Sunday, April 26, 2015

Parade of Irises

I think I mentioned in a prior post that I purchased some Iris (Irises?) from Schreiner's Iris Gardens.

I've been saving up my photos until they all bloomed, so here they are:

Not entirely sure...this might be 'Rustler' iris from my old garden?

'Dakota Smoke' iris with Aloe 'Blue Elf' in the background

'Dakota Smoke' iris

'Sheer Ecstasy' iris

'Violet Turner' iris in the middle

'Sheer Ecstasy' iris in front of blooming Yucca

'Sheer Ecstasy', and maybe 'Blue Suede Shoes'?
'Dashing' at top left, 'Sheer Ecstasy' upper right, and possibly 'Blue Suede Shoes' on lower right

'Breakers' iris, and maybe 'Blue Suede Shoes'? 

I can't find any pictures of my 'Polished Manners' iris, and I bought 3 of those. Hmmm, I guess I'll find out next year!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Local Talent

How could I have forgotten to share my coolest non-plant purchase in recent memory??

I stumbled across a company on Houzz called Urban Mettle. It's a father-daughter team living right here in Austin, Texas! 

Check out some of their other gorgeous stuff:
12" x 20" Modern White Lacquer Wall Planter with Brushed Aluminum Address Numbers, Wall Planter and Address Sign - Free Shipping
Urban Mettle Modern White Lacquer Wall Planter
Urban Mettle Hanging Metal Planter and Address Plaque
I want them all, but I think I'd need to own more houses.

My armpit stinks

And by my armpit, I mean that back left corner of the backyard:

Yes these are terrible pictures, but I defy anyone to take a flattering picture of this spot.

It's not just the ugly sagging fence, although that certainly doesn't help matters. There's just NOTHING interesting happening here. And it's the place your eyes are drawn to when you first walk through the gate into the backyard. (Well, my eyes anyway.)

I've been agonizing over what to do with that spot. I was originally thinking I'd plant the Hibiscus 'Midnight Marvel' there, but I ended up planted a Melianthus major 'Honey Bush' I got from Annie's Annuals there instead. I want all of this sooooo bad:

It died. Almost immediately.

It's probably just as well, because I feel like that corner needs some height, something to draw the eye upwards. 

The biggest challenges I see with that spot:
  1. It doesn't get full sun unless it's winter and all the leaves from the back neighbor's trees have dropped.
  2. I don't want to plant anything that would block out sun hitting the other plants in that area.
  3. It's an incline (and according to the dude we called to evaluate our drainage situation during heavy rains, it needs to stay that way).
These are the options I've been considering for that job:
  • A palm (a Pindo or another Brahea Armata)
  • A Japanese Maple (see my previous post on being cautious, though)
  • A couple of Sagos, but ones with a lot of trunk showing
  • A water feature
  • Cinderblock planters stacked 
    Image source: Centrepoint blog (
  • A vine
  • Tall Cannas 
    Image source: Karchesky Canna website (
  • A planterfall 
    Image source: ABC das Suculentas (
I seem to recall struggling with the corner in my old backyard as well. Sigh, apparently corners are my nemesis. 

Nemeses? Nemesi??

They thwart me.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The start...

I'm going to skip the preamble and just get right to the what/where!

The shot above was taken with me standing in the back left corner of the yard, aka "the armpit". 

Plants against the window:
  • 'Valentine' rose (3)
  • 'Bonfire' Patio peach
  • Canna 'Blueberry Sparkler'

I moved those Canna around a bunch last year before finally settling on this corner spot between the window and the gate. Fingers crossed it's happy there - that's a beatdown spot in the Summer.

Plants in this shot, against the fence:
  • 'Valentine' rose (3)
  • 'Iceberg' rose, climbing
  • Chocolate mimosa (no leaves yet, boo)
  • Pennisetum 'First Knight'

Numerous shots of:
  • Yucca Rostrata
  • Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' (3)
  • Datura 'Double White'
  • Hibiscus 'Midnight Marvel' (hidden behind everything else because it's tiny)

This is a shot of the plantings against the back fence. The only new things since last year:
I'm not entirely convinced I've planted the Solomon's Seal or Christmas False Box in the ideal locations; we'll just have to see.

The shot above shows the bed formerly occupied by the #*@!& holly bushes. (I've got 2x4s laid out as temporary edging.)

Above you see one of my three Fatsia japonica, and my most exciting (and costly) purchase: a Japanese Maple! I did a lot of reading on Japanese Maples in Central Texas, and ended up purchasing the variety 'Tamukeyama' from Mendocino Maples Nursery.

It arrived carefully packaged and in great condition late last October, and I kept it in a pot over the Winter. I can't wait to see it fully leafed out! I was dying to buy more since I have soooo much shade in the back, but I'll see if I can keep this puppy alive for a year.

Speaking of big risks, I also bought 3 Tasmanian Tree Ferns (Dicksonia antartica) from Trio Nursery, and put them in the dark, wet corner at the back of the house.

It's a long shot that any will survive, let alone thrive. I dream big!

I wanted something to hide the cable that runs up the white siding, and figured what better than Black bamboo? I've been reading with envy about other bloggers' stock tanks, so this was a good excuse to pull the trigger on doing my own. I'm hoping that the black cable will eventually blend with the black bamboo canes. Clever huh??

The bottom is filled with a lot of small rocks. I don't want to think about ever having to move it or replant anything in there: we'll just buy a new house. Less work.

There's a lot going on here:
  • The other 2 Fatsia japonica
  • Hydrangea 'Ruby Falls' (2) - another experiment
  • Eupatorium havenense (White Mistflower, 3)
  • Mahonia 'Soft Caress' (3)

I tried in vain to get a decent shot of the new leaves on my Smoke Bush tree. You get the 'gist!


Not shown: 
  • Brahea armata (Mexican Blue Fan Palm)
  • Another Hibiscus 'Midnight Marvel'
  • Salvia van houttei (3)
Not yet in the ground:
I'm seriously considering replacing the 2 'Regal Shields' Elephant Ears with the 'Hope' Philodendrons. They're supposedly hardier in the winter (the Elephant Ears died back, as expected) and they're about the same size.

I'm not done, just pausing to contemplate my next move.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

It's Hard to Know Where to Start

I mean that in all ways possible: this post, the yard....

To recap, last Fall I got started on the disaster that is my backyard. See posts here and here. I later planted the following:
  • Natchez Crepe Myrtle tree
  • Chocolate Mimosa tree
  • Rootbeer plant (aka Hoja Santa, aka Mexican Pepperleaf, aka Piper auritum)
  • Sweet Almond Verbena (aka Aloysia Virgata)
  • 'Prince' Pennisetum purpureum
  • Another Pennisetum (maybe Vertigo?)
  • Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' in tree form
AND I laid brick edging on the left side of the backyard. Then it got cold-ish, so I painted my kitchen cabinets.

Over the last three weeks I've overhauled the garden bed against the back of the house:
  • Ripped out what remained of the #*@!& holly bushes
  • Dug out another bed of rocks the former owners used as either mulch or decoration
  • Cut down the sad and spindly crepe myrtles that never got sun due to the giant oak
  • Ordered 2 cubic yards of soil, shoveled it into a wheelbarrow 1013 times, and dumped it in the bed formerly occupied by the #*@!& holly bushes
I've also learned a very important lesson about the difference between this yard and my old yard in Crestview. In my old yard, I was constantly digging up random stuff: broken electrical cords, socks, tin cans, bricks and cement clumps. I never found any skeletal remains but it wouldn't have surprised me in the least.

In this yard, things are buried that matter. Say, for example, your sprinkler system:

I bought a fabulous yucca, dug a giant hole, and busted a sprinkler pipe with my shovel. I thought it was a big stupid root from yet another poorly-sited crepe myrtle.

The following weekend I bought an amazing Loquat tree, and dug another big hole in the far back corner. Before I even started digging I noticed a cable sticking out of the ground by the fence, the end frayed and weathered. I didn't think anything of it, because of my experience at my old house. I started digging and came across a skinny dark root, so I hacked at it with my shovel. Turns out it wasn't a root,  it was another cable. I figured maybe it was the other end of the one sticking out, so I kept digging. I came across another skinny dark root, and chopped it in half too.

You know where this is going.

Turns out that in this neighborhood they bury the cables underground, instead of running them overhead like at my old house. Those "roots" were our cable and our internet. Did I mention Ryan works from home? Good times.

Two weekends ago I finally cleared everything out of what I affectionately refer to as the armpit of the backyard:

Everything went: the Hibiscus, the crepe myrtle, the rose (Belinda, I think?). It wasn't that any of it was inherently bad, but:
  • That corner spot only gets filtered sun, so it was all pathetic looking
  • It was all planted way too close to the (sagging) fence
  • It had been pruned by the criminally insane and was unattractive
I borrowed the neighbor's pitchfork so I could till compost and garden soil into the bed, and now I wonder how I gardened without one for so long! I'd have broken my spleen trying to do that with a shovel: it was mud and clay, and made loud sucking noises whenever I pried a chunk up. I'm not 100% confident that anything I plant there this year will survive, but it's a start.

My next post will detail all the things I've planted, with bad pictures from my iPhone! Good thing you aren't paying money to read this, huh?