Monday, May 31, 2010

Planting Plants: 5/23-5/29

Over the last week, the spiders have been busy weaving their webs (more power to them - may their nets capture all the yard's mosquitoes).  I, too, found time to get a few plants into the ground or into pots.


Blue Anise Sage (Salvia guaranitica)  failed me once before, but several recent garden blogs had me itching to try again.  Then I received two plants at the recent Design A Go Go plant swap.  Thanks to Pam from Digging and an unknown contributor (appreciation to both of y'all), I'm getting to try them again.

Pam also remembered me admiring the Blue Elf Aloe posted on her site, and she thoughtfully provided me with one to grow.  It may look a little lonely in its present pot, but I have faith it will eventually fill it in (or perhaps I may have to provide company).

At a recent school plant sale, I got three White Crinum Lilies (planted about the yard), plus some herbs: a couple of Variegated Oregano and a Lemon Thyme.  Using the canopy opening created by the fallen tree, I got the herbs into a pot and placed it in the sunshine.

Another of my Perilla 'Magilla' cuttings went into the front yard, behind the Autumn Ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora) and in front of the Nandina (Nandina domestica).  Should provide some color as it grows.

Decided it was time to put my White Queen Caladium bulbs into the ground.  Seven went into the empty space created by the removal of the fading Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina) - think the soil mixture didn't drain adequately, coupled with not enough sunshine - and seven others went into the hole left by the winter loss of my Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens).  I like using Caladiums to fill in the the voids created by dearly departed plants.

I'm attempting to root some cuttings from trimmings of Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana) & Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa).  Both had gotten a little leggy.

And five flavors of Zinnia went into a narrow strip in the sunny spot (near the potted dill, tomato & herbs).  Hoping for some cut flowers (however, even though this is my "sunny" spot, not sure if it will be sufficient for Zinnias - but they are worth a roll of the dice).

Emptied my pots of Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea) and Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica).  I could not seem to keep the first wet enough, and the latter dry enough (though I can see why the Bluebells may be considered invasive; even struggling, its bulbs had tripled in number!).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Who Dat?

Who dat hiding down there in my seedling dill plants?  So it is true: plant dill and the swallowtails will come.  Though my little dill sprouts are only a few inches tall, they already have a three-quarter inch swallowtail caterpillar.  Ain't that cool!

And who dat looking at me?  Green Anoles (obviously not always green ) are not uncommon here in the shade, but its still fun to spot one doing its thing.

And who dat spouting up from nowhere?  Yeah, I was actually crazy enough to try and grow Star Begonia (Begonia heracleifolia) in the ground.  They've never amounted to much (likely too shady), and I figured this winter's 18 degree low finished them off.  But looks like someone is trying to stage a comeback.

And who dat showing off after some recent showers?  Really enjoy Pink Rain Lilies (Zephyranthes rosea).  I have a few different types scattered here and there, but this variety is my favorite.  Only two blossoms this time, but given a few more months, I wouldn't be surprised to see lots more flowers after a late summer shower.

And who dat peaking out of that nest?  No picture so you'll have to take my word for it, but recently spotted two little half-inch long bills sticking out from the hummingbird nest.  Viewed from the other side was a single small tail poking over the edge.  Using binoculars, I could see a couple of heads barely raised above the rim, staring back at me.  So they seem to be doing fine; suspect their days of nest-bound life are likely drawing to a close.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Small Hail: Before and After

Just a few days before we received a pretty good amount of pea-size hail, I posted this picture of my Ghost Plant for Foliage Follow-up.

After the hail, they appear a little bruised and battered; their smooth leaves showing some divots, pockmarks and off-colored dents

Nature giveth.  Nature taketh.  And sometimes nature just smacks things around a bit.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pea-sized hail... broad-leafed shade plants.

Think that a few of the plants now know how a west Texas stop sign feels right after meeting a bored teenager with a rifle...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Foliage Follow-up: May 2010

On the sixteenth of every month, Digging hosts Foliage Follow-up so that we can explore our garden's non-flowering aspects.  I have reached the conclusion that in a shady garden, it is the leaves that rule.  So here are a few of my May garden leafy stand-outs.

Raspberry Ice Coral Bells (Heuchera  'Raspberry Ice') actually still has a few blooms hanging in there, but its foliage is the main show.  The leaves emerge small and reddish deep within the plant, then push out and change to the nicely variegated pattern that lightens up the dappled shade area.

Of course, if variegation is what you desire, the Strawberry Geranium (Saxifraga stolonifera) definitely catches your attention.  Spreading out like a slow moving groundcover, it has finished its bloom cycle, but still contributes to the show with its leaves.

Burgundy Glow Ajuga (Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow') is another that brightens the darker areas of the shady garden.  In my garden, it seems to grow much slower than regular Ajuga, gradually weaving its way in and around other larger plants but never forming thick mats.  Really enjoy the lighter colors and purplish highlights.

Another bright spot in the shade is the Ghost Plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense).  With a little bit of protection, it survived this winter's 18 degree lows with only minor damage.  And now it is again growing, producing new leaves as it cascades out onto a nearby stone path.

Have been enjoying a new addition to this year's garden, the Agave 'Blue Glow'.  Its blue-green, red-edged leaves have the typical agave attention-grabbing spine at its tip (it quickly trains you to move carefully around it).  It has been producing new leaves from the center that stretch upward then fall outward to join the rosette, their tight initial growth producing patterns still etched on the newly opened leaves.

It all starts with the foliage; hope your garden's flavors of green are bringing you smiles.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Flower Power: GBBD May 2010

May Dream Gardens hosts Garden Blogger's Bloom Day every month.  Blooms in my May shady garden tend to be scattered individuals, but its still fun to see the small splashes of colors.  Here's what is blooming in my garden:

New Plants in the Garden

Anthony Waterer Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda 'Anthony Waterer') may need a little more sun and acid than it is getting presently, but it still put out a few clusters of flowers.

Goldmound Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Goldmound') still has a few faint pink clusters also.

Dyckia fosteriana, growing right at the base of a Red Oak, produces blossoms that are actually more orange than shown in the picture.

Pink Shamrock (Oxalis crassipes 'Rosea') is constantly producing additional little pink blooms.

My other shamrock, White Shamrock (Oxalis crassipes 'Alba'), doesn't seem to make as many blooms, but still manages to put out some.

Established Plants

Texas Betony (Stachys coccinea) has finished its primary bloom cycle, but still has a few blossoms here and there.

Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana) continues to throw out vertically challenged bloom stalks.

'Ragin' Cajun' Ruellia (Ruellia elegans 'Ragin' Cajun') has re-emerged from underground; still getting this year's growth started, it also managed to throw out a couple of blooms.

If my memory is correct, Red Dragon Knotweed (Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon') mainly produces its blossoms in the fall.  But a few are appearing here in the spring.

Yeah, I know.  It's bad, it's evil.  But Nandina domestica grows & blooms in my shade, and its red berries in the fall are lovely. 


The bronze-leafed begonias (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum) continue to explode in pink blossoms.  I'm not too big on annuals, but I can't pass up the begonia's zealous bloom production.

Potted Plants

The Chrysanthemum still puts out a flower now and again.

The Red Yucca's (Hesperaloe parviflora) bloom stalk has skyrocketed upward, and is now unfurling its limbs of red blooms.

Bear's Breech (Acanthus 'Summer Beauty') is sending up two flower spikes which tend to last quite a while.  The unique blossoms occur at almost symmetrically precise steps along the stalk.

Hope you are enjoying your own bloom day!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hummingbird Nest

Finally decided to try and get a peek into the hummingbird nest.  The nest is directly above the driveway and isn't that high, but I ended up needing to place a ladder into the bed of my truck to get enough height.  Then it required attempting various yoga positions to maneuver my head and shoulders through the twigs and limbs.  But I was finally able to get a peek into the nest.

Thought I'd be seeing some eggs, but instead discovered two fluffy nestlings inside.  The baby birds didn't look like much - more look two fuzzy patches in the bottom of the tiny nest that twitched occasionally.  They can barely be seen in the picture: the small bits of hair-like feathers barely visible in the center of the nest edge is them.

As I've only seen the female, I haven't been able to determine whether its a Black-chinned Hummingbird or a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (both are known to nest in central Texas).

So far this year, I've discovered nests in my yard for Carolina Chickadee (bird house), Tufted Titmouse (attic ventilation slats), White-winged Dove (Boxwood) and hummingbird (Oak).  It's been a good year for the birds.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Hole In The Canopy Means...

Late last fall, one of my trees collapsed, removing both itself and another from my shady canopy.  Suddenly, a limited area of my yard was receiving...sunlight!  Not my usual stuff the peeks in and out of the upper story foliage, but the real thing.  Up to six hours of it.  The mind raced with possibilities.

Fall /Winter/Early Spring - "I'm going to plant some flowering shrubs, maybe even (gasp) a rose bush!  And possibly some of those flowers that are rumored to grow in these parts.  And a couple of pots with Dill - perhaps I can attract those swallowtail butterflies everyone seems to have in their yards.

Today - "Oh yeah.  That's right.  The existing plants sorta liked the shade.  And now they are getting...ummm, well, rather...cooked..."

"...and sunburned..and fried.  Well, ummm...guess I kinda forgot about y'all..."

"And now its getting a little too hot to be digging up plants your size and moving you elsewhere.  Sure woulda been nice to get that done...ummm, earlier.  Here's a fair bit of water and, ummm, I guess, maybe, I can start building you a little shade structure to get you through till next fall...hopefully...possibly..."

A hole in the canopy means a chance to grow some sun-loving plants, but it also means you'd better start moving out the shade-loving ones.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Autumn Ferns

The favored fern of my shady central Texas garden is the Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora).

I have tried several other fern varieties.  Some were unable to handle the summer heat and drought while others were dissatisfied with my yard's low light levels.  Nearly all would disappear back to the ground after the first frost - returning diminished the following spring or never appearing again at all.

But the Autumn Fern hasn't disappointed.  It begins spring by sending up several reddish fiddleheads which slowly unfurl to present rusty colored fronds.  The fronds gradually lose their reddish hues as, over several weeks, they change to green.

They are more drought tolerant than many fern varieties, surviving on the same level of watering as most lawn grasses.  And either early morning sunshine or all day filtered sunlight meets its light needs.

And come winter's freezes, the Autumn Fern stays evergreen, its fronds withstanding our past winter's 18 degree lows with little or no damage.

With evening coming on, the sunshine angles through the trees and backlights the raised fronds.