Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Very Sunny Weekend

The article on the main page of today's local paper was about the difficulty of predicting this year's winter season due to a late El Nino. This weekend is warmer than normal, - 90degrees in mid-October is odd - and appears to be a trend of what forcasters are predicting this winter will be. Personally, I don't mind the warmer winter forecast as long as it is accompanied by lots of rain. However, West Texas could use a cold, wet winter to kill bugs and help with next spring's crops. In terms of the drought scale, we have moved from last year's D4 rating (exceptional) to a D3 rating (extreme) thanks to the almost 11 inches of rain this year versus the 3 inches last year. Fingers crossed we'll get another 2-3 inches before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, last weekend was a little cooler and I was able to put in a good 6 hours in the yard on Sunday. First thing up was finishing off the bird feeder. Since the pole would not stand upright I placed cement blocks around the base, filled the centers with potting soil and relocated some yellow ice plant from another section of the yard. This should look pretty in the spring all cover with flowers and trailing over the cement sides. Penny the Pill gave her stamp of approval by walking all through the small planter and then bending over for a drink from the bird bath, which sadly cannot stay on its heavy cement base because somehow the strong winds keep flipping this heavy top off the base. So bizarre, really, but the birds do seem to enjoy climbing in and bathing in it.
Next up was removing the decayed base of the previous bird house from the top of the pole. Discovered the thin platform on the pole to attach a bird house is thoroughly rusted too. The hard water and winds do take their toll on everything here.
Managed to temporarily rig up the new birdhouse to the platform and will later buy a new pole. The bird house is a little too small in scale but works fine for now.
The expanded side bed that I planted this summer by the front gate is doing very well. The Cleveland Pear tree seems to be doing just fine and I can't wait for the shade and privacy it will provide in the future. The shades of pink and purple planted around it really have brightened up a dull area. I was thrilled to find an apricot Mullin this summer and it's sent up two rounds of tall stalks of flowers. The flower, in the center of the picture, looks pink but it's really a soft peach in person. Hoping this will survive our winter and come back next year with more stalks of delicate flowers. Other plants I tucked around it include pink geraniums, The Fairy Rose, pink gladiolas, pink caladiums, and purple salvia.
Speaking of pinks, the Veronicas are in full bloom thanks to the cool spells we've had over the last month. They're blooming better than in the spring amazingly enough. One should have spiked flower shapes in a cottage garden and Veronicas are excellent for this purpose. Just planted a red one under the pear tree and looking forward to seeing what those spikes look like.
October is a good time to visit local nurseries and scour for bargain plants. Scored two of the Flame Acathus or Hummingbird Bush plants for the price of one originally. I'd been looking for these for the past two years. The one pictured below is three years old and covered with red flowers that humminbirds and bees like. Beside it is a ruella that I planted at the same time that has grown almost four feet tall and is loaded with purple flowers. I'd like to plant more of these elsewhere in the garden next year.
The Angelonia that I got on clearance this spring looked pretty pathetic up until about two weeks ago when suddenly blossoms started to appear. The rain and cooler weather seemed to have done the trick. These are so pretty when planted en mass and when the three trees I've planted this spring fill in I'll tuck more of these into the beds.
And speaking of clearance plants, I bought this one at Sutherlands, which strangely enough at times has a really good selection of perennials from time to time. The tag said this was a delphium. I hope it is because it's doubled in size and has yet to produce any type of flower. Hoping I didn't inadvertently buy some invasive weed by accident.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall in West Texas

The temperatures are back down to pleasant ranges and the 2 inches of rain my garden has received in the last two months has done wonders for the strolling gardening. Everything's so green again and many of the plants are flowering again. The roses have all produced more blossoms and their colors fare so much better without the harsh 90-100+ degree heat bearing down on them. Now, if only I could find time to work more in the garden on the weekends when we don't suddenly have a cold front or winds.
Hyacinth Bean has been a very lovely surprise. My co-worker gave me a few seeds she'd received during a sale at the local garden and arts center and the blossoms are so lovely. The wind knocked many of the vines off the trellis though so I will be tying them to the trellis next year with twine.
The shades of pale lavender to a darker plum purple of the hyacinth bean flowers are so attractive.
The veg bed had mixed results. The heat and drought from June through early September fried most of what I planted in the raised bed. I did get one really nice zookini and two squash before I had to pull out the dried up plants. Watering everyday and using good planting soil with moisture retention beads wasn't enough to keep the vegetables alive. Three bell pepper plants, seen above with the hyacinth bean flowers, is doing great now though and has blossoms on them. I might be able to get a few peppers before a freeze kills the plants.
I have discovered that mint does really well in the raised cinderblock beds. And for the first time I've been able to successfully grow basil and keep it alive. In fact, it's reseeding in the cement opening before the plant. As with all gardening, growing things in the cinderblock bed is a case of trial and error. I've decided that it will become a mint bar now, with basil and hyacinth bean mixed in. The larger central section will have flowers in it next year. Just need to track down the tags for the various mint plants and put their names on the brass plant markers I got on clearance from Target. The nice thing about the mints is that the more exotic ones can be identified by their scent and tastes. Shouldn't be too hard to figure out which one is the mojito mint, the orange mint and the chocolate mint. I also have English mint planted in the corner. So the hunt for other mint varities will be next year's adventure. A mint bed fits in well with the English cottage theme, right?
The roses have been blooming nicely since mid-September, when our temperatures started dipping and rain came to visit the West Texas area. Above is The Fairy, which has numerous branches with tiny pink blooms. Just wish it didn't have all the tiny, sharp thorns along the branches. Am probably going to regret planting this near a walkway in the furture. But is is lovely nevertheless.
I think no flower garden should exist without an Iceberg Rose. First of all, the white color glows at dusk and the buds have a nice scent to them. So many modern roses seem to be missing the scent aspect. The green of the leaves have a yellow undertone, which contrasts well against other plants, such as the two varieties of sedums underplanted here. Lastly, the number of flower buds on it when it blooms is fabulous. I definately plan to try to cram one or two more of these in the garden in the future. There is a garden at Sportsmen's Hotel in LA that is mostly planted with Iceberg Roses and it is stunning. No wonder so many people get married there.
This was labeled a Kordes rose with a tag that said it would bloom white with pink. Well, it blooms yellow and fades to white. Oh well, it's still a lovely rose and I just consider it my yellow rose of Texas.
My favorite rose in the strolling garden is the Climbing Americas. Besides their spicy floral scent, they have been blooming non-stop since May. Pictured are two of four of Americas I have growing. Their canes are incredibly strong and are upwards of 9 feet tall so far.
And speaking of sedums, the three varieties I have planted in the front and back yards are all blooming. Such an easy plant to grow and the butterflies seem to love flitting around it and feeding from the blossoms. Well, that's all for today. I will try to be better about updating this blog. Meanwhile, I'm off to put out buckets to catch the light rain falling down right now. If we got more rain I'd buy a rain barrel but there's no point paying upwards of $100 when rain doesn't fall often here. Little buckets work just fine.


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