Plumbago Blooming. the plumbago by the driveway is beginning to bloom. i'd never heard of plumbago before we bought this house; now it's one of my favorite plants. minimal maintenance (needs to be cut back a few times a year), lots of nice greenery, pretty blue flowers. i promise, i'll have photos available soon.
Holly Clean-Up. the hollies that i pruned in mid-january have been putting out lots of new growth lately, so i tackled them again today.
as i had hoped when i did the first cutting in january, there now is a lot of new growth on the inside of the bushes, where there had been nothing before due to the lack of sunlight. i cut back some of the longest / tallest main branches and pinched back some of the new growth in an effort to bring the bushes back into the confines of their given space.
once again, they look somewhat pathetic, but i am slowly getting them to a more manageable size.
i also tackled two other hollies - these are against the fence between the front and back yards. eventually, one of them will probably be removed when we move the fence. until then, i'd like to keep the hollies smaller than the crepe myrtles.
Mexican Heather. folks keep coming here from yahoo and google searching for "mexican heather." before last fall, i had never heard of this stuff. but i saw it at a gardening center in the post-season sales, liked the nice greenery and the tiny flowers, bought a couple of plants (turned out to be three), and planted it.
after a few weeks rooting in water on a windowsill, i was ready to plant two sprigs.
i am happy to report that the planted sprigs are putting out new growth, and the three plants i started with last fall are perking up for the spring. the "parent plants" are covered in new growth, despite suffering through 2 or 3 (just barely) below freezing nights.
the plants propagate by themselves by putting down roots from longer stems that fall to the ground - no doubt, there is a technical term for this. i've gained at least three new plants this way.
Eradicating the Elephant Ear. not only the elephant ear, but also the asian jasmine has proven very tenacious in the plot formerly known as the jungle. i keep pulling out more jasmine as i spot it. last night i dug up a dozen or so tiny elephant ears.
Pepper Progress. two updates, actually. first, the pepper and tomato seedlings i put out in the garden are doing well. i've left the soda bottle covers in place and i think that is helping shelter the seedlings.
and those aren't the only peppers we have. i forgot to mention that darin's plant purchases the other day included six serrano peppers. these plants are now in the bed under the sunroom windows.
Darin the Gardener. he has as much of a problem escaping the home improvement stores without extra purchases as i do. two fridays ago he went in to buy supplies for some project or other, and came home with 6 watermelon plants, a variety of potted herbs, and two mandevilla.
most of the herbs are still in pots and will probably stay that way, although one mint plant has been planted under the sunroom window and looks pretty happy there.
the watermelons have been planted in two locations - against the fence between front and back yards and under the fig tree (not sure how well that will work, it may well become too shady).
after considerable discussion about the location of the mandevilla - i was violently opposed to putting them along the driveway fence because i didn't want them competing with the existing plumbago, roses or the neighbor's lutea, and i think the leaves are too big and ugly - he planted them along the west side fence in the backyard. he is most proud of the mandevilla - every evening when we get home he points out how much they have grown (frighteningly fast, if you ask me).
Monarch Caterpillar. saw my first monarch caterpillar of the season this morning. it is about three-quarters of an inch long. the poor thing was actually crawling around on the iris(?) next to the butterfly weed, so i gently relocated it to the butterfly weed.
Star Jasmine. identified the vine growing on the trellis between the garage and back door as star jasmine. it looks like it will bloom any day now. darin has been threatening to dig it all up unless it looks very, very nice in flower. the stuff was threatening to reach out and eat the car last fall, it grows so fast.
Wildflower Weekend. not much gardening going on this past week or weekend, just some maintenance weeding. however, darin and i did make a weekend trip to see wildflowers. i've lived in texas for ten years now, but i'd never before driven out to "see the bluebonnets" which can be found not-so-far from houston.
so, after much delay, we got out of houston about 10:30 saturday morning, heading northwest on hwy 290. the texas highway department's wildflower website and hotline had told us that the bluebonnets were heavy in the brenham area. indeed, we saw a great number of bluebonnet patches, interspersed with indian paintbrush and a yellow flower i didn't recognize. lots and lots of flowers. the combination of royal blue, orange and yellow is very, very attractive.
after a detour (pilgramage) to the home of blue bell ice cream, we made our way towards austin, drove along the north side of lake travis and ended up in fredericksburg. but before getting quite to fredericksburg, we stopped at wildseed farms.
i highly recommend a visit to wildseed farms. they have a great setup with a huge selection of live plants, seeds and gardening decor in their market center. and you can walk around their fields and see whatever is in season. this weekend they had acres upon acres of bluebonnets. even though you can't actually walk through the fields (there are very pleasant walkways between the growing areas), the sheer number of flowers is awfully impressive.
after wandering through the flowers, we headed for the fredericksburg winery. (the wine is better than the website.) dinner was at the silver creek restaurant on main street - very tasty german fare. finally, we headed west again in search of lodging. the original plan had been to rough it in our tent at a campsite, but we started seeing lots of lightning during dinner and decided a real roof overhead was in order - next time we'll remember to check the forecast before heading out. nothing was available in kerrville, so we ended up an hour further west, near segovia.
this morning we took the scenic route to lost maples state natural area. darin had been here a few weeks ago on a motorcycle ride and really wanted to take me on a particular hike. it was a fairly short hike - but steep - up to the top of a ridge for a scenic overlook. the view was well worth it. and down was much easier. roundtrip was ~1.5 hours.
after that we were pretty well "scenic-ed" out and headed back to houston.
all in all, a good trip, though a bit long. never having gone wildflower watching before, i can't compare what we saw to previous years or other routes, but it was definitely worthwhile and i'll make darin take me again next year.
Mystery Bloom Sighted. i still don't know what it is, but i saw several outside the restaurant where we ate lunch today. i only noticed them as we left, and i didn't bother to ask the valet if he could identify them. maybe i'll remember to ask next time we go.
teala's - yellow flowers left of the front door, if anyone in houston wants to take a guess.
Check the Forecast. lesson learned: check the forecast before planting. i know, any good farmer would have told me this.
late yesterday i decided it was high time to put out the seedlings. i planted most of the pepper and tomato seedlings, covering the transplants with the top portion of plastic 2-liter soda bottles. the idea was to protect them from immediate consumption / destruction by birds / squirrels / dogs. then i filled in between the bottles with a layer of leaf / pine needle mulch.
i have my fingers crossed that i pushed the bottles in deep enough that they weren't blown away in the storm last night (it didn't seem to be too windy). and mayhaps the bottles will have prevented the seedlings from drowning. i couldn't check this morning before leaving, since the backyard was more than a bit wet.
UPDATE: yay - the bottle "greenhouses" seem to have done the job. seedlings are still standing, not washed away or beaten into the ground.
Rain, Rain, Go Away. i know, a few months from now i'll be begging for rain. but 4+ inches in eight hours is a bit much. when we left the house this morning, the backyard looked like a pond. however, my sources tell me it has all run off now; the drains were just temporarily overwhelmed by the deluge.
my guess is that the poor doves have once again been rained out of their nest. i didn't slow down long enough to look as i dashed from the door to the car this morning.
Bird Watching. i think the doves are nesting again. last night darin and i were looking at the driveway fence, discussing whether / where to put trellises and one of the doves nearly flew into darin's face as we poked around the fence. this morning, as i was looking at the roses by the fence i noticed one of the doves nesting atop the fence in the neighbor's lutea, a few feet from the first nest.
Mystery Bloom 3. the pictures didn't come out well enough to post here. i'll try again when the next bloom opens in a couple of days. i did, however, get a decent enough picture to do some more comparisons. now i'm leaning towards the louisiana iris. this example of a louisiana iris has the same shape as what i have, but my flower is yellow with red in the center.
Mystery Bloom 2. another flower has opened and i took some digital pictures of it. now, if only the camera and computer will cooperate... it's too late for me to mess with it tonight, but i'll try tomorrow. at any rate, the flower is a strong yellow with red accents coming from the center, three "inner" petals, three "outer" petals, yet it doesn't look much like any iris / daffodil pictures i've seen yet because the petals are flattened out - like a plate - not cupped.