The Natural Garden Coach

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Prepping for Gustav

Even though I live in north Louisiana, we are getting prepared for Hurricane Gustav as well. It's projected to move up to Shreveport, which is west of where I live. We're on the "wrong" side of the hurricane (or tropical storm) so that may mean drenching rains, wind, and tornadoes. So how do you prep a garden for that kind of potential? Well, I'll admit to be a novice at this, so I'm just guessing. (Katrina was on our "good" side so we only experienced cloud cover and Rita, though we felt its affects, flew through east Texas so fast that we were spared fairly well.) What I decided to do, besides moving potential loose items to cover, is move all my potted succulents to my potting shed so they wouldn't drown. They've had plenty of rain this August already. So you can see in the above photo how they're all nice and snug and ready to ride out anything. I also moved my brugmansia in there since its big leaves tend to shed when whipped by wind. All the other potted plants, which are big and in heavy pots, will just have to hang on. The rest of my garden too!
I took a photo of a Ruby-throated hummingbird visiting my 'Black and Blue' salvia this morning. I wonder where they will go when the storm comes?
And the bees too, where do they go? I took this photo last week. The flower is Salvia Van Houtii ‘Burgundy’. It's a new plant for me this year and I really like it. It has a tendency to flower in spurts, but when it does, the entire plant is covered.

I'll post again to let everyone know how the garden fairs. That is, provided we can keep our electricity. Wish us luck!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More rain-inspired finds

What fun to go exploring for what August rains have brought! I prefer not to remember or take pictures of the fire ant mounds or the weeds (one of which was almost 3 ft tall!). So here's some neat little things I did find.

Some lovely mushrooms for a start. Long ago I took a botany class by an eminent mycology prof who drilled into us NEVER to eat wild mushrooms unless we really, really knew what we were doing. So I haven't bothered to learn the names of fungi. I just marvel at their beauty and tenacity. I just missed photographing some yellow ones but they were in their death throws and not very appetizing.

I was terribly excited to find many little buds on my potted Meyer lemon tree. I can't wait for the fragrance and the bee orgy!

And to my surprise, my husband found a little wisteria blooming in our alleyway. The wisteria in our neck of the woods has really gotten out of hand. Both my husband and I have spent countless hours trying to rip out the wild wisteria. It sets seed everywhere and especially loves the prepared planting beds. We've managed to get a decent handle on it now but it's a constant maintenance situation. So to help prevent this little one from setting seed, I happily clipped it for the house. The rose in the vase with it is 'Janet' (see my last post on that topic).

Not to jinx anything, but some sunshine would be nice soon. :-)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Janet, you've disappointed me

Well it finally stopped raining for the time being. There may be a few showers this afternoon so I took the opportunity this morning to pull a few weeds, another gift from the rain. Then I started to get into that dream state where I do a little more and then a little more. I'm sure you gardeners know what I'm talking about. Before you know it, you've done a whole lot of things outside but possibly not what you set out to do. Anyway, while deadheading the roses and geraniums I finally noticed it - mosquitoes were swarming all over me! So I ran back inside. They always seem to win the battle.


Moving on, I thought I'd talk about this lovely little rosebud. It's called 'Janet' and it's a David Austin English rose. It's even prettier when in full bloom, with peachy-pink cupped blooms and a nice tea fragrance. And it seems to resist blackspot pretty well. So those are all the great things about it. However, it's got one really annoying habit that I can't for the life of me figure out. When it blooms, it hangs its head down so you can't see the blooms! I planted it last year, it grew and bloomed vigorously but always planted its face in the dirt. So I pulled it out early this spring, planted it in a big pot, and put the pot on a concrete wall. I thought at least I would be able to see the blooms at face height. And that is indeed the case but they still turn upside-down. I guess it's the weight of the bloom that does that and perhaps the canes are not sturdy enough. I thought putting it in a pot would toughen it up to the point where it could face the sun, but no. So I'm wondering - am I the only one with this problem and if not, why would a rose breeder release a breed that blooms upside-down??

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The negative and positive

Well, we're back from a week visiting family in northern California. Just as we were leaving home it was pouring and, as you can see from last week's posting, there was quite a bit of rain. And when we got back, same thing - rain. It's very ironic that it was cooler and wetter at home than it was during our visit to CA. (And let me tell you, it's dry, dry, dry out west. Lots of smoke too.)


Today it stopped raining long enough for me to check things out in the yard. Yesterday as you can see, I pulled some of my succulents/cacti under the carport to keep them from drowning. That's the negative with all this rain. Why I insist on growing these things here, I don't know. Actually, yes I do. I think it's a combination of appreciating their sculptural beauty and missing the wilds of Texas. But Louisiana isn't really the best climate for them so they continue to struggle.


On the positive side, it's really remarkable what real rain will do. I can water my potted plants every day during the summer but I'm only just keeping them alive. When they get rain, they really thrive. This picture is of my brugmansia. It must have sprouted a hundred leaves since I left. Good timing too because for some reason, this thing only blooms in September. I've tried fertilizer, cutting it back in winter, not cutting it back in winter, covering it with black plastic to make it go dormant in winter. But I've been unsuccessful in getting it to bloom at any other time. Anyone else have any ideas?

Ah, to be back in the cool wet weather, ha!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Anticipation...




I'm anticipating two things in the next week. The first is rain. At least it better come. You can see in the first photo that my mock orange is getting a bit droopy, even though I set out a sprinkler for it occasionally. The second photo is of raindrops on my patio. Despite assurances from the weather channel that rain is really marching down from Arkansas, this is all we've gotten. Most of the rain seems to be east of here. If I'm lucky I'll be able to post a picture that shows rain in the ol' rain guage.

The second thing I'm anticipating (with trepidation) is a tomato horn worm on my Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. I had a difficult time getting a good photo of some leaf damage I noticed on my toms this morning but believe me, it's there. Unfortunately I can't find the worm! Maybe he doesn't like Sun Golds and moved on but that would be hard to do for a caterpillar. So far the damage is minimal. But I'll be heading out of town in a couple days for a week. That's when I'm afraid he'll really spring into action. Yikes, what'll my plant look like when I get back?!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Finally, a break




Well we're finally getting a break from the triple-digit temperatures. We're now in the mid to high 90's (woopee!). Our break came on Saturday night from one of those high heat-induced crazy thunderstorms. Thunder, lightning, straight-line winds, and a gully-washer. All of which managed to knock out power around the town and destroy some trees and electrical poles. But it also knocked back the temperatures and then the arrival of Eduoard to the coast gave us a few clouds to block the sun. Ah, the relief!

Yesterday I decided to check out the garden with my camera in tow and see what flowers are managing to hang in there. I was surprised at how nice a few things looked. Since I haven't figured out yet how to intersperse the photos with my text, I'll start at the top. The first pic is of an annual I bought at our farmers' market. It's an ornamental pepper called 'Black Pearl'. The peppers start out purplish-black but then turn red. You can actually eat them and they're quite hot but they're not really that tasty.

The next picture is of a Victoria Blue salvia in front of a ‘Perfume Lime’ nicotiana. The salvia really popped last month behind a bright gold coreopsis (an unknown variety) but this picture makes a real sweet contrast. This nicotiana plant is very small, probably because it's a seedling of the original from last year. And by the way, it never did have much of a fragrance.

The last photo is of a white nicotiana (unknown variety again; sorry, it wasn't labeled!). Behind it is Salvia 'Coral Nymph'. I love how delicate they look together. I was amused and a little proud to see the same combination of plants used in one of the fabulous public planters in downtown Chicago this July. This nicotiana is definitely fragrant.

All in all, a good showing despite the weather. I guess I really shouldn't complain. :-)

Monday, August 4, 2008

The great big blogging world

I gotta say, I had no idea what I was missing in this world since I have only just recently discovered the world of blogging about gardening. My big loss!! But I'm there now. There are so many spectacular garden blogs out there that I want to add every single one I come across to my favorites list. But here's the thing that worries me the most - I'm getting addicted to looking for them and reading them. I can spend hours doing that. And I'm supposed to be directing my "career transition" (euphemism for finding a job) instead of doing that.

Ah well, the cats don't seem to mind. Duba and Chobe are quite non-plussed by my garden blog addiction guilt.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Trellises and dreams


The design workshop by the good folks on the Gardening Gone Wild blog is about trellises and screens this month. A worthy gardening topic since we all have dreams of luscious flowers cascading down and through a trellis or screening one of those eyesores we all have. Here are a couple from my yard, minus the luscious flowers at the moment. The first one near the round window was designed by my friend Alexis and built by a local man talented in the art of iron work. It gives a bit of modernity (sp?) to a traditional rose garden and house. This picture was taken last year when the Madame Alfred Carriere climber was not yet in bloom. This year it's zoomed over the top and is now climbing on the flat roof. Guess the trellis wasn't tall enough after all!

The other trellis is actually a very old Egyptian gate. I bought it several years ago with the idea that I was going to screen an area under a staircase. But I never got around to that and so I schlepped it to Louisiana when we moved. It now sits towards the back of the yard in line of sight from the deck. My grand plans were to have a clematis grow up through it but sadly, it's still a rather wimpy vine. This area gets dappled shade most of the day until towards the end when it gets blasted by the sun. So it's a challenge and if you have any good ideas of what vine will tolerate that, let me know.