Sunday, April 24, 2011

Looking Back Part I

I ran across some photos of the garden from two years ago and thought it would be fun to do a "Then and Now" post.  This is my fourth year in my new home and the lot is the usual small city size.  Part of the reason I decided to do a strolling garden is that I thought by breaking up the space and making it so that one would have to walk through the bed that yard would feel larger than it actually is. Granted, the poor folks who mow the yard probably look at it, shake their heads and mutter four letter words under their breath every time they visit... usually because I've dug up a new path or bed since the last time the visited. I don't know what I'm going to do when the yard is finally all dug up and planted. I'll probably have to buy a new home then. Course, I'd then have to figure out how I'm going to drag hundreds of bulbs and plants to the new home... hmmm, maybe it would be worth it to stay in the current home for a big longer. But I digress.
The above view is looking south through the west arbor. The garden is two years old (2009) and the beds are small. The Bermuda grass [which I hate incidentally] is looking really nice and green here. Obviously there was a good amount of rain in 2009. One thing I tried to stick with since the start was to have as many perennials and bulbs as possible so that the garden would become more lush over time. I have been able to divide many of the plants over the years and move the freebies around the gardens, front and back.
This is what the back beds looked like in 2009.  The bed is a sideways U shape. The west arbor is in front of this bed and you have to walk around to the back bed. I realized this year that I should have made the path from the arbor straight through to the back bed with one long bed on the side. But I didn't want to dig up all the iris bulbs, salvias, snapdragons and other bulbs to continue the path. I should have planned this better from the start. Oh well, c'est la vie. 
This is the west arbor today. The beds have been expanded, and will be expanded even more along the fence in the years to come. It's slow going as the Bermuda and clay soil is really tough to cut through. The bird bath had to be moved over a bit so that a lawn mower can get through to the cut the  lawn on the pathway. Hence the unsightly dirt square. Ignore the red basket on the left, those are new plants waiting to be planted. If only planting were as fun as buying and reading about plants!

The birdbath is also kind of sad looking. It was a solar one that I bought from QVC two years ago. It worked great for a year, then hail smashed the solar panel. The replacement panel I purchased ran for about two weeks than completely quit. So the birds have had to settle for a plain ole water bowl with a rock to land on. They frequent it heavily, especially since there is little water in the area available. Still, I miss the sound of the bubbling water. I've always been a little worried about having an electric fountain running and there being a fire or short when bad weather occurs and the solar birdbath solved that problem. Maybe someday I can get another moving fountain. Meanwhile, need to find something to cut down the algae or whatever it is growing in the fountain. Yuck!
A look at the curved walkway under the west arbor. Love the little pavers I found at Lowes. They were only $0.39 each and light enough to easily move around. Unfortunately Lowes has been out of these the last two times I've visited. I hope that doesn't mean they stopped carrying the pavers. I still have a lot of pathway to edge. The Climbing America is two years old and doing well. The larkspur came back from last year - yay! - and is just this weekend starting to bloom. I love this plant and have started putting out seed in other places. The white Rose of Sharon behind the rose bush is not doing well this year, though. Boo!
The white salvias sure do put on a show and help light up the space at dusk. I've made a point of adding more white and light colored plants this year to prolong the time I can enjoy the garden. If the wind doesn't get you here in West Texas the extreme heat of the day will. Late evening and early morning are really the best and sometimes only times you can enjoy the garden. I had planted a purple plum tree the second week I was in the house for shade but the neighbor's dog dug under the fence and killed it... and several other plants along with that. Later that summer I bought a corkscrew willow from my school's greenhouse sale with the hopes that it would add some shade. Yeah, the tree [see below] is still not that big. It's really cool and adds nice movement in the wind, but doesn't seem to be growing all that tall. It's a willow, the sucker should have doubled by now, darn it.
Here you can kind of see the back bed, the curved pathway in front of it and the long bed that edges the curved pathway. The daylilies, asiatic and oriental lilies and minature roses are in full swing. The yellow achillea was a little seedling I found growing in the grass near the mother plant and transplanted to this bed. I took a year but it's now blooming and doing well. I love free plants!
This view is from the curved pathway looking north, towards the house. You can see in from this vantage point that the yard really isn't all the deep. The large yellow achillea in the upper left corner is the mother of the seedling plant. All the daylilies are filling out and should start blooming in a month or so. Several of these are pass-along plants from my friend Lyn. Her plants are so vigorous and healthy, better than any I buy from the store it seems. Every gardener should have a friend like that  :}
And in celebration of Easter, here's the bunny that watches over my garden. He's a little rotund and has a good sense of humor. The sunglasses were courtesy of one of the lawn crew, or at least that's who I think put them there. They just appeared one day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Lull in the Gale

The early hours of this morning were marked by loud, howling winds. I'm a light sleeper so it probably bothered me more than others in the neighborhood. However, it was a nice surprise to find that by 11 am the wind had slowed down enough that I could go work in the beds without flying dirt and gravel hitting me. It was a bit chilly but as the day went on it got rather pleasant. I guess the wind changed direction or something because it didn't seem to be more than 15 miles a hour. So, for the first time in over a week I got to play in the dirt. Wahoo!

This trumpet vine is so lovely and a survivor. It's on the east fence and battles winds, which repeatedly rip it off the fence, and the neighbor's dogs which jump up on the fence from the other side. The winds cause it to get all tangled up and not drape over the fence where it can stretch out and grow... or perhaps my neighbors don't like it and are pushing it back over the fence? Who knows. I originally planted it on this part of the fence to help anchor it as the dogs and wind were causing the fence to lean back a little. Whatever the reason, it's such a lovely plant. Love the apricot-y color with the yellow center.
Actually took this photo the evening before, when there was a lull in the gale. Isn't this a gorgeous blue?
This cheerful pink dianthus came back and is nestled underneath some other plants. The color is actually a lot brighter than in the photo.
Okay, this is the front bed clematis that needs to be transplanted in the fall. It really followed the say that it leaps in the third year. It's covered with buds and the three mini-trellises are not enough to support it. The bed is a very small strip between the garage and walkway and is only about a 1 foot deep, so I can't get a big trellis in the bed. I THINK this might be the H. F. Young Clematis but don't quote me on that. That's the only clematis tag I've found so far going through the containers filled with old plant tags.
I THINK this is the Bridal Wreath Spirea plant I planted last year. It's so lovely with all its small white clusters of flowers and it's a shame it only blooms for a short time... which unfortunately for this year is during high winds when I can't really get to enjoy it like I wish I could.

There's a lot more blooming in the strolling garden and I hope to get more pictures up this coming week.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Wind does not want to go

One of the best comedy skits ever done was Carol Burnett's "The Wind Done Gone" and boy do we here in West Texas sure wish the wind done gone. But she's still lingering around, refusing to budge for long. Today has been a particularly ugly day throughout Texas as the local news just reported that seven counties were battling wildfires. The weather forecast shows winds through most of the upcoming week. We're suppose to finally catch a break on Friday. Ugh, what a waste of days during which I could be gardening.

During those few times in the day when the wind is catching its breath, I'll wander out into the garden to see what's happening. So much is blooming, it's as if a switch was turned on and everything went into overdrive. The irises have started blooming which is unfortunate as the winds are causing the petals to curl into themselves. I managed to peel back some of them to get a few shots. The three below are passlongs from a friend's garden.
We have no idea of their names, if they had any, so I just call them Lyn's Irises. The first one is the shorter of the three and the most hardy. I have dug up the bulbs for these, replanted them in another bed and still they bloomed three weeks later. A VERY hardy iris, to say the least. And prolific too, as I've divided them each year to spread around the front and back beds.
This one always makes me crave grape jelly on toast. 
This one is a little more blue and taller than the two above. I only have a few of this variety but hopefully they'll live long and prosper so I can spread them around the garden beds. Their height, along with the striking sword-shaped leaves add vertical interest to the beds. 
The main wind damage I've noticed is to the largest and most full of the four Climbing Americas. Several stalks have literally had their leaves and buds completely ripped off in large sections. It's sad to think of all the roses I won't be seeing due to this. I had around a 100 blossoms on this huge plant last year. I probably should prune these down to where the leaves are but I so hate to cut the plant down.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Very Blustery Day

This week has been so busy with work that not a lot of work has happened in the garden, much to my dismay. It's spring and I want to play in the garden but work calls me away. Hopefully I'll be able to play in the dirt later on this coming week and finish up the edging for the curved strolling beds. The winds are galing today, possibly up to 40 miles an hour according to The Weather Channel. I can believe it. I can hear it wailing around the house and, looking outside the window, I can see the garden whipping around. Watching the 7 foot plus canes of the climbing roses flapping about makes me cringe and send up a prayer to protect my roses. Hey, I've waited months for these suckers to get buds on them again. Since the outdoors are a wash I'm getting my gardening fix by watching old episodes of A Gardener's Diary, Gardening By the Yard, and The Victory Garden that are saved on my DVR. Sure wish I could figure out a way to save these to dvd.
Meanwhile, I thought I'd post a few pictures I took on Saturday night at a banquet. The images were taken at the Wind Power Museum, which owns a very unique and variety collection of windmills and I believe even has it's own wind turbine that produces electricity. During the meal someone pulled open one of the large garage doors that close off the patio entertaining area so that everyone could wait the sun go down behind the windmills. I heard several gasps as people took in the site.
Aside from wind, West Texas is notable for its glorious sunsets. The colors you see are as bright and pastel-y (if there were such a word) as one would see in paintings. Visiting friends from outside of Texas are amazed at the color of our sunsets. Course, if they were here today they would see the other side of our skies - the pinkish-purple haze that occurs when there's high winds and flying dirt. That's truly a part of West Texas life as well.


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