Saturday, April 30, 2011

At long last, she blooms

Hesperaloe parviflora

This Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) has been in the ground for three or four years, in very poor soil, in a distant corner of my back yard which is edged in chain link fencing and punctuated by a telephone pole; never watered, never fertilized, she never bloomed until this spring.

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

East Austin Urban Farm Tour

I made a point to "do" the Second Annual East Austin Urban Farm Tour last Sunday. I missed it last year, and wasn't going to make the same mistake again. So what's this tour all about? It's a chance for Austinites to get a behind-the-scenes look at four working Austin farms, all within walking distance of each other, and nosh on delectable tidbits featuring locally-grown ingredients, personally doled out by the city's top chefs. Proceeds from the $35 tickets went to support the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.

I started at Boggy Creek Farm, owned by Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler. I've posted about this wonderful farm before. Larkspur and snapdragons were blooming near the farm's entrance.
Larkspur at Boggy Creek Farm

I trekked between all four farms on foot, but halfway through, I truly wished I'd had a bike like these smart folks.
Urban Farm Bicycle Tour bikes

The food was delicious. Chefs Mark Paul and Eric Polzer of WINK Restaurant & Wine Bar offered an astonishing parsnip and sorrel panna cotta topped with a pink peppercorn and strawberry compote, featuring Boggy Creek Farms produce.
Parsnip & sorrel panna cotta

Baker Barrie Cullinan of Amity Baking offered up raspberry tarts for grabs.
Chef Barrie Cullinan of Amity Baking

I enjoyed a wonderfully refreshing iced Turkish Spice Mint tea from Zhi Tea,
Turkish Mint Spice tea from Zhi Tea

but this was as close as I got to the Live Oak Brewery keg.
Live Oak Brewing keg

After a brief respite in a shady Adirondack chair,
Adirondack chair at Boggy Creek Farm

it was off to the next farm, Rain Lily Farm, owned by Kim Beal and Stephanie Scherzer. In addition to the farm, they run a garden design and maintenance business and a farm-to-home delivery service, Farmhouse Delivery.
Rain Lily Farm

Agaves, larkspur and wildflowers greeted visitors at the entrance.
Agave and wildflowers at Rain Lily Farm

Sitting in dappled shade on a hay bale, I enjoyed a fabulous pork belly salad with a strawberry vinaigrette from Fabi & Rosi, a salad mixta from La Condesa, a fruit tart from Pie Fixes Everything, and a refreshing Paloma cocktail garnished with fresh mint and laced with Republic Tequila.
Delicious tidbits at Rain Lily Farm

This swing near the vegetable fields looked inviting.
Swing at Rain Lily Farm

A whimsical gate made out of bicycle parts adorned the chicken coop.
Chicken coop gate from bike parts

I hated to leave, but the four-hour-long tour was more than half over, so I hustled over to Springdale Farm, run by Glenn and Paula Foore.
Springdale Farm

The food and beverage lines were at their peak by this point, so I grabbed a pecan porter from 512 Brewing Company and joined Paula and Glenn on a tour of their farm.
Paula gets ready to lead a farm tour

Can you tell where Glenn earned his horticulture degree?
A&M-themed chicken coop at Springdale Farm

After touring Springdale Farm, I sampled quail in what tasted like a pomegranate walnut sauce from Peché , and an amazing lamb slider with artisan kimchee containing Springdale Farm produce, served by Chef Jonathan Gelman from the Driskill Grill.
Lamb slider with artisan kim chee

Sadly, Chef Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due had run out of his country paté with pickled Springdale Farm produce and Fireman's #4 mustard, and the event was nearly over, so I made a mad dash to HausBar Farms, owned by the proprietors of Eastside Cafe.
HausBar Farms

Alas, I was too late to enjoy the offerings by Dripping Springs Vodka, Paula's Texas Orange and Bola Pizza, but Eastside Cafe still had some potato-leek soup and chili left,
Potato-leek soup and chili con carne from Eastside Cafe

and I caught the tail end of the farm tour, led by owner Dorsey Barger.
Dorsey Barger leads the farm tour

I got to see happy, extremely free-range chickens,
Laying hen at HausBar Farms

hear about the farm's composting methods,
Chickens in the compost

and meet Julian the donkey. Julian looked a bit tired, and admittedly, I was too -- nevertheless, I had a blast, and can't wait for next year's tour (on bike!).
Julian the donkey

See more photos of the tour on my Flickr page. I hope I've enticed you to visit these farms yourself one day soon, and support the local chefs and restaurateurs that help support the farms. Boggy Creek Farm and Springdale Farm are open to the public from 9 to 1 on Wednesday and Saturdays; Rain Lily Farms sells their goods, along with goods from other local purveyors, through Farmhouse Delivery; and HausBar Farms produce can be enjoyed at Eastside Cafe. Buy local, eat local, live local!

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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rose Round-Up: The Butterfly Rose (Rosa chinesis 'Mutabilis')

The roses in my garden are having a banner year, despite our hard freezes last winter. This post is the first in a series I'm starting, to sing the praises of each rose growing in my garden. Hey, it's my blog's two-year anniversary, so I had to come up with something new to celebrate!

Additionally, I'm entering the very last photo in this post in this month's Picture This photo contest at Gardening Gone Wild. The judge this month is Rob Cardillo (who has what looks to be an amazing new book on Chanticleer coming out soon, in collaboration with Adrian Higgins), and the contest theme is Let’s talk about Light.

Botanical name: Rosa chinesis 'Mutabilis', Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'
Common names: Butterfly Rose, Tipo Ideale
Class: China
Habit: Large shrub
Bloom: Single-petaled
Color: Multicolored
Repeat bloomer? Yes
Forms hips? No
Scent: Faint
Size: 4-10 feet
Sun: Full
Cold-hardiness? Zone 6-9
Antique rose? Yes, prior to 1894
Earth-Kind® rose? Yes
Pests: Spider mites and aphids (rare; blast them off with a strong water spray)
Diseases: Occasional mild black spot (prune off affected leaves, or spray the shrub with milk - yes, moo-cow milk! - after spring pruning and each subsequent season)

'Mutabilis' is distinguished by its size -- it can get as large as 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide -- its tolerance to drought, disease and pests, and its large, single-petaled blooms that darken as they age, resulting in flowers of various colors on a single shrub. From a distance, this gives the appearance of a bush covered in brightly colored butterflies.
Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

'Mutabilis' is a rose that thrives on pruning, which is a good thing, because it's not a big fan of cold winters. During our 48 hours of below-freezing temps in early February, my specimen suffered significant freeze damage to the existing leaves, which were then hit by black spot. The rose looked to be on death's door. To rejuvenate this hardy rose, I pruned it back by a third two weeks after the freeze. (I do my rose pruning each year on the weekend just before or after Valentine's Day.)

In this photo, shot roughly a month later on March 19, it had fully leafed out, with virtually no frost damage to be found, and was covered in rose buds, with a few starting to open.
Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

The color of new growth on 'Mutabilis' is a deep reddish bronze. As the leaves age, they turn a dark green, edged in red.
Spring growth on Mutabilis rose

This year, 'Mutabilis' started to bloom in earnest on March 27,
Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

with its spring flush peaking on April 1. As a repeat bloomer, 'Mutabilis' will bloom lightly throughout the summer, and flush again in the fall. Since it flowers on new growth, deadheading spent blossoms may stimulate greater flowering. Because of the vast numbers of deadheads, a light tip pruning of the entire shrub with a hedge trimmer simplifies this task.
Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

The buds start out as a deep apricot color.
Mutabilis rose and osmia bee

As they open, the blossoms change to a light yellowy-peach,
Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

then to a soft, baby pink,
Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

and finally, a vibrant crimson.
Mutabilis rose

This year, I noticed a few blooms with different colors on the same blossom. This occurred after a period of several warm days in the upper 80s and low 90s, followed by a cold front with temperatures dipping into the 40s overnight.
Mutabilis rose

In full bloom, 'Mutabilis' looks almost tropical. Can you imagine a lei made out of these flowers?
Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

The blossoms look spectacular when the sunlight hits them.
Mutabilis rose

Backlit, the blossoms can look magical.
Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

'Mutabilis' is not a good rose for flower arranging, as each blossom only lasts a day or so on the shrub. But because 'Mutabilis' can get quite large and responds well to pruning, it makes an excellent hedge rose. It grows in nearly any type of soil and requires no fertilizer other than compost. My specimen is five or six years old, pruned annually into a rough, squarish-shaped hedge on the corner of a flower bed around a gazebo, and measures approximately 8 feet tall by 8 feet wide.

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

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Foliage Follow-Up: April 2011

This month's Foliage Follow-Up is dedicated to 'Ruby Grass' (Melinis nerviglumis), also called 'Ruby Crystals' or 'Pink Crystals' grass.

I purchased small three clumps last year and planted them much too closely to the edge of my front path. As pictured here, they put out a few wan seed heads last spring. They did spread considerably over the summer and fall, then died back in the winter.
Melinis nerviglumis 'Ruby Crystals'

I cut them back in late February. If you look closely, you can see the brown cut ends in this photo.
'Ruby Crystals' grass

New foliage appeared in March (along with a fourth clump), and seed heads followed in April.
'Ruby Crystals' grass

It's stunning when the light hits it just right, at day's end. Can't wait for its "leap" year next spring!
'Ruby Crystals' grass
Visit Digging: It All Starts with a Patch of Dirt to see more fantastic foliage.

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

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2011

Here's what's blooming in my Central Texas garden this April. Visit May Dreams Gardens to see what's blooming in gardens all over the world.

In the front yard:
'Mealy Blue Sage' (Salvia farinacea), 'Carefree Delight™' rose (Rosa x 'Meipotal' P.P.# 8841), and white autumn sage (Salvia greggii).
Near the front path

'Indigo Spires' salvia, four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa), and rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala).
Front bed

A close-up of the rock rose.
Rock rose

Cedar sage (Salvia roemeriana).
Cedar sage

A singular, spectacular Byzantine glad (Gladiolus byzantinus) from a $13.50 bulb from Old House Gardens.
Byzantine gladiolus

Was she worth it? Every penny.
Byzantine gladiolus

In the back yard:
'Buff Beauty' is putting on her very first spring flush. The old gardener's adage, "First year-sleep; second year-creep; third year-leap" holds true once again.
'Buff Beauty' rose

Always the last to bloom, 'The Fairy' rose is getting started with a few dime- and nickel-sized blooms. (Correction: next to last to bloom; the Chrysler rose has yet to bloom.)
'The Fairy' rose

Pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) is the wildflower of the year in my garden.
Pink evening primrose

A few sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) adorn the chain link fence. This variety is 'Wedding Blush' from Botanical Interests. The aroma is glorious.
Sweet peas

Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). It smells soo good.
Star jasmine

In between, on the shady west side of the house:
'Texas Gold' columbine Aquilegia chrysantha hinckleyana 'Texas Gold'.
'Texas Gold' columbine
(Must have heard me talkin' bad 'bout it, because it just started blooming this week!)

Happy GBBD!

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