Friday, September 15, 2017

What In The Name of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day???? September 2017

Wendy's Wish in the top left quadrant, Coral Nymph bottom
right quadrant, and at 12:00 the glowing beauty who remains nameless 
As I was doing a bit of post-Harvey cleanup in the back gardens today, I discovered a Salvia in a shade of fluorescent orange/red that I have never seen in a retail nursery OR in a garden before. Evidently any sense of botanical decorum is lost in a storm and the salvias abandon all inhibitions to have their way with each other. Salvia coccinea 'Summer Jewel White', Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph, Salvia x 'Wendy's Wish' and Salvia greggii 'Raspberry' are all planted in the general area where this hot mama appeared. A closer view of her glowing charms appears below.

The Head Gardener is once again convinced our fortunes will be made if we can just isolate the seeds and get them to come true. She will not allow me to name the hybrid, however. 'Whorevey' was already soundly rejected. She objects on the grounds of practicality, too little time having elapsed between the storm and the appearance of these blooms for the cycle of reproduction to have occurred. Nobody believed we could get 32 inches of rain in 4 days, either.

The pictures don't do it justice ... the color glows!
We're delighted to have pulled it together to participate in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, created and sponsored by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Gruesome Playground Injuries: 2017 Edition

The view facing east

Last summer, the overgrown plants in my corner bed resulted in some harsh words from the management company who patrols our subdivision for the homeowners' association.  I spent several days in the heat of late July working to cut back plants and improve the view from the stop sign to the east, since I do value my neighbors' and other drivers' safety.  

So last week, wanting to avoid a citation from the yard police, I decided to check out the view from the stop sign and see what I could do to make for a better line of sight.  One thing that stood out was the low hanging limbs of the Arizona cypress, Cupressus arizonica var. glabra 'Carolina Sapphire'. I thought perhaps the judicious removal of some small live branches and various dead twigs might help ameliorate the view.  

The view facing west. The branches don't look so low from this side, do they?

Hat on head and Jakoti shears in hand, I clipped and considered, pruned and pondered. Then I made what I think was the fateful decision that would lead only to misery: I stepped under the canopy of the tree to continue pruning from the inside. It was a hot, sunny day and sweat was running down my brow and into my eyes as I worked. At one point, I noticed that my right eye was itching and burning fiercely so I went to splash my face with water, then returned to my pruning.  After another 10 or 15 minutes, both eyes were burning so badly that I had no choice but to abandon my efforts and head inside for a cool shower.  I cleaned up, put in some eye drops and puttered about the house for a while - eyes still itching and burning - and then took a nap, hoping I'd feel better for doing so.

Alas, when I awoke just after 5, I was alarmed to find that my vision was now more than a little blurry and hurt even worse than before. I made a call to the eye clinic: the nurse suggested I take Benadryl and use artificial tears, then told me the clinic opened at 7:30 am if I weren't better in the morning.  After a restless and miserable night, I got up to find that my vision was so blurred I couldn't make out my features in a mirror. I even wiped the mirror to see if it had been steamed up from the shower ... but no.

So off we went to the eye clinic and after a mercifully brief wait, I was ushered into an exam room and provided with sweet relief in the form of numbing drops. The doctor who examined my eyes ordered a 4 week course of steroid drops in both eyes, 4x a day for 2 weeks and then 2x a day for 2 weeks.  

I'm happy to say that my vision improved dramatically within a couple of days and a week later, I have no residual effects. Once I was able to read again, I did some Googling and discovered that the Arizona cypress is in the same botanical family, Cupressaceae, as the dreaded cedar plants of central Texas, Juniper ashei. I believe this explains why my reaction was unusually severe: every year, when the cedar pollen blows in from Austin, I suffer an attack of cedar fever that usually ends with severe bronchitis and a course of oral steroids.  For those unfamiliar with cedar fever, this article from a March 1986 issue of TEXAS MONTHLY might be of interest.

What's really annoying is that, after all that angst, the view from the stop sign is still not what it should be. The real culprit is probably the Pride of Barbados tree, which The Head Gardener says someone planted in a most unfelicitous location. But with that tree in full and glorious bloom, and butterflies visiting it on a regular basis, I refuse to prune it! Surely even the yard police will see my point ...

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Small Rant on a Sizzling Saturday: When It Comes to Gardening, Think Locally!

I can't remember a time when the Houston Chronicle wasn't a part of my life.  My parents were faithful subscribers, just as my husband and I have been since we married in 1983.  I was fortunate enough to be a contract employee for a while, working with garden editor Kathy Huber (now retired) and Laura Haynes Weisman, who headed up the garden website. Didn't know there was such a thing? Ah, those were the glory days, brief though they may have been.  I wrote plant descriptions for the plant database that was included in that website, doing my best to provide information that was specific to our challenging growing conditions.

All that is to explain why I'm disappointed, and occasionally incensed, by the Chronicle's trend over the past few years to use articles written by and targeted at gardeners in other areas of the country, with information that at best is minimally applicable to Houston area gardeners and could lead new gardeners to spend time, energy and money that will be wasted if they follow the advice in these articles.  

My rant is prompted by today's article, written by Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post, who is an acknowledged and reputable garden authority in his area of the country. [Only with great restraint did I not put those last 5 words in caps!] I am in no way criticizing Mr. Higgins, mind you, since I am certain he has no control over where the WaPo chooses to syndicate/reprint his articles. Writing about the shade garden, he focuses on the experiences of a gardener in Pennsylvania as well as his own. I'll grant that the descriptions of the types of shade might be useful to a gardener in the greater Houston area and so might the information on paths and elements of design. Those are aspects of gardening that aren't too different from one area of the country to another. 

But when it comes to plant choices and watering, I beg of my fellow Houston gardeners - especially those of you who are fairly new to gardening itself, or to gardening in the Houston area - to ignore what you're reading and instead consult local sources.  Save yourself time, effort and money - not to mention angst and regret - and think about what you're reading, the audience of gardeners to whom it's truly addressed and just how applicable the advice really is to your garden.  

When I first began to garden on my corner of Katy in 1997, I was just slightly less than clueless about what I was doing. That was also in the early days of the Internet, when American Online was the #1 provider and I was an enthusiastic participant in the AOL gardening forums. I was so delighted to find other people who were as passionate about gardening as I was that I took their advice to heart, regardless of where they gardened.  But as I gardened more on this corner and learned more about plants and growing zones and the incredibly vast differences across the country, I learned that when I needed advice about my own garden, I needed to think locally. And over the 20 years I've been gardening here, that is probably the single most important thing I've learned. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Great Galloping Gardens! It's Bloom Day! July 15, 2017

I ventured out into the gardens intending to take pictures of some of the blooming beauties here on my corner of Katy, but I was very quickly driven inside by the heat. So I've been sitting here in my comfortable chair in my air-conditioned house, composing a word cloud of the plants that are blooming in my garden right now.  I dashed out one time to make a quick survey of the front gardens since I needed to jog my memory of what's blooming in those beds. I lasted maybe 3 minutes, then retreated once again to the cooler clime inside. I don't know those of y'all without a/c survive during a heat wave. Mercy, that would be misery and then some.  

I haven't been doing much gardening in the last 6 weeks or so. I had the joy and the privilege to join a garden tour of the Cotswolds from June 12th-19th, preceded by a visit with the always delightful Layanee of Ledge and Garden at her home in Rhode Island. We were joined there and on the tour by Idaho's Dirt Diva, Mary Ann Newcomer of Gardens of the Wild Wild West.  I had high expectations of English gardens and they only exceeded those expectations a million times over! Pictures eventually ... I'm still going through them and sighing in rapturous remembrance.

When I made it home, I was too overcome by exhaustion to do much more than pull a few weeds and yank some of the manky plants that were violating my amenities. Then came one of those torrential summer rainstorms and it blew in something that sent my sensitive sinuses into overdrive.  From there it was only a short trip to bronchitis and bronchial asthma, which turned into mild pneumonia. The severe coughing caused some vitreous detachment in my right eye, resulting in flashes and floaters that still continue. The floaters are annoying because I think gnats or mosquitoes have gotten into the house and keep swatting at them, only .  The optometrist specifically told me no gardening: bending over from the waist is forbidden since it could cause more tears and possibly even a detached retina. While I certainly don't want that to happen,  I will admit to occasional forays out to water when I kneeled to pull a weed. That's about as close as I've ever gotten to following doctor's orders. 

Add to that a seriously wonky MacBook Air. I finally admitted that solving its problems were beyond me and took myself to SimplyMac, an Apple authorized Mac store in my area. I left the store without the Air but with a shiny new MacBook Pro.  The Air is now working again, thanks to the store technicians. However, they still have to determine whether several thousand missing pictures are still there or gone forever. I'll visit with them about that tomorrow.  

Back to gardening ... I just realized I left out Ironweed (Vernonia something), water purslane and Polygonum Pink Buttons. And if you're wondering why the toad lilies are blooming now, so am I. The blooms are sparse and only on the plants in one area are blooming. So it goes on my corner of Katy. There's always something unexpected happening!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: April 2017

First, a few words to our gracious and delightful Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day host, Carol of May Dreams Gardens: See, Indy? Not only did I get pictures of blooms as I said I would but I posted them too!  Okay, there are only two ... but life has been especially chaotic here on my corner of Katy recently and doesn't promise to settle down any time soon.  We took time out today to celebrate the miracle of spring ... these were the views as I sat with my mother on the patio and listened to the birds sing.

Larkspur, toadflax, alyssum and some pink verbena on the far left

The big white blooms are white Callirhoe involucrata, which is at its tiptop best right now!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Big News from My Corner of Katy: Incredible Discovery Will Make The Head Gardener Rich!

The Head Gardener is beyond ecstatic to report her discovery today in the gardens of Wit's End of a fantastic new hybrid of Rudbeckia, unlike any ever seen before.  The working name for this spectacularly unusual black-eyed beauty is Caterpillar Rudbeckia. However, the HG is willing to negotiate propagation and/or naming rights for an immodest fee. She is patiently awaiting the calls from the big names in horticulture and the inevitable bidding war that will result from her find. I've just popped a bottle of bubbly at her insistence.  Before she took her first quaff,  she graciously consented to allow me to post a picture.  Feast your eyes, my friends!