Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Unpop Goes The Greenhouse

A few weeks back, I decided it was time to take down and store my pop-up greenhouse.  It did its job well over the winter, keeping the plants alive during our extended freezes.  Putting it up had not been too difficult.  But past experience has shown that its easy to get the toothpaste out of the tube, but tricky to get it all back inside.

The instruction page showed a little elderly lady deftly snapping the collapsed greenhouse about and easily placing it back into its little tote.  Sadly, after spending much time searching through everything that came with the greenhouse, I was unable to locate the lady - so I must conclude she was not included and that I'd have to get the structure back into its bag on my own (darn).

Emptied of all its plants, I quickly pulled up the stakes.  Next the shade cover (think I'll do without that next winter) was removed and folded (i.e. wadded) up.

The top and side poles came out rather easily.  The top one was tight to get in, and still tight to get out - but not terribly hard.  The poles pulled apart and stored easily.

Having worked with tents, I figured I'd be smart and leave the doors slightly unzipped to prevent the structure from holding air as I collapsed it down.  Of course, I then realized - duh - it ain't got no floor.  Well, I guess there's not any danger of a giant air bubble then.

Spent some time studying the instruction's pictures and words - which seemed to make sense initially, but started making less as I tried to actually implement them - but it basically worked as they said: bend this end over there, form a taco shell, then collapse it in on itself.  And by golly, it actually worked (still would have preferred to have the elderly lady taking care of it).  The whole structure slipped back into its tote with considerably less effort than putting a rolled-up tent back into its bag.

Safely back in its tote (along with the shade cloth, poles & stakes), the pop-up greenhouse is heading to storage where it will wait until freezes once again come calling.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Foliage Follow-up: April 2011

On the sixteenth of every month, Digging invites us to join her in celebrating the leafy aspects of our garden by participating in Foliage Follow-up.  With temperatures soaring, central Texas plants have certainly shaken off winter's doldrums and growth is happening everywhere.

I thought I'd highlight one of the more rampant foliar aspects of my garden - a groundcover that can be found in almost every one of my beds.  It is a native plant that initially appears as a few widely spaced plants, sprouting here and there.

But its amazing trait is that if simply ignored, it will quickly produce a thick verdant cover completely crowding out all your other garden plants.  Though squirrels have been known to bury the occasional seed, these individual plants are nothing compared to the creeping wonder that readily sprouts from the roots of the adult plant.

Unfortunately, to produce truly amazing beds of this plant, they must develop naturally from the roots of the much larger adult plant.  You can plant an adult specimen, but will likely have to wait for decades to get the full benefit of its ground cover.

Yes, I'm describing the wondrous Live Oak (Quercus virginiana).  The adult trees naturally shade out almost all other plants, and quickly suck moisture from the soil, thereby depriving it from other more tender plants.  This "bare" area, of course, cries out to the gardener to fill it with exotic and beautiful plants - never understanding that if they are just patient (or even if they are not), soon root sprouts will appear.

And if the gardener is distracted for a few moments, they will explode into luxuriant growth and quickly bury all those costly and lovingly tended plants - quickly making them obsolete.

Sigh...where are my pruners?  Looks like a long day of snipping.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Flower Power: GBBD April 2011

On the fifteenth of every month, May Dream Gardens invites us to share postings showing the flowers that are presently being found in our gardens.  This year, my shady garden had more blooms than ever for spring.  Gulf Coast Penstemon, Texas Betony and Texas Gold Columbine even produced swaths of color in certain areas (a first for me - typically one must crawl on hands and knees to spot the tiny blossoms found in my dappled light).  By now, many have faded in our above-average heat, but I'm still enjoying the show.

Established Plants

I was surprised to discover the Aztec Arrowhead (Sagittaria montevidensis) already had a bloom stalk developing.  The first of its flowers are just opening, but it will continue growing upwards and producing additional blossoms - as well as additional stalks appearing sporadically.

There are two aspects of Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana) that I really enjoy: the intense red coloration of its blooms and the way it sprouts from small crevices in my stone walkway.  Eventually the plant will loose its blooms and the foliage will become unattractive, but by then its seeds will have found their way into some other crack amongst the rock - and be ready to surprise me again next spring.

More than ever before, the Chinese Indigo (Indigofera kirilowii) is covered in the dangling, pink blossom clusters that it produces. 

The blooms of the Gulf Coast Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) have begun to fade, but for several weeks it has filled a section of the garden with its pale lavender color.

Strawberry Geranium (Saxifraga stolonifera) are just beginning to send up their diminutive bloom stalks  topped with its clusters of minuscule blossoms.  I have always enjoyed the intricacy of its quarter-inch flowers.

The intense color of the Pink Shamrock (Oxalis crassipes 'Rosea') flowers really stands out in the dappled shade.  Though Oxalis can be considered invasive, I have found this variety to be well-behaved.  Too much so in fact - as I will likely have to purchase more to add as it has not spread at all.

The Amaryllis (Hippeastrum sp.) in my garden are scattered about in small numbers - but all of them are either producing large red blossoms or have bloom stalks shooting skyward.

Last fall I moved the struggling White Margin Snow Rose (Serissa foetida 'Improved') deeper into the shade.  It is still struggling (our ongoing drought is making things difficult for it), but still managed to produce some scattered white blooms amongst its variegated foliage.

Texas Gold Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana) is nearing the end of its flower season - but at its peak the top of my backyard path was highlighted by a large, waving area of bright yellow.

Texas Betony (Stachys coccinea) is also highlighting nice sections of my garden with its sprawling stems of  dusky red flowers.

Both the fragrance and blooms of the Banana Shrub (Michelia figo) are fading - but a few flowers can still be found amongst its shiny, ligustrum-like leaves.

Most of my Ajuga blooms have faded, but the Burgundy Glow Ajuga (Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow') appears to have just started.  Though set back from our severe winter, it certainly can still catch one's attention with its short stalks of purple blooms.

Returning from roots, the Purple Oxalis (Oxalis triangularis subsp. papilionaceae 'Atropurpurea') is putting out several cascading clusters of pale blooms.  The flowers look especially nice against the plant's dark purple foliage.

New Plants in the Garden

Recommended by Central Texas Gardener, I added the dwarf Bella Red Abutilon (Abutilon x hybridum 'Bella Red') to the garden last year.  After receiving at least some cover for its first winter, the plant responded by retaining much of its foliage and has started spring off with numerous blooms.  Unlike my other Abutilons, this variety appears to open its blossoms wide - though they do still tend to face downwards.

Planted less than a month ago, Trailing Violet (Viola banksii) was still able to produce a couple of flowers.  The blooms really do stand out in the shade.  If it handles the summer heat and spreads as reported, it could produce quiet the show next spring.

Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Alice' (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice') has added quite a bit of new foliage in its first spring, and is just beginning to unfurl a couple of flower clusters.

Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata) is nearly done blooming, but it made a nice little patch of color near the garden path.  Though this was its first heavy bloom cycle, the few blooms it had in the fall must have scattered its seeds well - for I have seen some of its offspring sprouting from the ground, yards away.

Potted Plants

'Mrs. Pollock' Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum 'Mrs. Pollock') has incredible foliage, but it has also been producing small clusters of bright red flowers - so my shade is getting the best of both!

Originally planted in the ground where winter hammered it, I moved my Star Begonia (Begonia heracleifolia) into a pot last fall and babied it over the winter (good thing with the severe cold we had this winter!).  It has rewarded that move by producing stalks of pale pink blooms.

Indoor Plants

The only flowering plants that I have ever kept indoors are the Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis sp.) - they live happily near a southern widow where they receive dappled shade (as does pretty much everything in my garden!).  The blooms last so long, and the plants are pretty reliable in producing stalks every year.

Flower Wannabes

The slate blue berries of the Mahonia (Mahonia aquifolium) will eventually be eaten up by Mockingbirds - but for now they are attractive counterpoints to the dark green, spiky leaves.

Dwarf Buford Holly (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii Nana') completed its early bloom cycle, and is well on its way to this fall's berry crop.  Some stems have both the old and the new.

Sitting atop an empty Lyreleaf Sage bloom stalk, this ladybug seemed to want to participate in the color celebration.


Only a few inches long, the bloom stalk of from my Aloe 'Doran Black' is just starting to grow.  Soon I'll need to stalk it as it tends to grow quite thin and over a foot tall before the blooms begin to open - makng it susceptible to the slightest breeze.

Silver Squill (Ledebouria socialis) dangles loose clusters of soon-to-be flowers all about.  Once open, the bees will swarm to it and the flowers will produce several seeds.  Last year, as an experiment, I was able to easily germinate them and presently have a few of its young growing rapidly.

Not all the indoor Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis sp.) were able to get their blooms ready in time.  At least a few of my plants are in the early stages of developing their flower stalk - hopefully this will keep the house filled with color for months to come.

Be sure to visit May Dream Gardens to see all the spring blooms that other garden bloggers are sharing.