Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gumdrops and Meatballs

Dwarf Yaupon Holly gumdrops, complete with vivid red colored mulch

Time for a little rant. What is it about corporate America's fascination with bushes that look like gumdrops or meatballs? This time of year exposes all that is weak in a landscape. Driving around my town, which has lots of banks for some reason, I just couldn't look at another crappy bank landscape without deciding to blog about it.

Indian Hawthorns maybe?

Look at the bushes above. Can't you just tell they're dying to break out of their squat little molds? At least they didn't submit the Crape Myrtle to whacking.

Click to enlarge and see the red berries

These holly bushes above look like they're trying to hide their beautiful berries.

I did manage to find one bank landscape that hadn't screwed things up...yet. The landscape above is for a new bank. Dward Yaupon Hollies, Indian Hawthorns, Crape Myrtle, and some type of taller hollies. Yes, it's the same-old, same-old when it comes to plant variety but at least they're letting them grow normally.

Just down the street from the above photo was a fast food joint. Check out what they've done to their crape myrtles.

I ask you, is that pretty?

Another public landscape with whacked crape myrtles (can anyone tell me definitely if it's spelled "crape" or "crepe"?). Below is a close up of the wounded tree.

So here's what I want to know - is it the corporations who want their landscapes to look so artificial or is it the fault of the landscapers themselves, the ones who should know better? Do you see this in your town?

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wherein I Reveal...

Photo taken about 2 years ago un-garden in the front yard. Extremely observant and regular readers of my blog may have noticed that all of my posts about my garden are about what's going on in the backyard. There's a good reason for that. I haven't started the gardens in the front yet. Not that nothing's been done in the front. Oh yes. It looked very different when we first moved in.

Spring of 2005

You can't see it very well in this photo but the brick walkway leading to the porch was fairly uneven. The front porch was even worse, with some steps being much higher than others. (Fortunately the mailperson was adept at getting up there!) On either side of the porch were some very big azaleas, much taller than me. They created quite a damp environment against the house. In front of the azaleas were boxwood, which were very lovely until an overzealous lawn person trimmed them (after this photo). Off to the left of the porch was another brick walkway that was in much worse shape (I frequently tripped on uneven bricks there.)

The driveway, of which you see a portion above, was huge. You could fit four cars abreast on it. The lamp would have been nice except that it had been permanently disabled. There was a small weedy garden just in front of those side windows and some daylilies lining the driveway behind the brick edging.

This photo was taken when we first looked at the house 5 years ago

The yard is a corner lot so it's pretty big on the side. Many trees lay against the side of the house, including a Southern magnolia!

So what is the design plan? Well, as I explained in a post last year, one idea is to reveal the house itself. And obviously we needed to fix the situation with the plants being too close to the house and the dangerous brick walkways. So first we removed the plants.

In the photo above you can see the front of the house revealed as well as the walkway I tripped on occasionally. Also, the little boxwood to the left shows how I pulled out towards the street the small garden just a bit more. Unfortunately the small garden, destined to be mostly a rose garden, has lots of small bits of asphalt in it still. But at least drainage doesn't seem to be a problem. :-)

The summer of 2007 is when we made the most dramatic changes (although I guess you could consider getting rid of ancient blooming azaleas rather major!). My style is more contemporary than traditional so with the help of my friend Alexis, a great designer, it was decided that some simple steps would look best. I wanted to find some nice big concrete steps but failed at that. So I decided to go with a company that could not only create the steps in situ, but also give them any kind of finish and color.

So in rumbled the big cement truck. The man guiding the truck is standing on the newly removed driveway and daylily planting (I couldn't place all of them so some of the daylilies went to a neighbor).

One at a time, each step was poured. Once it had cured, they came back to spray a material that made them look like granite (kinda, sorta, but not really).

This photo shows the new portion of the lawn in place, the new steps, and gravel surrounding the steps. The front porch is awaiting curing and its coating in this photo. Putting in a lawn was the cheapest thing we could do at that moment. Eventually this lawn will be a mostly perennial garden with possibly even a picket fence. But because there is quite a slope there, more money than usual will have to be expended to make a garden there possible.

This photo of the front corner taken just today shows that there is still a lot of work to come. Most of the fence has been put in but unfortunately we never had the gate put in. (After installing the fence the great carpenters got full time jobs!) But most of the trees against the house have been removed, a small garden has been placed in front of the fence, Savannah hollies (Ilex x attenuata ‘Savannah’) and parsley hawthorns (Crataegus marshallii) have been planted, and that green stuff under the hollies, spider lilies, have been saved from our old mower. If I can get some help this winter, I hope to enlarge that small garden and continue it along the fence for a bit. Eventually I may incorporate the hollies into that garden. The gate WILL be put in place someday and will hide the air conditioners. And perhaps a little picket fence will extend from the gate area to around the front of the house, allowing for yet even more gardens. I just need more money and time (don't we all!). So now you know why you never see my un-garden in front, ha!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter's Beauty

This month's Gardening Gone Wild Picture This contest is to showcase winter's beauty. I would have loved to enter this contest with a photo that shows some beautiful snowy or frosty scene in my garden, but that's just not gonna happen here I think (although I certainly got my share of freezing weather this month, no such luck with the snow). I had almost resigned myself to not entering when I realized that this amaryllis says winter's beauty for U.S. southerners as much as snow or ice does for northerners. So this is my entry.

A little bit about this amaryllis - it was supposed to be of the variety Apple Blossom. But this strong orange color tells me I got duped by the big box again! Don't get me wrong though, I think this variety is quite beautiful. Anyone know which one it is?

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Foliage Follow-Up Following the Freeze

Crepe Myrtle Bark

Today is Foliage Follow-up day hosted by Pam at Digging. The idea is to showcase all the lovely foliage, bark, berries, and other beautiful non-blooming plants in our garden. Pam's got some gorgeous photos of her succulents and other beauties, and links to others' posts can be found there as well. So go check it out.

A few days ago I strolled around the garden, camera in hand, to create a photographic history of what plants faired well and not so well after our record breaking cold weather. So today I plan to share some of those photos, pitiable though some of the plants may look. I'll start with some of the sad looking ones.

Bunny Ears cactus (in good shape), Aeonium 'Zwartzkopf' (bent over and dead), and Agave desmettiana

The stock tank didn't fare so well, so no pretty pictures here. Although I prepared the soil well to survive our rainy winters, and I heaped pine straw and sheets over the plants, nothing could prevent the damage from the kind of freezes we had. Oh well, it's an opportunity to find something that will survive.

To avoid a long litany of thoughts on each plant that didn't fair so well, here are a few photos of some other plants and their damage.

Fig Ivy's frozen leaves. This should survive I think.

My Bamboo Muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) turned gray. Will have to cut it back for the first time.

‘Silver Shower’ mondo grass (Ophiopogon jaburan) surprised me by freezing. Note the frozen Smilax vines next to the rock - I wish those would freeze and die completely!

Oregano. Bet that comes back though as it's almost weedy.

First time to see frozen leaves on the Madame Alfred Carriere climbing rose

Now on to brighter things. Some plants survived pretty well. The Red Veined Sorrel below, though small, is rather cheerful looking to my eyes.

Red Veined Sorrel

My Wavy Leaf cactus is a sentimental favorite of mine since I grew this from a pad I brought from my old garden in Austin. It sacrificed its top two pads to the freeze (seen kind of laying down) but I'll just pot those two up and get more! I used some garden stakes for a tent for the sheets. Seen behind the cactus is Agave multilifera, another plant I brought from Austin. This was its first winter in the ground and it did just fine.

Wavy Leaf cactus and Agave filifera

I'm concerned about the camellias. I have two small ones. One of them now has brown buds but this one, Pearl Maxwell, looks in better shape (no close ups of buds as this is a foliage post!).

Camellia japonica 'Pearl Maxwell'

Last but not least is a hardy Autumn fern. It doesn't seem to like the summers here, at least where I've got it, but the cold didn't phase it a bit.

My post last month for Foliage Follow-up looked much more cheerful. But I'll bet by mid February I'll be happy at what's come back. Be sure to check out the other posts at Pam's!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day Jan 2010

Carol is hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again but of course the big challenge today is finding blooms in the dead of winter. Normally that wouldn't be so hard for me. There's always a few here and there. But with that "Artic Blast" so many of us in the U.S. experienced, blooms are now hard to come by. In fact, impossible. But wait. Is that the shadow of bloom I see??

Apple Blossom Amaryllis

Yes, one of the few plants I have indoors is an Apple Blossom Amaryllis, bought for a gift exchange at our Master Gardeners club last month but won back by me. Yay! I was hoping this would be entirely open by Bloom Day but no matter. It's still fun to watch and document the transformation. Plants are amazing, aren't they?

UPDATE: Turns out this isn't an Apple Blossom amaryllis, although that's what the box said. I'm not sure which variety it is now.

Tomorrow Pam is hosting Foliage Follow-up, which I plan to post about. A couple days ago I took some photos of what did and did not make it through the Artic Blast, just for my own historical benefit. So I'll go ahead and post about that (not that anyone wants to see mushy plants!).

Happy Bloom Day!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Crawling Out from Under the Comforter

Old Fire Station Fountain

No, this is not my own water fountain. Somehow I managed to roust myself out from under the covers this morning to attend a meditation session. As I was driving there I noticed this fountain at the old historic fire station. The station has now been converted into a meeting place and the courtyard houses this large fountain.

Somehow the fountain is still running, despite almost 72 hours so far of below freezing weather. This morning at 8:00 it was 12 degrees F. Each morning has been colder than the previous one.

All I can say is, I'm ready for this deep freeze to be over. I do live in the south, don't I??

Tufted Titmouse

The birds have been spending many daylight hours at the bird feeders. This Tufted Titmouse is eyeing the frozen birdbath and wondering what the heck I'm going to do about it.

Well, okay, I guess I'll try to help you feathered ones out.

Sorry, this is the best I can do. I never thought I'd need a birdbath heater down here.

Meanwhile, I've been most reluctant to peek under the sheets to see how my Wavy Leaf cactus and Agave multilifera are doing.

I already know that my Agave desmentiata in the stock tank is toast (see my last post). Okay, I did peek. A couple of cactus pads are laying horizontal but the rest looks like it might survive. I think that us southern gardeners won't really know the extent of damage until spring. Gee, I guess that means we have more in common with northern gardeners than ever before!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fingers Crossed

Old Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia species)

Now that it's gotten nice and cold, it's time to start tree trimming down here. This old crape myrtle is in need of some rejuvenation, having survived a major landscape makeover and who knows what else before we moved in five years ago. I do know for a fact that someone tried to commit "crape murder" on it some time ago. That is evidenced by the big old knots the tree has on each trunk at about the same height. For those who haven't heard of "crape murder", it's when one tops the trunks. It destroys the natural beauty of the tree trunks and I think it could be a plot by landscape contractors who need more work in the winter! Here you can see the beauty of a stem next to the ugly mess left by years of topping.

Old knot caused by topping

One thing I've noticed in the last few years is a decline in the number of healthy looking bloom ends. Whether it's due to trauma or just old age, I'll never know. But yesterday my muscle (my husband) helped me take some drastic steps in trying to help it out. We took out many big trunks, especially those that were criss-crossing up top.

Hopefully you can see how it's opened up in these before and after shots.

So fingers crossed, the old crape myrtle will bounce back this summer.

We're bracing for a very cold week here, probably the coldest we've had since we moved here. I have my doubts as to whether my Agave desmentiata will survive in its stock tank. Here you can see some of the cold damage it already has (yellow spots).

Agave desmentiata

So today (while it was snowing no less!), I added some pine straw around the agave. Fingers crossed it'll make it past the week!

Agave desmentiata, Bamboo muhly stalks, and Aeonium arboreum v. atropurpureum ‘Zwartzkopf’

And then there's my portable greenhouse. I've never tried heating it before. I've just always hoped the temps wouldn't stay below freezing for long. And for the most part it's worked. But since the predictions are for temperatures to stay below freezing for at least 24 hours and in the mid-teens for several nights in a row, I went ahead and purchased a heater.

Don't try this at home!

This is NOT a heater one should purchase for a greenhouse. But since I couldn't find one specifically made for more wet conditions, I'm taking the risk. It won't have to work for long and I'll be very careful. Fingers crossed it'll work like a charm, the plants will survive, and nothing will burn down!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

First Bluebonnet of 2009

2009 was an interesting year for me, personally and in the garden. I spent much of the year looking for a paycheck and also trying to figure out where my future lay. For the first time ever though, I found more of my time focused on one of the real joys in my life - gardening.

Blogging and Writing
Wow, I did not anticipate, when I started blogging in the summer of 2008, that I would get so into it. Granted, I don't actually blog as much as I'd like to and I don't get to read as many blogs as I'd like to. But boy has it been fun. I attended the garden blogger's Spring Fling in Chicago, not really knowing what I would take away from it but knowing I'd see some great gardens. It was SO MUCH MORE than great gardens. Getting to meet some of the bloggers and really connect with some was such a highlight. Reading their blogs now is like chatting with a friend.

Cindy, Beth, and Pam at Chicago Botanic Garden

Over the year I picked up a few pass-around awards and then was surprised to see Blotanical subscribers award my blog Best Louisiana Blog. And then to find out that Horticulture picked my blog for one of their Top 20 garden blogs. Well it was almost too much.

I have been writing the newsletter for our farmers' market this past year. That effort combined with my blogging confirmed that I wanted to pursue more writing so I am happy to say that I have almost completed my first article for a garden magazine, scheduled to come out in June (I'll let you know about that when it happens).

Learning and Sharing
In 2009 I decided to pursue a Louisiana Master Gardener certification. In order to retain your certification you must contribute hours to other efforts, mostly ones that benefit the community. Our class decided to update a garden bed in a local park as a teaching tool on butterfly and bird gardening. Although it was a group effort, I designed the planting plan, learned how best to measure a garden bed from my friend Alexis, and learned how to stay patient when the fall rains wouldn't quit!

Kathy and Virginia busy planting the butterfly garden

I gave a talk at a local nursery about butterfly and bird gardening and plan to give another talk in March on perennials. I started a garden coaching business but it's growing VERY slowly.

I worked part time in a nursery, learning more about the plants that folks in this area prefer and hopefully sharing some of my knowledge of different plants with them.

I managed to visit several public gardens that were great (and some outstanding). Here's some links to posts I did about them: Wildwood Gardens in Little Rock, Chanticleer Garden in Pennsylvania here and here, Chicago Botanical Garden, and Briarwood Garden in north Louisiana. And here's some great private gardens I visited: Layanee's Ledge and Gardens in Rhode Island and Rick Bayless's garden in Chicago.

I also learned a lot more about photography through the Gardening Gone Wild photo challenges and hints from my photgrapher brother Brian.

The Gardening
Well, the gardening was frugal but fun. The successes? Finding some plants that are more native to the area.

Viburnum obovatum ‘Mrs Schiller’s Delight’

I also managed to plant and even grow some favorite plants from my past gardening experience (by travelling back to Texas to buy them!).

Malvaviscus drummondii, 'Turks Cap'

I was also finally able to attract some much wanted butterflies to the yard.

Monarch and Coneflower

The failures in the yard in 2009 include very few fall tomatoes, mis-labeled daylilies from the big box store, a rose that grew way out of its normal bounds and on to the driveway (The Fairy), and the inability to find any plants in this area in the fall that weren't pansies, snaps, or mums.

Although there's not much I can do about it, the rather strange weather was a bit much - first, no spring rains; then too much spring rain; then August temperatures and drought in June and July; then June-like weather in August and September; then 40 days and 40 nights of rain; then early freezes. Hmm.

Looking Ahead
Now what? What will 2010 bring? Well I hope it brings me more garden blogging friends, more opportunities to pursue my writing, more garden coaching clients, more learning opportunities, perhaps a steady paycheck, and a chance to grow into my full potential as a person.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.