Sunday, February 27, 2011

Boxwood in bloom

Our plain Jane boxwood shrubs are in full bloom.
Boxwood in bloom

The flowers are quite unusual.
Boxwood blooms

The blossoms contain both pollen and nectar, attracting numerous insects, but mostly bees.
Bee on boxwood

Honeybee on boxwood

honeybee on boxwood

Honeybee on boxwood

This great purple hairstreak enjoyed the nectar.
Great purple hairstreak

I spotted several honeybees with full pollen baskets on their hind legs.
Honeybee on boxwood

Honeybee on boxwood

Honeybee on boxwood

Flies were attracted as well to the shrubs.
Black fly on boxwood

Housefly on boxwood

This ladybug doesn't appear to be after pollen or nectar. My guess--aphids. Keep up the good work, ladybug!
Ladybug on boxwood

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My saddest post-winter photos

Today, Jack and I unveiled the lime trees from their rebar-and-row-cover cocoons. Unfortunately, our valiant attempts at protecting them from winter's wrath appear to be, as the kids say, an "epic fail."

The Mexican key lime (Citrus aurantifolia) was hit the worst. The branches that were green on February 16 have all turned brown, and the trunk is green when scratched only at the very bottom of the tree.
Freeze-damaged key lime

The trunk is also splitting at the base, just above the bud union (where the key lime was grafted onto sour orange rootstock). This is a bad sign that may reflect death of the cambium, the living tissue just underneath the thin bark of the lime tree.
Citrus trunk damage

January's blossoms froze right on the tree,
Frozen key lime blossoms

along with January's baby limes.
Frozen key lime baby

I don't have much hope for its return, but I'll give it until May. Until then, no pruning, no fertilizer, and very little watering, as recommended by Dr. Julian Sauls at Texas A&M, and Nick Sakovich and Ben Faber at UC-Davis.

In contrast, the Bearss lime (Citrus latifolia) is only 3/4 brown. (Can you tell where the heat lamp was pointed?)
Freeze-damaged Bearss lime

And, it's sooo nice to know the floating row cover spared the dandelions underneath the tree from freeze damage--bonus! If the economy gets much worse, at least we'll have dandelion greens and possum stew, jes' like the Clampetts.

I have more confidence this tree will rebound, albeit smaller and less fruitful. There are many more green branches on the Bearss than the key lime. No need to scratch these for signs of life.

Here's a nice healthy branch with green leaves and blossoms. Actually, this picture makes me sad, because I can't help but think if we'd had more heat lamps under the row cover, less of the tree would have been damaged. I guess that would have been a greater fire hazard, as well.
Blooms on Bearss lime

Some say it's best to grow citrus in a pot in these parts, but honestly, the Meyer lemon doesn't look a whole lot better than the limes in the ground. This lemon was a gorgeously lush little tree when I bought it. It lost half its leaves during the hot, dry summer, and dropped the rest when I moved the tree indoors for the winter.
Meyer lemon at winter's end

We'll see what it looks like once it leafs out. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
Leaf buds on Meyer lemon

Finally, here is an agave of questionable parentage (labeled as a Whale's Tongue agave, but has offset one pup) that suffered freeze damage, as evidenced by the white spots.
Freeze damage on agave

Time will tell whether these spots will continue to spread, or harden off.
Freeze damage on agave

Well, now. After all that depressing footage, it's time for a happy daffodil. More Erlicheer blossoms open every day. They're gorgeous!
'Erlicheer' daffodil

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Signs of spring

It's the first year for all these heirloom bulbs. I planted them on November 27, along with 100 other bulbs -- afterwards, I was too worn out to blog about it!

Southern grape hyacinth (Muscari neglectum), 1629 from Old House Gardens. She's the first bulb to bloom.
Grape hyacinth

Daffodil 'Erlicheer' (Narcissus tazetta), 1934, from Southern Bulb Co. Second bloomer.
Daffodil 'Erlicheer'

Tulipa clusiana, 1607, from Old House Gardens.
Tulipia clusiana
Will they be the third bulb to bloom?
I bet the 'giant summer' snowflakes bloom first!

It's been a long, cold winter. Tell me about the signs of spring in your garden!

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Alas, too late: GGW Picture This Contest: Genius Loci

The theme of this month's Picture This contest at Gardening Gone Wild, judged by internationally renowned garden photographer Andrea Jones, is ‘GENIUS LOCI’ - THE ‘SPECIAL ATMOSPHERE OF A PLACE’. As Andrea explained in the contest announcement,

"It can be the view of your garden out of your bedroom window – or of your favorite garden visited while on vacation. Anywhere that you feel especially drawn to. Just try and capture the ‘spirit’ of the place. It does not have to be and early morning shot – it could be an urban garden heaving with visitors. But just one shot that you feel captures the ‘GENIUS LOCI’ – the ‘special atmosphere of a place’.

Every garden is completely different so there is no right or wrong way. It’s just a question of feel and intuition.

Your favourite space may be an urban garden buzzing with people – then try and capture need that buzz. It might be a garden at night so then photograph it in the moonlight. If it’s a quiet peaceful private space then I want to hear the silence.

It’s your personal interpretation of one of your favourite outdoor spaces. Your special place photographed in such as way to show what you love most about it. Please keep the view wide as possible to encompass of a view as you can but capture that spirit – that’s what matters. I want to see gardens with soul! I’m so looking forward to seeing the pictures you upload."

Well, my most favorite outdoor space isn't a garden, it's one of the largest, most remote, and least visited national parks in the United States. Big Bend National Park is an incredibly special place, unlike any place on earth. My contest entry attempts to capture its vastness, its opportunities for solitude, its flora, and its heavenly light.

South Rim sunset

This shot was taken at dusk on the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains, a mountain range located entirely within the boundaries of Big Bend National Park. The strenuous six-mile hike to the South Rim via the Laguna Mountain Trail, with its nearly 2000 foot gain in elevation, is considered by many to be the top mountain hike in all of Texas. This hike had long been on my "bucket list", and at 45 years of age, out of shape and about 40 pounds overweight, I did it. This vista greeted my husband and I at the trail's peak, just before we made camp for the night. Exhausted, exquisitely sore, yet completely elated, I couldn't help but grab the camera and shoot, shoot, shoot.

I have other photographs of Big Bend National Park in my October 2009 blog post, posted in response to Pam Penick's weeklong Bloggers' Celebration of National Parks on her blog, Digging. And I have even more shots on my Flickr page. Of all the photos from my three visits to Big Bend, I think this one shot in particular captures its Genius Loci.

I've been away much too long. And, I took too much too long to craft this post, as it appears the contest deadline was tonight at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time! Oh, well. Too many excellent photographs of actual gardens were entered for me to have a chance at a win, place, or show anyway: check out the contest gallery and see!

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Foliage Follow-Up: February 2011

Man. It's tough being a farmer.

What looked so promising in December and January,
Bulbine foliage

Freesia foliage

Key lime blossoms

looks woefully sad and forlorn this February. As in dead, like this bulbine. I don't think I'll be inviting it back.
Freeze-damaged bulbine

Despite floating row cover and heat lamps, zone 9 and 10 plants simply can't handle 48 hours of subfreezing temperatures outside a heated greenhouse, like my beloved freesia. It's always the first bulb to pop above ground in February, and that's risky business with the winters we've had the past two years.
Freeze-damaged freesia

But where there's green, there's hope, and while the leaves are brown and crispy, these key lime branches are green.
Freeze-damaged key lime

Even the brownest branches show green, when lightly scraped with a fingernail.
Freeze-damaged key lime

Every February, my inclination is to cut everything that looks dead down to the ground. And indeed, some plants do much much, much better when severely cut back at the end of winter, like salvias, flame acanthus, and some roses. (I took care of those guys last weekend.)

But not citrus. "Sit tight," says citrus. "Don't prune me, don't fertilize me, don't overwater me, and maybe, just maybe, I'll give you a fruit or two this year--if you're patient and don't stress me out more than I already am." (Boy, that citrus has me wrapped around its little pinky branch.)

So this week, instead of cutting things back, I ran around the garden, scratching branches and vines with a fingernail.

This star jasmine vine looks brown and dead,
Star jasmine vine

but this tiny green scraped spot says "Wait! I'm alive! Don't prune me yet!"
Star jasmine vine

The dwarf pomegranate is alive. It should sprout leaf buds next month.
Dwarf pomegranate

No need to scratch on the coral honeysuckle: it's putting out leaves and flower buds all along its gnarled brown vines.
Coral honeysuckle

Last weekend, I nearly chopped back this 1950's Chrysler hybrid tea rose to the ground -- until I spotted the leaf buds. It's absolutely covered in leaf buds. So I cut back the obviously dead wood, and left the rest be.
Leaf buds on Chrysler rose

The 'Dame du Coeur' rose is full of leaf buds as well, and its canes are nice and green. I did 'top it", as most of its foliage was hopelessly frostbitten.
Leaf bud on Dame du Coeur rose

The Mutabilis rose was hit the worst (I'll spare you, it's ugly), but 'Old Blush' hardly needed much pruning at all. A bag of compost and she'll be ready for her spring flush.
Old Blush rose

See? All is not lost. There will be hollyhocks (and bermuda grass, ack),

and columbine,
Non-native columbine

and Spanish bluebells,
Spanish bluebells

and Carolina jessamine.
Carolina jessamine

And whatever passes on, passes on...and we can either plant more, or plant something hardier, or heck, we can give up, stick a bird bath in that spot, and go on with life!
Lettuce seedlings

Thanks to Pam Penick at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-Up, on the 16th of every month. Visit her blog to see more hopeful spots of green.

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2011

Still nary a bloom in my Central Texas garden. Only one thing of interest I could find:
Meet Pogo, our garden possum. Possums are nocturnal, so Pogo must be very hungry to be out and about in the early morning. Pogo's eating sunflower seeds that the birds knocked from the feeders onto the ground. Fine by me - eat all the seeds ya want, just stay away from my veggies!

This shot was taken just before Pogo saw me at the back window and scurried off. This is the closest I've ever been able to get -- close enough to see Pogo's two-tone tail and black legs.

Possums are funny things. Although a possum looks like a cross between a cat and a rat, it's actually a marsupial, related to koalas and kangaroos. Possums have opposable thumbs on their hind feet, and use their prehensile tails for grasping and balancing. I think possums are fascinating -- and at times aggravating, especially when they steal my melons.

If you want to learn more about possums, visit the Opossum Society of the United States. If you want to see actual garden blooms, visit May Dreams Gardens -- I'm sure some of Carol's Southern Hemisphere and West Coast readers have some actual photos of flowers to share.

Happy GBPD!

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.