I usually do this post on Sunday, but since tomorrow is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I'm reviewing the week a day early and foregoing pictures. I promise there will be pictures a-plenty for GBBD!
Have I mentioned that it's been hot? As in beastly, ungodly, excruciatingly, unnervingly, soul sappingly HOT? Each day it seems the Head Gardener and I find ourselves heading inside sooner than we intended, leaving chores unfinished and our hopes for the day unfulfilled. And no measurable rain has fallen on my corner of Katy in at least two weeks, making for some very unhappy flora. When even the xeric and waterwise plants are pallid and drooping, it's time for the Head Gardener and me to step in and take hose in hand and do what we can to keep plants from going roots up. Most of the year the gardens are required to fend for themselves and make do without any supplemental watering but not in July and August. That's cruel and unusual punishment and a crime against botanity.
So, yes, I've spent a fair amount of time watering this week. The temperature has gone over 100 several times this week in my community, according to the Personal Weather Station I follow on WeatherUnderground. I'm seriously considering setting up a PWS of my own so that I can have really accurate weather data for my corner of Katy. The Head Gardener asserts, however, that we will not do any such thing until cooler temperatures arrive. She has no intention of attempting to install such a system in August, no matter how nifty it might be to have the data!
Supplemental watering hasn't been enough to keep the Sky Pencil hollies (Ilex crenata) happy on my corner of Katy. Despite my best efforts, these shrubs continue to die back. Of the seven shrubs I planted in March to add evergreen structure and vertical interest along the back fence, only the one that is in light shade most of the day seems to be healthy. The others, which are in sun to part shade, all have several dead or dying branches. Although the plants were labeled for Zone 5 to 9, and full sun, I suspect they're not really suited to growing in zone 9 OR full sun. The Head Gardener believes we should pull all but the healthy one, and return them to Lowe's for a refund per the guarantee. Again, however, she has no intention of accomplishing this in August and says that gives us some time to decide what we can plant there in lieu of the hollies.
We also discovered a large dead portion on the Mutabilis Rose this week. How we managed not to notice that it was dying, we can't tell you. That rose hasn't been truly healthy since the severe pruning I gave it in February of 2009 ... the HG says the only way it could have been whacked more thoroughly was to let Tony Soprano have at it. Then she decided perhaps Freddy Krueger was more appropriate, given that I used a saw to do the pruning. Hyperbole aside, I do agree that I overdid it. The bush is still blooming and I'm thinking I'll take some cuttings in October as insurance. I haven't started any roses from cuttings in a while and as a former member of the Texas Rose Rustlers, I should get back to doing that once in a while.
Oh, oh, OH! The Rose Rustlers' reference reminded me (because there was a brief mention of them in the book): if you have not read RADICAL PRUNINGS, get yourself over to Amazon and order it forthwith. Frances of Fairegarden recommended it and like several other garden bloggers, I have found it an absolutely delightful read. By turns hilarious and poignant, the writings of Mertensia Corydalis and her stories of the eccentric characters with whom she surrounds herself should resonate with any gardener. If you use this link to order, I get a little bonus from Amazon, so thank you in advance if you order. Search Amazon.com for radical prunings That title is sadly apropros to what I did to poor Mutabilis, by the way.
Back to my garden and more notes/observations, to wit: The Toad Lily (Tricyrtis spp.) opened buds this week. Not surprisingly, the flowers are much smaller than usual. I wonder what would happen if I removed the buds? Would it bloom again in October, which is when I usually start seeing flowers? Ideas, anyone?
Despite it's being a less than felicitous time to transplant, I yanked some of the White Swan Echinacea I'd planted out front, and the White Flag/Summer Poinsettia (Mussaenda Luteola) that were planted behind them. They had been languishing for months without growing any larger and with only minimal blooms, due to too little sunlight in the spot I'd chosen. I replanted them in sunnier spots and we'll see how they fare. I removed any buds and flowers after planting them, and covered them with overturned plastic pots to shade them while they settle in. Thus far they appear to be making it. If the heat index continues to soar over 100, though, it's going to be a struggle.
Although the tomatoes are history (except for a Green Zebra plant I kept to see if I could get just ONE tomato from the little bugger), the pepper plants are still producing. I have 'Mucho Nacho' Jalapenos, 'Golden Summer' sweet bell peppers, 'Giant Marconi' sweet Italian peppers and 'Mariachi' chile peppers. I had to go on a hunting expedition for the Mariachis, having planted it in the corner bed near the Tina Turner Bauhinia. It took some searching but I found it ... which led to a serious pruning session for Tina. Diva that she is, she still dominates that corner but at least she's now allowing a few of the back-up singers some time in the sun. Oh, yeah, one other thing about the peppers ... we don't really eat a lot of hot peppers around here so I've been taking the bulk of them to the waiters at our favorite neighborhood cantina.
While working in that corner bed on Thursday, dispelling mankiness and pulling weeds, I became aware that my legs were itching fiercely, followed soon after by my arms. Dousing myself with the hose and dunking myself in the pool gave only momentary relief. So I repaired inside to the cool and comfort for a break. When the itching subsided after a few minutes, I headed back outside, and confirmed that whatever was making me itch, the sunlight and heat made it worse. I was forced to concede defeat and called it quits for the day at 10:00 a.m. As for what caused this episode, after some research, I've decided that the most likely culprit is the Nodding Spurge, the most prevalent weed in that bed. The sap of plants in the Euphorbia family are known to cause skin irritation when exposed to sunlight. The plants in that bed are self-sown and I don't do any thinning, so it's hard to walk amongst them without brushing against one or another. It's too darned hot for long pants, even the most lightweight ones ... I guess this means no weeding back there until cooler weather prevails. (Oh, darn.)
Happy news from my corner of Katy: If all goes smoothly, "my" pool and the house that goes with it will have new owners (a family with 2 elementary-age kids) by the end of September. I met dad Brian on Tuesday and I was pleased to learn that he's very enthusiastic about gardening. One of the things that drew him to the property was the greenhouse enclosure the current owners had constructed by the garage. We were both delighted to spot an anole leaping from plant to plant in my rose bed so I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Especially since he said he'd be happy to take me up on my offer of plant/house/pet sitting in exchange for pool privileges!
And now, if you'll excuse me, there's a sofa awaiting my presence and a brief siesta to be taken before we head out to celebrate a friend's birthday with margaritas and fajitas and senoritas, oh my!
You sound altogether too busy for these dog days of summer. I really appreciate the book recommendation. I love gardening books, especially essays. I brought Henry Mitchell with me to Chicago.
Stay cool -- I'll try not to gloat about the weather up here. Maybe I can smuggle some home with me.