Thursday, March 26, 2020

Starting Over

New house, new garden! I purchased a house in Pflugerville, Texas this January. I love the neighborhood and the city! My home is adorable and sweet, and the lot is just under 1/4 acre so I’ve got a little room to work with.

Both the home and the yard have suffered a little neglect, and I’ve been busting at the seams to get a flower bed or two in the back before summer begins! I squeaked in my plant purchases and a bulk dirt delivery just before the stay-at-home order was issued, whew! (If you’re reading this from the future, google “COVID-19”, and then let, me know how it ends.)

Words aren’t coming to me this morning, so I’ll just post pictures. Here’s some “before”:

These are realtor pics from when the house was on the market, which make it look MUCH bigger than it is. It’s long for sure, but that patio is about 16 feet away from the back fence. (There’s more, but we’ll get to that another day.)

Since I had a lot of time between closing and move in, I started a plan on paper. First time doing that in my life!!

I outlined the beds with flags and string first, just to make sure I didn’t hate it and it didn’t feel cramped or awkwardly shaped.

(I also got some trees for privacy and structure! Another post.)

I knew I had neither the time nor the money to do it all at once, so I decided to focus on the beds closest to the house. Then I got edging and laid it down:

Left bed 1

Left bed 2

Left bed 3

Right bed
The soil was delivered Tuesday, and here’s where things stood as of Tuesday night:

Left bed

Right bed

I started planting the left bed last night, and will probably do the right side tonight. I have a few more plants on the way via mail order, so I’ll take post again when it’s all in the ground!

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!