Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quarterly Report: September 2010

In keeping with the diary aspects of my blog, I decided to start making quarterly reports evaluating how the plants or any experiments are progressing (or regressing, as the case may be).

Moving Out
As with most gardeners, I tend to believe that the conditions found in my garden fit certain new plants when, in reality, there is too much shade (usually the main culprit) or not enough water.  These leads to certain plants fading away - eventually either being removed from the garden or given a second chance as a pass-along plant (hopefully in a better locale).

Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina): Deceased - too little light, not enough drainage
Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus): Deceased  - a larger specimen remains but also struggling

Black Knight Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii 'Black Knight') : Pass-along; needs more sun
Bamboo Muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa): Pass-along; needs more sun

Fuzzy Wuzzy Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy’): Pass-along; needs more sun

Rose 'Oklahoma': Pass-along; struggled due lack of soil depth and water
Begonias (Begonia semperflorens): Actually did alright, but I'm thinking its time for either a different annual or, even better, a more fitting perennial
Ribbon Grass (Phalaris arundinacea): Deceased - potted plant
Chrysanthemum: Removed - potted plant; needs more sun
Short Leaved Aloe (Aloe brevifolia): Murdered with watering pot (so, so sorry; really miss you)

Moving Over
Struggling in their present location, some plants may simply need to move to a more appropriate spot in the garden (at least that is what I hope).

Strawberry Geranium (Saxifraga stolonifera): Got a little scruffy this year; perhaps too much sun or too little water; it is returning to vigor with the recent drop in temperature - but thinking an even shadier spot might be best
Variegated Flax Lilies (Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata'): One is doing well, one is struggling - but the latter is shaded by some Cast Iron Plants; that one likely needs a new spot
Chile Petin (Capsicum annuum var. aviculare): Has done alright, but thinking it needs to be closer to the path (the more to appreciate its little red peppers) where it could catch slightly more sun
White Margin Snow Rose (Serissa foetida 'Improved'): Really struggled to get enough water; since watering is not likely to increase, thinking more shade would benefit it

Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis): Have never really flourished and are somewhat hidden away; perhaps a move closer to the path and deeper into the shade
Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica): Potted; never really produced anything but foliage; may try out in the dappled shade/sun area of a bed

Moving Up
Salvia splendens 'Van Houttei'): In its first year, put on a surprising growth spurt with sporadic deep magenta blooms

Reifler's Dwarf Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum 'Reifler Dwarf'): Nice first year growth, looking forward to seeing how it does next spring
Autumn Ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora): New plantings out front really did well; will likely expand these completely across my front yard Cast Iron Plant beds
Soap Aloe (Aloe maculata): Growing in several spots around the yard (and pupping like a maniac); one produced two blooms stalks in a single year
Gulf Coast Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis): Very nice spring show; would like a few more in the same location to increase the "thickness" of the spring blooms
Manfreda 'Macho Mocha' (Manfreda x Mangave 'Macho Mocha'): Continued strong showing; survived 18 degree winter lows without any protection (recently transplanted one was damaged but recovered nicely)

Agave 'Blue Glow'): Though only receiving dappled shade, has put on some nice growth and maintained good looking leaves.

Experiment Status
Rain Lily seeds: a few germinated and are presently growing

Mahonia seeds: a few germinated but have not done well since move to different medium

Bronze Dyckia seeds: readily germinated, then seemed to stall; recently transplanted to better potting medium

Hydrangea cuttings: still green after all this time, but no new growth

Silver Squill (Ledebouria socialis) seeds: a couple germinated but have struggled when moved to another pot

Gulf Coast Penstemmon seeds: did not germinate

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ox Tongue: Better Late Than Never

"I'm ready now.  Where is everybody?"  The Ox Tongue (Gasteria liliputana) missed Garden Blogger's Bloom Day by a little over a week.  But it is finally dressed and ready to party.

Thick, stout speckled leaves erupt from a cluster and are quite nice all by themselves.

But for the first time in my garden, the Ox Tongue decided that conditions were right for it to add its red & green blooms to the show.

As Paul from Handlebar Gardens commented on my Bloom Day Tardies post: It was just being fashionably late.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bloom Day Tardies

I kept telling them to hurry up or they were gonna be late.  They kept crying out "Just hold on, we're almost ready."  But Garden Blogger's Bloom Day came and went without them.  Three of my plants didn't quite make it (and two are still being slowpokes).

Days before GBBD, I watched as the very first Red Spider Lily (Lycoris radiata) bloom stalk made its debut.  It shot out of the ground, but couldn't quite get ready by September 15.

A couple a days later, its red blossoms unfurled and are still putting on a show.  I have several of these planted in the area but this is my first Spider Lily bloom in the garden.

 The Ox Tongue (Gasteria liliputana) is also a little late.  The curled stalk is about a foot tall and should soon start producing some color.  This will also be its first bloom for my garden.

The third tardy member for GBBD is the Soap Aloe (Aloe maculata) which also bloomed earlier this year (stalk appeared in March, blooms lasted for most of April).  Its stalk seems to add inches overnight and I expect its show to start within a couple of weeks.

Better late than never!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Foliage Follow-up: September 2010

On the sixteenth of every month, Digging sponsors Foliage Follow-Up which lets us know that blooms aren't the only show in town.  For this month in my garden, I decided to highlight some of the Dyckias.  A year ago, I had never even heard of this variety of plants.

Three of those pictured below were planted in the ground and made it through our surprising 18 degree winter lows with only a towel thrown on top of them (and sometimes not even that!).  Suspect they'd be happier with a bit more sunshine, but so far they've been as tough as their thorns.

The first Dyckia to be planted in my garden is also the only one for which I have misplaced its identity (and I'm a bit grumpy about that).  The undersides of the leaves have neat longitudinal green and white striping while the upper portions of the leaf are a solid glossy green.

Sun and stress tend to bring out the color in the Dyckias.  Thus my dappled shade Dyckia 'Cherry Coke' shows only a small amount of red at its center, but it still catches the eye.

A free plant received with another purchase, this small Red-leafed Dyckia (Dyckia 'Red Devil') was placed into a pot and has doubled in size over the summer (though it's still just a little fella).  With enough sunshine, the leaves can turn quite red (which basically means you'll never see a picture of that on this blog!)

Another summer planting, the Dyckia platyphylla has the broadest leaves of any of my garden's Dyckias.  The thorny edges on this one are quite stout and coupled with the thick leaves gives it an agave-like appearance.

Bronze Dyckia (Dyckia fosteriana 'Bronze') is my garden's only Dyckia to have bloomed this year, sending up short stalks of orange-yellow blooms in May.  It's narrow, slightly flexible leaves create an interwoven mass whose thorns have managed to catch my flesh more often than I would prefer.

Some plants have light and airy foliage.  Others have soft, broad leaves.  Dyckias have leaves that, if you're not careful, will quickly punish you with their saw-like edges.

Dyckias demand that you pay attention.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Flower Power: GBBD September 2010

On the fifteenth of every month, May Dream Gardens invites everyone to post pictures of the plants that are blooming in their gardens.  My shady garden blooms have not changed much from last month, but here's September's bloom list:

Established Plants

The Mexican Petunias (Ruellia tweediana 'Colobe Pink') are still producing the occasional light pink blossom.

The close-up makes it look like some huge Hibiscus flower, but it's really just the small hot pink bloom of the Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala).

Though this past winter's hard freeze killed the recently transplanted Coral Nymph Sage (Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph'), a few of  its seeds survived amongst the cracks in my stone path, sending up diminutive plants that have actually produced blossoms.

The Liriope spicata started blooming last month and most of the flowers are still there, peeking out from the foliage.

The Aztec Arrowhead (Sagittaria montevidensis) continues to produce three-petaled flowers at the end of its bloom stalk.

The arching branches of the Rose Creek Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora 'Rose Creek') end in small clusters of little white flowers.

Sporadically, small purple blossoms top slender stalks on the Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea).

As the sunlight dims towards evening, the blossoms of the Water Poppy (Hydrocleys nymphoides) also fade, seeming to lose their typical brilliant yellow color and slowly closing for the night.

In one of the sunnier patches of my garden, the West Texas Mist Flower (Conoclinium greggii) sprawls across the flower bed, its small clusters of light purple blooms appearing like small fireworks.

With its opened blossoms only lasting a day or two before dropping to the ground, its not always possible to capture the full flowers of the 'Ragin Cajun' Ruellia (Ruellia elegans 'Ragin' Cajun').  But even the incoming new blooms give a dash of color.

New Plants in the Garden

One of the un-excavated Ground Orchids (Spathoglottis plicata) is sending up a bloom stalk.  The blooms are only about the size of a quarter but do have nice color.

Basking in a rare patch of sunlight, a Firecracker Plant (Justicia spicigera) has several narrow orange flowers scattered about its stems.

Even under pretty good shade, the Salvia van houttei sporadically produces scattered clusters of purple flowers.

Potted Plants

Though better known for its variegated foliage and red/purple-black peppers, the tiny blooms of the Capsicum annuum 'Calico' are quite pretty (if you're willing to get really, really close to them).

Flower Wannabes

They may not be flowers, but the purplish berries of the American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) still add to the garden's color.

And recent rains produced enthusiastic growth from a few yellowish mushrooms that forced their way out through the twisted leaves of an aloe.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Latest Variegated Aloe

At the recent Austin Cactus and Succulent Show, I was fortunate enough to find another one of my "Gotta Get' plants (and at a fair price too!).  It is the Variegated Tree Aloe (Aloe arborescens 'Variegata') that I mentioned potting a couple of posts back.  And here are the promised pictures of the plant.

This aloe has beautiful coloration - pale leaves with longitudinal cream striping.  The specimen I obtained is over a foot tall, but the final height can be a quite impressive 5-8 foot.  Fortunately it is slow growing (thank goodness - cuz I don't know what I'm gonna do if it ends up getting that big!).

Isn't that leaf coloration something!

It is capable of producing eye-catching red flower stalks (here's hoping!).  But even if it never blooms, the plant's appearance is impressive enough.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gardening Limitation #7: Proximity

While perusing many beautiful garden blogs & articles, I began to contemplate what would be required to transform my garden into one of these amazing showcases.  And this led, naturally, to my determining what obstacles stood between me and my vision.

This was followed by the creation of my Eight Gardening Limitations which I hope to share with everyone over several widespread postings.  They will be listed backwards from the one having the least impact on my personal gardening plans to the one having the greatest (8 = least limiting, 1= most limiting).

Previously posted:
Gardening Limitation #8: Environment

Gardening Limitation #7: Proximity

I define proximity as "a nearness to resources".  Though the internet, email and mail-order (not to mention television and radio) have helped to bring resources & information directly into our homes (and gardens), pictures and text are simply not the same as the real thing.  Being able to reach out and touch the plant, to actually view the shrub growing in your zone, to have discussions, face to face, with experienced gardeners from your area - these are some of the most valuable gardening resources available.

Local plant nurseries typically provide higher quality plants for less cost than most other means and are a great resource for purchasing native and adapted plants specific for your area.
Family Member: "Look dear, I found just the plant we need. See how big & full it looks in the online catalog?"
Gardener: "Yes, looks quite nice."
Family Member: "Hmmm, it appears they only sell it in 4 inch containers."
Gardener: "What!? That's not what the picture shows. It'll take years to get even close to what the picture shows."
Family Member: "Well, its just $12. And then there's the shipping from way up north, let's see, that adds another $10. No tax though, that's nice. So it'll only cost $22"
Gardener: "(Incoherent choking sounds)"

Even better, the really good nurseries are also founts of gardening knowledge.  They provide additional insights into raising the plant in your specific locale.  Perhaps a particular plant is usually listed as sun-loving, but your local nursery will advise you to provide some afternoon shade as your sun is pretty intense.  Or maybe they'll point out that this species can be rather invasive in your garden due to your mild winters - and then guide you to an appropriate substitute.  Often, even the plant information provided on the individual sale signs will have a regional flavor missing in big box nursery shops or on the generic pot labels from distant growers.

Local gardening organizations & societies are another great means of sharing information on your area's growing conditions or on your own particular plant interests.  While it is common for these groups to have an online presence, it is not a substitute for being able to actually meet both people and plant alike.  Visiting home gardens, discussing plant varieties, investigating growing conditions and even sharing plants - all benefits to the gardener who can participate in these groups.

Nearby botanical gardens also provide another great resource.  Walking through these gardens allows one to actually see growing plants that are adapted to the local conditions and situations.  Species names and plant information are readily available - helping the gardener to discover both new plants and new ideas.

Much like Limitation #8 (Environment), short of moving, not much can be done to directly overcome the proximity limitation.  A blog I recently read mentioned a two hour drive into town - imagine the effort required to access resources for that garden (or even possibly the non-existence of such resources) - and the restrictions placed upon the gardener.  If one lives far from these resources, the best you can do is minimize their absence.

The internet, email and mail-order significantly help to alleviate the impact of an unfavorable proximity.  But nothing replaces that human to human contact, or even that human to plant contact.  No matter the online research I conduct, it doesn't substitute for actually being able to view the plant growing in similar conditions in my area or discussing it with a knowledgeable individual.

While not having these resources nearby will likely not prevent one from achieving their gardening goals, it makes the journey more arduous.

(Next up: Gardening Limitation #6: Knowledge)