Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Structure of Clematis

Clematis is a stunner when its blooming. The attractive star shaped leaves really make a statement in the garden. And it comes in various colors with and without stripes. It's blossoms also stand up better against the strong West Texas winds than my roses which often end up covering the ground in shades of pink and white.
Once the flowers are gone round seed heads form and they, in themselves, are worth checking out. The ball-like seed heads are architecturally attractive to view and exist throughout most of the summer.
I'd grow clematis simply for the seed heads. The plants never seem to grow much taller nor bigger year after year and I suppose that's because of the semi-arid landscape here.Still, they're worth having in the garden.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Dilly of a Plant

Do you have dill in your garden? I hope so. It's such a great plant. Architecturally it form attractive yellowish-green seed heads that are sort of umbrella shaped. It has a nice scent when brushed up against or when one runs their hands over the plant. It adds height to the garden and has a light, feathery stalk and leaves. There are tall varieties and dwarf varieties to fit any garden size.And if you like salmon (which I don't) you can use it kitchen in various recipes and salads. The number one reason I grow dill, however, is for it beneficial aspects with garden bugs.

Caterpillars and lady bug larvae love it! They use the plant for a food source and for laying their eggs. Since they prefer it to other plants in my garden sacrificing the dill saves other plants in the garden I much prefer in a more pristine state.

 The bugs get a healthy plant to complete their life cycle and I get butterflies and lady bugs throughout the summer. Bonus, the dill reseeds itself each year. It's not invasive at all. If it reseeds in the grass you can just run the mower over it. Double bonus, if I'm careful and quick about it I can gently stroke a caterpillar's head.

As someone who's terrified of bugs that's pretty bold for me. If you aren't going dill in your garden you should consider it. Its an organic way to help your garden stay in balance, remain healthy and who doesn't want butterflies flitting around among your flowers?
Got to pet this handsome fellow's head a few times. He doesn't particularly care for it, rearing his head back to glare up at me indignantly. Well, I guess he's staring. Can't really make out any eyes on his head with all the stripes and dots. Pretty sure there's a pair of eyes hidden in there somewhere.

 The caterpillar is pretty obvious but can you spot the lady bug in the photo above?

It was impossible to get a sharp photo of the lady bug larvae with my phone camera but you can kind of make out their dark shapes. The larvae are rather ugly and creepy looking. The first time I saw them was in my old rental home. The first spring there I discovered swarms of them in the side garden, freaked out not knowing what they were and killed them all with insecticide. I felt awful later when I realized what I'd done. I make a point of protecting the larvae now. I know folks who have to buy lady bug beetles but I get free ones each year thanks to providing a space for them in my garden with the right combination of plants.

[Correction:  There were a few lady bug larvae on the dill but the ones pictured here developed into caterpillars instead. Couldn't get a decent shot of the lady bug ones.]

Those black specks are more lady bug larvae eating their way to maturity.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June Begins With Abundance

Summer suddenly arrived on June 1st. The temperatures are rising, the rain chances are low to non-existent, and the mosquitoes are huge. Seriously, the mosquitoes are swarming everywhere. I tried deadheading plants last evening and had to give up due to all the bugs. The ever present wind has helped a bit in keeping the blood suckers at bay but not by much. Hopefully the city will FINALLY start spraying now that the rain has abated. Meanwhile, the strolling garden is going gangbusters with color and flowers.
The roses, larkspur, nepeta, dayliles and coreopsis, salvias, and scabiosa plants are blooming their little hearts out. The fertilizer I put out at the beginning of May coupled with more than 9 inches of above average rain made the plants the healthiest and fulliest in years.
The catnip is running rampant throughout the garden. I'm partly to blame since I've been transplanting it. Yes, I know it's a type of mint and mint can be a menace when planted in the ground due to its spreading tendancies. However, I never expected it to keep spreading and reseeding the way it has. I've transplanted some of it to give away to friends with felines of their own. Penny the Pill, my chubby ginger and white cat, barely gives it a sniff, and my elderly part Siamese part Tabby cat Symon likes it but can't consume that much. Getting old sucks, my furry little friend. He doesn't even get silly and cross eyed much anymore either.
 A windy view through one of the rose arbors. Annoyingly, the late snow storm and freeze in early March killed off any chances of apples, pears and plums on my young fruit trees. The peach tree, pictured in the upper right of this photo, does have several furry little football-shaped peaches still growing. I might be able to taste a rip one this year assuming we don't get anymore nasty wind storms before then.
The larkspur is gorgeous and rampant and at this very moment I'm sure its plotting reseeding everyone ridiculous spot it can think of. Good thing its so easy to pull out from the ground when not wanted.
The lilies are back! I haven't seen these beauties in a few years due to the drought. I lost the 5 foot deep maroon Asiatics I'd transplanted from my last home and it appears over half of the 50 or so bulbs I've planted over the years are gone too. But some of the remaining stalks are looking healthy and small little buds are popping up now so I have more of these lovelies to look forward to this summer.
The abundant rain has also revived this one Climbing America rosebush. Its been so scraggly looking for the past two years, unlike the pair planted behind it. The three bushes form a triangle arbor space under which I have a chair I like to relax in in the early morning before the yard gets too hot. You can clearly see the new growth compared to the thin growth above. I highly recommend this climbing rose. It's strong canes can withstand the whipping winds of West Texas, its leaves are a deep glossy green, and the lovely pink blossoms have such a lovely strong scent. I have a fourth one planted on the other side of the yard next to one of the arbors.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Drought's Over

May was a wild and wet month. Unusual amounts of rain and its persistence throughout the month made this May the second wettest in Lubbock history. Many other parts of Texas and Oklahoma saw unusually heavy rainfall as well. Most of Texas is no longer classified as being under drought conditions anymore, which is a blessing after four long, very dry years.We had bouts of flooding throughout the month but the city's drainage system did its job in diverting the overflow into our playa lake system. As someone who loves rain this month has been the best one in a very long time. The local cotton farmers aren't happy with their fields being so damp but if the fields can dry out before the June 5th deadline for planting all this rain might be a major windfall for them this season.
Here some photos taken in early May of my backyard garden shortly before an evening storm rolled in and lit up the sky with lightning and thunder.
The photos are a little blurry, unfortunately, but with wind being a constant in West Texas it is hard to find a non-windy day to take photos. The grass hasn't yet greened up and filled it. That's certainly not the case by the end of the month.
 Incidentally, these images were taken close to 9 pm and the sky was so amazingly light for such a late hour.
Here's hoping we continue to get some rainfall in June too. I only had to run the sprinkler system once in May. How awesome is that!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lubbock Arboretum Plant Sale 2015

Despite the wind the Lubbock Memorial Arboretum was able to host another successful plant sale. The spring plant sale is their annual fundraiser that helps keep the arboretum, which is run by volunteers, going.
I planned only to buy one plant as a way of showing my support for the place but as usually ended up buying several in addition to 8 packets of flower seeds (they were only 25 cents each) and a practically new cottage garden book. What a deal!
After paying for the plants and tucking them into the car I headed back into the arboretum to explore the grounds. My favorite spot was the wildflower garden with its curving gravel pathways. It was established in 2013 in honor of two of their volunteers. There were several gardens, from the size of a small pocket rock bed to the large wildflower beds, that had been created in honor of someone and plaques were attached to rock formations nearby. I suspect those honored either paid for their gardens or their family did.
Many of the wildflowers have not yet bloomed. I'll have to come back next month and take new photos. I bet this garden is spectacular when in full bloom. 
 I really like the use of rocks, flagstone and gravel throughout the gardens. The Arboretum is definitely a strolling-type garden and several other people were walking around checking out the flowers.
 I hadn't realize how far back the grounds went and was delighted to find several sitting ares with stone benches and pergolas.
This was a grouping of 6 large stone seats with an open circular place in front that seemed made for hosting a small wedding or a small church sermon. The trees surrounding it have not yet filled out with leaves.
 Some of flowers were in bloom already. Pictured here are hardy Gladiolas and Irises. The Winecups next to the Irises haven't yet sent up flower buds but they must be close.
These pink Evening Primroses are doing well in the semi-shade. I've killed it in my own garden the two times I tried growing it. 
The few Poppies that were blooming were gorgeous. I bought some poppy seeds in the sale so fingers crossed I'll have some next year in my garden.
Finally, the irises lovely. I especially liked the black one with gold specks that seemed to shimmer. Took a photo of it but it doesn't show off the glow well so I uploaded this one instead.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Scented Irises

The Iris display this year has been good. Generally 20-25% of the irises bloom while the remainder give me nothing but leaves. Don't know why. Even after dividing and transplanting that ratio seems to hold up.
Only 1 Dutch Iris bloomed this year. The other five bulbs probably died due to the prolonged drought.
The surprise has been the reminder that the majority of the tall purple irises blooming are scented. Heavily scented to my delight. They were pass along plants from a colleague who think they might have been "Memphis Belle" irises. 
 This lovely pink iris was another pass along from a different colleague. Unfortunately it's planted underneath what is now a 7 foot tall rose bush and not getting enough sunlight. Guess I'll have to dig it up in the fall and move it.
The other purple iris I have is a smaller one, faintly scented one that grows between 12-15 inches tall. It's not very impressive. The local Garden and Art Center is having their annual plant sale next weekend and I plan to dig up some irises and daylilies to donate to the sale. Particularly the daylilies, which have run amuck everywhere. Since I'm not certain what color the unblooming irises are I'll just have to label them purple since 90 % of the blooming ones over the years have been purple. Don't think the plant sale folks will care since they specifically asked me last year for irises. Plus, maybe I'll get lucky and find a different colored one at the plant sale. Would love to have more pink ones and add yellow ones to the strolling garden.

Pinks in the Cottage Garden

A flower that fits perfectly in a cottage style garden is Dianthus, commonly called Pinks. They can be perennials in many places.
And they're filly flowers are so cheerful and attractive to butterflies, Hummingbirds, and Hummingbird moths.
Sadly, they don't seem to survive here in West Texas for longer than 2-3 years. I suspect the hard water has something to do with that.
I got several pots on clearance for $1 in late fall at Lowe's and not only did they survive but they're blooming like crazy.
They also have a nice spicy clove scent. Every cottage garden should have scented flowers. More so when one has a strolling garden that's meant to be traveled regularly.
 Have you planted any pinks in your garden?

Climbing Clematis

Spring came to my garden while I was away for working. The clematis are doing well this year and are covered with buds.
 I planted two varieties at the base of a Climbing America rose bush several years ago. They really haven't grown as tall as I expected but the blossoms are so lovely I don't care.
 I think the purple one is H. F Young but I can't remember what the white one was. The number of blossoms this year is another sign that perhaps we've finally come out of the severe drought cycle and returned to the normal precipitation cycle in West Texas.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Budding Out

The end of March is almost here and the garden is seeing its first signs of color. The three varieties of daffodils have started blooming in the beds.
It's always a nice treat when bulbs, forgotten from the previous seasons, reappear to show off their glory. 
The trees have also all flowered. I'd forgotten how pungent the fruit-less Cleveland Pear tree's blossoms could get. But then they only linger around for about 2 weeks, thank goodness. Pretty flowers, stinky smell.
The pink blossoms of the dwarf peach tree are small but lovely and make a nice contrast with the shiny green leaves.
The clematis already has several buds on it. The gladiola bulbs have broken ground as have the lilies. Yesterday was a productive day in the garden. Planted a small Gala apple tree near last year's Yellow Delicious apple true. They might be planted a little too closely but we'll see. My tiny backyard is getting rather full and there won't be much planting space for large bushes and trees soon. Despite that, I'll probably try to cram another dwarf tree in a bare spot by the back gate. I was also able to divide several Pincushion plants, Salvias, and Tickseeds and replant them. Next month I'll need to divide up some of the Iris and daylilies to donate to the Garden and Arts Center's annual plant sale.

My plans for taking additional photos today was derailed by strong winds so I'll defer that to another day.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

So Ready for Spring

Today's a little chillier than I expected and the sun disappeared after about an hour. Gray clouds have moved in so the 20% chance of rain might actually happen tonight. I am so ready for spring to be here so I can start planting seeds and visiting the nurseries. Meanwhile, these vivid garden stakes will have to bring color to the otherwise dull landscape. Got the pair for a steal at Ross. Found one exactly like them last year though unfortunately the color has faded away to a coppery tone.
The first of the daffodils began blooming today. Two whole flowers with more to come. [This picture is supposed to be horizontal. For some bizarre reason Blogger turned it into a vertical image. Very annoying]
2015 is looking good precipitation-wise so far. More rain is predicted this week. Hoping it continues and later this spring I can begin replacing the lily bulbs that dried up during the drought. No cottage garden is complete without scented lilies. Also have selected bare spots in the garden for more miniature roses, which have become a favorite. Looks like this week's snow killed one of the two mini roses I planted in early fall. And of course it was the peachy-pink toned one that I like best of the two. Oh well, just means I get to do more plant shopping soon.


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