Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gathering of the greens

The Thanksgiving trip reaped its own bounty of garden treasures. While taking in the plantings around our condo, I noticed that the striped yucca was sending out pups into the lawn which were being routinely mowed down. So I dug up and brought back 6 of the chopped off plants, another variety for my front bed.
This one is giant starburst shape. In a few years, my front bed will be a health hazard of spikes, if not a burglar deterrent.

Then in Luling, we stopped at Castros, one of two fabulously funky and idiosyncratic fruit & vegetable stands that do business directly across the street from each other, selling produce, plants, and pots. This summer I bought a Knockout Rose for $15 in Luling, cheaper than I have seen them in Austin. This weekend they were $7, so I bought two more. I don't know where I'm going to put them.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Port A+

Thanksgiving on Mustang Beach was the usual meld of pies, long walks, board games, pies, gin & tonics, and conversation. Rachel asked her traditional question (is the world getting better or worse?).

This year was very cold but the beach was beautiful in its winter garb. The seagrasses apparently due to the historic annual rainfall, have never been more lush and delicately colored. Outside our condo was a bit of landscaping that could be a blueprint for my desert-tropical garden.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanks for Pie and Yuccas

Today I left work headed home to bake pies. But the late afternoon was so beautiful, I decided to go for a walk while the sun was still out. The cold front, such as it was, had blown through. Sycamore leaves the size of dinner plates were whirling through the air, it was cool but hardly the bitter front predicted.
On my last leg of the walk on Grover, I saw a pretty front garden with a profusely blooming lantana, a creamy banana yellow color, not the normal screaming marigold yellow that is so overplanted everywhere. The lady of the house was out front digging in a patch of yuccas and and I stopped to ask her if she knew the name of the lantana. She didn't, but after we talked gardens for awhile she gave me all her yucca castoffs. Score! They are a larger variety than my blue-green soft leaf cultivars. And from the robustness of her colony, they look to be pretty prolific, possibly even invasive pests. Rather than the drape-over style of my yuccas, they form radiant starburst and look like they get about 4-ft tall.
I rushed home and crammed them into the front bed before dark. They are on the own for the next few days. We're off to Port Aransas for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Aching Back, Part II

Sunday I got the front bed planted. I had already tilled abono de lavaca in to the topsoil, so the ground was ready. I love how every piece of merchandise is labeled in Eng/Span these days; I’ve learned quite a lot of terms including, now, cow manure.

So I dug holes and planted:
3 Iceberg roses
5 stands of blue-green spineless prickly pear
1 stand of blue-green asymmetrical prickly pear
3 upright rosemary
4 gray-green Russian sage
3 blue-green soft leaf yucca
2 small blue-green agaves
1 dark green with yellow stripes agave
2 hypericum
1 clump of Mexican oregano
5 root clumps of white lantana
4 root clumps of white salvia greggi
1 Mexican fan palm
1 windmill palm

Mid-day I took a break and headed to the Home Depot for six 40-lb. bags of mulch which was as many as would fit in the Accord's trunk. Stopped at DSW to look at shoes, a clever technique to pace myself and not overdo it in the yard. Sadly, could not find a single pair of shoes that I wanted. Headed home and back to stoop labor.

While I was working, two neighbors, Mark and Sarge, stopped in passing and shouted words of encouragement and praise. And my sweet neighbor Joe, dream date were he not 78 (architect, funny, amazing home interior filled with art and beauty) crept out from his lair to see how it was going and add his two cents. He really is quite charming but he always rushes off, either shy or not wanting to wear out his welcome.

I finally finished up around dusk and felt great: worn out but good worn out.

Tonight Stephanie, across the street came over to remark on the garden and tell me that she’s finally getting around to hiring someone to do front landscaping at her house. I hope that her landscaper will chop down the nandina which is all leggy and has completely robbed her front foundation planting of any joy.

The white salvia, which I wrenched from Vale only 2 weeks ago, is already leafing out. I’ve lucked out with the weather.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Construction Zone

Today by some miracle the landscaper came and did what he said he would do: removed the sod, tilled the soil, and dry-stack edged my front bed. I bought 240 lbs of cow manure and managed to dig some of it into the soil before dark. I won't get back to this project until Sunday. It's 9p.m and I hear an unfamiliar sound out my window--a hoot owl.

Golden Coins

It happens overnight. The almond-shaped leaves of the cedar elm turn goldenrod and begin to flutter down in drifts.
Rachel and I sat out on the deck and caught up matters large and small while butterflies twittered around us. Lots of sulphurs and Gulf fritillaries and a red one that Rachel aptly described as looking like a Persian rug. Even though it's November 3, this weather still counts as October perfection

Monday, November 5, 2007

Interior Gardening

A lot of gardening is about thinking. I bought this chair at the Salvation Army near my house; painted it yellow and made a cushion for it. The fabric is an outrageous print of oversized dahlias; which don't grow in Austin's climate or soil. To succeed in my garden, since I don't do a lot of soil amendment, I must plant things that thrive in sticky black alkaline clay. I have a knowledgeable guide: Scott Ogden, whose Gardening Success with Difficult Soils, is something I constantly turn to. One alkaline-loving effulgent bloomer I was counting on is the oleander. But this weekend an employee at Barton Springs Nursery told me that oleanders were under seige in Austin from some bacterial pestilence called leaf scorch. From the Texas A&M website:
We are facing another disease problem in Central Texas that looks to be a major challenge for the nursery and landscape industry. I first encountered it in the Lakeway community where it is devastating oleanders at an alarming rate, and have since seen it all over the greater Austin area. The symptoms include scorching of leaf edges and tips, leaf drop, and death of entire branches on the plant. Death of the entire plant often follows. Plants will often attempt to send up new shoots from the base, but these usually follow the same fate.
So my plan for lush oleanders is on hold. I must do some more thinking and planning.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Daylight Annoying Time

In preparation for the new front bed, I bought 3 Iceberg roses today. I decided to bail on putting in Knockout roses, despite their wonderful qualities, I just don't want that screaming magenta going on out front.
The Iceberg seems to be universally considered the best, most disease-resistant white shrub rose. It looks gorgeous that's for sure and also smells great, which Knockout doesn't. Here are my pots sitting in the back awaiting their debut. I've placed them along side their soon-to-be BFFs, the blue-gray spineless prickly pear.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Battle Plan

Now that fall planting season is almost over, I've finally got my act together on the front bed. I have a worker coming to dig the new bed and install limestone drystack edging on Tuesday (or so he says).

The picture shows the front yard with white line delineating the flower bed; it looks lumpier in the picture. In reality it's a nice undulating curve that roughly follows the current chinchbug lawn decimation. My technique is to lay a garden hose on the ground and shape it into the pattern I want, then spray paint directly onto the grass.

Here's a before picture of the house; maybe be next weekend I can actually start some planting.

Also let's just take a moment to savor the relentless joy that Blue Daze (Evolvulus Glomeratus) has brought to the front flower bed. The rare flower that is truly blue, this plant is just about perfect: thrives in heat, blooms non-stop, has perky and pretty gray-green foliage. And it is supposedly evergreen and can survive light frosts. We'll see.