Thursday, July 29, 2010

July Rains...

...bring Rain Lily blooms.

Recent rain showers have all my Rain lilies producing blossoms.  The Pink Rain Lily (Zephyranthes rosea) is producing several.

While the Zephyr Rain Lily (Zephyranthes 'Labuffarosea') blossoms are more scattered and subtle.

Even discovered an almost pure white Rain Lily - though I haven't planted any.

Love them summer showers...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Leaning Shepherd's Crook

I have always tended towards avoiding hanging baskets in my garden primarily because it meant I would be required to water them during the hot summers.  But as I began to explore several garden blogs, I realized that there were plenty of low-water plants that would look very nice in a hanging basket.  So I decided to use a six foot shepherd's crook and create a Ghost Plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) hanging basket.

But the weight of the watered planter slowly pulled the shepherd's crook over to a 45 degree angle - leaving the basket almost touching the plants below.

Hmpf.  Not exactly what I had in mind.  True to my blog title (i.e. "Lazy"), I tried to figure out the simplest fix.  Perhaps if I strategically positioned some stone and bricks about the base, it would have enough support to remain vertical.

But it was not to be, as over the days, the pole again slowly angled downward, pushing even the stacked stone down into the dirt and roots.  One would have thought all the plant roots and naturally occurring limestone would have prevented the penetration.

I wanted to avoid concreting a pole into the ground - I liked the flexibility of being able to move the pole about if needed (though I was presently getting more movement than I had anticipated!).  I thought I might could place a stouter pole in the same area and attach the shepherd's crook to it - thus removing the crook's flexibility issue.

I investigated various ground spikes that can be hammered into the ground and then bolted to a pole, but I could not find any spike shorter than 24 inches - and I knew it would never penetrate that far into my ground.  And none of the visited hardware stores had decorative poles (especially the square type which I preferred).  So I finally started visiting fence supply shops, and was able to get an eight foot by two inch square pole.  I had been hoping for something around 5 foot, but all I could find was four or eight foot lengths (and four was too short).  Maybe I could get at least 1.5 feet hammered into the ground - if not, I could always cut it off to a desired length.

I put it all together to see if reality and my imagination were at least on speaking terms - and was pleased with the appearance (especially if I could get the pole pushed down a foot or more).

Then came the next problem.  How does one hammer an eight foot pole into the ground.  Obviously a ladder would be involved.  And only having a long-handled sledgehammer, this could get interesting.  Would need a wooden board on top so as not to damage the pole with direct hammering, but how to keep it in place.  Duct tape to the rescue: tape a wooden block to the top of the pole, climb up the ladder and begin a game of whack-a-mole.

Okay - that didn't work.  I was actually able to drive the pole downward into the ground.  That wasn't the problem (well, it was a bit of a problem - there was an occasional balancing conundrum that required amazing gymnastic maneuvers).  But the main issue was that the pole only penetrated about 10 inches - then it refused to go further.

Measuring the original shepherd's crook showed it also was only going in that far.  And the shorter front bracket would slowly sink a few inches too - thus giving me my angled tilt.  Admitting defeat, I decided it was time for concrete (and the subsequent loss of future mobility).

Completely abandoning the shepherd's crook (perhaps it could be re-purposed to hold light-weight items like bird feeders or wind chimes), I decided to permanently put my large stout pole into the ground.  Digging down, I discovered limestone and large tree roots around 11 inches.

Hmpf.  This meant that my eight foot pole would be taller than desired. with its head!

And, of course, I now needed to purchase and attach a plant hanger to the pole itself.  After some searching, I went with a thick metal hanger which had a bird motif (thinner hangers looked a little lost on the thicker pole).

Next, I partially hammered four pieces of 12 inch rebar into the bottom and sides of the hole to give an extra bit of support (really didn't want this whole contraption to tilt and require me to dig it all up!).  Then the pole was positioned and the concrete poured.  Verifying that everything was straight, I added some temporary boards to maintain the pole's position as the concrete set.

After a couple of days, the pole appears to be solid.  The real test was to place a recently watered hanging pot on the hook and, given time, see if everything stayed vertical. 

Success!  Of course, I also have these two other hanging pots.  Hmmm...more poles?  Or more hangers attached to this one?  Will have to ponder...

 Gotta Get:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Excavated Plant

This was an unpleasant discovery: one of my recently planted Ground Orchid (Spathoglottis plicata) was no longer..well...planted.  During the evening, some critter had decided that there was likely good eats down there in the wet root zone.  Possibly an armadillo (though I searched the fence line and deck borders and haven't found an entry point) or even a raccoon (believe they will also do some minor digging and they certainly visit my yard).  Grumble.

Stuck it back in the ground and gave it another dose of water.  Hope that doesn't invite even more excavation!

I have been rather remiss in the "diary" aspects of my blog.  So I came up with some categories to include, when appropriate, with each post (really more as notes to myself than anything):
  • Planted in Ground - recent yard plantings
  • Planted in Pots - recent pot plantings
  • Experiments - things I'm trying
  • Gotta Get - additions to my list of desired plants
So to catch up on the past couple of month's happenings (I'll do better; promise):

Planted in Ground:
Planted in Pots:
  • Ground Orchid (so I can make sure to keep at least one alive over the winter)
  • Wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina) into hanging pot; interesting story goes with plant (perhaps on a later blog)
  • Small-leafed version of English Ivy (variety of Hedera helix) into hanging pot (actually part of a three plant gift "bucket" received by my wife) - anyone have any hints regarding variety based on that minuscule description?
  • Unknown variety of Coleus - a pass-along from Robin at Getting Grounded; thanks!
  • Ric Rac Orchid Cactus (Selenicereus anthonyanus) - gift from green-thumbed mother-in-law; thanks MommaSam!
  • Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Alice' (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice') - hope to eventually place into ground, but figured I'd better wait until fall
  • Root Beer Plant (Piper auritum) - pass-along plant from Philip at East Side Patch; thanks! (Still a little fearful to let it loose directly into the ground, plus I can water it more when potted)
  • Two Gold Dust Aucuba (Aucuba japonica 'Variegata') - hope to eventually place into ground; waiting for fall
  • Red-leafed Dyckia (Dyckia 'Red Devil') into the Bitter Tree Aloe (Aloe ferox) pot; it was looking lonely
  • Growing Bronze Dyckia (Dyckia fosteriana) from gathered seeds
  • Attempting to root Oak-Leaf Hydrangea cuttings
  • Attempting to root Abutilon 'Marilyn's Choice' cuttings
  • Growing Gulf Coast Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis) from seeds (pass-along seeds from Robin at Getting Grounded; thanks yet again
Gotta Get:
  • Mahonia 'Soft Caress' (Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress') - discovered them at Red Barn but the price was a bit more than I wanted to spend
  • Vriesea malzinei -  when I saw the words "shady" and "dappled sunlight" in GrowerJim's description on the Garden Adventures blog, it was going on my list (the pictures certainly helped too!).  A little worried about temperature; perhaps in a pot.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Flower Power: GBBD July 2010

May Dream Gardens hosts Garden Blogger's Bloom Day every month.  During the shady heat of July, blooms are scarce in my garden (actually, they're always pretty scarce in my shade, but they become even rarer during the dry summer heat).  But a few of my plants are making the attempt, so here's a few blooms:

Established Plants

Water Poppy (Hydrocleys nymphoides) is one of the few pond plants that will do fairly well in filtered sun, throwing out a few blooms on occasion. 

My Chinese Indigo (Indigofera kirilowii) is in its second year (still pretty small) and will produce pendulous blossoms on new growth.

One plant that doesn't seem to mind the dry, hot shade, the Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) continues to produce hot pink flowers.

My Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) didn't produce any spring blossoms (as it was likely recovering from getting blasted by the winter's 18 degree lows).  But its sending up some lilac clusters now.

One plant that I'm considering for additional locations in the garden is the 'Ragin Cajun' Ruellia (Ruellia elegans 'Ragin' Cajun').  Its red flowers seem to float above the foliage and I'm thinking it might get even more blooms in a slightly sunnier spot, .

New Plants in the Garden

And in my one sunny garden spot (due to a collapsed tree), I threw caution to the wind and planted some different flavors of Zinnia.  For whatever reason, most did not respond well.  But Zinnia 'Zahara Orange' seems quite happy.

Hope your gardens are filled with blooms!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shady Discoveries

Discovered another recently emerged Black Swallowtail fighting its way out from the leaves.  It was not yet able to fly, so I helped extract it from its leafy prison so that it could catch some sunshine.  This is likely one of the naughty ones that had been feeding on my parsley.

Every year I have a red-tailed dragonfly that lays claim to my small pond.  It darts about, snagging mosquitoes and wooing any female dragonflies that happen to wander in.  Wings blurred as he hovers, he slowly moves closer to a visiting female, but it was not to be.

Later, he settled on his favorite perch (the narrow leaf of a Red Yucca).  Here he will sit for long periods, standing watch over his little domain.

One thing about gardening under the trees, you will occasionally receive fallen limbs.  This limb likely bounced off the roof, miraculously missed all the potted plants, and landed across some deck chairs.  Moved to the side, it measured over twelve feet long.

Sometimes nature creates a scene that looks inspired.  A small red oak leaf had fallen squarely in the middle of one of the large leaves of a banana tree.  The variations of leaf size and green colors made for a fun discovery.

What discoveries have you made in your garden this week?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Someone Likes The Rain

Recent rains have been appreciated by the Pink Rain Lilies (Zephyranthes rosea).

I counted up to thirteen blossoms within a 2 square foot area.  There are other smaller patches scattered about the garden, but this is the largest grouping.

The bulbs are happy with the rain, even after losing much of their foliage due to rust.  The leaves are returning and will eventually form a six inch tall, grass-like mat across the area.

And there are even more blooms on the way.

And the Zephyr Lily (Zephyranthes 'Labuffarosea'), another flavor of rain lily, is also blooming.

These tend to have a much paler pink color to their flowers, shading almost to white.

The blossoms do not last very long, but its always a nice surprise to discover them in the garden after a rain.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July

Starburst fireworks display provided by spent Agapanthus blooms

Have a great holiday.