Friday, February 22, 2008

If I had great floodlights in my yard, I would never stop puttering.

The last few days I've been fighting daylight to try to get through the many projects I have planned for the garden. Instead of making leaps and bounds of progress, it took me two days to clean up the raised beds and cut back all of the ornamental grasses. I have a nice blister at the base of my thumb from the pruners, even though I wore gloves.

It's a pretty sad picture out there right now, since so much of the "bones" of my garden rely on the foilage of the ornamental grasses, and with those gone, everything seems boring and a bit unbalanced. I'm thinking that next fall I need to put in a whole bunch of oxalis and spring-blooming bulbs so that this whole cutting-back routine isn't quite so depressing.

In other non-depressing news, I finally caved and bought this ornamental stone head that I've been admiring for over a year. I love it:

I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that the succulents root and fill in without any problems. The planting pocket on the top of the head was smaller than I thought. Either way, I love how this stone face catches the light.

Before the haircut:

After the haircut:

And for comparison purposes, last February. In retrospect, I really could not have gotten any luckier than starting my garden when I did. I don't think I even watered until October!

Tomorrow's plan...exciting trench-digging. It's time to de-uglify the other side yard.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

More pictures of winter ornamental grasses and foliage...

note: posted 3/22/08 for archival purposes

These are pictures from pretty much every area of the flower beds, including the ugly parts, since this is a learning experience:

My most recent re-design. I moved a leggy "Belinda's Dream" rose into more sun and planted bamboo muhly and pink abutilon against the fence for fast height and evergreen interest, and in front of those, an anacacho orchid tree for spring flowers and an "Adagio" miscanthus to spill over the edge of the raised bed. This section is in filtered shade from the mesquite most of the year:

I like the variety of colors and textures in this view:

Messy. I've since moved a few things around and added a Pink Double Knockout that will hopefully be able to take a little shade:

The rose section. Trained up the fence is "Maggie," a found rose. In front and to the left of "Maggie" is "Belinda's Dream." And in front of "Belinda's Dream" is the bourbon "Souvenir de la Malmaison." The lindheimer muhly to the right of the picture has since been moved out of its way.

This is, hands-down, my least favorite section of the garden, made more problematic by buried cables that limit my plant choices. I'd also like to add a pergola in front of the back gate to the left of the picture, so I'm waiting to see how far that will extend into the bed before I move anything around. But still, it's a lousy view from the side yard. Sigh:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I must preface this post by saying that my pictures for February's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day are cheating a bit, since most of my flower pictures are of brand spankin' new plants that I just spent far too much money on at Barton Springs Nursery. You see, if I subtract the two P's-- new purchases and pansies-- I'm left with the gloriousness that is...


WHOOHOO, the verbena is blooming!

So, yeah, I'm thinking that I'll pad this post out a bit.

I just got some perennial dianthus and some more verbena. I hear that this particular dianthus smells like cloves when it blooms:

Winter-blooming germander from BSN. I've been admiring some blooming almost constantly in a limestone retaining wall by Town Lake, but the guy I talked to at BSN said that they need excellent drainage and tend to up and die suddenly, so I'm crossing my fingers and trying it anyway since it's one of the few things that blooms all winter in Austin. I worked a lot of rose soil into the hole before planting to make sure the drainage would be decent, since the rose soil I had on hand has decomposed granite in it to aid drainage.

Since the weather's been really warm all week, the pansies are going to seed:

Alyssum in a pot. It smells sunny and sweet.

The coralberry is leafing out again. Time to cut it back, I'm thinking.

And in conclusion, the lovely watercolor blue of a pansy:

Friday, February 8, 2008

I tried to come up with a catchy title, but nothing clever rhymes with 'cedar.'

Ah, February in Texas. It's warm, it's sunny, and boy, do I miss being able to breathe through my nose!

In other cedar-related shenanigans, I began my gardening week by managing to get myself and my car locked into The Natural Gardener on Super Bowl Sunday. Note to self: in the future, when you plan to shovel 14 bags of cedar mulch, start shoveling at least an hour before the place closes!

Luckily, I'd dressed for the occasion. When climbing over security fences, you can't do much better than camo cargo pants and a MASH 4077 t-shirt. I was even wearing a fedora to keep the sun out of my eyes. If I'd have had a bullwhip anywhere on my person, it would have been a totally awesome Clash of the Archetypes. I had to scale the dirt yard gate, flag down some poor woman on her way to church to borrow her cell phone, and then reclimb the gate to move my car to the front parking lot, and then made like a ninja over the front gate when my friends pulled up 45 minutes later.

In those 45 minutes, the donkeys got bored of watching me and I got bored of watching the donkeys, and I found myself lost in contemplation. For instance, what would one sell at a landscape nursery called The UnNatural Gardener? Pink flamingo lawn ornaments, definitely. For the holidays, poinsettias sprayed with neon glitter, check! Disturbing-looking houseplants straight out of the R-rated Japanese anime, we wants it, precious!

But I'm thinking that what would make The UnNatural Gardener so stunningly successful would be a confidential service called Yard Ninjas. Your neighbors have huge swaths of pampas grass in their front yard that they never cut down to the ground in spring? Who're you gonna call? Yard Ninjas! They'll sneak up in the dead of night with their stealth and scythe! Annoyed by those people down at the corner who let the low branches of their trees grow low over the road so your car's windshield gets thwapped every time you make a right-hand turn? Yard Ninjas!

What I'm trying to figure out now is what special sets of skills it'll take for the extra-elite-Delta-force-equivalent squad of Yard Ninjas to stop people from topping their crape myrtles every winter.

Well, a girl can dream.

So, that was Sunday. Monday was a beautiful day, and I spent my free time rescuing my car, which still smells like cedar mulch five days later. And I know it must really reek with the power of a thousand of those little pine tree air fresheners, because I can't breathe through my nose! I find I kinda like it.

Tuesday I continued my east side yard de-uglification project. My side yards are both about five feet wide, and my large kitchen window looks out onto a breathtaking vista of...meh. Last summer I stapled some wire fencing to the board fence and planted a combination of tangerine crossvine, white potato vine, jasmine, morning glories, and just for kicks, Kentucky Wonder pole beans. The view out the window was greatly improved with the bright blue of the morning glories, but once they were done for the year, I knew I needed something to look at besides boards and dormant lawn while the vines filled in.

And here I insert a few pictures from October through December. I'm a big fan of this shade of blue.

Here's the side yard now, with the addition of 14 bags of cedar mulch, "White Ruffles" dwarf ruella, white lirope, tall ruella "Chi-Chi Pink" in front of some pipes coming out of the house, and some bamboo muhly on each side of the gate.

I still need to add some more finely shredded cedar to even out the edges of the path, but I'm pretty much satisfied for now. When it warms up more, I'm going to add some purple heart for more contrast and possibly oxalis if I can convince myself that it'll take both the clay and the shade. (Can you tell that the theme of the side yard is "hard to kill?") I also stuck a Madame Alfred Carriere climbing rose where it'll get the most sun, and plan to train it on the wire that goes above the top of the fence.

I tried M. Alfred last summer on the west side fence, and it was a monster. It grew about 15 feet in 7 months, and it was incredibly thorny. I'd bought it for its thornlessness and it hadn't bloomed, so I pulled it out and added it to the growing list of roses I have killed, but more on that another day. In the epic struggle of Man vs Nature, this gardener definitely has a special category set aside for Man vs Rosebush.