The Natural Garden Coach

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gardening to the Max



Like some other garden bloggers out there, I've been busy in between rains trying to get the gardening work done before leaving for Chicago Spring Fling. It was an intense day of work yesterday as I battled the beasties (fire ants, slugs, and spider mites), deadheaded, transplanted (see yesterday's post for one of the transplants), fertilized, and tidied up beds.

The daylilies are still at the height of their bloom period. The daylily up top reminds me of a dreamsicle. The daylily below is one of my cheap-in-a-bag purchases called El Desperado. Or so they say. The description from the package describes it thusly: mustard yellow with a striking plum-purple eye, plum picotee and deep green throat. It has none of that. Basically it looks like the old fashioned Tawny daylily except that the petals alternate light and dark colors.



Okay, last daylily photo, I promise (for today anyway). There's still one more daylily to bloom in this photo. It's at the end of the rock wall and has the same colors as the last one in this photo only it's a double. And very prolific.



Okay, I lied. Here's one more photo of daylilies. But I didn't want to discuss them but rather the little red blooms in the background. I purchased a six-pack of Salvia 'Coral Nymph' and split it with a co-worker. They were very small plants at the time. Imagine my surprise when one of them bloomed bright red. Well that messed up my whole color scheme so I had to move it to this bed. Not that this bed really has a color scheme but it seemed the best place for now. It's a very brilliant red and quite lovely. I hope it can thrive well enough with the dappled sun it will get for most of the day until the end when it will get blasted by intense sun. Also seen in this photo is the hosta 'Elvis Lives' (love the name!) and Bamboo Muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa).



As I mentioned before, part of my work yesterday involved dealing with beasties and other tough garden problems. I seem to be getting them all at once! I had blogged previously (see Slugfest and other garden battles) how my coreopsis had developed powdery mildew because of the rain and humidity. That was leading only to more decline and a greater population of pillbugs and other creatures I don't want. So I whacked them all back. I have no idea if they'll come back but since I know it was only going to get worse, I don't mind. I'll find something else to fill the void if they don't survive the whacking. Also seen here are several 'Victoria Blue' salvias and a baby buddleia, 'Pink Delight'.





For my bird friends I decided to make a little ledge on my water pot (that's Equisetum hyemale or Horsetail Rush in the pot). I've noticed the finches and cardinals occasionally trying to drink from this but they were never able to stand on something. So I built them a little bamboo bridge. Hope it works.



I didn't really do any work in this area of the yard yesterday. But I thought it was looking nice now that the hydrangeas were starting to bloom. The one in the foreground is 'Lady in Red' and the one in the background is 'Mini-Penny'. Eventually (as in a long time from now) I hope to remove the lawn to the left of these beds and create one big shade garden.

I leave you with a close up of the 'Mini-Penny'. It hasn't started turning pink yet but should soon.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Plant ID needed, please



Anyone have any idea what the name of this plant is? I bought it probably 5 or 6 years ago at a little nursery in Austin that was on South First Street (it's since gone out of business). The man I bought it from didn't know what kind of plant it was but I didn't care because I thought it would look so good in one of two pots I was buying from him (they were such a deal, I couldn't pass them up).

Over the years it really took off and became too big for the lovely pot. So I finally decided to plant it in the landscape. A month or so ago I worked on the soil, adding sand and gravel and building a mound so it would drain well (I'm always worried my xeric plants will drown in Louisiana rains!). But two weeks ago I discovered a hive of fire ants had thanklessly moved into my mound. The only organic control that I've found that works with them is to disturb their mound, put lots of diatomaceous earth on top, and then run away before getting stung. It worked and I was able to plant this today with the help of my husband.

So if you can guess what plant this is, please give it a try as I'd really like to know. Thanks!

As an aside, in this world of strange coincidences the man who sold me this plant grew up in the small town I live in today!

UPDATE: It has been identified as an Agave multilifera. Thank you Maria!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

May Bloom Day (a little late)



Imagine, having to go to work getting in the way of gardening and Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! That's my only excuse for being two days late for this tradition in the blogosphere. So without further ado, welcome to my rainy GBBD post.



I guess the main theme of May's post must be daylilies. When we first moved to this house there were a lot of daylilies in both the front and backyard. The front yard had mostly the old-fashioned tawny daylilies, most of which I passed along to a neighbor when we removed some of the driveway for more lawn (temporary measure; they were growing next to the driveway but we want space for a future cottage garden there). The backyard had a lot of the fancier daylilies but most of them weren't blooming much. So when the Great Backyard Makeover occured, I moved all of them to pots and then planted them here and there afterwards, not really knowing what would show up. To my surprise and delight they have prospered ever since. I could never grow them very successfully before, having little to no soil at our old home in Austin. So I relish them.

The one below is one I just received as a pass-along plant from Robin in my Master Gardeners class. She hybridized this one. Nice, huh?



None of the daylilies are planted in my raised beds but rather along the rock wall and in some back beds.



In the raised beds are a variety of blooms, including this 'Victoria Blue' salvia.



And yet another photo of the 'Summer Carnival' hollyhock (not long for this world; see my other posts about why).



Along the back in the shadier part of the yard are some 'Inland Sea Oats', Chasmanthium latifolium. I think this is really going to be their year to shine. But here's the very beginnings of their blooms. Nothing fancy, as you can see.



Also along the back are my hydrangeas. This one is 'Lady in Red' and it's also finally starting to have many blooms (it's been in the ground for two years now).



Other blooms for this Bloom Day include the roses Janet, The Fairy, Veteran's Honor, Red Cascades, and Madame Alfred Carriere. But they're actually in a restful phase right now with even more blooms to come soon I hope (they missed their chance to shine on a blog since I've been too busy!). The coreopsis, larkspur, ox-eye daisies, nicotiana, various salvias, chives, parsley, cilantro, and other veggies are also blooming. Now that I've blogged about my Bloom Day, I can't wait to visit Carol's blog to see her blooms and everyone else's! I leave you with a shot that I found on my camera of my two little boys.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some pretty things

I just couldn't stand to have those ugly pictures in my previous post hanging around at the top of my blog. So here's some things that look kinda purty instead.



These daylilies are the first to come out. Unfortunately I don't know their name as they came with the house. The Spiderwort in the background is a nuisance 'weed' that keeps popping up here. But it does look nice with the yellow!



Here's my Flapjack succulent in the early morning light. It was supposed to be repotted this spring but never made it.



This is the first hollyhock bloom I've ever had. They're new for me this year. I probably won't be growing them next year because they came down with rust real bad. I didn't know that they had a tendency to do that when I bought them. The other odd thing is this is supposed to be 'Summer Carnival' mix, which has a double or semidouble bloom in 4 shades. But it looks like a single bloom to me.



My 'Black and Blue' Salvia is finally starting to bloom. I've been anxious for it since the hummers like it so much. From this pic you can see why it has that name.

And can I just add something that has nothing to do with these blooms? Summer has been here for weeks now and it's starting to make me mad! What happened to spring??

Monday, May 11, 2009

Slugfest and other garden battles

The spring rains, as I blogged about last, are bringing some not so wanted things to the garden. Chief among them are the slugs. I never had slug problems, or not much of one, until this year. Seems they've found their way into my raised beds and unbeknownst to me, were decimating the vines I was trying to grow on my willow teepee. But I caught them at it this morning and hope to score a knockout punch with them tonight. Below you can see what's been happening to my vines. This one is a hyacinth bean vine (Dolichos lablab).



Are the slugs responsible for the state of my jalapeno pepper plant? Hmm, I'm not sure. Anyone out there know?



The rains have also brought a host of fungi. Below you can see, if you look hard, the powdery mildew which is covering my coreopsis. Hey, I thought these flowers were supposed to be easy as pie to grow?!



And of course, my old friend Mr. Blackspot is back. The Marie Pavie rose has frequent bouts of blackspot and right now she's in tough shape. But I know she'll be back. I have a few other roses with blackspot, one old red rose that was here when we bought the house (might be Cramoisi Superior), the climber Madame Alfred Carriere, and a hybrid tea (what possessed me?) called Veteran's Honor. However, The Fairy, Janet, and Red Cascade are still disease free. If only it would stop raining long enough for me to get out the spray (organic of course).



There. That's enough about the ugly stuff. Besides, it's thundering again. :-( I hope to blog about some nice blooms tomorrow!

Friday, May 8, 2009

And what are the spring rains bringing?

Well, they're bringing some interesting things but you have to read the rest of this post to find out the most interesting thing. We've had a LOT of rain in the past week, with a good five inches just Sunday night. The back lawn is swampy and frankly, the plants would be happier with some more sunshine. But knowing how things will dry out in the summer is keeping me from complaining too much. First up is something that theoretically doesn't need the rain as it's "self-watering".



I'm trying this self-watering container for the first time this year. It came with organic potting mix and organic tomato fertilizer. 'Cherokee Purple' is in this container and it's shot way up over the cage that comes with the kit. I tried ordering an extension for it but they're backordered for another month. And that certainly won't help by that point! So after the rains I've been out there tying the stems to the cage. Here's a close-up of one of the baby tomatoes.



The first of my frugal daylily purchases (bought in bags at the big box) is blooming. This is Crimson Pirate, an older variety from the 1950's. I kind of like its spareness.



I can't seem to stop taking pics of my nicotiana. This pic includes Verbena bonariensis (and the small yellow bloom in the background is my wild Italian arugula).



An overflowing birdbath with Ox-eye Daisies in the background.



My shade garden is perking up with the rain. The hosta at the top is my newest one, 'Patriot'. Need I say that the rains have also brought the slugs, the bane of hostas?



And now for the grand finale. As my friend and I were sitting in the living room talking, she all of a sudden excitedly says "Jean, look out the back door!!". And crawling up the window of the door was this snake. We think it's a black rat snake, not dangerous to us but not something that small mammals would like to see. The rains must have driven it out from wherever it lives. Unfortunately, after I took this shot I watched it crawl under the siding. Who knows where I'll see it next but I hope when I do it's in broad daylight! :-)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring Migrants

I really should be blogging about my garden right now, especially since things are really starting to pop. But I haven't had a chance to take any photos. (Or read any other garden blogs for that matter!) However, a couple of weeks ago I took some photos of some of the birds that are migrating through my garden. Here are photos of two of my faves. The first shows an Indigo Bunting on the left and mostly Pine Siskins on the right. The fat bird above the seed cake is a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.



In this next photo are a male and female pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (the female is sitting at the very top). Interestingly, the male let the female eat all she wanted on the seed cake before he partook.



I do hope they all stick around for this week when my friend from Austin is visiting. She's an avid birder (in fact, we first took birding classes together from Ed Kutac, eminent Texas birding authority, many moons ago!).