The Natural Garden Coach

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Catching Up with Spring

‘Appalachian Spring’ Dogwood

Why is it that winter drags on like a pokey mule and then when spring arrives it's like a high speed train? That's what this spring has felt like to me. There is so much going on in the garden and in life in general that I keep neglecting blogging. So this will hopefully be my catch up post.

Above is my newest tree, a baby dogwood that is currently only about 2.5 feet tall. This variety, 'Appalachian Spring' (Cornus florida) is a grafted dogwood said to be anthracnose and powdery mildew resistant. I read that the original tree from which all Appalachian Spring dogwoods come from survived an anthracnose outbreak in a Maryland park. This is my first dogwood and I've been told they can be tricky to grow, wanting just the right amount of water and good drainage. But right now (this photo being three weeks old) the tree is covered in HUGE leaves, which makes me hopeful.

Worm for the babies (you may be able to see the worm by clicking on the photo)

My chickadees have fledged and I missed it! This home was on a shelf right next to our deck and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the parents prepare the nest and then feed the babies. As the babies got bigger (I couldn't see them but could tell by their chirping they were getting big), I grew more excited at the prospect of watching their first flights. Alas, they managed without me. Below is a shot taken a few seconds after the above one. The parent bird is removing soiled nest material. Such good parents! I later opened the house to look at the nest. It was a full 4 inches worth of extremely soft moss!

Cleaning up

'Forest Pansy' Redbud

Another new baby tree, planted last fall, is this small 'Forest Pansy' Redbud (Cercis Canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’). It gets the usual dark pink blooms (although this one is too young for that just yet), followed by very dark purple leaves. As the season progresses the leaves turn mostly green. By the way, if you live in my area I highly recommend a visit to Willis Farm Nursery near Doyline. I've bought several trees and bushes from them and all have been extremely healthy. And they have a fantastic selection of natives and heirloom shrubs and trees.

Pawpaw

I might as well continue my tour of new trees. This little whip is a Pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba), a tree native to this area and a larval host for the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (which I've yet to see around here). It will eventually produce fruit that is said to resemble bananas in taste. I can remember a neighbor kid when I was a child singing a song "Picking up pawpaws, put 'em in my pocket...". I never knew what a pawpaw was until much later!

Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius)

Sometimes I wish we all spoke botanical Latin and there were no common names for plants. It might sound funny for a while but we'd get used to it. When I lived in Texas I thought a Mock Orange shrub was a Pittisporum. But I learned that here a Mock Orange was actually Philadelphus coronarius, also sometimes known as "English Dogwood". Aye, how confusing. Anyway, my Mock Orange is just starting to bloom. On a recent garden tour and plant sale, which I'll tell you about in a second, I saw a variety of this plant with much larger blooms. Of course I coveted it but restrained myself.

'Henry Garnet' Sweetspire

This past weekend my friend Kathy and I went on a garden tour that the Northwest Louisiana Master Gardeners have each year around Shreveport. We had perfect weather and a great time. One plant we saw at every yard we visited was 'Henry Garnet' Sweetspire (Itea virginiana). Of course, if it hadn't been in bloom we probably wouldn't have noticed them much but they were really at their prime. (A few weeks ago while I was in Houston I bought a dwarf variety of this called 'Little Henry' Sweetspire (such a cute name!).)


Some of the homeowners on the garden tour helpfully labelled all their plants and some did not. This pretty little rose was not labelled, probably because this yard had gazillions of plants. If anyone knows what it is, I'd love to know. It was at least 5 feet tall.

Chives

I've still got work to do around the yard but most of the major work (in prep for summer) has been done. I do however, need to snip all the chive blossoms in order to prevent a milliion little chive seedlings from popping up (which I'm suffering from right now).

Lanai Bright Pink verbena

I'm in love with this trailing verbena and wish I could find some more of it. I planted this last spring because I wanted a match with my Pink Homestead verbena (since I couldn't find that variety). This plant is so much better than the Pink Homestead. The Homestead one petered out last year but this one survived several days of freezing weather this winter without even being covered. I've managed to find another Lanai pink one that's labelled 'Deep Pink'. It's almost but not quite the right color.


The mixed lettuces, grown from a seed tape, are doing fantastic. They were quite grumpy through the cold winter weather and stayed a mere half inch tall for a long time. Once the warmer weather hit they really went to town. I swear they can grow an inch a day.


I haven't been able to solve the mystery of what keeps knocking over my potted plants during the night. A cat? A lumbering possum? Makes me crazy.


I have finally solved the mystery of who keeps knocking pine straw on to my walkway. At first I thought it was the nasty squirrels. But no, it's the robins! They're searching for goodies obviously.

Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’

I just can't help myself. I must have a new succulent or two each year. Here's my latest acquisition, Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’.

Well, I think I've covered the major (and some of the minor) things happening in my garden world this April. I leave you with a photo of one of my Foxtail Ferns in the morning light. Happy April everyone!


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.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seeing Green and Other New Things


I meant to do a post on my hostas for Pam's Foliage Follow-up (always on the 16th of the month) but this and that conspired to keep me from it (and from reading everyone's posts; seems I can't keep up this time of the year!). Then Gardening Gone Wild reminded everyone of the deadline for their latest Picture This contest featuring the color green so I decided to expand my original idea for the Foliage Follow-up post to include the other green things I'm seeing this month. (And to show you a few special little flowers.)

So what is green besides a great shade that compliments most flower colors? Strolling about my back yard I see several different shades of yellowish green in my lettuces (top and below).


There's also that cooling blue color the iris leaves have.


Here's another shade of blue green with some red and cream thrown in.

Lady in Red Hydrangea

Speaking of red, does this sorrel even count as a green?

Red Veined Sorrel

But let's get to my hostas. I'm not a collector of them but I do enjoy them. They provide a lot of variety to my shady areas and a few even do well with sun. Most of the hostas I grow are on the small side on purpose. I guess I'm not ready to commit to the big blowsy ones yet. I've got five hostas, none of which should get larger than 2 by 2 feet (I hope). Back to blue green, here's one with a great name, 'Elvis Lives'. Not only does it come back to life every year like its namesake, it even takes about two hours of intense summer sun each day.

'Elvis Lives' Hosta

Another very blue hosta is 'Blue Wedgwood', my newest purchase just this spring (so it's still rather a baby).

'Blue Wedgwood' Hosta

My entry for the PT contest really isn't that great when it comes to the color green. But I love the texture of this mystery hosta, my first hosta purchase and unfortunately, not named.

Anyone know the name of this hosta?

Here's a hosta of the lime green variety with an appropriate name.

'Frozen Margarita' Hosta

And lastly, a hosta I purchased last year which almost bit the dust when the "graveyard grasshoppers" discovered it. It has a darker green leaf with cream colored edging.

'Patriot' Hosta

So that's it for my focus on green. Now I'd like to show a few new blooms that have me excited. Last year I planted one Dame's Rocket plant, Hesperis matronalis. It never flowered but this year, after moving it to my so-called rose bed (which contains a lot more than just roses), it's putting on a nice show.

Dame's Rocket

This is an old-fashioned plant that I wish we would see more of. Mine is about 2 feet tall and it has a very sweet delicate scent. They say it self-seeds. I hope so for I'd like a few more of these.

Here's another newbie for me that I wish you could see in person.

'Electric Blue' Penstemon

This is Penstemon heterophyllus and again, was planted last year with no resultant blooms. It's kind of a short scraggly plant but the intensity of the blue color, combined with the lilac at the base of the blooms is heady. My camera can't really capture that blue color very well so you'll have to take my word for it.

Since I'm on the topic of colors once again, I thought I'd share this so-called yellow iris (variety unknown).


I say so-called yellow because around town there are yellow irises blooming with much greater intensity than mine. After I downloaded this image I realized that when the blooms get a little old they start showing some rather pretty brownish veins.

And lastly, I've already shown you this pretty mystery nasturtium in another post.

Unknown variety of Nasturtium

But I wanted to highlight it again because now that it has quite a few blooms, my nose has picked up on its fragrance. It reminds me of the smell of a grandmotherly perfume!

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.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day


In honor of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, the first of the non-white bearded irises bloomed this morning. I don't know the variety of this, having bought it many moons ago at a plant sale where the rhizomes were just a jumble of various colors. Looks like one of the yellow ones will be in bloom by tomorrow.

Madame Alfred Carriere climbing rose

The first rose to bloom this year and in years past is the Madame Alfred Carriere climber. It's near to where we get out of our cars and the fragrance that hits us is sublime. I was supposed to trim it back last year after its spring bloom but as you can probably tell, I never got around to it. I really have to this year in order to give the 'Carnaby' clematis more sun. Soon baby, just hang on a little while longer.

Mrs. Schiller's Delight viburnum

Continuing the white theme I have to show you my new favorite little shrub, Mrs. Schiller's Delight viburnum (Viburnum obovatum). I planted it last year and have been amazed by how long the flowers remain. It's a dwarf shrub said to get about 3 feet.

Amazon Neon Duo dianthus (on the right)

Next to one of the viburnums is Amazon Neon Duo dianthus. It was truly amazonian last fall, at least 10 inches tall, but now it's become a dwarf. Perhaps I needed to do something to get it heading north again but I'm not sure what.

Carnaby clematis

Almost forgot to give you a close up of the 'Carnaby' clematis. It's really put on some growth this year, as has my other clematis. I think the 3rd year is the charm for them (I also barely trimmed them in late winter).

Fireworks clematis

This is my other clematis, 'Fireworks'. I wish I had taken a good photo of it this morning because there are many more blooms and the newly planted Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is starting to bloom as well. You might be able to see their little buds on the left.

Chives

The chives are going now. I really mustn't let them reseed this year as I'm tired of having to find homes for the little ones.

Spiderworts

This is what my "back alley" looks like (to be clear, the town stopped using alleys a long time ago and deeded half of the alley to each homeowner living alongside). In front of the compost pile are the weedy but lovely spiderworts as well as some other viney wildflowers.


Isn't this a pretty little nasturtium bloom? I don't know the name of it as it was a freebie to me.


I leave you with this dwarf pomegranate just starting to put on some blooms (btw, I have this in a pot). Be sure to visit Carol's blog to see what's happening in her garden and the gardens of bloggers all over the world!

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, April 12, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

Jenny Daffodil

It's been almost a month since I posted anything about my own garden. I've been doing quite a bit of travelling as well as keeping busy with my garden coaching clients. And my own garden as well! I thought I'd recap some things happening here although I'll keep most of my bloom photos and discussion for the upcoming Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day (April 15th). Above is the last of my daffodils that bloomed last month. This is the first time Jenny has actually bloomed since I planted it in 2008. Hooray for a tough winter! ;-)

Wisley Blue Starflowers

I'm in love with my starflowers (Ipheion uniflorum) although they've just about finished blooming now.

Blue-eyed Grass and other plants

I put together this little potted arrangement last week. My favorite plant in there is Blue-Eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium, the little blue flowers there which are native to Texas and other states. (Layanee, thank you for the ID!) Other plants in that arrangement are 'Alabama' coleus, 'Creeping Jenny' lysimachia, ornamental pepper 'Black Pearl', and Carex buchananii, Red Rooster Sedge (also called Leatherleaf Sedge).

'Bloodgood' Japanese Maple with tree wrap

My Japanese Maple looks like it's wearing a black sock since I put tree wrap on it. This year the squirrels decided to start chewing on it. Those dadgum squirrels! I hope this helps. I have no idea how long to leave it on (will they forget about chewing on the tree after a while??).

Cedar Waxwings

The Cedar Waxwings have been around all winter and spring. But they only recently started mobbing the birdbath. Thank goodness I have a couple more birdbaths or the other birds would have a hard time. My guess is they're going for my birdbath now that the rains have stopped. The goldfinches were here for the shortest time on record for me. A few are still straggling through and even gracing me with their breeding colors. The Ruby Throated Hummingbirds have returned as well. But no sign of the Rose Breasted Grosbeaks or Indigo Buntings yet.


The woodland garden is starting to put out some growth, mostly from the hostas and ferns. The 'Silver Shower' mondo grass is struggling to recover from the freezes.


The square beds are starting to fill out now. This year I redid the front two beds to have all pollinator attracting plants (for the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds) and the back two beds will have mostly herbs and veggies (with a few flowers thrown in there).


The daylilies along the rock wall are filling in. Can't wait for their blooms in May!


UPDATE: I was in too much of a hurry when I first posted this (trying to make it to yoga on time) and forgot to include this photo. The area with the boulders at the back is my problem area. Water collects at the foot of the steep 6 foot hill and even a french drain hasn't helped that much. The only thing that helps is not much rain. So instead of tearing it up to work on the drain again I decided to learn to love what I have. Recently I planted some plants at the base that should tolerate the occasional wet feet and I also added some more rocks. Still more work to come on that area though.

Well, that's about it for now. I do hope I get some time to visit my favorite blogs, so I hope to "see" you sometime soon.

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, April 5, 2010

Cottage Garden, Houston Style


This past weekend I did some more travelling, this time to Houston since my hub was attending a conference there. Of course I took the opportunity to visit another garden blogger, Cindy from My Corner of Katy. Cindy and I met last summer at the garden bloggers' Chicago Spring Fling and managed to meet up again last fall for some nursery hopping. This time I was determined to visit her garden, especially since she said it had recovered nicely from the "big freeze". Cindy lives out in Katy, a suburb (now) of Houston. First up is the predominantly shady front yard. Her front yard gives a little taste of the back, with flowers self seeding and paths through them. She is still working on creating more paths. It was nice to see a front yard almost completely devoid of a lawn (she has a little patch with plans to possibly work some bulbs in).


Cindy is on a corner lot so she needs some tough plants there. All of the plants above are really tough, mostly Texas natives.


As you walk around the corner towards the back you come to a stunning rose and flower bed fronting the alley but also facing the street. (I can tell you that as soon as I drove down that street I knew which yard was Cindy's!) There are Queen Anne's Lace, toadflax, poppies, and several roses in bloom.


And here is Cindy squinting into the Texas sun. Next time I visit a fellow blogger's garden, maybe I should insist on visiting at the crack of dawn so I can get better photos. Think that'll work?? ;-)


Next you come to her garden gate at the backyard. I've included a panoramic shot of what you see as you open that gate (I imagine you would also see Cindy weeding, as I did here). Please click on the photo to get a better look. The entrance to the back is enchanting. My immediate reaction was awe at the number of flowers in bloom. Also, it so epitomized my concept of a cottage garden, with low to the ground bloomers and roses here and there. I recall the shock and horror Cindy had earlier this year when a very hard freeze took out many plants. Or seemed to. But she's happy that occurred as it showed her where she needed to add some structure.


I have to show you a close up of some toadflax (Linaria sp.). Toadflax is really Cindy's signature plant. It is everywhere and speaks "cottage garden" to me. She said her garden really shines best in the spring when this lovely little plant is blooming.


How's this for an unusual tree? This is a Texas Persimmon that Cindy trimmed up, only to discover this nest-like set of tree limbs. I can tell you the birds liked it as well.


My last photo is of this charming little vignette in the back corner. The white blooming tree is one of the white varieties of Redbud (Cercis canadensis). After the tour, in which I once again gabbed too much to take good photos, we went out to lunch and then hit a nursery. As Cindy said in one of her recent posts, we both showed remarkable restraint in our purchases! Thank you so much Cindy, for your time and friendship. Hopefully I'll see you in Buffalo!

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.