Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, July 2015

I'm cutting it close I know, but I have blooms from plants I wasn't even sure would live, so that must be celebrated.

First: one of my two Hibiscus 'Midnight Marvel'. They're itty bitty - barely over 12 inches high - but they have 3-4 buds with each flush, and the flowers are about 5" big. 
Hibiscus 'Midnight Marvel'
The foliage isn't as dark as I'd hoped, but maybe when it gets bigger? We'll see if they survive the summer - they're a known risk.

Canna 'Blueberry Sparkler' seems finally to have decided it wants to live;
Canna 'Blueberry Sparkler'
If I were that Canna I'd feel a little self-conscious about my foliage, seeing as how it's catty-corner from the Canna 'Flambe'. But Canna 'Flambe' has no blooms to speak of, so I guess we all have our gifts.

And finally, the blooms I feared would never manifest: Brugmansia 'Double White'.
Brugmansia 'Double White'
[I'm kind of digging the collage feature in Picasa, if it isn't obvious from my recent posts.]

I had to google 'Brugmansia bloom' because it kept getting taller and leafy-er, but showed no inclination to do much else. Turns out the secrets are:
  1. Fertilize excessively
  2. Prune off foliage below the Y
That's all I did differently, and 2 weeks later I got blooms out the wazoo! Thanks!

Umm, is there a designated Garden Blogger's Day of Mourning or Fond Farewells? I'm still working through my emotions over the suddenly-dead Lamb's Ear, and the Passion Vine 'Incense' stripped of all its leaves by caterpillars. ALL of them. I better see some awesome freakin' butterflies....

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Catchup post

I haven't posted in a while, but not for lack of material.

I've been busy obsessing. 

Ever since I heard about the ree-DONK-u-luss Whittlesey decomposed granite sale ($25/yard!), it's taken every ounce of willpower I have NOT to order it. The only things holding me back are:
  1. The fact that I'd need to remove the "sod" in the backyard, and thus would need to rent a sod cutter. Loud machines make me anxious (the blender, the vacuum, the lawn mower) so I procrastinate using them.
  2. This: 
    The tiny hole on the left is my exploration to confirm that the pvc is under the roots on that side.
In case my iPhone photo isn't the greatest quality, that's pvc for the sprinkler system and it has a giant oak root growing underneath it.

The instant-gratification part of me says "Just put decomposed granite right over it! You've already turned that zone in the sprinkler system off, and you plan to turn off the entire back yard and just use soaker hoses! Dooooooo it!!"

The long-range planner in me says that's a bad idea, if for no other reason than someday we will sell this house, the future owners will find that, and think the terrible things about me that I say about the former owners now. (Because if you're doing the math that I am, the oak in question is at least 30 years old. I'm just sayin' this didn't happen overnight.)

But I really, really, really hate the scrubby weedy green crap we have in the entire back yard. It tickles my ankles and makes me think bugs are on me, and it looks unsightly. Crab grass has even popped up on the far right side.

So I got firm with myself/struck a bargain: I have to finish edging the newer beds and putting down mulch, and then I can start the granite project. [Which necessarily involves hiring someone to first address that pvc issue, further postponing my use of loud/scary equipment.]

Which brings me to my next update: I've decided not to use the brick for edging. I like that it has substance to it, but the gray brick will clash with the tan granite and I CAN'T HAVE THAT.

Yesterday I went to Rock N Dirt Yard and bought unfinished metal edging. I like the industrial look of it and I think it's more in keeping with what I'm going for in the back.
  • Bonus factor: I don't have to spend hours and break my hand pulling off those spikes like I did for the Home Depot coated edging. Plus I won't be annoyed in 10 years when it starts to rust and the plastic is peeling off.
  • Bummer factor: all the corner pieces the guy gave me go the same direction (maybe that's all they carry?), which ultimately means that the spikes are on the outside of the bed, and that aesthetic bothers me. Hopefully I'm the only one who will ever notice. Lesson learned: don't buy stuff on a Saturday from a place closed on Sunday.
I'll get that done today (removing the bricks from the left-side bed is a project for another day), add at least 20 bags of mulch (hauling home 10 bags at a time from Barton Springs Nursery), and then hopefully finish the epic mulching project by the end of next weekend.

In other news, I've also been doing a lot of planting in the bed against the house (where I've got the stock tank). I read a blog post (I wish I could recall who/where and link it here, I suck) that challenged gardeners to buy more of the plants they already have, rather than buying a bunch of different varieties.  She talked about how nature generally doesn't plant one or even three of something, and it's more soothing to the eye to see big swaths/masses of plants. I realized that in my desperate attempts to find plants that will work in shade, I was a little guilty of the one-and-done haphazard planting. I've made some edits/additions and am surprisingly pleased with what is turning out to be a mostly-green foliage bed. I'll post pictures later today after I finish the edging.

And last but certainly not least, my garden's armpit is done! [It's probably more accurate to say that I'm done until I decide to change something, but let's both pretend I've really achieved the exact effect my little pea brain imagined, and further edits are never warranted.]
Brahea armata from The Great Outdoors

There have been other additions/edits to that corner, so later this year I'll do a full before and after with details. [Probably when I'm feeling depressed about the sun baking everything, or that palm dies.]

Okay, Ryan is making a mulch run for me because he's a good guy, so I guess I need to quit goofing off and start the edging project again.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Flooding revelations, or "Occam's Razor at work in the garden"

If you haven't see my post with pictures of the flooding between our house and Neighbor Steve's, or even if you have, it bears review before you watch the below. I took this video during Tuesday afternoon's cloudburst.

When we've discussed our shared flooding situation, Neighbor Steve has explained how the water flows across the back of his property from his rear and left neighbor's yard, over to the fence line between our properties, and then it all pools at his gate. 

I have no doubt it does, but I bet he's never watched his own gutters from this angle during a storm:

[You can hear Ryan talking about the Spurs draft in the background. I'm sad Tiago is being traded, even though sometimes I wanted to pummel him.]

In case the video is too grainy, there's a gutter downspout that is dumping the rainwater right into metal edging that effectively acts as both a dam and a funnel, redirecting it all into his fence/gate area (and therefore ours).

Here's a closer (and still) look from the flooding in May:
The rain had mostly stopped when I took this
Here's a grainy image with paint scribbles to illustrate, depicting the edging obstruction (red) and water flow (yellow):

I'm by no means suggesting we no longer need a dry creek bed between our properties to channel water out to the street. I'm just sayin' let's start with the cheap and (now) obvious: maybe remove the edging, and get one of those accordion-looking thingies that goes on the end of a gutter and unrolls 2-3 feet away to deposit the water elsewhere.

Sometimes being obsessive is a helpful trait (said the creepy lady filming the neighbor's house from her kitchen).

Deer read blogs, and other June gardening failures

Do you know how I know this? Because only a few days ago I had boldly (naively?) posted that since planting a Salvia Clevelandii they hadn't bothered my roses.

Needless to say, all 3 Lafter in the front garden have had their newest growth chewed off since then.

It's like they read my post and said "Holy cow, we totally forgot about her roses! Let's make it a point to head that way tomorrow, after we've chewed up someone else's dreams and pooped them out in their yard."

I haven't yet given up on my dream of having roses, but in the back of my little pea-brain I know the odds are stacked against me. At the very least, I'll have to break one of my own rules: they'll be high-maintenance because I'll have to spray them periodically with that gawd-awful stinky deer repellent stuff. (It smells like a rotting carcass that's been urinated on by a bear who ate a ton of asparagus.)

And as long as we're talking about my lessons in humility, I came outside on Tuesday to see this:

HOW?? WHY?!?!

No warning signs, it just up and died. I can't blame the summer heat, nor can I blame excess water: it just quit.

I also lost an Aralia 'Sun King' late last week. Well, technically speaking it isn't lost: I know where it is, and it's dead. I was so full of hope for those. There's one left....