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.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lamb's Ear are dead to me

I mean that both literally and figuratively.

I was out there yesterday and it was fine. Today: dead. The ones on either side of it are fine (right now, anyway). That's the second time that's happened.

I think they're gorgeous, but I'm done with walking outside and seeing one dead. I admit I'm a little sad.

Max (Ryan's 6 year old) is going to be so disappointed. He thinks they're all a Lamb's Ear he picked out at a nursery a year ago (which also died). So I'm a bad gardener AND an intentional mislead-er of 6 year olds.

I'll be auditioning silvery/gray replacements. Maybe Artemesia? Maybe Salvia 'Berggarten'? All suggestions welcome.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mid-season lessons learned

I'm not sure if it's truly mid-season yet as far as Austin weather is concerned, but "The heat has sapped my will to live and I'm generally feeling discouraged" seemed a bit long for a post title.

There are certainly lessons aplenty. In no particular order...

Squirrels suck. They stole and ate all but one of the baby peaches off my peach tree. I know this because I found a peach bit on the patio area. So they're thieves AND slobs. I bought the tree strictly for the foliage so I shouldn't be too bent about it, but when I saw how many I had I was pretty excited and a little proud at the prospect of successfully growing something edible. Dream squashing bastards.

Zone 8b here ain't Zone 8b elsewhere. This is more like a lesson re-learned. I expected to lose my Tree Ferns, but I really thought the Aralia cordata 'Sun King' would make it. I killed 1 in the ground almost immediately after planting it, 1 in the container it was shipped in, and the last 2 I had to water every few days just to keep them alive. I finally gave up in disgust. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Don't buy it if it looks like it's got issues. I bought 9 Giant Spider Lily plants (Hymenocallis 'Tropical Giant') from a local nursery, and it turns out they were infested with some weird larvae. The leaves turned yellow and flopped down, eventually seeming to rot. The nursery was awesome and refunded me for all of them (even when I told them they hadn't all shown evidence of the infestation), but they looked sketchy before I even took them home. Don't buy sketchy looking plants.

Sprinkler systems breed complacency. Apparently mine has been broken for at least 2 weeks, but I just assumed it was working because...that's its job. Then I looked out the kitchen window Friday morning and realized my grass was nearly cooked. I plan to pull all that up eventually (see posts about drainage, dry creek beds, etc) but I'd prefer to choose the timetable rather than have it thrust upon me. [Hint: July/August wasn't going to be it.] I ran to Home Depot and got a regular old sprinkler, and have spent the last 24 hours moving it around to various spots in the front and side lawn. I will do so again tonight when it cools down. Yay.

The front bed needs some edits. Salvia 'Amistad' is too tall for the front edge. Irises not getting enough sun under Oak tree. 'Azure' Bush Germander needs relocating from full shade (what was I thinking??). 'Lafter' roses...I don't want to talk about them. In fact, none of my roses are worth talking about and that is disappointing.

You can't transplant Rosemary. That's all there is to say about that.

Squirrels suck. Still.

In other news, I have finished a large portion of the edging in the backyard. I haven't replaced the brick yet (see alternate blog post title for explanation), but this is progress!
That's right: I've figured out how to use the panoramic option on my iPhone.
A focused look at the corner bed against the house
I need to figure out what's going to replace the Tree Ferns. I bought a Napaea dioica (Nappy-headed Glade Mallow) but of course it's tiny right now. I suspect I'll soon need to replace that Fatsia, however. I really want to hide that corner and the metal pipe on the siding. And the siding (period).

Clearly I'm still working on my panoramic technique...

I feel like the Salvia 'Puerto de la Zorra' and Philippine Violet (Barleria Cristata) are taking FOREVER to get to a respectable size. I hate looking at the fence. Thankfully, the new Fatshedera lizei 'Annemeike' seem to be tolerating the heat well so far and I'm optimistic I'll get some vertical action sometime in the not-too-distant future.

While we're talking about things I hate, I'm tired of looking at all the cracked dirt/earth back there. Sooooo, my big plan for that area of the backyard, with a Halloween deadline for accountability:

  1. Remove sod/dirt
  2. Put down decomposed granite
  3. Put down some big limestone or cement pavers and create a seating area
  4. Buy a firepit