The Natural Garden Coach

Monday, November 30, 2009

Travels and Home



Thanksgiving is usually associated with travel and home. This year we decided to stay home for the holiday but get out on the weekend to the "big city". Many of my visits to other locales involve trying to visit a local public garden and this weekend was no exception. Our trip to Little Rock took us to Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts. They have several distinct garden areas in the park, many of which are maintained by local garden clubs. Unfortunately for us it looked like we were about one week too late to see some blooms (I know they had a good freeze just this past week). Still, when you're a gardener, it counts. Above is a view of the wildflower area. It looks like it would be very nice in bloom.



It had several bluebird houses and a stream in the area. Although they had a separate butterfly garden, I imagine that this area is alive with wildlife.



This sea oats (Chasmanthium) would provide forage.



We arrived fairly late in the day so our sunlight was fading fast. But didn't it highlight this river birch nicely? There was a lovely little seating area near the performing arts theater that showcased these and many other trees, as well as grasses and rudbeckia.



Along a little lake is a 10 acre arboretum with drifts of daffodils (which I'd love to see in the spring) and well labeled trees and shrubs. Take for example this shrubby tree above. Doesn't it look like it would provide a great burst of flowers in the spring? Thankfully it was labeled as Pinckneya pubens 'Larry's Party Pink' (they also called it a poinsettia tree but I think the more common name is fever tree (like the 60's band!)). In fact, because everything was labeled so well, I was able to see what several shrubs I've been considering for my garden looked like in the fall/winter. Very good info.



This label however, caught me by surprise. I'm not really sure what to say about it. I think I won't say anything.



Last but not least, this little viola remained so I could photograph at least one bloom! I will definitely return to this park, hopefully in the spring for their daffodils and azaleas.

Back to my garden, I've been tidying up for the fall, enjoying the remaining fall colors, and planting a few things.



These little birdies are missing their succulent pals.



Those succulents and more go into the storeroom for the winter, where the temps stay warmer than in the unheated greenhouse.



My portable greenhouse still has room for a few more plants. The newly repotted olive tree looks like it may be too tall by next year for the greenhouse.



This photo makes this plant look much bigger than it really is! This is one of the plants I picked up recently at a mostly native plant nursery. It's Viburnum obovatum ‘Mrs Schiller’s Delight’, a dwarf native cultivar. I'm anxious to see how it turns out. It's supposed to be very attractive to butterflies.



Fall colors are really here now. Our red oak is doing its red thing finally. I'm not sure which species this is exactly, but it has grown like crazy since we planted it.



The Japanese maple 'Bloodgood' is really responding to cooler temperatures.



Our pecan tree has been totally devoid of leaves for some time now but the willow oak (Quercus phellus) in the background is still slowly losing them.

I hope you all had as lovely a Thanksgiving holiday as I did!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Autumnal Honor and Surprise



I offer you this plate of Louisiana satsumas in humble gratitude. I was so shocked to find out that Horticulture magazine has included my blog in their list of their favorite top 20 garden blogs. There are some great blogs on the list that I'm already familiar with, and some new ones to me that I want to visit. They can all be found by clicking through from the Horticulture store website or right here. Some of my favorites are not listed, which surprises me. But I guess it really shouldn't as we all have certain ideas about what we want to see in a garden blog. And a list is just a list; you can't list them all! You can see some of my favorites in the sidebar on the right.

What really amazes me about this honor is that I think Horticulture was the first garden magazine I subscribed to, probably a couple of decades ago. (Although I'd been gardening before that, I couldn't afford any magazine subscriptions til then!) Who would have thought that my initial forays into gardening (with the magazine's help) would eventually lead to me journaling my gardening thoughts in cyberspace? Amazing.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Non-native and Invasive



How's this for a non-native plant? Ha! As my friend and I were driving west to a native plant nursery, we stopped for a bio break and found these lovely plastic coconut palm trees in front of a casino (yes, you can just get off the interstate and do a little gambling here). We laughed so hard that we just had to get some photos. Not just one plastic tree but three! I love the colors, the coconuts, and the irony of our trip too. :-)

I'll do a post later on some of the plants I picked up at the nursery but I had to share with you some other photos of another serious non-native that we encountered on our trip. Many of you have probably not heard that we had some serious floods in this area last month. (You probably heard about the tornado that felled a steeple on top of a car though.) In fact, many of the rivers in the area just crested last week. On our way out of the nursery we decided to drive by the adjacent lake to see the lovely cypress trees that line it. Were we in for a surprise.



This is Lake Bisteneau, a lake known mostly for fishing and boat recreation. You can see the line at the bottom of the trees where the flood waters had been.



What is hanging off the bottom of these trees is an invasive plant from South America called Salvinia minima. According to the Global Invasive Species Database, "Salvinia minima is a floating aquatic fern that invades a variety of aquatic habitats with salinity levels as high as 4-7ppt. Salvinia minima experiences exponential growth that allows it to completely cover waterways impeding traffic, blocking sunlight, decreasing oxygen levels and degrading habitat for native species of wildlife."



According to a local that we met while there, up until the floods came the Salvinia had entirely covered the lake. They had tried three different methods for getting rid of it and none of them worked. So the current plan is to drain the lake completely and hope for a freeze. I guess this may be the first time I will hope for a hard freeze. But I don't know; it looks pretty serious. That's Salvinia to the left of the boat dock, not land. In researching this plant I came across many other serious invasives in our waterways. In this global age can we adequately protect our waterways??

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November Garden Bloggers Bloom Day



There's still a few things blooming in the old garden this November Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Leading off are what have become my fall staple - Salvia leucantha (Mexican Sage) and Tagetes lucida (Mexican Mint Marigold, now sometimes known as Texas Tarragon). If the Mexican Sage looks rather bunched up that's because it is. I had to lasso it together after 20 inches of October rains and winds caused it to flop over.



Patrick's Abutilon has many fall blooms. I found this to be a good hummingbird magnet, something I wasn't expecting. But alas, the hummers have finally flown south for the winter.



I bought this Russelia equisetiformis lutea (Yellow firecracker fern) for the hummers as well. Although I never saw them at this plant, to be fair it's still a very small one. But maybe it's not the right color?



This is very beloved of the hummers - Lizard Lips aloe.



Pulling back from the blooms you can see some of my succulent collection. Soon they'll all be nestled in their winter home of shelves in the storeroom.



And one more bloom for the hummingbirds, pink Turk's Cap. I'm not sure of the botanical name for this one. I was looking for 'Pam's Pink' at Barton Springs Nursery earlier this year and the man helping me found this one. But I'm pretty sure it's not 'Pam's Pink'. The blooms are too long. Anyway, it's blooming nicely now. Here's it's surrounded by Muhlenbergia dumosa, Bamboo muhly.



Though the hummingbirds have flown, there are still a few other winged creatures hanging about. This poor Gulf Fritillary, on Buddleia davidii ‘Nanho Purple’, has lost part of a wing.



There have been lots of bees around, busy as usual. This one is working hard at a bloom on the Italian arugula.



Another Gulf Fritillary on my latest impulse purchase, Dianthus barbatus interspecific 'Amazon Neon Duo'. Half price, over-watered, and three to a pot - I just had to rescue it. (Actually I had to rescue two pots of it!)



The "black eye" of the Black-eyed Susan vine (Enredadera rudbeckia) is like a black hole to me. It's so dark and deep!



Here's a plant that I was hoping would bloom in time for GBBD but it's still in the bud stage. It's a Eupatorium viburnoides, Viburnum mistflower. I haven't been able to find out much about this plant. It's supposed to bloom pink in November, is from Mexico, and is a woody shrub that's also called Joe-Pye shrub. If anyone has experience with this plant, please let me know what you think of it. It's grown at least a foot since I planted it in early spring.

That's about it for the blooms around here but I have to show a few other things I'm happy about.



The 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple is still turning colors. You can see that it hasn't hit that real red that it should get in December, as you can see it has in my header photo (from last year).



My sweet little oakleaf hydrangea still hasn't bloomed for me but I'm happy that it's starting to show its fall colors.



And last but not least, will my Heatwave tomatoes actually turn red before a freeze??

To see what's blooming around the world on this day, visit Carol's website for links to other blogs. Thank you for hosting Carol!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Picture This End of the Line



I like participating in Gardening Gone Wild's Picture This photo contests because they're always challenging and I always learn something from the winners, contestants, and judges. This month's subject is "The End of the Line", apropo for the season I think. It can be taken metaphorically, literally, or both.

I chose to take a stab at both with my photo. This is a photo from very early March a few years ago. It's out in the country somewhat close to Sisters Bulb Farm, a bulb farm no longer in business but one that used to supply old fashioned narcissus to other companies. My imagination flows with thoughts about this old barn and its line of daffodils up to the door. Was there a house nearby? Did the owners get their bulbs from Sisters or were they related to the owners? Does that white line of daffodils indicate an old drive? Where are the owners or their descendants now? I do know that the barn has since been torn down. Do the bulbs still come back or was the destruction of the barn the end of the line for them as well? I hope to answer that question next March; that is, if I can still find this place.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Group Gardening for Wildlife



We have a lovely park in our parish that's mostly renowned for its mountain bike paths. I've walked the paths and especially at this time of year, enjoyed the changing colors of the dogwoods (seen above).

Our Master Gardeners' class, which graduated this past May, decided to take on as a project one of the flower beds near the playground. We wanted to create a bed that was welcoming of the birds and butterflies. Of course, summertime is not the best time to tackle such a thing in the south so we decided to wait until the fall, normally a great time for planting here. But our fall weather this year with its record setting rainfall kept delaying the planting. In bits and pieces we did things such as painting the white rain sprinklers black, replacing the edging (thanks to the park's grounds crew for their muscle), growing cuttings from our own garden, buying plants here and there, measuring the garden, and designing the planting plan. Finally we were able to put it together this past week.

I've never "group gardened" before but found it to be delightful. Although it still took us longer than I expected, imagine doing this much work alone! Here's a couple of shots of the work in process.





When it was all over guess what we found on one of the plants? A Gulf Fritillary of course!



Back in August I took some "before" shots. Here you can see the front of it with a white crape myrtle on the left, a Savannah holly on the right, and some cosmos in the bed. The "after" shot is below it. Click on these smaller photos for more details.







If you take the first parking spot you get a different view. Here's the "before" and "after" shots. (Click on these smaller photos for more details.)


There's still a little bit more work to do (tree trimming in January, possible new plants in early spring). But the big work is done for now. A big thank you goes out to Carolyn, Virginia, Dalerie, Kathy, Warren, Steve, Jennifer, and Michael and Allen, park employees.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Autumnal Changes



We do tend to get some fall colors down here in the south. But one difference I've noticed between our fall colors and the ones in the north is that we often still have a backdrop of green leaves on some trees. This is a borrowed view from my neighbor's backyard. Their crepe myrtles are knockouts but the background trees, elms and oaks, are still green. Slowly, slowly, everything will turn and drop.



The last of the butterflies are still flying through. This Painted Lady, hanging about the Salvia 'Indigo Spires' that was destined for the butterfly garden at the park, is missing most of one wing. I hope he/she makes it to wherever it goes for the winter.



I've become fascinated by all the polka dots on the Monarch body. I think they look very fashionable, in a butterfly sort-of way.

Stay tuned for my next post about group gardening!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Catching Up with the Weather and Fun Things



How do squirrels keep dry? By using their tails as an umbrella, of course! This little guy was probably as tired of the rain as I was. I took this shot through the window. I've been stuck inside a lot these past two months with over twenty inches of rain just in October. We're still under a river flood warning. I'm afraid that those living along bayous and rivers have not seen the worst yet. Thankfully we'll be fine. And thankfully we've got sun now and the forecast for the coming week is nothing but sun, yay!



Catching up with the last two weeks, there have been days here and there with no rain. A couple of weeks ago I went with some members of our Master Gardeners club to a fall plant festival and sale in Mississippi. A terrible storm had blown through our region and the site of the festival just the night before. So it was muddy, muddy, muddy, as you can see from these poor drowned tomatoes. But we still had a great time. The MS Extension Office near Crystal Springs has some really nice display gardens. They have all the latest flowers including SunPatiens, a new variety of impatiens intended for growing in the sun. But I really liked this combo below. It's 'Fireworks' gomphrena and 'Electric Lime' coleus.





And we managed to haul a bunch of plants back!



Finally the monarchs are starting to visit my garden. Having some sun helps.



And other little creatures are about. I think this is what's called a thread-waisted wasp.



And the bumbles are still about. Although I find them sleeping more than they used to (this one was busy however).



Besides working on a planting plan for a butterfly and bird garden that we, the Master Gardeners, are going to install in a parish park (if the soil ever dries out that is), I'm helping my friend fix up a little courtyard at the university. It has some serious issues, most notably a mound that's steeper than it should be and chock full of weeds. Here's a shot of my friend and some students weeding some really tough weeds.



But we found a number of cool looking bugs. Now isn't this one lovely?



Here's an 'after' shot of the mound. We piled newspaper and then pine straw on top and will plant it later. However, we didn't have enough of either to go around so this heavy duty plastic is there temporarily to prevent run-off. Still lots more work to go though!



Okay, so I think I've caught up with my gardening world for the last two weeks. I hope your gardening world is in good shape for this first day of November!