Sunday, August 14, 2011

Garden update

Wow, I did not realize how much time had passed since my last garden post.  Texas is still in pretty bad shape water-wise. According to the weather channel the state is about 73% in drought. There's even talk of one town reclaiming their sewage water for recycling for human use [Ewwww! Thank goodness it's not here.]  Many of our playa lakes have dried up or are on the verge of drying up. It's quite sad to drive by and see the birds scratching around searching for water. The two bird baths in my back garden are quite popular. I've had to place a large rock inside one to keep the larger birds from splash out half of the water as they bath themselves. Grackles are particulary messy and loud visitors. We finally received rain this past Thursday. Around 2-3 inches within an hour. We had only received 1.25 inches of the 12 inches we normally received by August when this latest ran occured. Talk about a god send! Now if only we could get more. My uncle in Florida offered to send some our way but unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

Another large problem that the drought has caused is the insurgence of the ant population. They're everywhere, in swarms, to the point where you can't walk with them all over the ground. Many people have had problems with them invading their homes in search of water. The organic ant bait I put out worked for about two days. The strong mint smell brought tears to my eyes but barely effected the ants. Go figure. Two weeks later I put out a ton of heavy duty ant/bug bait. That worked for about two weeks. The ants have bounced back so I guess I'll be baiting again soon. I estimate that about 80% of the "drought tolerant" plants I put in this spring have died. The picture below shows one bed's decline in July. Most of the daylilies have died. Thankfully others in more shaded spots are still hanging on so I should have some to transplant in the fall when the temperatures get below the 100s.
Despite the drought there have been some plants that are still blooming and charging on. This plant came up beside one of the Veronicas. I have no idea what it is and I'm hoping it's from one of the wildflower seed packets I scattered this spring and not some noxious weed taking hold of a flower bed.
I planted a ton of gladiolas this spring. Not even 10 have bloomed. Most of them had dried up before a bloom could appear. This peach one was lovely, pity the rest didn't make it.
I received twenty Costco mixed lily bulbs from one of my best friends. About half bloomed. The other half dried up before the stalks could really form strong leaves. Two of the ones pictured below made it and looked really nice mixed in with the Larkspur and Veronica. Hopefully they'll come back next year as lilies are my favorite flower.
Just about every herb I've planted I've killed. Whether I ignore it or baby it, I generally kill herbs. This oregano plant tucked underneath the plants above actually seems happy with it's location. It's spread over the edge of the pavers and has produced delicate little pink flowers that stand out underneath the taller plants.
Verbena is another plant that doesn't live more than two months in my garden, so I was quite happy to discover this little section had reseeded itself and bloomed just to the left of the oregano. This whole bed is in shade in the late afternoon and I suspect that's part of why several of the plants have done well during this miserable summer.
Behind the oregano is this Veronica Speedwell which has come back from last year. It's done quite well this summer and I've got to remember to buy more of these next time I go to the nursery. The chartreuse green and vivid purple make a very striking combination. The Larkspur has been hands down the best performer this spring through summer. I scattered the seeds all around so hopefully some will return next year.
Some of the dayliles bloomed well in June and mid-July. After that several died completely to the roots. The ones below are still hanging on. "Grape Magic's" large colorful blooms stand out across the yard.
However, I think my favorite this year is the "Romantic Rose" daylilies I planted this spring. I'd really like to spread these around the yard in the future. It's such a soft rose color that blends well with other colors.
The majority of the "Grape Magic" blooms are washed out due to the intense heat and sunglight of this summer.
The "Ditch Lilies" are probably the best performers of the dayliles in the garden. They've stood up to strong winds, intense heat and drought... and this one large plant has four babies coming up behind it. Now this is a plant worth growing in the garden.
Lastly, two of the three Rose of Sharon plants finally started to bloom at the end of July, despite the bushes dropping many of their leaves.
Morning Glory continues to reseed and grow no matter how much I pull them out. Love the flowers but hate the way the vines choke everything around them.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Through the Central Arbor

Yay, I can log back into Blogger to post! Well, we're on day 4 of a 5 day 100+ temperature heat wave and the flying dirt today has put a kobosh on any outside activities. On an upnote, there's two days in the upcoming week that have a 10-20% chance of rain, so that's exciting. The fourth of July fireworks and concert have already been cancelled due to the fire hazards and we desperately need any precipitation we can get. The gardens are starting to look ratty, unfortunately. Maybe some rain will help perk things up.

Three weeks ago the garden was still looking pretty good. This is looking east through the central arbor. The Knockout roses bloomed their little hearts out and probably need a little haircut now. The Shasta Daisies transplanted last fall put on a great show and grew almost three feet tall. I'm going to have to split it again in the fall or the small path through the arbor will be blocked off. I dug up, well tried to dig up, the Russian Sage on the right hand side which had grown out of control and was supressing everything around it. Still have shoots coming up here and there that have to be pulled out. Think I'll be doing that to the one on left next spring.
The Herb Circle has very little herb. The heat wave fried all the parsley, cilantro and basil seedlings that were coming up. I might as well call it the Blanket flower/daylily circle. Have to say though that Gaillardias have fast become a favorite of mine in the garden. The two water troughs have been heavily visited by the birds this summer so I've been trying to make sure they're filled in the mornings and evenings.
The dayliles transplanted in the fall are doing well around the central arbor. The Shasta Daisies planted behind the rose bush had spindly flowers and stems don't seem as strong as those on the bush on the other side of the arbor.
The Pinata Rose put out less flowers than last year. There also seems to be less yellows and light oranges than previously too. Wonder if this was caused by the drought. The winds have caused the flowers to be ratty looking too.
Happy to say the Hyssop came back on one leg of the arbor and multiplied. The lime green leaves are stunning against the surrounding darker greens. And the bees and butterflies really enjoy the light purple flower stalks.
This little peach daylily is one of my favorites. Don't remember where it came from and there's only one or two in the garden so I'm hoping they will multiply... which they should do if there's every any rain! The rose to the left is on the Pinata bush.
Here's the view looking west.
Like everyone else in town, I ventured into the shops to stay out of the heat. And lucky I did too as I got this cute little side table for a steal ($5)! There's a small chip around one edge but who cares. It's got just enough weight to it to not be knocked over by the winds... at least not yet.
Someday when the weather cools down and we get rain, I will be able to sit here with a cold glass of tea and enjoy the view.   

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fertilizer Friday - June 10, 2011

Today was an awesome day. By 5 pm the skies were dark, rolling thunder could be heard and then... it rained! The rain was thorough enough to give the ground a good soaking. It lasted less than half an hour but this was the most rain my garden has seen since October. I'd say it was at least a 1/3 of an inch that fell. Now if only we can get this at least once a week for the rest of the summer. Temperatures have been over the 100 mark numerous times in the past two weeks.

The strolling garden has been struggling under the intense heat and strong winds. I can't recall a spring/summer that has been this bad in the years that I've lived in West Texas. The rain today might be enough to prevent us from breaking the long standing record for drought here.

Below are some photos of the lilies that have bloomed in the last two weeks. This lemony-yellow Asiatic Lily is a lot lighter in person but I had to wait until dusk or early morning to snap the images due to the strong sunlight the rest of the time.
Sadly this lovely lily got some dirt splashed up on the petals during a very brief "mud storm" we received. A mud storm involves a lot of flying dirt, strong winds and very little rain. 
The lily above and this pink one with creamy centers were part of a summer lily packet one of my best friends sent me from Costco. The ones that have bloomed so far are wonderful. The winds have caused the pollen to stain most of the petals so I was not able to get really good blossom shots, unfortuantely. Also, several of the lilies have fried on the stalks so I don't know what they would have looked like. I'm hoping the bulbs of those can survive and rebloom next year. But without the stalks to photosynthesize the bulbs that's probably not going to happen.  :[
I think this might be one of the "Romantic Rose" daylilies I planted two months ago. It's kind of fried in this image but the petals should be more flat and lighter pink.
I can't remember the name of this daylily, which was waving so much in the wind I couldn't get a clear shot of it. Poor thing also really got hit with the pollen.
This daylily also got the pollen treatment. This one was bought at Home Depot and the tag was wrong because the one pictured was a bright pink with a picoteed center. So I don't know the correct name of it. However, it's a fabulous plant. It has a nice soft fragrance if you lean down close to it and it's a repeat bloomer. I think I read once that only maybe 10 percent of daylilies have a fragrance and are rebloomers. I was able to make divisions after the first year and hope to do some more this fall.
I'm not sure where I got this one from. Maybe from a colleague. Small blossom but fun punch of color.
This Asiatic Lily might be from the Costco packet. I don't recall seeing it before. Deep maroon color.
This beautiful deep orange-red Asiatic Lily is definately from the Costco packet. It's color would beckon me to come across the yard to get a closer look.
This one should be a darker maron color. The drying winds have stripped it of its color and petals. As this is the tallest of my asiatic lilies, not one of them a blossom that was able to keep all it petals long enough for me to photograph it. None of them grew as tall as previous years either, staying at least six inches under their normal 4 ft height.
The wind also ripped off several stalks of the "Ditch Lilies" in the spring and I wasn't sure I'd get any blossoms this year. Luckily several stalks shot up and replaced the ones I had to remove. These are the tallest of my daylilies and were given by a friend. She said these were called "Ditch Lilies" in the south because they grew wild in ditches along the side of roads. Hope to make some divisions of these in the fall.
After the much welcomed rain ceased, albeit way too soon, a promising rainbow shone in the sky.
Visit Tootsie Time to see who else is participating in "Fertilizer Friday" and showing off what's blooming in their gardens.

Monday, May 30, 2011


The three-day Memorial weekend was a waste for this gardener. It's been three days of 100+ temperatures and starting last night through today we've had strong winds whipping around, draining moisture from everything. I was able to deadhead and do some handwatering for about 2 hours early in the morning but that's about it. Even at 8 at night the high temperatures are holding so I've not been able to sit in the cottage bench with a cold iced tea and enjoy the view. Heck, even the birds seem to be hiding from the heat. I have been diligent in filling up the bird baths for the poor things.
Strolling by the beds I realized that the intense, non-stop heat has really done a number on my garden. Several of the Asiatic Lilies, most of which were planted this spring, have burns on the upper leaves. Less than half of these damaged lilies have been able to complete the flowering process. Only one flower bud survived on this stem. These two have afternoon shade and still they baked. 
In the ten years I've gardened in West Texas I've never had this difficult of a time with my plants. Several plants have already croaked, despite hand watering in the late evenings. About half the seeds I planted never took. The 15-25 cilantro and parsley seedlings were doing good then just turned brown and died this weekend. On the roses several of the leaves are turning into a crisp. The miniature rose above has the most incredible pink roses and I've been babying it in the hopes it will survive. It's twin is down to two stems and hardly any leaves. Wah! 
 A large patch of dayliles are suffering too. The buds are turning brown, drying out and falling off. The leaves are also turning yellow. Never had this happen before and I don't know if it's because of lack of water or the lack of rainwater - there's a difference because our water is hard. Rainwater is important because it doesn't have all the salt. And with barely an inch in almost 8 months the garden has been relying almost solely on our groundwater.
The buds on these Shasta Daisies are not doing so well either. They were divided last year to make two clumps. The other clump, which is literally maybe three feet from this clump is doing great. Both are getting handwater but I don't know why the first clump is not doing so well. At least it's leaves and stems are healthy. These plants are really important to the garden. They add height, coming in around three feet tall, add brightness in the evenings, and the butterflies love to land on the blossoms. So far there is definately a lack of butterflies compared to previous years. My dill plant actually matured and bloomed because there were no large groups of caterpillars munching on it. Love that the plant is doing well but I sure do miss the butterflies.
The holleyhocks are all shorter than previous years. None have gotten more than 4 feet tall. Normally the stalks and their flowers can be seen over the top of the 6 feet tall fence. A few of the stalks also split and collapsed this weekend, probably from the deadly combination of heat, wind and no rain.

On the upside, there's a 20% chance of rain tonight through tomorrow evening. That's huge around here. So, fingers crossed for a good, long shower with no hail. Life requires water... and a healthy garden requires life. Butterflies, bees and bird bring a garden to life. So, bring on the rain... PLEASE!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Arkansas Part 2

Little Rock had several fun things to see and do. Here's a few highlights from my brief visit:
The Peabody Hotel's famous marching ducks were a lot of fun to watch. They were very personable and obviously used to people. You could sit on the fountain ledge really close to the stairs and they would walk up the stairs and flirt with you. Though one time this duck [pictured below] filled up with water and I swear I think she briefly considered squirting me before swallowing!
The friendly Duck Master lines the male and 4 females up each day at 11 am and 5 pm.
 The Dr. Seuss banner on the Clinton Library was a surprise considering the location. Good for them having a fun family friendly exhibit.
We headed off to a short side trip to Hot Springs, despite the rain, thunder and lightening. It was a surprise to learn that Arkansas was famous for its hot springs, bath houses and that for years the rich and famous came here to relax and heal. 
Many of the historic, beautiful buildings have been restored.

This building served as a visitor's center and you could go through the various floors and see how men and women used the bath houses in the past. They had separate bathing, message and parlor rooms.
An amazing stained glass ceiling in the building above.
This stone overlook was terraced and gave visitors different views down onto Bath House Row.
Off to the side of the stone steps were some small grottos with steaming water from the hot springs. Apparently the waters used to flow around this area but were capped off at some point.
Okay, can't sightsee without looking out for plants. The magnolias along Bath House Row were beautiful. I miss them. They can grow in West Texas but don't really prosper so well. The Hot Springs ones were obviously very happy and were full of blossoms. Even in the rain their scents were noticeable as you got close to the trees.
On the level of the stone staircase were these wild roses blooming. I started to go over to see if they had a scent then reconsidered, just in case a snake was in the tall grasses.
Have no idea what this plant was but the airy stalks and white popped in the gloomy atmosphere. I thought it might be Queen Anne's Lace but the heads didn't seem wide enough.
It was gray and gloomy, with rain off and on. There was an incredible mist up on the mountains that I had never seen in person before. And then up on the hill was this tall imposing structure. My friend thought it was a rehabilitation hospital. All I saw was insane asylum with a mad doctor in the window crazily laughing. Totally a perfect movie location for a psycho film. [No offense to anyone working at this place or having healed there.]


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