Saturday, March 23, 2019

ITS ALWAYS ABOUT NEXT YEAR

I can't tell you how many times I have said "Next Year" It is the nature of gardening that we are often looking to the next year. Just this morning I was saying those very words.


I love to grow things from seeds and those that can be sown directly in the ground are my favorite. Last fall I purchased a packet of California poppy seeds. Not that I need any more of those self- seeding orange poppies. But this packet was different. California poppy,  Eschscholzia caespitosa dwarf Sometimes called the Tufted poppy or Foothill poppy it is native to the Chaparral community of plants from Oregon through California to Baja California.


Always on the lookout for dwarf plants for my rock gardens I thought I would give them a try.  I noticed some rather spindly looking shoots some weeks ago doubting that they would amount to much. We have been so dry that I decided they were not doing well because of the lack of rain, so I watered them. They responded by growing and flowering in the space of two weeks with lovely bright yellow blooms. They are only 6" tall, perfect for a spot between the rocks. I wish now I had sowed the whole packet instead of putting a few seeds in 3 areas. A big Next Year for these little poppies.

Sometimes illustrations on seed packets disappoint, but not this one.


Alas, another packet of seeds disappointed me this year. Double Click Blend, Cosmos. I grew these same flowers last year and they had gorgeous, frilly blooms. This year among the 20 seeds in the packet not one of them is frilled. In fact several are plain run-of-the-mill cosmos. It is too late for me to grow them again this year so it will be another case of hoping for better luck Next Year.

We spent the morning moving the citrus into position in the potager and the plants that are staged at the ziggurat steps. Or rather I directed as David did the lifting, carrying and placing. Those citrus pots are heavy and some of the other plants are vicious, particularly Aloe marlothii. Honestly, I felt terribly guilty asking him to do a job that someone of our age shouldn't be doing. I made him a promise that he will never have to move the Aloe marlothii again. It will either survive or die in that spot. I don't think it is ever going to reach its full potential which is to flower with gorgeous orange blooms. Possibly because it spends the winter in the garage which is not  place to induce winter blooming.


Always an unplanned combination of plants is likely to bring a Next Year moment, but how often is it repeated? And what of those beautiful red flax flowers. Last year I said more Next Year and I have exactly 2 clumps of them. The seed packets sitting idle in the laundry room. But once again I can say Next Year and hope it will be. The years are slipping away!
Our septic filed is another Next Year dream. For years I tried to grow wildflowers but none ever came. In an attempt to reduce the fertility of the soil we started gathering the grass when mowing and directed our sprinkler heads into the wooded area. And after 2 years it seems to be working. There are many clumps of bluebonnets several blanket flowers and I can just visualize that Next Year it will be a wildflower meadow, and if not next year then the next year.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

EARLY SPRING BLOOMS

Our mild winter has been kind to many of my flowering blooms, although I have to admit I did protect the freesias during some recent nights when the temperatures fell in to the 20s. The same with some of the iris because they were in bud.


The purple iris were a passalong and came without a name which is often the case in my garden. The pretty little narcissus alongside this clump is also without a name, much to my regret.



Another passalong iris, known only as Peach, lives up to its name. It smells of peaches.


The naturalizing species tulips, or lady tulips, Tulipa clusiana, have not disappointed this year. Some years ago I read that the seed were not viable and I would pick off the seed heads after flowering. Then I discovered that the seed pots were attractive in themselves and allowed the seed to fall. Now there are many new plants forming.

Tulipa clusiana Lady Jane

Tulipa clusiana, Lady Jane with petals closed
Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha, has yellow petals with red markings on the underside.



The species tulips, Tulipa humilis, Persian pearl was planted several years ago. It bloomed the first year and then nothing for 2 years. Now once again it is going to bloom. This is one of the shortest stemmed tulips, just a few inches tall.


I took the upper photo this morning and this one when the petals opened up when the sun came out.



All these tulips are perfect for the rock garden where they will receive good drainage.

The freesias have been magnificent, whether in pot or in the ground. They did receive addition protection from freezes but worth every cover I brought in and out.


And the same with pots of anemones.



I just wish they would all last just a little longer.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

THE NEW CREVICE GARDEN

I found the perfect spot to make a small crevice garden. It would give me the practice I need before embarking on the much larger one I plan for the front. I already had collected a small pile of suitable rocks and all I had to do was to carry them around into the Secret Garden. That was the hardest part of the whole exercise.


In a corner of the garden, underneath a small Anacacho orchid tree, there was enough space to create the small crevice garden. The ground was already mounded so it was easy to pull apart the soil to push in the rocks. This was one of the fastest projects I have ever done and was complete within a half hour.


I am giving some thought to continuing around the corner replacing the aloes.  I will wait for winter to be over before tucking succulents into the crevices. Corsican violets, Viola corsica, I have grown from seed should do well in this area.


 A garden friend, who was leaving town, gave me this attractive speckled aloe which just completes the color of the little bistro set and umbrella.


Time for a cup of coffee.

Monday, March 4, 2019

WHEN BULBS GO BLIND

Each Spring I look forward to seeing those first green shoots poking up through the bare soil. By the time they have reached this size I am looking for the flower buds appearing at the base.


Soon there will be a host of golden daffodils-or not it seems for this clump, once again, this year. That is because I have been promising myself for several years to divide the ever enlarging clump which have now, in horticultural terms, gone blind. Only 7 blooms this year and all that foliage. They were planted at least ten years ago and have never been divided.


But when to divide is the question I had to ask myself. Many gardeners believe in dividing once the foliage has died down and the bulbs have finished their growing cycle. But if I do that those bulbs are not going to grow any larger this year and I will only get the same number of flowers next year. The cycle will take two years for the bulbs to fill out and bloom again. Hence my decision to move them while they are 'in the green'. It is so much easier to do because there will be no risk of damaging the bulbs.


The ground being rather dry it was easy to dig them up. Not as deep rooted as I expected but easy to see why I only got a few flowers this year. Most of the bulbs were not big enough to flower. I am hoping to remedy that by replanting while they still have time to increase their size this season. They will get a good feeding at the same time.
Bulbs may go blind for several reasons. Overcrowding, planting too shallowly and not enough sun are the main reasons. There4 is no guarantee that once a bulb has gone blind it will grow big enough to flower again but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that next year I will see a host of golden daffodils.
And there is more work to be done as I have several clumps in need of dividing.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN

In my early gardening years in this garden I had the Newcomer's Garden club visit. It was the first of many garden groups that have visited my garden. I remember standing out in the front courtyard and telling them that my worst fear was that deer would get into the garden and eat everything down to a nub. Of course that was before the next worse gardening event,  the horrendous hail storm we had in April 4 years ago, which took 90% off the leaves of the trees, flattened everything in sight and left such bark damage on so many woody plants that they never recovered. Among others I lost a gorgeous Zephirine drouhin rose to that event. But the garden and I got over that.

Now here comes another 'worst things that could happen' but this time there is warning of what is to come. I am doing my best to make preparations. Inevitably there will be damage.

A strong Arctic cold front will blow in on Sunday during the day and the lowest high temperature of the day, recorded in Austin for this day, is likely on Monday. The temperature will barely rise above freezing all day and we will have three nights of temperatures in the mid 20s. Plus those strong gusty winds. The garden has already had a low in the mid 20s this winter but this one will be different. A milder than normal winter has most of our plants a month ahead in their growth cycle. My garden has benefitted from this with a fabulous blooming of the Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophia secundiflora.


Often the buds are blasted by a frost at the wrong time. This one is in my front courtyard, a seedling from the original tree I planted and removed because it grew too large for the space. It  is a more erect tree so may get to stay for longer.

But what of my other Mountain laurels outside the walls. They don't enjoy quite the favorable conditions of inside the garden. Their flowers are only just in bud. Will their petals be protected by that enclosing bract?


The mallows, Sphaeralcea ambigua, are in flower too with lots of new buds waiting to open. I don't hold out much hope for them. Just because they are natives doesn't necessarily afford them special protection.


And when the sun finally comes out again will the bees be disappointed too find the flowers on the agarita, Mahonia trifoliata,  blasted.


The first of the species tulips are blooming. This one Tulipa clusiana Lady Jane.


And these gorgeous deep purple iris. Only two blooms last year but already at least 5 on this plants and more around the bird bath in the English Garden.


And the freesias. Shedding a tear.


So what's a gardener to do. First, I have a lot of plants that I will simply move inside, some into the house and some back into the greenhouse, some into the potting shed and some into the garage. I was premature in taking some things outside. The citrus are much easier to move as I have them on carts which I can just wheel in and out of the garage.




I also made a final picking of peas. It has been a wonderful year with pounds of peas but I don't plan to protect the plants. I also picked some of the kale that was starting to go to seed and the last few spears of broccoli.


I'll put row covers on the rest of the winter vegs. to give them some protection and I will be using a lot of blankets, plankets and sheets to protect my tender agaves, iris and freesias. And will keep my fingers crossed that all will survive as I have an early garden tour at the end of March.
But one thing is for sure. Just like all the other 'worst events' I will not be discouraged from gardening.

Monday, February 18, 2019

A FLOWER FROM MY SCHOOL DAYS

Do you have a flower that has a strong memory link to your past? I do. Mine is the anemone.


It is rather a strange memory. It was my last year in high school and I was taking the A level botany exam. As part of the practical exam we had to identify a flower using the Flora. I don't know if they still have floras today but this was book in which you could trace the identity of a plant by identifying all the parts of the flower. Each identifying feature would take you to another page and more choices. Eventually you arrived at what you hoped was the correct ID. We were all rather fearful of what we would get, having just been presented the cross section of an elephants trunk and a dormouse in the previous Zoology practical exam.

The good news was there was a flower I immediately recognized at each place, the anemone. I still had to trace the id but at least I would know if I had done it correctly. I even remember my flower was purple.

The flower above is from a bag tubers I planted in pots in the fall. Not the prettiest of colors but still the first bloom to open and to once again trigger that 56 year old  memory.

Here in Texas the first flowers of the New Year are almost always the native Texas anemones, Anemone berlandieri, more commonly called windflowers because they open on windy days. They usually arrive singly and are white or shades of pink and purple. This was the first time I had seen clump. Those would be perfect in my rock garden if only I could get them to clump.

Anemone berlandieri
Of course the prettiest are the purples and pinks although it is not the petals that have color but the sepals.


These flower will enjoy center stage for a few weeks. As the flowers fade the center cone grows upwards into a thimble shape until the fluffy seeds mature and are blown away on the wind.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

INDOOR GARDENING

Since moving to Texas, with barely any down time for gardening outdoors, indoor gardening has slipped to a minimum, too difficult to take care of during long periods of travel. But as I look around the house on this rather miserable, chilly day I am surprised by how many plants I do have. Of course they are plants brought inside for the winter but the bonus is many are flowering.

This cane begonia, Begonia 'Matchmaker' is a cutting from a plant that Gardeners' Supply used when filming here two years ago.


I asked them if I could have a leaf from the plant and they generously left me the whole plant. The mother plant is in a large pot which I will prune well when safe enough to leave outside for the summer. I took two stem cuttings from the plant last year and rooted them in water. This is the first one to flower.



The leaves have this characteristic speckled appearance as well as the angel wing shape and their stem resembles bamboo, hence classified as a cane begonia.


Another begonia is Begonia erythrophylla, more commonly named beefsteak. A passalong from Julie Marcus at the Wildflower Center.


By contrast its towers are more delicate. The fallen petals lying on the ground are not unlike the wintry mix we have experienced over the last two days.


On Friday I received another passalong, this Euphorbia milii var. Splendens, Crown of Thorns, from a garden friend who is leaving town. The plant comes from Madagascar.


Like its cousins, the poinsettias, the plant requires a certain amount of dark nights in order to flower.
The flowers are easily recognized as those found on many euphorbias.


The stems are thorny, being adapted for water storage, with the leaves dropping as they age.


The plant requires little care as long as it receives a good amount of sun and sparce rainfall. Sounds like a perfect plant to put outside in a rain-sheltered position in my summer garden.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

THE PASSING

Last year the inevitable happened. The mother Confederate Rose agave, in the herb garden, flowered. I think things were getting rather crowded for her and she was making room for her offspring.




You know when you see this starting it means flowering.


The family lived in a hypertufa pot that I had made specially for the pedestal in the herb garden. Not an easy life. For one thing the pot is very shallow, receives the full blast of summer sun and was often left to fend for itself during a brutal summer. I also recognize that I might have helped the group if I had pruned out some of the pups. Instead of which they grew together in a tightly packed group.
When the flowering was over I removed the dead agave( no easy matter) but despite adding one of the larger pups to the void in the center, things never looked good. I decided to remove everything and start over. Sad to say the plants have remained in the greenhouse throughout the winter, waiting for my attention.
I turned my sights to a replacement planting. Something easy care, no water. In my current phase of crevice gardening an idea spring to mind. I took some of the smaller rocks I had gathered for the large crevice garden I had planned and et voilà.


I have just added a couple of small sedums, Sedum lineare 'Variegatum',



and Sedum makinoi 'Ogon' and a couple of seedlings of alyssum. When winter is over I may add couple of succulents. It will be about experimentation.


I am pleased with the result and I think it is worthy of a little limelight.