Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Vines and Vegetables. after having lunch with friends today, i realized that a side trip to buchanan's would be only a few blocks out of my way. i really only meant to quickly check whether they had some native vines i was interested in.
thirty minutes later i left with an armload of new plants including two of the three vines i was looking for*:* they had the third vine also -- crossvine (bignonia capreolata) -- but i decided two vines were enough to start with.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Shredded Lettuce. we woke up to violent thunder and lightning at about 5 this morning. i had almost drifted back to sleep when the rain started -- this was no gentle spring shower. it was a downpour. with hail. not large hail, only about the size of cat food kibbles, but it was big enough to shred the lettuce in the garden. bleah.
i suppose i'm thankful that was the worst of my damage. other texas gardeners had more.
Monday, February 24, 2003
Spring Cleaning. valentine's day the is 'traditional' date for pruning roses in houston, but i didn't prune my rose then 'cuz the weather was overcast and drippy. however, the across-the-street neighbor did indeed prune his many roses that weekend.
yesterday i finally took care of my one lonely rose. it has many bud eyes ready to sprout, along with a bit of new growth, so i'm hopeful that it will be more productive this year than it was last year. the rose came with the house so i'm not really sure what it is, although i kinda suspect it's a hybrid tea rose.
my major accomplishment this weekend was completing the eradication of the mock indian strawberry (duchesnea indica). some gardeners are more tolerant (last reader question on the page) of this pest than i am, but i also think my infestation is more aggressive than hers.
to be honest, there wasn't / isn't much else growing in the corner (approx. 15' x 7'). formerly the location of a children's playset, the ground was bare and compacted when the previous owners removed the playset in august 2001. we didn't do anything to encourage proper grass and i was actually grateful for the cover provided by the mock strawberry. but lately it has started encroaching on the 'real' grass so i decided it had to go. since last fall, the st. augustine grass has been slowly creeping into the spot and several lawn violets of unknown variety (viola ??) have popped up so it doesn't look as bare now that i've weeded it.
Pineapple Sage. the pineapple sage (salvia elegans) by the back door has gotten huge -- and bloomed continuously for months now. it was crowding out the butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa), so i felt that the pruning of the sage was in order.
i didn't want to just throw away the trimmings -- ok, i would compost, not throw away -- but two people can only use so much garnish each day. so i went surfing for recipes and decided to try a banana pineapple sage smoothie. yummy! i left out (forgot) the cinnamon and added a bit of cranberry juice. i've made three of these smoothies in the past week and like them as much as anything i've ever been served at the smoothie joints around town.
more sage remains to be "pruned" since i've been cutting only as much as i can use. if i get adventurous this week i might try a pineapple sage pound cake.
Saturday, February 22, 2003
Spring has Sprung. one of the many reasons i love living in houston is that spring comes early. indeed, what passes for winter here would be considered spring in many places.
the japanese magnolias / tulip trees (magnolia x soulangeana) have been blooming for at least the past two weeks here in our neighborhood. we don't have one ourselves, but there are several on our block and if it weren't for the fact that i'd like to put a live oak (quercus virginiana) in the front yard, i'd seriously consider a japanese magnolia. apparently i'm not the only one who has noticed that they're looking especially nice this spring.
earlier this week i saw the first redbud (cercis canadensis) in bloom on our block. i'm not sure whether the predominant redbud around here is the eastern (cercis canadensis var. canadensis), texas (cercis canadensis var. texensis) or mexican (cercis canadensis var. mexicana) version. when ours leafs out i'll try to make a more accurate identification. one thing i do know about our particular tree is that it blooms a few weeks later than all the others in the neighborhood, probably because it's in a mostly shady corner whereas the ones i see around the neighborhood tend to be in sunnier spots.
the azaleas are getting started -- our two tiny azaleas are covered in buds. several folks on our block already have azaleas going strong, but all are larger / sunnier bushes than what we have. i did notice yesterday that one of ours is now showing some color in the buds -- hot pink. the river oaks garden club's 68th annual azalea trail kicks off next weekend. i've lived in houston for over ten years now and have yet to go on the azalea trail. maybe this year.
all ten of the tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha that i planted in the front bed are up. this is a very good thing since i had started to worry that the squirrels had feasted on all of them.
it's a beautiful day outside, so i should go out and enjoy it now.
"Help" from the Dogs. one day last week our beloved dogs decided they wanted to "help" me -- they picked up one of the still unplanted pots of queen's rain lilies (zephyranthes reginae) and dumped the contents in the middle of the yard.
not liking the spot the dogs selected -- too likely to be trampled by cavorting dogs -- i divided up the bulbs for planting elsewhere. there were, in fact, 19 bulbs of varying sizes in that one pot (the second pot is still unplanted).
since i like to diversify my risk, i put bulbs in spots with a variety of light / soil / moisture conditions. eventually (hopefully) i'll be able to say with some degree of authority where they are most successful.
scott ogden's book, garden bulbs for the south, has this to say about the queen's rain lily:
- (5 v. small) under the sunroom window between iris
- (7) on either side of the carolina laurel in the backyard -- four on one side, three opposite
- (7) nestled around the base of the fig tree -- four in the ne corner, three in the sw corner
Like Z. citrina, this species happily self-sows and multiplies into thrifty patches. A handful of seed is all that's necessary to start a thriving population. It's one of the most rewarding rain lilies for Southern gardens and flowers steadily from early summer till frost. Z. reginae seems quite hardy to cold.i'm looking forward to seeing these in bloom.
Friday, February 21, 2003
Bulb Backlog. last week i finally finished planting my bulbs. definitely late, but the majority of them were still in very good condition so i hope some will grow. here's what i've done:
* this is an approximate representation of the tulip layout along the front walk -- definitely not to scale. the tulips are planted in with the existing liriope.
- "petrel" narcissus (i planted the first 25 in december)
- (6) between the iris clumps off the corner of the deck (two groups of three)
- (5) under the sunroom window between iris and pineapple sage, towards back of the bed
- (5) between the nandina, under the master bedroom window
- (5) in the driveway bed between liriope clumps north of the rose
- (5) in the driveway bed by the gate
- "Johann Strauss" tulips
- (10) in front of the iris clumps off the corner of the deck (two groups of five)
- (5) under the sunroom window in front of the narcissus "petrels"
- (5) with the petrels in the driveway bed between liriope clumps
- (5) in the driveway bed on the south side of the rose
- tulipa turkestanica (17 were planted in december) -- (6) along the walkway near the porch, side closest to the house
- t. tarda
- (15) in a semicircle around the rose in the driveway bed (three groups of five)
- (11) along the front walk*
- t. batalinii "bright gem" (13 were planted in december)
- (6) between the t. tarda around the rose (two groups of three?)
- (6) along the front walk*
- t. kolpakowskiana (13 were planted in december) -- (10) along the front walk*
Tulipa kolpakowskiana. i was pleasantly surprised today to see two species tulips blooming along the front walkway - tulipa kolpakowskiana. fortunately, the rain stopped long enough for them to open fully and me to take pictures. now that the rain has started again, the flowers have closed.
click for a larger view (85k)
there are also -- or were, until the rain resumed -- seven crocus blooming in the yard.
Sunday, February 16, 2003
Raised Bed Layout. a more-or-less accurate representation of the plantings in the raised bed.
yes, it really is this haphazard. it started out being neat and organized, but as plants lived (and died) i just stuck more in the empty places. and darin keeps buying rosemary plants that i must find places for.
scale: 1 square = 6" -- click for a larger view (113k)
i used a nifty freeware application -- room arranger -- to create the graphic.
Changes. added a new garden blog link over on the right - 'talking dirty' is the journal of a gardener in mckinney, texas.
and i added a weather sticker thingie on the bottom of the left sidebar. got the idea after seeing it on talking dirty's site.
Saturday, February 15, 2003
i was pleasantly surprised today to find two fully opened 'tommies' in the front yard. part of the surprise was due to the fact that it had been overcast / raining all morning and crocus supposedly prefer sun in order to open up; but mostly it was the fact that when i looked yesterday, only one bud had emerged (see yesterday).
i've also located about ten more of the 25 tommies i planted. sure, the flowers are small, but they really stand out and i'm thrilled with how they look.
Friday, February 14, 2003
Crocus! only a few days ago i was beginning to fear that none of my crocus tomasinianus would come up but on wednesday i finally found a few sprouting. and today the first flower appeared. it isn't fully open yet -- days upon days of cloudcover will do that.
Thursday, February 13, 2003
Basil Beginnings. the basil is sprouting. it seemed to take longer, but that's because i actually sowed the seeds in soil instead of on damp paper towels.
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
More Signs of Spring. the lilies are starting to come up. interestingly, the pixies have purple-tinged crowns while the others are lime green.
the 'petrel' narcissus are coming up around the oak tree, but i'm having trouble finding them in the beds in front of the house (although i have found a few).
and, last, but not necessarily least -- the various species tulips are poking up along the walkway.
note to self: no matter how silly it looks, next time put markers out for everything.
Template Changes. spring is in the air, and i was getting tired of the old color scheme. this is much more spring-like.
Monday, February 10, 2003
Overachieving Seeds. the butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa*) seed packet says the seeds take 20 days to germinate. some of the seeds i started five days ago are already sprouting. the trick will be to keep them alive and thriving until they're ready to move outside.
these are ferry-morse seeds bought at lowe's. interestingly, the packet is labeled "butterfly flower", not "butterfly weed" (the latin name is given correctly). it is correctly listed as "butterfly weed, a. tuberosa" on the website. gotta keep an eye on those tricky marketing people.
i decided to try starting some butterfly weed from seed because i've been so pleased with the plants i bought (on sale) in fall 2001. the plants are no-maintenance, butterfly magnets. and great monarch caterpillar nurseries. it's amazing how the plants bounce right back even after being completely stripped of leaves by voracious caterpillars. which is the point of having these particular plants. so, seeds are (theoretically) a much more economical way to increase my stock of butterfly weed.
* i'm trying to remember to use latin names more often. for my own benefit as much as anything. the more often i type a proper name, the more likely i am to eventually remember it.
Sunday, February 09, 2003
More Plant Finds. those plants that i thought were attractive weeds and those flowers that i thought were lavender oxalis are apparently violets of some sort. which one is uncertain, but viola sororia is a possibility.
there are quite of few scattered through the backyard and they've just started blooming. i dug up a couple and potted them for closer observation.
Saturday, February 08, 2003
Signs of Spring. the gardenias and azaleas have flower buds. i'm looking forward to seeing what color the azaleas are - darin bought two late last spring, but he doesn't take note of minor details like color when he buys plants. he just knows that "azaleas" look nice.
Spring Clean Up. so it's not actually spring yet and it was overcast and chilly and a bit damp outside, but i went ahead and spent a few hours cleaning up the backyard today. mostly picking up fallen sticks and pine cones and pulling weeds.
pulling weeds by hand is a good way to get up close and personal with the yard. i'm fighting a not-quite-losing battle against the mock indian strawberry (duchesnea indica) in one corner of the yard. i try to spend a few minutes pulling the stuff every day (barring rain or cold) and the patch is very slowly shrinking. i also try to pull the "escapees" whenever i see them in other parts of the yard.
i've decided not to fight the woodsorrel / oxalis. i don't know which oxalis it is, but i'm leaning towards oxalis violacea. regardless of identification, it has nice green clover-like foliage and dainty pink flowers.
while picking up around the holly fern (cyrtomium falcatum) i noticed that it had a dozen or so fiddleheads. guess that means it's happy.
i also picked up a pocketful of redbud (cercis canadensis)* seed pods. because i can't resist a challenge (and i really like redbuds), i'm going to try to start the seeds. right now they're soaking in warm (it was hot) water.
* i'm not certain that what we have is an eastern redbud, but it probably is.
Thursday, February 06, 2003
Growing Your Houston Garden. i've registered for a continuing studies class at rice -- growing your houston garden: practical advice from the experts.
all the sessions sound interesting, but i'm most excited about march 5: heirloom shrubs and small trees, and april 16: some like it hot. william c. welch, author of the southern heirloom garden, is the march 5 speaker, and brenda beust smith, houston's "lazy gardener", is the speaker for april 16.
Wednesday, February 05, 2003
Beginning Basil and Butterfly Weed. tonight i started basil and butterfly weed seeds.
hopefully i'll be more successful with the basil this time; last spring all my basil seedlings died (too much water, too little water, too much abuse by cats).
Relocating (More) Rain Lilies. i was gazing out the sunroom window one day last week while on the phone and noticed what looked suspiciously like rain lily foliage -- dark green, strappy foliage several inches long. when i got off the phone i went outside, compared foliage to the rain lilies i dug up last year and decided i had a match.
i dug up five more bulbs -- one large (~3/4" in diameter), three medium, and one small -- and potted them up for later relocation. unlike my earlier finds, this group was near the house -- close to the redbud tree in the corner between the sunroom and the bathroom, but not so close as to give the appearance that they had been intentionally planted around the base of the tree. i suspect they had sprung up due to the inch or so of rain we'd had earlier in the week; unfortunately, they don't appear ready to bloom.
sometime between last september and december, darin spotted a small group of rain lilies in the general vicinity of the first ones i found. although i didn't note it here at the time (shame on me), i did dig and pot them up. my collection of "rescued" rain lilies now totals thirteen -- i've tentatively identified them as zephyranthes grandiflora. i also have two pots of queen's rain lilies (z. reginae) i bought in december.
the yucca do nursery has an impressive variety of rain lilies available, as well as an interesting "rain lily log."
January Flowers (belatedly) ...
*mostly finished off by cold weather, but continuing to produce a few flowers
- mexican heather*
- meyer lemon
- pineapple sage
- sugar snap peas (just a few)
Monday, February 03, 2003
Blooming Erlicheers. the narcissus by the front door are just starting to bloom. these are the erlicheers that i bought from wayside gardens.
the mast arboretum at stephen f. austin state university has some background of the narcissus tazetta, the group that includes the erlicheer.