got almost 2 inches of rain here on my corner of Katy.  Most of it fell slowly and gently over the course of several hours each day so it had a chance to soak in and do some good.  The HG and I are consequently a little happier with how things are looking out back. 

The Persian Vitex in 2008. Why we don't have or can't find
any more recent pictures, is probably due to our lamentable lack
of any semblance of organization in our iPhoto files.
There was one major casualty, however.  The Persian Vitex (V. trifolia) near the pond hadn't been pruned in a while and the weight of the rain on the limbs proved too much for the trunk to support. It split about 2 feet up from the ground, with most of the tree falling forward into the bed and path. 

The Persian Vitex as of August 20, 2015, above and below.

All is not lost ... there are sprouts at the base of the tree and once the EP takes what's left of the trunk down to the ground, it will regrow.  The HG and I are currently in a disagreement about whether or not we had to cut it to the ground after the hard winter of 2009-2010. I think we did; she says we pruned it back to live wood and then let it regrow from there. Whatever.  The point is that we're not worried we'll lose it.  We are, however, pondering whether we want to keep it; replace it with a tree or large shrub that won't need quite as much pruning to keep it in check; or remove it and plant that area with smaller shrubs and perennials. 

I tend to lean in favor of keeping it: I love how the trunk of this species tends to contort itself in such sculptural ways.  It's also a fairly fast growing tree, which is important because there are shade-loving perennials - toad lilies and bletillas - planted under it.  I also have to consider how difficult it would be to take it out since the root system is both extensive and healthy. The HG thinks it should go and is currently enamored of the idea of smaller shrubs and perennials.

There's no hurry for us to decide.  Until The Awful ends and the temperatures drop into the 80s during the day, we have no desire to venture forth even if our activity restrictions are lifted!

The remains of the trunk ... did I mention that the Executive
Producer is not known for his finesse?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day August 2015: These Are The Times That Try Gardeners' Souls!

Pink Skullcap, Scuttellaria suffrutescens, considered one of the most heat
& drought tolerant natives for Texas gardens.  That's how bad it is.
I promised Carol aka Indygardener aka Indy of May Dreams Gardens, the GBBD instigator, that I would post SOMETHING for this month's Bloom Day.  There's precious little out there to choose from, at least in the back gardens which is as far as I can venture this evening.  The Head Gardener and I had a little nipping and tucking done at the end of July and have been on orders to restrict our activity ever since.  Unfortunately for us, our inability to get outside comes during a worse spell of heat and drought than we saw in 2011. Hand watering was all that saved the back garden that year since there's no irrigation system set up for those beds. This year, we can only watch in horror as plant after plant - most of them heat and drought tolerant - wilt, wither and die.  By the time we get our doctor's clearance to get back out there and work, we're expecting much of that work will involve pulling up dead plants amidst much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The white plumbago has probably been the best performer in the back garden throughout July and this first half of August. It's had no supplemental water that entire time. 

Fireworks gomphrena has absolutely blown me away with its ability to survive without moisture in 100+ degree temperatures.  Once or twice it's gotten a bit droopy in the afternoon but by the next morning, it returns to its usual perky self.  That's ONE plant. 

This is one of a few Serenity mix hybrid verbenas that has managed to keep going.  

And this is, of all things, a rain lily.  We did get a brief intense storm on Wednesday evening and this brave little plant responded as nature intended! 

While we're stuck inside, the HG and I are doing a lot of thinking about what kind of changes we'll make to the gardens when cooler weather is here and we've seen the extent of the summer damage.  The only thing we're sure of is that we've got to simplify ... and we are unanimous in that!