Monday, April 26, 2010

Austin, your sago palms called. They’d like you to cut them back.

Okay, let’s review: if a frond is brown it’s not going to resurrect itself. Cut off all the dead stuff and let the heart send out some new shoots. It’ll look better and we can all get some relief from the fugly brown crap. Thanks.

While you’re waiting for your sago palm to reboot, read Oliver Sack’s Island of the Color Blind, in which, among other things, he ruminates on his lifelong fascination with cycads, the family to which sago palms belong, and one of the most primitive forms of plant life.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

La Vie en Rose

I am besotted with the performance of the roses this spring. Everywhere on my walks in Brentwood/Crestview the climbers and shrub roses are just wallpapered with blossoms. The iceberg roses in my front bed are so weighted with buds that I had to stake them today as they were sagging and in danger of collapse. A wonderful problem to have.

This is a new rose I planted in a spot where previously a fan palm had struggled. I finally got fed up with its yellow leaves and general straggly look; right now it’s in the backyard while I decide where to put it. Poor thing may be better off in shade. This is rose is Penelope, not a true white like Iceberg, but a lovely cream. It's supposed to be a spreader.

The Sunset Knockouts continue to light up the deck garden and they are really filling in at last.

When I put the front garden in during late November 2007, I couldn't know that we were already in the second month of what would be 3 year drought aggravated by summers with protracted periods of record heat. This has been my most challenging garden startup ever, so it's nice to finally see some progress.

Great joy in the backyard is that the white oleander is blooming, it's first time! I started this plant from a cutting I took from a shrub a few blocks north of my house 3 years ago. The mother-shrub appears to very old and I've never seen such a beautiful cultivar: the darkest green leaves and absolute white blossoms. My shrub is still quite small but I think this summer it may finally take off.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Purple Rain

The notion of seeing blossoms from a window is an Ur-cottage desire that in reality is practically impossible to attain. But for a few weeks purple fills this window thanks to a mountain laurel.

Fortunately you cannot see from this same window the desolation which is the front lawn. Today I broadcast 5 lbs. of La Prima XD Bermudagrass seed on this spot. On the other side of the sidewalk, also a wasteland, my delusional schemes of monkey grass and pavers has been scaled back. I realized the space was too small—the paver business would be too busy. Instead this total-shade strip will be a bed of English ivy contained by the sidewalk and driveway. It will take awhile as per the old garden rule of thumb for ivy:
First year: it sleeps
Second year: it creeps
Third year: it leaps!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rite of Spring

In the Texas tradition of plunking one’s baby down in a field of bluebonnets for a photo op, I took my two babies on a roadtrip in search of a classic Texas landscape. While Zeke is a year old, in lab years this still qualifies as drooling infancy and since he’s only been in my care for two months, he definitely needed his Baby in Bluebonnets photo. Rachel of course will always be my baby no matter how mature, wise, beautiful and hilariously funny she grows. This shot was taken somewhere near Sisterdale, one of the most charming dots on the state highway map.

And speaking of babies, here’s some babies I’ve dug up from my yard. Baby Rachel has taken advantage of the $8000 rebate to first-time homebuyers and bought a cottage in East Austin. These yuccas, pavonia, and Port St. John creeper are some starters for her yard. She’s named her house Julius because it’s orange; read about it here.
In other domestic gardening news, my former baby Grace has begun a blog about her balcony horticulture in Boston. It must be spring!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ode to Crossvine

I think that I will never see
A vine as lovely as thee
Who climbs without inflicting doom
On masonry or marble tomb
Or even cheapo wooden fence
Resistent to every pestilence
Each spring your royal flush
Of flowers comes without a rush
Of any kind of care or costly feeding
Just abundance and homespun breeding
That on a trellis does so easily shine
Your leaves hang down and twine
A happy waterfall of evergreen
That asks for nothing but to be seen
Or complimented on its fine
And simple beauty, called crossvine.

Spring 2008

Spring 2009

Spring 2010

Donax, don't tell.

Arundo Donax
Banned from sale by the USDA as a noxious weed, Arundo Donax (like any self-respecting outlaw, this plant has other coloful monikers such as Giant Reed and Carrizo Cane) can be seen growing in ditches throughout the US. And like most criminals, Donax has some redeeming qualities; it's used in making bagpipe reeds, fishing poles, and baskets.

I took some rhizomes from a drainage ditch near my house and put them in this black cattle feed tub to screen the AC unit. Please don't turn me in to the authorities.
The speckles on these leaves are oak pollen which is falling like volcanic ash on every outdoor surface. After an hour of potting and hacking around the yard, I feel as if I've been gassed.

Zeke looks like he just got back from a Holi festival. Yes, he's a yellow lab, but this is ridiculous.

In other garden news, I foolishly bought a Rêve d'Or at Barton Springs Nursery, brought it home and realized I have nowhere to put it. I'd seen one growing on a split-cedar fence at a house near me and fallen desperately in love. I am running out of spots that get even six hours of sun. The last remaining patch of sun is the deck, so I've planted Rêve d'Or in another cattle-feed tub. We'll see how it goes.

Bert and Ernie, the topiary loquats, happily survived winter's worst. One of my favorite pastimes is smugly pricing the tree loquats at Shedd's and reflecting that Bert and Ernie, with zero initial investment, have appreciated more than my 401k. Such are the joys of gardening.