Monday, September 30, 2002
More Rain Lilies. i found a group of four more rain lily bulbs this weekend.
they were nowhere near the two i discovered in august, which were more or less in the middle of the backyard, between the oak tree and the garage. instead, the new group was in the far back corner of the backyard, near the fig tree (but not under it).
i noticed them only because i was cleaning out yet another infestation of asian jasmine and morning glory (i think). the rain lilies weren't blooming, but the foliage of one was tall enough to catch my attention. digging them up revealed two fairly large bulbs (about one inch in diameter) and two smaller bulbs (about half an inch in diameter). i potted them all together in a rectangular terra cotta planter and added the smaller of the bulbs from august.
speaking of the earlier rain lilies, i don't seem to have ever mentioned that i found a second one about a week after the first. it was in the general vicinity of the first bulb although about half the size; i poked around a bit more in the same site hoping to find additional bulbs but had no luck. the first rain lily is growing nicely even though it has not bloomed again. the second is coming along more slowly.
more rain lily links: "amaryllia cuties" from the national gardener magazine's gardening study perspectives and "pink fairy lily" from gay gardener.
i am now desperate to have scott ogden's garden bulbs for the south; it opens with a chapter on rain lilies, includes an extensive write-up of crinums, and also covers species tulips.
Saturday, September 28, 2002
Let Us Have - Lettuce. the lettuce from the second sowing is sprouting, both giant caesar and black-seeded simpson. five days from sowing to sprouting.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Toro Rake and Vac. the defunct leaf hog has been replaced by a toro rake and vac. the toro did a very good job vacuuming leaves last weekend; i haven't yet tried it on the pine needles in the backyard.
even though darin and i are quite capable of raking leaves the "old fashioned" way, leaves and pine needles compost oh-so-much faster when shredded. and our reel-mower, while it does a fine job cutting grass, doesn't chop leaves (or pine needles) very effectively. hence the need for a leaf vacuum.
Relocating (More) Mexican Firebush. on sunday (yes, posts are running a bit behind) i moved two more of the firebushes. one joined its companions along the right edge of the bed; the other found a spot on the left side, next to the front step. one remains in the original location.
they still aren't blooming. i can only suppose that it is because (a) they were pretty small last fall when darin planted them and (b) they were frozen back to the roots in february / march.
earlier this week we happened to seeing a planting of mexican firebush in front of the downtown post office and these plants were blooming like mad. naturally, i had to inspect them. the post office plants are certainly older / more established than our plants because their stems were quite woody and at least twice as thick as ours. oh well, maybe our firebush will bloom next year.
More on Species Tulips. from the washington post archives - "compact 'species' tulips return year after year".
i've requested a catalog from john scheepers, but i may break down and place an order online before the catalog arrives.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Fall Vegetables, Day 23 / Day 2. progress updates...
peas: the peas are impressive. i actually took a measuring tape to them over the weekend - on average they are 11 inches tall. i am concerned that my stake-and-string support system will not be sufficient.
estimated harvest: november 10 (70 days)
cilantro: about four seedlings have survived so far. they're putting out "real" leaves and actually smell like cilantro. still very small, about two inches tall.
estimated harvest: october 13 (42 days)
spinach: one lonely seedling survives. i think something (bird, bug, slug?) ate the other seedlings since there were no shriveled remains. yesterday i sowed more seeds.
estimated harvest: october 19 / november 9 (48 days)
lettuce: i now know why the lettuce wasn't sprouting...lettuce seeds require light.
i had read the bit of the instructions that said to cover them lightly with soil, but then i also covered them with newspaper, as i had done for all the other seedlings. the newspaper was to help keep the soil damp and protect the seeds from the birds. it also prevented them from being washed away by tropical storm fay.
friday i removed the newspaper from where the lettuce was supposed to be, and, lo and behold, yesterday a couple of somethings (hopefully lettuce) were sprouting. i also sowed more lettuce seeds yesterday. two types - the giant caesar (again) as well as black-seeded simpson.
estimated harvest, giant caesar: november 10 / december 1 (70 days)
estimated harvest, black-seeded simpson: november 6 (45 days)
Herb Garden. on sunday i planted the newly purchased herbs in the raised bed (alongside the existing snap peas, cilantro, chives, rosemary and mint - it sounds more impressive than it is, really). chives and oregano will hopefully get established and be around for future seasons. the russian tarragon is on "probation" until we determine whether it has any culinary value. the parsley is for fall use only.
as of yesterday (monday), the transplants all looked well in the new digs.
Saturday, September 21, 2002
Gardening with Snakes. i was sifting compost this evening and ended up sifting another dekay's snake. this one was quite a bit larger than the one i saw last month - about 12 inches long and about as thick as my finger.
i released it into the raised bed, expecting that would confine it long enough for me to take pictures. but the snake promptly burrowed into the mulch - much like earthworms do. oh well, hopefully it will take care of any slugs / snails that have discovered the bed.
Culinary Herbs. bought eight 4-inch herbs today (two of each): parsley, onion chives, greek oregano, tarragon. little did i know that "french" tarragon is what one uses for cooking. russian tarragon, which is what i bought, is a poor substitute. worse, french tarragon is not only not too happy to grow in houston, but is also hard to find.
the south texas unit of the herb society of america does have some advice for growing herbs in houston: "raised beds." i need more raised beds...
Friday, September 20, 2002
Fall Vegetables, Day 19. peas continue to grow and are now about six inches high on average.
cilantro looks good, though at two inches high it isn't quite as exciting as the peas.
sadly, something seems to have eaten almost all the spinach. one day it was there, the next day it wasn't. two seedlings remain, although yesterday i noticed what may be a third one sprouting belatedly. or maybe it's just a weed.
and still no sign of the lettuce...
Demise of the Leaf Hog. it actually happened this past weekend, but i've been too distraught to write about it.
at any rate, the leaf hog started making distinctly unhappy sounds while i was engaged in fall cleanup activities. emergency surgery could not save the patient. a replacement will be procured in the near future, since the sycamore continues to drop large leaves which benefit from shredding before addition to the compost piles.
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Hummingbird Feeder. inspired by saturday's hummingbird visit, on sunday i filled and hung our hummingbird feeder. yesterday i saw the first visitor to the feeder. and last night i dreamt that there were eight or ten hummers zipping around the feeder.
hummingbird water: 1 cup water + 1/4 cup sugar. dissolve sugar in boiling water. let cool. fill feeder. we have a perky-pet strawberry style nectar feeder.
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Species Tulips. i may be able to have tulips after all. species tulips are much smaller than the tulips most of us are accustomed to, but they don't require chilling and will (allegedly) naturalize here in houston.
more info to come...
Monday, September 16, 2002
Toad Treats. forgot to mention yesterday: while digging holes for the lantana, i uncovered four grub worms. normally, i toss grubs onto the driveway for birds to eat, but since it was raining there were no birds hopping about waiting for handouts. so i put the grubs in the tray that had been holding the lantana pots, and when i finished my planting i took the grubs to the backyard toad. after eating the first few, toad was almost willing to eat the last one directly from the trowel.
Sunday, September 15, 2002
Planting Lantana. in addition to relocating mexican firebush, i also planted the four lantana cuttings. they are now along the front edge of the front flower bed.
the idea is that these plants, together with the lantana i planted earlier this year along the back edge of the bed, will frame a center island of pentas and mexican heather. or something like that.
Relocating Mexican Firebush. took advantage of the rain to dig up and relocate three of the (yet to bloom) mexican firebush plants. they were much too crowded and badly located - too near the front of the bed and squeezing out the pentas and mexican heather.
new location is the opposite side of the same bed, towards the back and near the base of the crepe myrtle. there are still three more firebush specimens that i'd like to relocate, but i haven't decided where they'll go. maybe in the bed between our driveway and the neighbor's driveway.
Pea Progress. today i put up stakes for the peas. not sure whether it will provide enough support, but i also tied string between the stakes. i swear, the peas are already reaching for the strings.
Saturday, September 14, 2002
Planting Peas. note to self: when the seed package says "plant 1 to 2 inches apart", they mean it.
my overcrowded seeds (nearly) all germinated and the seedlings are already sending tiny tendrils out to climb. in the absence of something to climb - stakes will be installed tomorrow - they are reaching out and entangling their fellow seedlings.
Hummingbird. this afternoon we saw a hummingbird - a ruby throated hummingbird, i think - visiting the pentas in the front flower bed. definitely want to add more pentas in that bed.
fellow houston gardener donald ray burger has quite a bit of information on hummingbirds in houston.
Fall Is the Time for Planting. houston chronicle garden editor kathy huber offers tips for fall gardening in houston.
Friday, September 13, 2002
Fall Cleanup. the worst of the houston heat seems to be behind us and it's time to start cleaning things up in the flower beds. i did a bit of tidying last night when i trimmed the lantana. it has a definite tendency to sprawl, especially the new gold variety, so i cut back the worst offenders.
the coleus is done for the year. actually, it's been limping along for a while, but i've neglected removing it. i think the spot in the front bed where i had it was just too hot, even though it got very little direct sun. next year something else is going there.
this weekend will be serious cleanup time. first on the list: rake / vacuum the sycamore leaves in the front yard and add to compost pile. poor sycamore has had a stressful summer and is already dropping quite a few leaves (although the vast majority are still on-tree).
Fall Herbs (and Vegetables). i noticed the cilantro sprouting two or three days ago. the peas seem exceedingly happy - they're between three and four inches tall now. this weekend i definitely need to thin the peas and put out stakes. the spinach is coming along, too. no sign of any lettuce yet.
we're still collecting plenty of basil and sage leaves and i'm optimistic that the recently relocated chives, rosemary and mint will be productive through the fall (which, in houston, seems to last into december most years).
as noted in the august flower update, the peppers have rebloomed and we are hopeful that we'll see more serranos soon, and maybe even some poblano peppers.
Sunday, September 08, 2002
Fall Vegetables. the peas and spinach are sprouting. fortunately, i had covered the areas where i sowed the seeds with layers of newspaper anchored by bricks to keep the soil moist. the newspaper also prevented everything from being beaten down / washed away by all the rain tropical storm fay dumped on us.
Thursday, September 05, 2002
60th Annual Bulb & Plant Mart. the garden club of houston's 60th annual bulb & plant mart just happens to be scheduled for my birthday weekend! i've never been to the bulb mart, but i understand it is a very good source of bulbs (and other plants) suited for growing in houston.
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Playing in the Dirt. during the long weekend we bought eight 40 lb. bags of garden soil/manure and i dumped it into the raised brick bed. according to the print on the bags, each one would be sufficient to cover a six square foot area two inches deep. hmmm, didn't look two inches deep to me, even after emptying all eight bags in my 30 square foot bed.
at any rate, i transplanted a potted rosemary and chives into the bed, discovering in the process that perhaps the reason these plants hadn't been thriving was due to the fact that they were extremely root bound.
not content to stop there, i also sowed a bunch of seeds directly in the bed: snap peas, giant caesar lettuce, spinach and cilantro. these were leftovers from this spring's unsuccessful attempt to start seedlings indoors. i'm not overly optimistic, but wanted to experiment. if i have any success, i'll note what i did.
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
- african iris 
- butterfly weed
- crepe myrtle
- lantana - new gold, radiation, rasberry, silver mound
- mandevilla 
- mexican heather
- pentas - new look red, new look pink, red variegated, rose
- rain lily (one)
- salvia - blue and red
 not ongoing, just two or three blooms