Sunday, November 30, 2008

Much to be thankful for

We made our annual pilgrimage to Port Aransas to celebrate Thanksgiving. Lots of food, pies, wine, scrabble, long walks, and shelling. We had a bonfire/hootenanny on one of the cool nights.

The dunes at Port Aransas are looking taller and healthier than I've ever seen them. The vegetation is something to behold especially in the fall. The grass seedtops turn silver, red, and chestnut.

Mimosa Strigillosa or powderpuff plant. It looks more like a fiber optic pompon than a powderpuff. It was growing along the path from our condo. It's about the size of a large gumball and only an inch off the ground. Sweet.

Beach Evening Primrose (Oenothera Drummondii)
These seem to bloom year-round at Port A. These were wide open at 8 a.m. in the morning.

Common Broomweed?
Hard to tell, there are so many yellow aster-like daisy varieties.

On the way home, we stopped at Goose Island State Park to see the Big Tree. This coastal liveoak is supposedly more than 1000 years old. To be honest, it didn't strike me as that big. The copse of oaks nearby were more striking. And for some insane reason the TPWD has put up a hideous chain link fence around the Big Tree. The fence is only about 4ft tall, so anyone could hop over it, so it's not doing any good as protection.

Two views of the nearby motte of oaks. All of the oaks along this stretch of coast have this drastically tormented look from being subjected to prevailing offshore winds. We came back through Luling, where at my favorite plant stand last year I got the Knockout roses. Fortunately with Will and Rachel's gear on top of mine, there was no room to cram any plants in, so we kept on rolling. It didn't rain while we were in Port A and I arrived home to find nothing in the rain gauge either. The drought is now about a year on.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What freeze?

After seeing the magnificent Pindo Palm at Peckerwood Garden last week, I came back determined to plant one at Aurora. Shoalcreek Nursery had some really healthy looking specimens, so doing my part to keep the economy from sinking I sank my own $40 into this plant last weekend. It took me a week to mull over where it might best be situated. This spot gets full blast-furnace sun during midday, and filtered sun the remainder. I put it in a bed of decomposed granite to keep its little feet dry and happy. Supposedly they are very slow growing, but its graceful arching form is already quite lovely to look at. I think the Peckerwood one was 10 years old; it was around 15 ft. and had its own little microclimate under its canopy.

Here's my dear Charles, who braved the terrible non-freeze just fine. Isn't he handsome? I'm devising a lean-to plastic-sheeting tent against the fence to see if I can keep him alive over the winter; possible using a shop light for warmth.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Garden Day Bloom Bellyaching

Another bloom day arrives at Aurora with nothing much to add to the sum of gardening splendor. The Iceberg roses in front are blooming but the petals are wrenched from their stems about an hour after opening by this crazy wind and then strewn about the yard like styrofoam peanuts.

The white plumbago is pretty; but the four plants all take turns flowering, so there is never a mass display which is what I was striving for. Striving plays a big part in my garden vocab. Despite my careful study I am unable to discern the bud/flower/seed pattern in the plumbago so I am never certain when to shear off. I cannot tell what is past flower and what is new flower bud.

The Pink Knockouts are doing better now that the heat is over. Although their color still seems washed out. I would like to say that this photo doesn’t do them justice, but in fact, the color is accurate. I’ve been feeding the living daylights out of them, so I don’t know what more I can do.

Ah, the Port St. John Creeper, the English sheepdog of vines. A shaggy slobbering happy pink blob that is always happy to see you. And it has a two-fer aroma package: the desert willow scent of its flowers and the pinto bean pungency of its crushed stems and leaves.

Here’s poor ’ol Charles Grimaldi, who’ll probably be goners by the morning if the predicted freeze happens. He’s loaded down with buds and not one has yet struggled into bloom. Charles has been thoroughly watered and tonight he'll don his newly-purchased little jacket (a length of foam pipe wrap) so maybe he’ll live to see some bloom. But I think there’s another Arctic front coming mid-week so his future is doubtful.

In preparation for colder temps, I ventured in to the small shed built into the garage, where I keep large pots and cuttings over the winter. I haven’t been in there since last spring. To my horror I saw that I had overlooked a baby yucca. It has been in there unwatered all through this past dire summer. I felt like Hitler.

It looks pretty damn good, all things considered. No amount of striving needed for this hardy survivor.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Quercus Maximus!

The "hallway" at Peckerwood
(A creek is on the left)
A bunch of Austin bloggeners took a field trip today to Peckerwood, architect and plant collector, John Fairey's, life work in Hempstead. Thanks to Diana at Sharing Nature's Garden for pulling this together. Peckerwood is more of an arboretum really, since trees, or really, oaks are the star of this acreage. Oaks and more oaks, in varieties quite amazing. Some pines, magnolias, lots of palms, agaves, and cycads. But really LOTS OF OAKS.
Our guide, Chris Camacho, was very patient and answered our bazillion questions and was amazingly knowledgable about his botany. He is one of two fulltime gardeners. The creekside hallway was my favorite part of Peckerwood. This long corridor of lawn is mostly in shade bordered by pines and a creek on one side and a low hedge of palms on the other. It was like a giant green bowling alley and made me realize how a longing for emerald lawns is deeply embedded in our DNA.

This tree is a Japanese oak. Click on this picture to enlarge so you can see how fab this tree is. It has white limbs on a multi-branching trunk with glossy dark green leaves in a huge arching canopy. It is elegant and at the same time, very sturdy and bold. Texas sabals can be seen at the foot. The "hallway" continues winding back to the left.

Toward the house the arboretum ends and a more planned garden takes hold, with a spikey mix of agaves, yucca, cacti, cycads and palms. Guide Chris pointed out that John Fairey is not very interested in flowers and has even been known to lop off blooms that get in the way of his structural vision. His one indulgence is apparently camellias. This part of Texas, Waller County, has soil that is neutral, neither acid nor alkali, so the diversity of plants that can grow there is vast.

Behind this feathery Muhly grass is a 5-foot crinum, streaked with magenta and green.

This Pindo palm might work well in my backyard. Hmmm...

After spending several hours grilling Chris with questions, we were starving and adjourned to lunch at the Secret Garden Cafe in Hempstead. It was a fun day and it's great to be with fellow gardeners who never tire of obsessing over arcane plant minutiae. Check out more Peckerwood pics & posts at Digging, Zanthan, Good & Evil, Sharing Nature's Garden, Vert, and Conscious Gardening.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Estamos en una sequía

Sounds prettier in Spanish does’t it?
Well, this about says it all, in whatever language. It was a year ago at the end of October when I planted the front bed. And now looking back, I can see we were already in the beginning of this drought.
Whatevs. Like a bad economy, the weather is something out of our control and history tells us, it’ll swing around at some point.
On the plus side, there are TWENTY SEVEN buds on Charles Grimaldi and the milder temps mean that the roses are back in business.
If you haven’t voted or are still, inexplicably, undecided, please e-mail me and I’ll personally drive you to the polls and buy you a black & tan at Flying Saucer. Seriously.