Thursday, December 31, 2015

Closing out the year, gardening with a dog

We got a dog, and I've [willingly and positively] allowed that to suck up any downtime I have, so I've neglected my blog. And vacuuming. I've been blogging a lot in my head, though, and even taking some pictures for blog posts, like Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-up (both of which I had grand ambitions for and missed by a mile). So that has to count for...absolutely nothing, I get it.

She's very sweet and we named her Daisy:

We adore her! She loves the cat (sometimes too much) is great with the boys, and is working through some fear issues around grownups. She's about 1 year old and lived on the mean streets of Austin for part of her life, so it hasn't all been roses for her. And speaking of roses...

Before we got a dog we made a list of pros and cons, and I feel like we did a pretty good job going into this with our eyes wide-open. That said, there were a couple of gardening-related surprises, as you might have guessed:
  1. My favorite surprise: I've developed an appreciation for some of my neighbor's yards. When you walk by them 15 times in a week you start to notice things (especially if your dog wants to sniff everything). Future posts planned....
  2. When she gets excited she likes to run fast. Back and forth. A lot. She has unintentionally shredded a few low-lying plants, like my Philodendron 'Hope' and some of the strappy-leafed Giant Spider Lily. Nothing that can't be replaced, or won't come back in the Spring. (The Hope philodendron were disappointing anyway, and I was thinking about replacing them with Oakleaf Hydrangea.)
  3. She also likes to dig when she gets excited or bored. She's easy to redirect and she only digs in bare ground areas (no plants so far), but yeah. This is a manageable one - we just don't leave her outside unsupervised (she wants to play with us anyway, not alone) or we give her a bone to chew. She loves it when I'm outside with her, raking the many many MANY leaves. That makes one of us. (Although I did get a leaf vac as a gift for my birthday, woohoo!!)

And speaking of gifts [I am the QUEEN of segues in this post], I also got the fire pit I'd been coveting!! Thanks mom and dad!! We picked it up the week of Christmas, and used it for the first time on the weekend immediately after:
Here's another angle, because it's awesome:

And here's us using it!!
Ryan and the boys

I don't know what I'm doing here - marshmallow roasting gang signs?!?
As predicted, I ate half a bag of marshmallows, and burned at least 97.6% of those.

I need to make a cover for it so we can use it as a coffee table in the summertime, so that has gone on my long list of winter projects. And there will be more on that in 2016, but for now:

Farewell to 2015, and Happy New Year!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, November 2015

I was worried I wouldn't have any blooms for November since October was pretty sparse, but as always my Salvia come through!

I'm so thrilled my Pineapple Sage 'Golden Delicious' are blooming - it's such a pure red, not as orange-red as I remember.
Pineapple Sage 'Golden Delicious' in bloom

Gorgeous foliage!

My Salvia 'Vanhouttei' are also blooming behind the Pineapple Sage. They're a darker red, and also beautiful (I wish I had a close-up):

The Canna got perky after the weather cooled, too:

Canna 'Flambe' in bloom, floppy and fabulous

Canna 'Blueberry Sparkler'
And much to my surprise, my Mahonia 'Soft Caress' are blooming:

Mahonia 'Soft Caress'

Happy Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, ya'll! Thanks SO much to Carol of May Dreams for hosting!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Epic catch-up post part 3: Sod Removal and Decomposed Granite Install

You know how sometimes you build something up in your head, and then when you finally get it you're kind of disappointed? 

This wasn't one of those times. SO. HAPPY.

The only thing that would make me happier would be to have money to finish this project in the backyard, and continue it into the side yard as well. But since it's illegal to sell your organs on the internet, I'll just have to save up some cash and maybe finish in the Spring. Delayed gratification is the lamest thing ever.

Here's how the project started:

Dumping road base and decomposed granite in our driveway

Sod removal in progress
The same location after (sorry for the shadows):
It's like I've been under water and can finally breathe. Negative space is important, ya'll; don't underestimate it.

And then even though it seemed like it couldn't get any better, it did:

 My fingers were so sore from putting those suckers together, but it was worth it. (Pretend you can't see the hose running behind it. I suck at staging photos.)

The above is further evidence of my craptastic staging abilities, but more importantly you can see the current "Tommy Two-Face" nature of the backyard: those white bags mark the beginning of the crappy grass zone.

Still, all I need is my firepit in the middle of those chairs, and I'll feel like I won the lottery. (Which I might need to do to pay for the firepit....)

Picture me here with a marshmallow on a skewer, accidentally catching it on fire in my firepit!
I understand what people mean about the granite tracking, but so far I've only seen that when it's wet (and then it sticks to your shoes like cement). I have a pretty decent transition of patio, then tile before we get to the hardwood floors, so hopefully that will keep me from regretting this decision. And sometime in the next year, I hope to add big rectangular limestone pavers along the most commonly traversed areas. That should also reduce the likelihood of tracking?

I had a tree expert come out and make sure that the dg around the tree roots wasn't causing them any harm, and he acknowledged that it was piled a little high but should be fine. (I had them trim the Live Oaks and some plants were smushed, but that's another post.)

A good problem to have: that giant empty bed against the far fence! So many plants and ideas....

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Epic catch-up post part 2: New Windows

When we bought the house we knew the windows were an issue: several were visibly clouded, and whatever insulating properties they once had were long gone. Unfortunately, they seemed like the least urgent of our negotiating and discretionary spending priorities.

I'm not even sure why or how, but a few weeks ago we ended up getting a quote from Anderson Replacement Windows, which means we ended up buying some windows. We didn't replace them all, but we prioritized some of the worst offenders: Ryan's office windows, and the giant kitchen window.

It's actually been cool enough to have the windows open all day long!

Ryan's office, and Ollie the photobomber

Sneak preview of my 3rd project!

My favorite part about them? Besides the fact that they open easily, and block out sound and temperature extremes, and look beautiful? A better view of the garden!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Epic catch-up post part 1: Fence Replacement

My lack of posting has literally been the blogging equivalent of me holding my breath. I've had 3 major projects spinning over the last 2 weeks, and today I got word that the 3rd was a qualified success, so I can exhale and post without sounding like a Neurotic Nancy.

I mean, more so than usual.

Project #1: Fence Replacement

This was one that caught me off-guard. Not the part about the fence needing to be replaced, that's a "duh". The surprise part was Neighbor Steve upping the urgency when he found out the people behind their house were moving out and he had carte blanche for fence design.

I've posted previously about our shared drainage challenges (see posts here and here). His was much worse than ours, but it became our problem when his yard couldn't handle the volume. You see, there's a slight grade to our cul de sac and really that entire side of the neighborhood, with our houses being "downstream" if you will. Having observed his flooding situation, he noted that he was getting a tremendous amount of water from "upstream" and the homes on the flip side of us. (A lot of the homes behind us have removed their sod and put down large rock, so their properties don't absorb any water at all anymore and it all becomes our problem to address.)

His imagined solution was a stone fence around his entire property, and he wanted to do that before someone bought the house behind him and had contrary thoughts. He included us in the discussion because he was fearful that his solution would effectively push the water volume onto our property, and didn't want to be a jerk. [Sidebar: our Neighbor Steve and his wife are awesome neighbors: they always take us and their other neighbors into account with any project they consider. We're very fortunate.]

I was a bit cranky about that initially (although only to Ryan), because while I totally sympathized I had been saving up for my sod removal/DG installation project and I didn't want to throw any money at a fence instead. I'm selfish.

Ultimately I'm tremendously glad we did the fence, because

  1. In getting someone to come out and give me quotes for the DG install, we found the fence guy we ended up mutually hiring.
  2. He gave me some tips on how to address my drainage solution (hint: get gutters, dummy).
  3. The fence dude told Neighbor Steve that a stone/cement wall would be expensive and overkill, and recommended just installing "rot boards". 
  4. The new fence looks SOOOOO much better!!
He did give us quotes for installing French Drains, which we (I) declined due to cost, and in hindsight I feel really good about that decision. I will get some gutters on that side of the house, and then we'll see where we're at on drainage.

Anywho, our fence is DONE! 

Do you see what I see?? That's right: more planting space.
We moved it up on the property by about 10 feet, because Neighbor Steve was doing that with his and it seemed weird for our fences not to start at the same point. The fact that it gained me more space for planting was purely an afterthought, I swear. (Although right now I'm loving the empty space. It gives you room to breathe and take in the yard.)

I had a 48 hour period when there was no fence in place and I freaked out about deer getting in and decimating my Cannas, but the fence dude said to put out mothballs and either it worked or I got lucky. Either way, no plants were harmed in the making of this fence.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

CANNAAAA! (September 2015 Foliage Follow-up)

I don't need a lot of words when I have these:
"Would you say I have a plethora of Canna Flambe?"

Canna 'Flambe' being awesome

Canna 'Flambe', awesome-er

Flopping over and still painfully awesome

Bloomin' awesome (you see what I did there??)

'Lest you think I'm a Canna snob, I am also in love with the Yucca 'Lonestar'. The leaves are a little wider and a brighter than the traditional softleaf Yucca:
Yucca 'Lonestar', with Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' photobombing in the background
I'm looking forward to seeing how tall they'll get; one of the things I love about the more common Yucca is how they can be cleaned up to have a trunk as they mature. They look very Seussian, and we need more of that in this world.

I'll definitely be planting more of these...perhaps near the Canna! (Gasp!!! This is just like the first time peanut butter and chocolate were combined!)

And last but not least, my Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious': they're bright, cheery and adorable whether they ever bloom or not:
Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious'
I love the different hues of charteuse!

That's right: the foliage trifecta
Thanks SO much to Pam Penick for hosting the Foliage Follow-Up every month, and more importantly helping us all shine a spotlight on the "supporting cast" of our gardens, that are really stealing the show!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, September 2015

I abruptly lost all interest in spending time outside. It just got intolerably hot and humid, so other than turning the soaker hoses on and off I've pretty much been ignoring the garden since my last post.

That said, even though I've temporarily given up on my garden, my garden hasn't given up on me: it shares blooms, so I share blooms!

First and foremost, I have to give 'props to my Salvia 'Amistad'. I transplanted all 3 of them in August, and they not only survived but are blooming profusely:
Salvia 'Amistad' post-August transplant
I've never grown this variety before, and I'm impressed by both the color and the vigor. They're a little spindly from having been planted in partial shade - I was hoping they'd take after Salvia 'Black and Blue' in that regard, but not so much. I look forward to seeing how they do next year, with more sun.

Speaking of Salvia transplants, I have 6 Salvia 'Van Houetii' that I've moved at least 3 times since I planted them in the Spring. They really struggled to get established after the 2nd time, but this past weekend I was relieved to see a few blooms:
Salvia 'Van Houetti'
My last new Salvia to bloom is 'Puerto de la Zorra'. I have two shrubs with tons of blooms on the way, so this is just a preview of what's to come:
Salvia 'Puerto de la Zorra'
It isn't all Salvias...

I threw some more fertilizer at my Brugmansia 'Double White' just to see if the first time was a fluke, but sure enough it bloomed profusely again! They sure are weird looking, but I love that they're so compliant: you feed, I bloom.
Brugmansia 'Double White'
I saved the best for last, though. My Canna 'Flambe', which I bought solely for the foliage, is blooming too!
Canna 'Flambe' in bloom
I love the orange! They've spread and have gotten crazy-tall, some falling over. I'll post those pictures for Foliage Follow-Up!

Thanks so much to May Dreams Gardens for hosting this every month! It's such a treat to see everyone's gorgeous gardens!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The month of gardening dangerously

What's that expression..."God watches over children and fools"? I need to add "gardeners" at the end of that.

I find myself gardening impulsively this month. I think the heat has caused a frantic desperation.

Two weekends ago I decided that the Lafter roses had to go RIGHTTHISMINUTE, and that I needed to replace them with grasses. I had a Pennisetum 'Prince' in the backyard that was growing but not thriving due to lack of full sun, so I moved it to the front. Yes, in mid-August. Then I decided the Canna 'Wyoming' should be in front of the 'Prince' grass, so I transplanted those too. (Still mid-August, if you're keeping score at home.) And finally I'd had enough of looking at the stems of the Salvia 'Amistad' every time I drove up to the house, so I moved those to the side of the house behind the 'Prince' grass.

Canna 'Wyoming' and 'Prince' Pennisetum in front of 'Azure' Bush Germander

Salvia 'Amistad' relocated against the side of the house, at least for now

I'm pleased to report they are all surviving on their own now with (mostly) standard watering (soaker hose 1x/week) but it was touch-and-go for a while. I was out there with a hose, hand-watering and sweet-talking them every night for about a week.

I also ordered another 'First Knight' Pennisetum from, and a Pennisetum 'Princess Caroline' from Santa Rosa Gardens. Both are in the ground and receiving some supplemental (every 3 days) hand-watering until I feel like they're ready to transition to the standard schedule. So far so good!

Tiny 'First Knight' Pennisetum

You can see a hint of my other semi-impulsive project from this weekend behind that shot: I removed the mulch and replaced it with rock! 16 bags of Pea Pebbles, 4 bags of Pond Stones, and 5 bags of decorative stones (on sale because the bags were ripped, woohoo!)

I'm calling it semi-impulsive because I'd been contemplating it for a while, but yesterday at around 1pm I decided it was time. (Yep, just as it was getting stupid-hot outside. What I lack in sense I make up for in commitment.)

I am totally in love with it, too. Which is why you're going to see a thousand pictures from different angles.

This little path serves two purposes:

  1. I frequently cut across to the lawn from here
  2. This is where water drains when it rains, so the mulch was washed away anyway

(The color is weird, but not as weird as before I tried to fix it with Picasa)

Bonus shot of my new 'Princess Caroline' Pennisetum, with tiny Salvia 'Berggarten' behind

On a more somber note, I almost lost my Yucca in the back. I had noticed the smaller one had more and more leaves that were just turning tan (i.e. dead), but I wasn't sure why. Then I went out Wednesday morning after the sprinklers had run, and found the ground by them SUPER saturated. Not good.

I started digging, pulled them out and put them in buckets, turned on the sprinkler again, and saw this:

So I called the sprinkler dudes. They had worked on that spot earlier in the year (after I broke a PVC pipe with my shovel), and I feared it was re-broken. Thankfully not by me.

They fixed it yesterday, so today's project is replanting those Yuccas and then crossing my fingers that this is the last time. Poor things.