Thursday, April 30, 2009

how I found the wormhole in the backyard

I went out to the backyard after dinner to take pictures of the wildflower patch.
I got down on my hands and knees to get a closer look.

I looked up just in time to see the rosemary behind the wildflower patch, unfurling its octopus arms.

Right before my eyes, the coreopsis started growing taller on their stems,
like something out of 'Alice Through the Looking Glass'.

The wildflowers started to sway dizzily in the breeze.
A trio of gaillardia clasped leaves and began to dance a circle dance.
I started to feel a little drowsy.

A tiny blossom popped out and whispered in my ear,
"You know, some call us 'Blanket Flower.'
You seem sleepy.
Would you like to lie down?
If you get cold, we will cover you up."

The garden began to spin as I laid down my head.

Suddenly I noticed the wormhole open.

I tried to take more pictures, but the camera stopped working...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring flowers - an explosion of color.

White freesia.

Pink hollyhocks.
pink hollyhocks

Purple columbine.

Yellow violets.
yellow viola

Pink snapdragons.
pink snapdragons

Black raspberry bud. (Hey--green's a color!)
black raspberry bud

These photos were taken on April 8, 2009. More tomorrow!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The butterfly iris bloomed!

The butterfly iris I planted in the front yard had a few blooms when I bought it, but the blossoms only lasted a day. I noticed on Friday that some of the stems had turned white on the tips, but I didn't realize they were buds until Saturday morning.

The blossoms are so delicate.

From a distance, they do look a bit like butterflies.

I wish they lasted a tiny bit longer.
They're all gone today.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How do you irrigate your garden?

I'd like to know. I've had terrible luck with soaker hoses. I always seem to get the wrong size (too long or too short) and they tend to spring leaks creating large unwanted fountains. I've been looking into drip irrigation systems, but there are sooo many options. Let me know if you have a system you like.

I've never grown lettuce before, but I have enough baby romaine and mesclun mix to actually make salads.8298

Look at last night's salads! Whoo hoo!
Jack joked that we should save a whopping $5 a year on lettuce purchases, but then admitted there's no fresher salad on earth than the one you harvest 10 minutes before you eat it. And it's organic, too!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Little twigs in the front yard

I promised to post some pictures of the little starter plants in the front yard. I planted 30 plants, but they look so puny right now. I know they'll get huge soon, but I'm impatient!

The stones around the edge of the yard came from craigslist. The stones lining the pathway came from the Austin Memorial Park Cemetery on Hancock Drive. I can't decide if the cemetery stones are too yellow or not. I like the color, but it's quite different from the stone work on the house. What do you think?

East side twigs:

West side twigs:

I may move the yellower stones to the backyard and get stones that are not as yellow. I haven't decided yet.


I really like the Whale's Tongue agave. The center leaves look like some sort of prehistoric baby bird, mouth open waiting for mommy to bring it a worm. It got a little banged up in the planting process.

I love how Mexican feather grass looks when the sunlight hits it.

The plants look more impressive close up. This is Blue Daze.


The four-nerve daisy is already blooming. It had buds but none was open when I planted it.

Sorry for no post yesterday--I really wanted to post daily for two weeks, but work got in the way. Oh well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm a Blotanist! (giggle)

The Shovel-Ready Garden has been accepted by Botanical for inclusion in its enormous directory of garden blogs worldwide. Founded by Stuart Robinson from Busselton, Western Australia, Blotanical hosts over 1300 garden blogs from Oceania, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, the UK and the US. There are some amazing gardens to see--great inspiration for my own little patch of dirt, and good motivation to stick with my plan to post daily (for at least two weeks).

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What I planted in the front yard

I've hardly any time to post today, but I'm determined to post every day for at least two weeks, so here's a quick review of the twigs I planted in the new garden where the front lawn used to be:

Salvia roemeriana (Cedar Sage)
Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)
Scirpus cernus (Fiber Optic Grass)
Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf Coast Muhly)
Carex albula (Frosty Curls Sedge)
Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' (Purple Fountain Grass)
Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot Daisy)
Dietes iridioides (Butterfly Iris)
Lantana montevidensis (Trailing Lantana) "Pot 'O Gold" and "Purple"
Agave ovatifolia (Whale's Tongue Agave -- huge splurge!)
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis - UGH! Can't find the marker. Will update when I do. It's a double hibicus in a salmon/coral color.
Rosa x 'Meipotal' PP8841 (Carefree Delight TM)
Salvia × sylvestris "Mainacht" (May Night Salvia)
Monarda pringle (Pringle's Bee Balm)
Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ear)
Buddleja hybrid (Orange Butterfly Bush)
Asclepias curassavica (Butterflyweed) Mislabeled as A. tuberosa
Nemesia fruticans (Nemesia-pink and purple hybrids)
Salvia greggii (Autumn Sage-red & white)
Salvia coccinea (Coral Nymph Sage)
Penstemon baccharifolius (Rock Penstemon)
Evolvulus glomeratus (Blue Daze)
Salvia farinacea Mealy Blue Sage
Salvia x. 'Indigo Spires' (Indigo Spires Sage)
Agapanthus africanus `Albus`
Rudbeckia fulgida "Goldsturm" (Goldstorm Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan)
Coreopsis grandiflora 'Mayfield Giants'
Tetraneuris scaposa (Four Nerve Daisy, Hymenoxys)

Sounds like a lot, huh? It IS a lot, when you consider how ginormous some of these plants can get. In two years, I won't be able to walk through it all to get through the front door. But right now, it looks like a silly bunch of sprouts.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Shovel-Ready Project: Front Yard Overhaul

Before I moved in (from the sales flyer for the house, circa 2004):
Boring lawn, boring boxwoods, baby red oak.

And three weeks ago:
Wow, those boxwoods could use some pruning, couldn't they? And HEY! Who stole our lawn?

It's anyone's guess, really. My first guess was that Take-All Patch took it. I treated the yard with horticultural corn gluten and Actinovate, to no avail. My second guess was rust, another fungus, because of the way the grass blades looked so orangy-red in the sun. Our neighbor across the street, Darvin, guessed grubs. (Yes, that's how bad it got: the neighbors were making wagers as to what was killing our lawn.)

In any event, the darn St. Augustine grass looked so bad and so dead and was getting so expensive to treat and water that we stopped watering it last summer. In March, Jack dug it all up with a tiller and we raked it into ten-40 gallon yard clipping bags. I wish I had a picture of that, but after 8 hours' work in the hot sun, the last thing you want to do is snap pictures.
We left a tiny circle of grass around each tree. We'll see how long that lasts. (Red oaks sure grow fast, don't they? That's a 3 year old bur oak in the center.)

Three weeks ago, we ordered 3 cubic yards of organic garden mix from Whittlesey Landscape. I usually use Natural Gardener, but they were booked.
The man that delivered the soil was very conscientious; that's him, up in the bed of the dump truck, sweeping out every last grain of dirt. Jack loaded up the soil, wheelbarrow-load by wheelbarrow-load, to move it from the driveway to the yard, and I tried my best to rake it level and smooth into sloping raised beds.

While I started planting plants, Jack started on the limestone edging. He'd found some free limestone bricks on craigslist; unfortunately, they were all stuck together with mortar. So he took a sledgehammer to every last one of them.

Then he dug a trench, through the tree roots and caliche,

and laid each stone, one by one,

into the trench.
Backbreaking manual labor on an incredibly hot, sunny day. We were going to finish the path down the middle this weekend, but we didn't have time to go look for flagstone this Saturday and all the stone purveyors were closed on Sunday. Maybe this weekend.

I'll post a list of plants later. We've already moved some around. I can't wait til they fill in.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A little Before and After, and The Grand Tour

First, apologies all around. I inadvertently set the privacy setting on the photos I uploaded to Flickr to “No One.” I’ve corrected it to “Anyone” so now when you click on a photo, you should be able to see a larger version.

When I moved into the house, 4 years ago this month, the backyard looked like this.
Sorry for the grainy quality of the photo—it’s a scan from the sales flyer for the house. My husband had lived in the house about a year, so the tree might have been a bit bigger; otherwise it’s a good representation of the, erm, landscaping. The house was built in the 60s. I don’t know who owned it before Jack bought it, but until the last owner planted that little red oak, no one had done one darn thing to the yard in 40+ years.

Today, the backyard looks like this.
Still a work in progress, but a definite improvement. One shovel-ready project that could be easily completed: taking all the potted plants and planting them in two to three galvanized stock tanks.

The first project we tackled, a few months after I moved in, was hiring our friend PJ to build a gazebo. It houses a hot tub I got for a steal. The beds around the gazebo went in the following spring. The Old Blush rose bush was the first rose we planted, a present to me from Jack.

The herb garden went in about the same time.
Alas, after 4 years, it’s completely overgrown. The two rosemary plants have completely taken over. It still serves its purpose, providing plenty of parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, chives, oregano, basil and cilantro, though it could use a bit of an overhaul. The beds need raising and the rosemary either needs to be moved, or beat back with a stick and a sharp pair of shears. If anyone wants a prostrate rosemary plant, you can come dig up the one on the right and haul it off. The English ivy came with the house; it covers half the back fence and has grown up into the dead hackberry trees in the neighbor’s yard and the live trees in the yard behind his.

This is the southwest corner of the yard.
The shed was a welcome offering from our friends John and Amy. They were adding on to their house, and wanted to get rid of their shed. The mutabilis rose on the right went in at the same time as the Old Blush rose. We planted the two little lime trees three years ago. Along the fence line are ivy vines and junk trees the birds planted.

This is the south side of the yard, taken from the herb garden looking east.
The little sprig in the middle is a Texas mountain laurel. The main problem here is the view directly into our neighbor’s yard. I’d like to plant some vines along the fence to give us a bit of privacy. Hardy vines, ones that could be chopped down to the ground and bounce back, if we ever found the means to put in a wood fence.

I’m certain our laissez-faire approach to gardening drives our neighbor nuts. He’s a landscaper by profession and seems quite fond of commercial fertilizers and gas-operated lawn equipment. His lawn is always very green and is trimmed 1/16 of an inch every 4 to 5 days (typically around sunrise).

Here’s one reason why we don’t feel the need to mow what little grass we have:
We’d chop off its wittle blue eyes if we did.

This is the east side of the yard. The yard slopes quite a bit on this side.
Not much here but a couple of square-foot gardening boxes and a big plastic pot full of tomato plants. We've talked about putting up a badminton court here.

Now we've come full circle, back to the northwest corner of the yard where the first photos were shot.
Roaming the grounds at the Natural Gardener yesterday, I had to chuckle at the 4 inch pots of horseherb they had on sale for $1.99. The stuff grows naturally in my yard—in fact, it’s all that grows on the west side of the house, given all the shade from the neighbor’s hackberry trees. That’s a passion vine on the fence; it doesn’t get enough sun to bloom. I'd love to plant a shade garden along the side of the house.

As you can see, we have shovel-ready projects galore in our yard.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

rain--it makes stuff grow

Looks like it rained again this morning. Everything looks less thirsty. My baby bell peppers appear to have survived the aphid attack with minimal damage, thanks to the ladybugs I bought to address the problem.babybells

Looks like the fennel is ready to harvest. There's only two bulbs: one for me, one for the butterflies. Fennel sauteed in butter and olive oil with mushrooms and onions, served over roasted chicken and brown rice, mmm.

This is the first year I've attempted vegetable gardening with any seriousness, so I'm ridiculously proud of every little flower and bud. This is the only photo of the bush bean that comes close to reflecting the pinky-violet of the little bean flowers.

I haven't tried to grow tomatoes for years. In Houston, it would always get too hot too quickly and the blooms wouldn't set; they'd just fall off. Any tomato that survived the heat would be pecked to death by birds well before any human had a chance.

I bought this black raspberry at the Sunset Valley Farmers' Market last year. I kept it in its big pot because I'm not sure where to plant it yet. The woman who sold it to me said it should do fine in the pot for a year or two. It has two baby berries and several buds.

Now for the ornamental round-up...

I am so pleased the Buff Beauty rose has decided in this, her second year, to grace us with a few blossoms. The first one I planted got chopped off at the surface by some critter, so I planted this one closer to the patio.

The butterfly bush is budding. Behind it (in front of it, sprawled all around it) is flame acanthus; it needs to be cut back or staked or something, I'm not sure what. The flame acanthus won't bloom until August.

The lantana is well out of control, and it's only April. I didn't cut it back at all this year.

I hacked this Hot Lips salvia down to a small mound in January, and it's back bigger than ever.

The Indian Blanket is taking its sweet time to bloom; this little bud's trying its best to open. If I had to guess, I would say it's probably Gaillardia pulchella, reseeded from the Native American Seeds Caddo Mix I threw in a bare patch of dirt last year.

That's all for today. Soon, I'll post pics of our latest "shovel-ready" project: a total overhaul of the front yard. Lawn, be gone!