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!