Cut Crinum Blooms. i wanted to know whether the flowers would open if i cut the scape. so i cut one and put it in water. the scape had been open for about two days but the individual flowers were still tightly closed. lo and behold, the flowers are now opening. this is a good thing, because when i cut the scape after the flowers have all opened, they only last a day. this way, i can enjoy them a bit longer.
this weekend, we found a dead blue jay in the backyard. checking the county website again, i found that west nile virus has already been confirmed in our zip code and additional birds are not needed for testing.
i'm not surprised that wnv has been confirmed in our neighborhood, but i'll be even more conscientious than before about wearing long sleeves and long pants when i'm working outside.
Yet Another Reason For Me to Hate Squirrels. as if it weren't bad enough that the pine trees continuously drop needles on the deck, the tree rats sit in the trees, strip the scales off pine cones, drop the scales onto the deck, then drop the pine cone "core" on the deck. presumably, the squirrels are eating seeds in the cones and not just entertaining themselves.
just this morning i saw two anoles: a large adult on the back fence and a juvenile in the crinums. the baby was very cute - about two inches long including tail. i've seen the anoles throughout the backyard - side beds, under the sunroom, behind the garage, around the compost pile. so far i've only seen the skinks in the experimental crinum bed behind the garage, around the compost pile and in the mulched bed i recently started under the laurel cherry. i'm pretty sure the reptiles are attracted to the cricket farm we seem to be supporting in the compost piles.
Little Updates to Lots of Things. haven't been spending much time outside this week. too hot, too humid, too many west nile virus infested mosquitoes. but, happily, the garden is doing pretty well without my help.
Serrano peppers:darin's peppers are doing very well. i harvested about eight on monday. they are pretty small but very, very hot. go nicely sautéd with a bit of garlic and basil and pasta.
Crinums: yesterday the largest one yet bloomed - seven flowers on the scape. all the flowers together are about as large as a child's head and the scent is very nice, but nearly overwhelming. another, slightly smaller scape will be ready to bloom in a few more days.
Gardenias: both gardenia bushes are flowering intermittently. the driveway bush has about a dozen flower buds and opens a flower every two or three days; the backyard bush has about half as many buds. right or wrong, i think that the light pruning i did in may might have something to do with this since the buds are appearing on very new growth. i haven't fed the bushes; watering has been sporadic (i.e., a few downpours and about two hose soakings for the driveway bush because i feel sorry for it wedged between concrete and deck).
Butterflyweed: there are some yellow leaves on the lower parts of the stems. i'm not sure whether this is due to natural aging or too much rain in july.
Figs: we've conceded the fight for the figs. the squirrels and birds are victorious (and well fed). there are a few green figs remaining, but the neighborhood squirrel patrol seems to harvest them just before they are ripe enough for human tastes.
Pentas: the pentas look marvelous. i must get more.
Coleus: the coleus tends to look droopy a lot lately. even though i consider the site to be in only partial sun, i think it's too much. maybe i'll move a few to another spot.
Crepe myrtle: lots of blooms. it looks like we have some "standard" sized versions, as well as some semi-dwarf types.
Transplant Updates. two of the potted gardenias (one potted in june, one last weekend) are putting on new leaves, as is the coleus. the "stick" gardenia still has no leaves, but i'm pretty sure it's still working on new roots - pulling gently doesn't pull it out of the soil so something is holding it in.
two of the three crinums remaining potted crinums - i gave the fourth and best looking one away as a housewarming gift - are looking good with new growth, but the last one is looking pretty puny. i put its survival at about 30%.
Drying Out. a couple of days of sun have certainly helped dry things out. all told, i estimate our house got at least six inches between saturday afternoon and tuesday, but all my plants appear to have survived the dousing without lasting damage. and some of them really, really liked it: the plumbago is covered in little periwinkle blue flowers and the crinums are growing like mad, with one of the larger ones set to bloom any day.
Rain Delay. haven't done much outside due to intermittently heavy rain since saturday afternoon. no clue how much we've actually gotten since i still haven't bothered to get a rain gauge. at any rate, the yard is very squishy but not flooded.
i am a little concerned about the "drought tolerant" plants. the flower beds are all raised, but not as much as they should be. in other words, "raised" in our yard means an inch in some places, four inches in others.
Transplants. yesterday i potted one gardenia cutting that had been rooting in water and four rooted lantana cuttings. i now have 2.5 potted gardenias. (.5 is the stick-with-roots; presumably it will have leaves some day.)
Real Rain. apparently, my offering of city water in the front yard yesterday pleased the rain gods. we got ~3 inches of rain last night and may get more today. houston is now only about 5 inches below its average rainfall for this time of year.
Emergency Watering. lacking any recent, measurable rain at our house - it's rained in the areas surrounding our neighborhood - i had to set out the sprinklers yesterday. the grass was getting decidedly crunchy.
i also spent half an hour or so hand watering various and sundry newplantings. even the drought tolerant plants - salvias, pentas, lantanas - were looking stressed, although i think once they've had a chance to get established they'll be more self-sufficient. on the other hand, the plants that were put in last fall - mexican heather, mexican firebush, butterfly weed - are doing very well, despite the lack of rain.
we live in garden oaks, an older neighborhood just north of houston's heights neighborhood (where burger lives). the lots in garden oaks are larger than in the heights and it seems that our neighborhood has more trees and greenery overall which, perhaps, is more conducive to lightning bug habitation. our own yard is chemical-free and we're adding more native plants; our immediate neighbors also have lots of natives and seem to avoid chemical treatments. maybe someday the lightning bugs will come back to garden oaks.
Return of the Caterpillar. technically, i suppose it isn't a return since it is certainly not the very same caterpillar that was here in may. but there is a nice big monarch caterpillar munching away on the butterfly weed by the sunroom door.
Sage & Serrano Pepper Pasta. we made good use of darin's pineapple sage and serrano pepper last wednesday. he sautéd a bit of shredded sage and one diced pepper in a bit of olive oil, prepared angel hair pasta, and voila! tasty dinner for two.
Rain? it may or may not have rained in the wee hours of this morning. i know there was thunder and lightning - it woke the dogs up and they woke me up. i'm certain that i heard rain falling. but in the daylight i really couldn't tell. no obvious puddles or mud anywhere to be seen.
i did do some "maintenance" watering on saturday for the new additions. i had planted (front and driveway beds) and watered them on thursday, but the scorching houston sun was doing a number on the salvia. happily, all was looking perkier yesterday. heavy mulching with shredded leaves + pine needles really, really helps preserve the moisture.
Overgrown Star Jasmine. once again, the star jasmine between the sunroom door and garage is threatening to take over. before i trimmed it yesterday, you couldn't walk past without being snared by reaching vines. whack, whack, whack. instead of just cutting the outstretched runners flush with the rest of the growth, i pull them out as far as i can and cut at a leaf juncture farther up.
Random Gardenia Flowers. the lonely gardenia bud finally bloomed yesterday. close inspection of the smaller gardenia bush revealed a couple of belated buds there, too, although they're at least a couple of weeks behind this one. i wonder whether these belated blooms are appearing because i trimmed / pruned both bushes after the main bloom in late may? i've forgotten whether gardenias bloom on old or new growth...have to check on that later.
the rooted gardenia remains green and (slowly) growing. it's accompanied by a gardenia stick, which does, in fact, have roots. no leaves on the stick yet.
Fig Finale. looks like no more figs for us. when i went out yesterday to look for fresh figs, i interrupted two squirrels in mid-feast. a third squirrel was on the fence behind the tree, either coming or going. not a single ripe (or even near-ripe) fig left on the tree. occasional dog patrols are no longer sufficient deterrence for the tree rats.