Saturday, March 24, 2012

Do or Do Not - You Can Always Try

I have discovered over the years that many gardening rules can be broken... or at least you try. It might cost you a plant or a few plants but one of the appealing parts of gardening is that it's a living palette and you, as the artist, can move the plants around as much as you like.

I often read that you are only supposed to transplant plants at certain times. Well, I've moved irises around in the spring, summer and fall. And when I bought my first [and so far only] home five years ago, I dug up every bulb I could in my rental cottage to take with me. And boy am I glad I did. The four feet tall magenta asiatic lilies bloomed that summer and I have never found these again in the big box stores. I also haunt the clearance racks of Lowe's regular and have gotten such great deals that I didn't care what month it was when I had to plant it. For example, I got a lovely white rose standard for 75% off at the end of last october and planted it immediately afterwards... and it's doing just fine as the central focal point in the center bed. Can't wait to see it bloom for the first time this spring!

Pictured below: Transplanted lilies and larkspur. All doing just fine in their new homes. Got dirt? Will fill!
If you don't succeed, try, try again.... this circular bed dug two years ago was supposed to be a herb circle. Well, I learned that first year that I can kill more herbs than I can grow. So year two daylilies, gaillardia, and shasta daisies were inserted into the bed along with the parsley, dill and cilantro - the herbs I did succeed in growing. Now it's just the circle bed and this year the dill and parsley are already coming back in full force. The cilantro I've had to reseed. And a beautiful rose bush that I scored for $2.50 from Lowe's along with that rose standard mentioned above made it through winter just fine. Course, we really had a mild winter so I probably just got lucky with this one. 
That plant I saw and wanted... then couldn't find. My co-worker bought a new house right before me and I discovered what looked like striped miniature hollyhocks in her backyard. Before I could make it back over to dig it up - since they were cleaning out this overgrown bed - her hubby had run over it with the mower. No more plant, wah! Two years later I found it at a local nursery and eagerly bought it and planted it along the back fence. This was a pricy plant for me, though I'm sure most folks would find the price reasonable. Anyway, it died by winter, 5 months later. Then I discovered that the nursery on the Texas Tech campus had this plant - the Zebrina mallow - growing in their strolling beds and collected a few seeds. Got nada. In case you're wondering why I didn't order the plant from a nursery the reason is simple - I kill over 50% of all plants I've ever ordered. The odds are just not in my favor. So I try to buy my plants from local nurseries and big box stores, which I know get a bad rap but for a gardener with a small wallet they really are great options for plant buying.

Finally find the mallow seeds at Sutherlands's two falls ago. Plants came up last spring but died down almost to the ground due to the drought. But this year might be my lucky year. Several healthy little plants are growing and I am excited to finally get some purple striped blossoms this summer. Some plants are worth the wait. [I am wondering when they'll finally get taller though. The seed packet said they'd get 3-4 feet tall. So far not even breaking 1 foot.]
Ever wonder why when you scatter seeds that nothing ever comes up or your plants don't reseed like they're supposed to? Maybe it's because you're using mulch. For three years I regularly mulched my beds to keep them clean looking and to keep down the weeds. Last year I didn't get around to it fast enough and bingo! suddenly I have tons of baby plants coming up in the fall and early spring. Pictured below are about 1/3 of the tall coreopsis plants that have reseeded themselves from last fall.

No more heavy mulching of the beds for me! I want my freebies for next year's garden. And I've discovered some plants reseed themselved several feet from their mother plants. For instance, today I dug up 5 purple salvias, 1 maroon scabiosa, and 1 gaillardia babies from the grass walkways and transplanted them into the various flower beds. The salvias particularly are really good about putting out offshoots or babies. More free plants, wahoo!
And sometimes the plant just win. I have tried to dig up this large hollyhock for two summers. The tap root is so deep I can't get it out. So I've decided to just let it flower this year and then try killing it again... and dig out all the reseeded plugs that will obviously result. Meanwhile I guess I'll need to transplant the two pincushion plants being overshadowed by this monster. Seriously, this thing is 3 feet x 3 feet, the widest hollyhock I've grown so far. This is growing around the small patio and this variety of hollyhock has reseeded itself around three sides of the patrio. The seeds get between the concrete and the grass and the tap roots are impossible to pull out. So I'll just go with the flow and enjoy the flowers in the summer... while I quietly plot it's death in the fall.
A few other quips of gardening wisdom. Bermuda grass is evil and always will be. It is next to impossible to remove when I'm creating a new flower bed and then sneaks back in before the season is out. Like coachroaches, you cannot truly kill Bermuda unless you pave over it. So I just have to continue to curse it regularly as I putter around in the beds.

True gardeners are plant collectors. We can't help it. We have to have as much as we can cram in the ground. Got a bare spot to fill? I'll cram a daylily, rose or salvia in it as soon as possible. Course, it will probably involve shoving the garden cat, Penny the Pill, out of the way as I'm doing it because as far as she's concerned a bare spot is grounds for rolling in the dirt... before she waddles over to roll on top of my plants. A fluffy bed of larkspur? Penny finds it to be a very comfortable place for a nap. Funnily enough, she can't stand the catnip which is running amuck in three of my beds. I only planted it in one!

And if you see a plant with the words "The plant you can't kill" written on it just spit on it and keep walking. It's only teasing you. For example, I've killed marigolds more times than I care to admit. I simply cannot grow this plant. And yes, the stupid plants did have that written across the pot. The only reason I want to grow it is that it reminds me of my late granny. She had a green thumb like nobody's business. I've inherited my semi-green thumb from her. So each spring I buy a marigold and hope that this is the year I can get granny's signature plant to grow... but deep down I know I'm going to kill it within 7 weeks. I guess I'm an ever hopefuly optimistic pessimist?

 And last, but not least, you should always wear either sunscreen or a hat while working in the spring/summer garden. A rule I'm constantly guilty of not doing. Yesterday it reached 82 degrees with a soft breeze. It didn't feel hot enough to get a sunburn but my lobster reflection in the mirror says otherwise. I so need some shade in the backyard! Even Penny wanted inside to take her afternoon nap.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Color Green

As of this week we have now had over 1 inch of rain since January and what a difference this year is so far from last year. The color du jour in the strolling garden is green, green and more green. The cloudy days combined with the rare day of soft, drizzly rain and warmer than normal temperatures have done quite a number on the yard. The center bed below was heavily effected by the drought last year and I had though half of the daylilies had died. There's no brown here now. The daylilies are back in full force. The larkspur is reaching for the sky and has developed flower heads this week. The miniature roses are fully leafed out and I spied tiny rose buds on the rose standard in the middle that I managed to get for a steal last November.
This is another view looking back onto the house. The irises have tripled in size and the purple ones in the front year have already started blooming. The large Climbing America rose bush to the left already had clematis growing up it and they already have blossoms on them. The rampant larkspur growing in the middle of the pathway still needs to be transplanted to other spots in the garden beds. It's amazing that all of that came from only three seed packets originally.
This clump of dianthus has been a reliable bloomer two years in a row. I'm sure for most folks that would be no big deal but I somehow manage to kill these after two years. Keeping my fingers crossed this clump makes it to next year. The light pink colors really stand out in the evenings. Pinks, purples, whites and yellows are the main colors I'm planning to add this year. They seem to stand up better to our hot, intense sun during the summer months and lend to the moongarden feeling in the evenings. [oh, the striped thing in the lower corner is my camera cord, not a snake... believe me, I wouldn't have stuck around if it was one of those!]
The first rose blossom of the spring is from the pink Knockout Rose. Have been contemplating digging up all three of my Knockouts. The red Knockout bushes are huge! Had I known those suckers would have gotten four feet tall and just as wide I wouldn't have planted them where they are. [okay, I'm sure the tag had the size on it but I'm terrible about reading the size part. The joy of having a cottage garden is being able to plop whaterver one wants whereever one wants.] The pink one is a third of the size and has never bloomed with the hearty gusto that the red ones have.
I am bummed to find that the majority of my 25 rose bushes, including the minatures, have serious aphid problems this year. Have been hosing them down with water to knock the little suckers off but had to go get some Ortho spray today. I did spot one Lady Bug and one of the creepy pre-Lady Bug stage bugs on one of the tall Climbing Americas. Only need about a 1,000 more of those to take care of these awful aphids.

Hope your garden is enjoying a green insurgance the way mine is. There is nothing better than being in the garden in spring. Even Penny the cat, the little pill I adopted from outdoors, is having a ball in my garden. Course, she doesn't enjoy being rubbed down with a wet wash cloth after her naughty jaunts rolling in my flower beds.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Early Spring Garden

Today is a rare treat in West Texas - a cloudy, drizzly wet day. Awesome! Three months into the new year and we have yet to receive a full inch of rain in my area. The little rain and snow we've received has been light and soft, and therefore the moisture is not getting down deep into the soil. But we will take whatever comes our way, even a little drizzle. Everything looks great here when it's wet, even the obnoxious weeds in the Bermuda. So I'm just having a lazy day watching the drizzle and QVC's Cottage Farms and Robert's Garden on the tele. 

Spring is already here in the garden. The daylilies leaves have popped up and tripled in the last three weeks and the daffodils are finally blooming. The larkspur plugs that I've been digging up out of the grass [see photo above] can be seen in this photo with the blooming daffs. Hopefully they'll get big enough to hide the ugly brown stalks of the daffodils after they've bloomed. The patch of light green in the upper part of this photo is larkspur growing in the grass between the two beds. This is where I've been digging up transplants.
 I also found a large plug of scabiosa that had reseeded itself in the grass. Dug it up and replanted back into the bed. The roots were pretty thick so I think this one will survive the transplanting.
 This purple and light green combination is striking. The larkspur reseeded across the walkway into this bed and has come up through the voilas. Free plants, wahoo! So by the time the heat starts killing the violas the larkspur should be blooming. I have to say one of the things I love the most about larkspur is its soft, feathery texture. I always run my hands over it whenever I walk by.
 Don't remember the variety name for these cheerful violas but the color is striking from across the garden. Hopefully these will reseed before the heat comes around. Which apparently is next week. We are having 20-30 degree temperature changes within the week, which confuses the plants and causes everyone's allergies to go wild. Basically normal spring weather here in West Texas.


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