Sunday, January 7, 2018

(Belated) September successes!

[Posts two days in a row, who am I??] Back in June I did a post here about the front garden overhaul, which was facilitated by the neighbor's realtor deciding to cut down a large tree overhanging my yard.

I took follow-up pictures in September but was too busy to post then. I looked at them yesterday and got excited all over again, because (knock on wood) I didn't lose any of them and they really came through!

Not only did things NOT die, a few were superstars! To end the suspense, those were:

Here are some June/September comparisons, as well as general highlights.

View from the front door (which we never use)

Agave gypsophila 'Blue Wave' with Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten'

My Agave gypsophila 'Blue Wave' is a prolific producer of pups! It's presently in the garage: I won't risk losing it. (That pot was a BEAST to move in there, in no small part because our stupid hand cart has a flat tire.)

View walking up to the house from the driveway.

The Salvia guaranitica 'Black & Bloom' got pretty big! The only bummer was the deer occasionally trampling them to sample something tastier (like the Hibiscus, which survived).

Pennisetum in June (left) vs. September (right)

The Pennisetum LOVES the sun. Loves it.

Nothing really new here, I still just love all of this. Strangely, my Passion Vine (on the brick behind the yucca) never bloomed this fall, nor was it consumed by caterpillars. That made me really sad; it seems like a bad sign. I didn't use any pesticides or chemicals, but someone must have.

Look how the Datura took over!!

June (left) vs. September (right)

It's hard to tell unless you know what to look for in the collage above, but the Datura has filled in a lot of gaps both in the foreground and the background.

A side note: the deer enjoyed snacking on my Merlot Majik Mimosa, and I couldn't get the blasted sprayer to work on my deer repellent. I'm going to fix that for the spring, and hopefully it will grow tall enough fast enough that they won't be able to reach it.

Another favorite combo that keeps betting better with time, AND with the addition of 'Ruby Crystals' grass. I think the fine texture really complements the others. 

Every winter with that Bismark palm may be my last....

June (left) vs. September (right)
The Pennisetum 'Prince' got HYYYUGE! It was even huge-er than that before our snow event, and then it got all splayed out. You also get a sense for how much the Datura and Artemesia grew in that short timeframe.

A closeup. The English Lavender did better than I expected (it's the gray-green plant in front of the round planter).

This might be my favorite picture ever.  I can only hope it looks this good this year.

Here's a ghetto panorama-ish collage:

And keepin' it real, here's today:

It all looks sepia-toned, doesn't it? No special filters or effects, everything is just bleached & crispy from the freeze, compounded by an overcast day.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Reason #283 I'm a bad gardener

I'm just going to cut right to the chase. I did this to my Agave 'Blue Emperor' by leaving them uncovered in our 3 day freeze:

Freeze damage on Agave 'Blue Emperor'

(Same plant, further away)

I got semi-ambitious in December and decided to take a stab (get it??) at finishing up that desert bed against the house. I say "semi-ambitious" because I didn't finish, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

The biggest challenge was all the pea pebbles I had to haul from Home Depot. I must have purchased at least 36 bags, and there are STILL bare areas. (I ran out of money before I ran out of bodily capacity, but it was a crap-shoot as to which I'd exhaust first.)

As part of that effort, I decided to plant my potted Agave 'Blue Emperor' in the ground, and I purchased 2 others. Here's a picture from today:

3 recently planted Agave 'Blue Emperor', along with existing
Yucca 'Blue Skies', Opuntia 'Santa Rita', Euphorbia antisyphiltica,
and Agave weberi

Time will tell how much damage they'll exhibit, or if they'll even make it. They're supposed to be hardy to zone 8, but I don't know if that's 8a or 8b. I'm pretty sure our 8b has felt a lot more like 8a this winter.

If they die I'll kick myself for putting them all in the ground: I love that plant. On the bright side, the one I originally owned has a pup that seems untouched, so it won't be totally lost.

I'm belatedly a little worried about my Golden Barrel Cactus as well. For some reason I had it in my head that they were bulletproof? Then I read Pam's post here and googled it: some sources say 14 degrees, others say 9a is the lowest zone it can survive in. For those of you keeping score at home, those are not even remotely the same. I should probably use some of my extra plastic nursery pots to cover these plants going forward....

But then there's these guys:

3 Yucca desmetiana 'Blue Boy'

My beloved 3 year old Yucca desmetiana 'Blue Boy' flanked by two new whipper-snappers

I got those new Yucca desmetiana 'Blue Boy' in September 2017, along with these Ballota pseudodictamnus:

I love them: both are kicking butt even now, shrugging off the cold weather. The Yucca are all like "Bring it, winter: I'll see your freezing temps, and raise you a badass color change to show you who's in charge."

I started googling plants this week, planning for spring. I was worried I needed a 12-step program until I got a text from Robin today: she is doing the same thing! I'm not a weirdo, yay!! [Correction: I'm not a lone weirdo.]

My planning is angry, though. I'm just SO pissed off about everything in the back yard, and in full candor I felt that way before the freeze decimated everything. There are big gaps, and I'm tired of being able to see over the fence into the neighbor's yard. Shade gardening in Central Texas is maddening.

I'm going to cram the back yard so full of plants in the spring that I'll be whining about having to thin them out in 6 months, but I don't care: I'm just going to throw plants at the wall until they stick. Er, something like that.

To match my current mood, I will end this blog with pics from our heavy snow in December.

View from inside the kitchen

Bananas at night in the snow

Snow covering various plants

Snow-covered Carex 'Everillo'

Daisy LOVED the snow. Lost her mind running around in it and trying to bite it.

I have pictures from a post I never did in September, so maybe I'll do that soon to make myself feel better. Or worse. Could go either way.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Tale of Two Cannas (and other garden drama)

On the right side of the back garden I have two patches of Canna within 15-ish (maybe) feet of each other: Canna 'Wyoming' and Canna 'Flambe'.

Canna 'Flambe' looks like this:

Canna 'Wyoming' looks like this:

The grasshoppers went to town on the Canna 'Wyoming' and haven't touched the Canna 'Flambe'. It's baffling. I've never known grasshoppers to be particularly discriminating? They did that last year too, but my 'Flambe' were on the opposite end of the garden and I figured I'd just gotten lucky that they didn't migrate.

I'm tempted to pull them up and replace them with 'Flambe': they're SO unsightly, and they're getting too much shade to hold their dark foliage color. I LOVE the orange of the 'Wyoming' bloom, though. And if I'm being a garden mercenary, the 'Wyoming' may be the bait drawing the grasshoppers away from my 'Flambe'.


I can't believe I haven't posted since July. Every month I've taken pictures and mentally planned a post, and that's about as far as I got.

August started on a high note: I finally got my above ground irrigation system installed in all the beds (no more soaker hoses!), with timers so things would get watered automatically while we were gone at the end of the month. I'd gotten some great ideas from Lori and Robin for the back bed along the fence, and I couldn't wait to get busy on it! Then we left town to go to Oregon and run the Hood-to-Coast race, and Harvey rains swept through Austin.

I shouldn't complain: it was stressful to watch it from afar and try to figure out the logistics of my pet sitter perhaps not being able to get to the pets due to flooding in the 'hood, but it worked out fine and it sounded like we've had way worse rainfall in the last 3-4 years.

However when we got home I saw we'd clearly had a lot of water pass through the back yard very quickly: my young-ish Crepe Myrtle was nearly horizontal as was my brand new Fig tree and the Canna 'Flambe' (the ones above), and other smaller shrubs were pushed over with the soil partially eroded. The real punch to the gut: I lost 3 Fatsia 'Camouflage', I think because they just got saturated and rotted (they seem much more delicate than standard Fatsia japonica). Two of them were the ones I'd planted last fall and seemed to be doing so well.

I was SO excited to find more of them at Leaf Nursery, so I just bought more. They also died. Then I bought two more, which also died. I gave up on all of it at that point, and by "all of it" I mean gardening.

At present, I have one Fatsia 'Camouflage' that seems established and healthy, two that show promise, and 2 that are barely clinging to life.

This is as close as I'll get to this Fatsia 'Camouflage'.
Do not water or feed the Fatsia. Do not make direct eye contact with the Fatsia.

I've stopped watering all of them. I also stopped trying to work on that bed against the fence until this weekend. Well, I haven't actually done anything yet, but I'm at least thinking about it again. There's part of me that thinks I just need to get some big wide planters and give up on things in the ground: any time it rains, all the runoff from the behind-neighbor's yard flows through ours and saturates it. I need plants that can handle a period of drought punctuated by massive amounts of water.

I did take lots of pictures of the things that carried on in spite of my apathy! Brugmansia 'Double White' kicks ass! This is what it looked like last week because we got rain:

Brugmansia 'Double White' in late October, along with Canna 'Flambe',
Salvia 'Ember's Wish', and Whale's Tongue agave.

My red-blooming Firespikes are all going bananas, and yet I haven't seen a single hummingbird.

 Odontonema strictum aka Firespike

Close-up blurry  Odontonema strictum bloom

My front garden got huge and amazing, so I'll have to do a whole separate post on that!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The hardest working plant in my garden

I need to give a shout out to my Brugmanisia 'Double White'. This was what it looked like in mid-June:

Brugmansia blooms aplenty

Brugmansia 'Double White', rear right

If I throw some fertilizer down (I like Rabbit Hill Farm Buds & Blooms or Rose Food) and give it some water, it blooms obediently.

I guess there was still some fertilizer on the ground, because after a good soaking this is what it looked like on July 19th, a mere month and some change later:

This Brugmansia is a trouper!
(Those are new blooms, in case you aren't familiar with the plant.) This heat is beating the crap out of it, but it still blooms on command! What a champ!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Foliage Follow-up: July 2017

I had a little trouble narrowing it down this month, so all of this:

And since I posted about the Pennisetum (at right) last month, I decided to focus on the Yucca 'Lonestar' (left and far rear).

I purchased them in 1 gallon containers 2, maybe 3 years ago? They grew MUCH larger than I expected. They were marketed as kind of a "brighter" soft-leaf Yucca, but if you looked at them side-by-side I don't know that you'd put them in the same category: they aren't floppy or soft. (The ones that get more shade have a few leaves at the base that flop down.)

Their upright habit is more like that of a Spanish Dagger, but the leaves are broad like the soft-leaf.

I love how the leaves of this Yucca look painted. I would buy more, but I haven't seen them at a nursery since.

Yucca 'Lonestar'

The second runner-up is my new plant crush, Datura wrightii. I love the gray-blue leaves, and the way it spreads out like an umbrella.

Datura wrightii

The one good thing about the gawd-awful heat of late is the way it affects some of my stabby plants. The Opuntia santa-rita 'Tubac' and Agave striata 'Live Wires' have both taken on reddish-purple hues:

Opuntia santa-rita 'Tubac'

(I tried to get better close-ups, but with my iPhone being my only camera these were the best I could do.)

Agave striata 'Live Wires'
I can't find any more Agave striata 'Live Wires' either. I bought 3 online at the same time maybe year-one of being in the new house, and only this is the one that made it. (I bought one just a year ago, and it has struggled mightily. It got off to a bad start by being in soggy soil.)

Tons of thanks to Pam Penick of Digging for hosting the monthly Foliage Follow-up!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

I'd rather be lucky than good

I obsess and over-think things, and then my best plant combos tend to be complete accidents. Exhibit #437 is this:

You probably can't tell, but this was the Yucca I was given last year to rehab. It bloomed last year when I had it in a totally different spot getting full sun.

I didn't know where else to put it, so I stuck it in my least-shady-but-still-semi-shaded spot of the back yard. That spot is where I planted my first Peter's Purple Bee Balm (because I didn't know where else to put it), a large pot-bound Almond Verbena I bought on impulse (without having a place in mind), and some divided Canna Flambe.

It never occurred to me that:

  1. It would bloom again so soon, or ever for that matter.
  2. The bloom/buds would complement the canna so well, or vice-versa.
Here's a shot from just a few days earlier, when I realized it was re-blooming:

Note the Castor Bean in the lower left corner, and the last gasps of the Peter's Purple Bee Balm in the background. 

It all looks so harmonious you'd think someone planned it...nuh-uh. 

And what's the story with the Yucca re-blooming so soon? I'd like to pretend I'm a gardening savant, but I have no idea what I did or how to reproduce that next year. Maybe it responds to stress by sending up a bloom, and when I moved it I stressed it? I DID use a heavily enriched soil in that planting spot because the dirt over there was/is so poor...and here I worried that it was going to harm the Yucca. What do I know?

I'll take dumb luck any day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June updates

I know better and I did it anyway: I planted a bunch of stuff last weekend. If loving plants is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

It's entirely my neighbor's fault. Well, technically the realtor. The corner house is for sale and had a large, unkept tree (maybe a Pittosporum? I've already forgotten) planted right up against it. It loomed large into our space. It was a lot like this:
Image result for trump looming over hillary

Underneath it was a mess of Holly bushes leaning desperately towards the sun at the edge of the tree canopy, and a tangle of Virginia Creeper as well as some dead/broken branches. 

Over the years I'd often wished the neighbor would do "something" about it, and then the realtor did: they cut the tree down. That's it. It was still ugly as sin over there, but the plants I had in it's shade were getting full FULL sun all sudden-like. I had seven Salvia guaranitica 'Black & Bloom' that I'd planted back in February (!!), which was a risk that had paid off because we didn't have any more freezes and they were healthy/thriving. Then they were frying.

For the record, I met the realtor and he gave me an unsolicited apology. He had good intentions of making the house more appealing to potential buyers, and I'd probably have done the same in his shoes. 

I transplanted all but 3 to areas that get less sun during the day because of the shadow cast by the house. Once I'd done that, it set off a cascade of re-arranging. And buying. Because gaps and holes. 

It's really a testament to my quick thinking and flexibility, when you think about it.

I had expanded both beds back in the Fall but then lost steam/motivation to go any further, so I had 3 cubic yards of dirt delivered that first June weekend and spent the entire time shoveling it into those beds.

Last weekend I bought 7 Ruby Crystals grasses, 5 Datura wrightii, and 24 bags of mulch. Here are the results, with some highlights!

View from the edge of the driveway. Agave celsii in the foreground, and Agave gypsophila in the background.

Agave gypsophila 'Blue Wave'

I bought this Agave gypsophila 'Blue Wave' online. I had a large one of the standard variety several years ago and got cocky during a freeze, where I lost it completely. This one was tiny when I got it, and it has been well-protected in the garage for winters ever since (maybe 2 years ago?). 

I'm thrilled that it's doing so well, but the downside is that it's getting a little big to pull up and that pot sure isn't going anywhere. I might have to use the shop light/frost cloth method that has worked for my Aloes the past 2 years.

Above you see my 2 new planters, aka "metal fire pit rings" if you're searching for such a thing on the internet. The one in the foreground looks crooked in this shot, and I'm hoping that's just a bad angle. I obsessively tried to level both before filling them.

Each one has a Whale's Tongue agave. I'd had them in the bed against the garage in the Fall/Winter but reality set in and I realized they'd get way too big for that space. After I moved them to the other front beds I felt like they needed to be elevated, hence the fire pit ring planters.

Salvia 'Henry Duelberg' in the foreground, Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara'
in the background with a Whale's Tongue agave in the middle.

Keepin' it real with the neighbor's trash bins in the back-background.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Blue Satin'

Behind the planter is one of the two Hibsicus syriacus 'Blue Satin' I planted in the Spring of this year. It's dumb: the deer snack on them, but for some reason they leave the buds? It's a battle I may ultimately lose, I'm rolling the dice.

This is the bed against the garage that I've posted about many times. Last Fall those Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skies' weren't looking as robust as they had in years past, so I raised them up on berms and treated them (I hope prophylactically) for agave weevils.

Above shows where 3 of the Salvia guaranitica found new homes. In hindsight they really needed to be there the whole time (or something did). I like them against the Pennisetum grass (a variety I'm hoping I might have documented in another post) along with the new-ish Artemesia and the brand new Ruby Crystals grasses.

I still love this potted combo of Opuntia Santa Rita and Agave parryi var. truncata. The agave puts out lots of pups, I suspect it's because it's all so pot-bound. (Come to think of it, that whole section is on borrowed time *cough* Bismark Palm *cough*.)

I know it can't go on like this forever, but the combo of agave pups and my PTSD from that Opuntia's fine-yet-vicious stickers will keep me from addressing it until I absolutely have to.

This is the bed formerly known as 'partial shade'. The grass is Pennisetum 'Purple Prince', transplanted from the back last year I think? I added Artemesia back in February, and the Ruby Crystals grasses are of course new along with a Datura you can't see too well.

If you look carefully, you'll see another of my many questionable judgement calls with respect to planting things in June, in Austin.

Yep, I bought an Albizia julibrissin 'Merlot Majik'. Another one, if you're keeping score. The one I planted last Fall didn't make it, to no one's surprise. I blame myself.

Albizia julibrissin 'Merlot Majik'

These photos may be the only evidence left by the time Summer is over. I don't want to hear "I told you so".