Saturday, March 29, 2008

English rose "Abraham Darby"

My English rose "Abraham Darby" sits in a pot and looks ugly for most of the year. It's an awkward bush, with long stems jutting out at weird angles, covered by huge thorns. You have to navigate carefully around its pot or spend minutes untangling your clothes from the branches. And not only is this bush particularly ugly and lacking in grace, the foliage is prone to blackpot and burns in the sun. That said, "Abraham Darby" is probably the most oft-photographed and oft-smelled single plant in my garden. Why?

Three days ago, this happened:

This picture is from some time last year, probably around March or April 2007. This rose's stems are too thin to support the huge, heavy flowers, so I had to give them a little help to get a good picture. You can also see how much the color and form varies from flower to flower over time, starting out very saturated and then fading to blush pink and the palest yellow:

"Abraham Darby" is without question happiest in cool weather, and rarely blooms in hot weather, as it did in the summer of 2006. Here, the flowers are much smaller and paler, and no color variation is present:

Winter blooms are the most saturated, with distinct yellow and pink areas. This flower was produced during the ice storm in January 2007. I hauled the pot against the outside of the house protected by the covered deck, threw a blanket over the bush, and then snuck outside every few hours to take a nice hit of its incredible rose-and-citrus scent:

Nodding flower in the afternoon sun:

This may be an ugly bush that is constantly unhappy with our Texas climate, which bursts fully into bloom maybe twice a year if I'm lucky, but when "Abraham Darby" flowers, I am mesmerized.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Weekend Edition

Here's a view I'm very pleased with, although the photo doesn't quite capture the thing that's causing me to smile. After the weird rose dieback issues I was having last month, all of the roses have put on huge flushes of new growth. From the back deck, the red new growth looks like masses of burgundy flowers. In fact, my roommate admitted that she had been admiring the"flowers" as she ate breakfast on the deck. So now I'm very relieved that all seems to be well in rose-land:

As I was posting my old pictures to my brand-spankin'-new archives, I noticed that almost none of my pictures had been taken from the most common perspectives around here-- the comfy chairs on the back deck. (And do me a favor and pretend you don't see a garden hose, please...I was feeling lazy.)

Verbena and succulents. I like the light:

And to answer my burning question of whether the blooms of Chinese Witch Hazel would match the redbud blooms...not so much. But I'm crossing my fingers that next year the Double Knockout Rose in that corner starts blooming before the Witch Hazel is done-- I bet those two would look good together! I guess we'll wait and see:

Green, white, and blue under the mesquite:

A question from Diana about the pink verbena prompted me to try to find the tag that came with it to verify its identity. I took one look at this pile and, er, gave up. One of these days I'm going to figure out how to be more organized in the garden, or at least wash the mud off these tags so I can handle them inside the house. Maybe I'll tape them all onto looseleaf and stick them in a binder.

What do you do to keep track of what you buy and plant?

Springtime Is For Lovers

Auugh! Freaky bugs! They're having an orgy all over poor Archduke Charles!

Does anyone know what these insects are, and whether I should be worried that they're really intent on reproducing? They've been covering the rose bush for the last three days. They blend in well enough that I didn't notice at first, but as I was hunting for flowers to photograph, I saw the bush move.


Normally bugs don't really, well, bug me, but the weirdly-shaped limbs of these seem almost mechanical. Maybe I've watched a little too much Stargate: SG1 in my day, but it's like looking at a rosebush teeming with Replicators...


Monday, March 17, 2008

March Bloom Day...a little late.

I completely forgot about Bloom Day until it was too late to take pictures, so this month's chronicle is a day late. Compared to the other Austin garden bloggers, my garden still seems brown and sleepy. I completely forget to plan for this time of year with better evergreen structure and flowering bulbs. I did finally get around to adding some permanent color with three blue-glazed pots and several rose pillars spray-painted with what turned out to be a pimped-out glittery blue car paint (now I'm just waiting for the rest of my garden to bounce at stop lights).

You can see one of the blue pots, planted with Agave Americana, in the background:

Ok, this oft-photographed viola wins my own personal award for awesomeness in winter annuals. While the rest of my violas upped and seeded out the minute the weather warmed up, this one is still cool and perky when it's 94 degrees. I hope it sticks around for a while.

Tangerine crossvine, blooming at last!

Oxalis "Garnet," from The Natural Gardener. The pink is a bit loud for my taste, but I bought it for the cool mottled leaves. They have a distinct red-pink tinge when it's colder.

Mexican Feathergrass, taking off:

A new purchase from Barton Springs Nursery, Harry Lauder's Walking Stick. I've never seen one grown in Texas, but when I was in college, there was a gorgeous specimen at the Allen Centennial Gardens, a short walk from my dorm. I love this tree for winter interest:

Chinese witch hazel. It's a short distance from the redbud, and I suspect that
the bloom colors will match. A few more days, and I'll know for sure:

The aformentioned Agave Americana in a pot. I've been thinking a lot lately about hardscaping, color, and winter interest in my garden, and considering the possibilities within my budget. Last week I bought three matching blue-glazed pots to space throughout the garden, and hopefully guide the eye to some nice all-season views. So far two of the pots have been planted with the agave, and the third is waiting for a bed redesign. The pot by itself is heavy enough that I know once it's filled with dirt and extra-pointy agave, it's not going to be moved again any time soon. Anyway, I like the contrasts of the blues with the purple.

Henbit and the first Blackfoot Daisy. I scattered so many bluebonnet, bachelor's button, and viola seeds there, and what came up, despite my faithful watering? Henbit. Sigh. I've had no luck so far with direct-sowing winter and spring flowers, which I find especially depressing when I add up how much I've spent on seeds. It's too bad I have equally lousy luck starting seeds in flats. Maybe the bluebonnets will sprout next spring? My fingers are crossed.

And yet another picture of "Marilyn's Choice" abutilon. The longer I have this plant, the more I like it. It flowers right through the extremes of Austin winter and always looks good. I'm hoping it can deal with the heat with as much grace as it's dealt with the cold. At Barton Springs Nursery last week, I saw a much, much larger version blooming in a pot. I'm hoping mine will grow up to look like that one. It's too bad I didn't have my camera.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Lookin' Good

Things are finally beginning to wake up in my garden! Here's what caught my eye this afternoon.

White clover. I know that many people consider this a weed, but I'm fond of it. When I was growing up, my parents' four acres in Wisconsin were rife with this stuff, and I used to pick it and braid it into crowns and chains. There's a picture of me, maybe six years old, sitting in the middle of a massive field of white clover with my My Little Pony and picking a bouquet. This is the only white clover in my yard, and I spoil it rotten. If I could replace my lawn with this stuff, I would:

The first flower on the pink verbena, and a sculptural succulent I'm forgetting the name of:

White potato vine, far away and close-up. The flowers are subtle, and hang down like shooting stars:

Mexican feathergrass, backlit. It really takes the spotlight in the spring, so to speak:

A tiny little winter-hardy agave I bought on a whim from Lowe's last year:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

some notes on moving stuff around

Before I get to the plant-moving chronicles, I wanted to post this picture of some weird dieback a few of my roses are getting, and see if anyone knows what's going on. Take Duchess de Brabante for example-- everything seemed fine, lots of red new growth, some with little flower buds, and then on March 1, this:

So far the dieback seems limited to this extent, but I have no idea what to make of it. Rather than brittle dieback, it's mushy when I cut through it. And the dieback took all of the spring flower buds with it. This is the largest and healthiest rose in my garden, so I'm worried.

In happier rose news, the first rose of the year, Madame Alfred Carriere. My friend who recommended it to me raved about the scent, but I have to say "eh." It reminds me of Souvenir de la Malmaison, which is all right to my nose, but not spectacular. I'm beginning to conclude that I prefer citrus and tea scents from my roses. It's good-looking flower, though.

For Diana, a picture of the new Japanese Aralia, which replaced the Acanthus Mollis:

Why replace the Acanthus? An illustration:

Ah, shade, the happy place...

The sun, eet burns!

I put the Acanthus against the other side of the fence, where the same thing is bound to happen, but I don't have anywhere with full shade to put it. Maybe when the bamboo muhly next to it grows taller it'll shade it enough to avoid the sunny day dramatics. Or maybe I'll just pretend that the Acanthus is the heroine of a bodice ripper, and narrate accordingly.