Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pots In The Garden

No silly, it says "Pots"; that's plural.  Hopefully you weren't looking for some other type of gardening adventure.

Until this past year, the concept of placing pots out in the garden was quite foreign to me.  Why would I want a pot on the soil - that's a spot where a plant could go!  Of course, I've always had potted plants, but they tended to be grouped onto my deck and certainly not amongst the garden plants.

Thanks for the Coleus, Robin (Getting Grounded) - I think its done rather well.

But as I visited other gardens in person and viewed garden blogs online, I began to see the value in pots going out into the garden.  If nothing else, in a shady garden, it certainly gives one the chance to add some needed color amongst the dominant green foliage (ummm...or bare dirt).  Not to mention the structural aspect it lends to certain areas, plus the way it catches and directs the eye.

I'm still trying to get comfortable with the whole idea.  But I have started dabbling with it.  Looking not only at plants when I visit nurseries, but also watching for pots that catch my fancy.  Trying to determine which plants might do better in a pot than in the ground.  Wrapping my mind around the thought that larger pots make more visual impact, but they're freaking heavy once filled - so better consider either annuals or winter-hardy plants (cuz lugging around pots to dodge freezes ain't my kind of fun - though I seem to be doing plenty of that anyway).

Most of my garden-bound potted plants still tend to find their way onto rocks or paths, but I'm beginning to feel adventurous enough to move a few out onto the dirt or amongst the soil-bound plants.  And I'm thinking I kinda like them out there.

Planted in the Ground:
  • Southern Wood Fern (Dryopteris normalis): I'd been considering adding these to my garden and, when I found it on the discount rack, I grabbed five.  Though somewhat battered, as long as the roots are good, I figured it really didn't matter since our winter freezes would be removing the foliage before long anyway.

Planted in Pots:
  • Tricolor Ginger (Stromanthe sanguinea 'Triostar'): Another discount rack discovery; has been on my Gotta Get list as a potted plant (along with 'Tricolor' - but I'm beginning to think its the same plant).
  • Palm Grass (Setaria palmifolia): Have admired the plant's strap-like leaves for a while, but have always held back.  Will be interested to see how it does through the winter as I plan to leave it out.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gardening Limitation #6: Knowledge

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

Gardening Limitation #6: Knowledge

So much to know, so little time, such a small brain.

What is that plant?  Will it grow here?  What about there?  Apparently, most of the plants I bought prefer to grow in the neighbor's yard.  Except for dandelions - those are all mine.

Is there a difference between dappled sun and dappled shade?  Part sun and part shade?  Those seem somewhat synonymous to me.  I think I can at least tell the difference between full sun and full shade - but not too sure about all those gradients in between.

Soil preparation?  The weeds are thriving so it must be really good, right?

And what is it with seeds.  The first year, I tried casting them to the winds.  On the second year, I raked 'em into the dirt.  I poked holes in the ground the third year.  Finally, last year, I roughed 'em up first.  And now you're telling me that all this time I was supposed to be planting them in a different season?

What is that strange fuzzy growth on my plant?  At first I thought it was kinda cool - then the leaves turned yellow and fell off.  Now I'm thinking less of it.  Especially now that it's also on that other plant over there...and over there too.

Have you seen all those tiny bugs hiding on the underside of my leaves?  Some are green, some white, some have pretty colors.  Good guys?  Bad guys?  I nudged one with my finger and now there are blisters on it (on my finger, not the bug).  Then again, it might have come from that triple-leafed ivy that I pulled up yesterday.  Itches too.

And what is this garden design element I keep hearing about?  Sounds somehow mysterious and mystical.  I think I may have recognized it in other people's gardens - did it have something to do with the gnomes?  Not sure if it has a place in my garden.

It can be a bit intimidating at times.

Ok - it can be incredibly, vastly intimidating pretty much all the damn time.  Every time I read another gardener's blog or tour another person's garden, I recognize how much I don't know.  That wide chasm of ignorance can appear so impossible to span that many a gardener simply throws in the trowel.

One must enter the garden with the insight that not everyone knows everything.  And that in your effort to create, you will be progressing through a learning process.  Very few sit down for the first time and paint a masterpiece.  Gardening is a series of visions, followed by attempts, then by re-evaluation - repeated over and over again.  On a living canvas that is influenced not only by the gardener, but by nature itself.

Gardening requires making mistakes.  The gardener must acknowledge & appreciate what has worked for them, recognize & progress through what has not.  Every planting is an experiment - a chance to try something new.  An opportunity to learn.

I recently overheard an employee at a nursery informing a customer new to gardening not to worry about losing a few plants: "If you're not killing some plants, then you're not growing as a gardener."  That actually made me feel a little better (though I also thought it was a good philosophy for a nursery to preach if it wanted to stay in business).

Fortunately, knowledge can be obtained.  Certainly being able to pull the needed information immediately from one's mind makes things much easier.  But it is but a small hindrance as one can gather the needed information if one invests the time and effort.  And one must be willing to recognize that even with all the data gathered and applied, gardening is still primarily advanced through trial and error.

A lack of knowledge may limit how quickly your garden achieves your vision, but it can only stop one from moving towards that goal if the gardener gives up.

(Next up: Gardening Limitation #5: Artistry)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Toad Lily Show Has Begun

As predicted on my GBBD October 2010 posting, the Toad Lily (Tricyrtis lasiocarpa) show has begun.

There are still numerous buds that have yet to open, but clusters of flowers already adorn the branches.

Each individual orchid-like blossom is impressive by itself.

But the groups of blossoms is quite nice.

Planted in the Ground:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stepping Stones

It seems to happen almost every time.  I have either a new plant or an existing one in need of a new home.  Nothing simpler, right?  Get out the garden fork, perhaps a shovel, and simply prepare a spot for it.

And that's when the adventure begins.

On a recent excavation for a transplanted White Margin Snow Rose (Serissa foetida 'Improved'), I quickly hit stone.  As usual, this led to the rock bar becoming involved.  In this case, I removed a nice triangular limestone flagstone measuring almost 3 foot on the long side.

Thank goodness I got that out of the way.  But what's this?  Yet another rock.  And it appears to be even larger.  After some sweating, a second, even larger, stepping stone was produced.

This one measured approximately three foot by three foot.

Well, at least it gives me an additional step (or two) for the path that I've been working on.

Planted in the Ground:
  • Butterfly Iris (Iris 'nada'): The plant was on my investigate list, but when I discovered it on sale, I went ahead bought it.  Now I learn that it may want more water than I'm willing to supply.  Planted near my pond and time will tell.
  • Bella Red Abutilon (Abutilon x hybridum 'Bella Red'): One of my Gotta Get listings; recommended by Central Texas Gardener; I'm a little worried about freeze tolerance.
  • Reifler's Dwarf Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum 'Reifler Dwarf'): Decided I had it planted it too close to a path; presently its size was fine, but mature size was going to be too large; so moved further back in the garden.  Plus I wanted to make room for the next plant.
  • Pale Pavonia (Pavonia hastata): Has been on my Gotta Get list since seeing several area blogs mention it; now I have two.  One went into the bed near the pond; the other went into the Viburnum's old location.
  • Variegated Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon jaburan 'Vitattus'): Have three that are doing quite well at the base of some trees, but had three others near the pond that seemed to be struggling.  Transplanted the struggling ones over next to the happy ones (obviously they like something over there!).
  • Milky Way Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra lurida 'Milky Way'): Transplanted two towards the back of the bed into the locale vacated by the Variegated Mondo Grass.
    Planted in Pots:

      Tuesday, October 19, 2010

      Viburnum Munched

      Yesterday, I discovered that my Reifler's Dwarf Viburnum (Viburnum obovatum 'Reifler Dwarf') seemed to be losing its leaves.  Couldn't quite determine if they had been munched or were falling off.  It had been doing quite well and I was looking forward to its fall color and hopefully next years blooms.  So I was a wee bit perturbed.

      Then, this evening, I checked it again and discovered the culprit:

      Or should I say culprits!

      I didn't even know that hornworms ate Viburnums.  But even though I don't know the variety of these guys, they obviously have a taste for for the plant.  Grumble, grumble.

      Needless to say, they have now departed the garden.

      Planted in the Ground:
      • Mexican Petunias (Ruellia tweediana 'Colobe Pink'): Added three more to the pond area as they tend to be evergreen in a typical winter
      • Gulf Coast Penstemon (Penstemon tenuis): Added three more to the existing small patch to help thicken up the area; hoping this will make for an even better spring showing
      • Ghost Plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense): Two more added - one in a dry area near the path and another in the recently created succulent bed (not pictured).
      •  Lady Tulips 'Cynthia' (Tulipa clusiana 'Cynthia'): Ten more placed into the bed near the pond (not pictured)

      Planted in Pots:
      • Foxtail Fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyersii'): Have one in the ground; decided to try one in a pot.  Not entirely sure if it is winter hardy, but plan on leaving it out (so I guess I'll learn!)

      Saturday, October 16, 2010

      Foliage Follow-up: October 2010

      Digging sponsors Foliage Follow-up on the sixteenth of every month so that the leaves get their chance in the spotlight.  This month, I deiced to highlight the four flavors of Ajuga found in my shady garden

      Ajuga (Ajuga reptans) is the most common Ajuga in my garden (and likely in most gardens).  Its ground-hugging rosettes of green leaves have hint of dark purple near their base.  It will slowly creep out, forming a dense mat that looks nice under taller plants.  As an added bonus, mine typically produces short, purple bloom stalks in the spring.

      This is my first year to try Catlin's Giant Ajuga (Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant').  The leaves are significantly larger than those of regular Ajuga, but have the same growth pattern.  However, the leaves are completely green - lacking the purple highlights found in the previous version.  Will have to wait until spring to see if it blooms nicely.

      Of my Ajugas, Burgundy Glow Ajuga (Ajuga reptans 'Burgundy Glow') has the greatest amount of  eye-catching "pop" in the garden.  The light green leaves coupled with purple inner growth really shines in the shady locations.  It doesn't seem to grow as thickly as the other Ajuga varieties, but still looks very nice as it winds in and out of the larger established plants.

      Another new Ajuga I'm trying this year is Chocolate Chip Ajuga (Ajuga reptans 'Valfredda').  This one has tiny leaves that form a thick mat.  The center of its leafy rosettes tend to have the typical purplish cast found in most varieties.  I have planted this variety over my Red Spider Lilies - which are now pushing up through them as I had hoped.

      Be sure to check out Digging's site for more leafy postings.

      Planted in the Ground:
      • White Margin Snow Rose (Serissa foetida 'Improved'): Transplanted; was struggling to get enough water, so moved it deeper into the shade.
      • Friendship Plant (Billbergia nutans): Two new plantings (made from splitting a single packed one gallon pot) added to backyard near path or deck - so that its flowers will be close enough to appreciate.
      • Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana): Transplanted to new location (others likely to soon follow); was near path but looked scruffy most of the year - so placing further from path to still get some flower color but be less noticeable rest of the time (not pictured).  

        Planted in Pots:
        • Star Begonia (Begonia heracleifolia): Transplanted from the ground to a pot; just couldn't recover enough from winter freezes to accomplish much; decided to improve its chances by protecting it in the winter.

        Friday, October 15, 2010

        Flower Power: GBBD October 2010

        Fifteen days into the month, May Dream Gardens sponsors Garden Blogger's Bloom Day where we can record the plants that are producing flowers in our gardens.  As the temperatures have cooled, my blooms have revived.

        Established Plants

        The Soap Aloe (Aloe maculata) plants that missed last GBBD are in full form for this one.

        Fall has seen the West Texas Mist Flower (Conoclinium greggii) explode into a mass of blooms - its the first time any of my plants has produced a swath of non-foliar color.

        This past spring, I moved my Mountain Sage (Salvia regla) closer to a path so that one could better enjoy its large, brilliant red blooms.

        Mexican Petunias (Ruellia tweediana 'Colobe Pink') seem to never quit producing light pink color.

        And the Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) is another that seems to bloom from spring to freeze.

        Adorned with triple petals, the Aztec Arrowhead (Sagittaria montevidensis) bloom stalk keeps the show going.

        New Plants in the Garden

        Though the blooms are quite sparse and hardly noticeable in its first year, the appearance of them on the Dwarf Barbados Cherry (Malphigia glabra) at least hints at future possibilities.

        Sweet Violet (Viola odorata 'Royal Robe') is actually putting out a bloom or two - if you're willing to stoop down low to spot them.

        The Ground Orchid (Spathoglottis plicata) blooms that initially appeared in last month's GBBD are still going strong.  Will be interesting to see if it survives the winter in ground (though I have one potted to ensure its continued presence).

        My Salvia van houttei tends to have a significant magenta flavor to its blooms, though I have seen it on other garden blogs with a much more reddish tinge.

        Potted Plants

        The blooms of the Ox Tongue (Gasteria liliputana) are close to an end; as the age, they tend to lengthen and take on this pendulous form.

        This year, the garden bloom for which I have the greatest excitement are those of the Toad Lily (Tricyrtis lasiocarpa).  I have a couple of the plants in the ground and, for the first time, one large one in a pot.  Though they all have more flower buds than ever before, the potted plant is absolutely exploding with them.  On it, though only a few have opened, there are well over a hundred buds ready to unfurl.


        A new plant this year, the Forsythia Sage (Salvia madrensis) will not quite make this month's GBBD.  The yellow flowers buds are almost there, but I'm still waiting for its first blossom.

        Flower Wannabes

        The berries of the American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) have, over time, darkened from their original bright purple, but the deeper wine-color is still quite appealing.

        And some the Chile Petin's (Capsicum annuum var. aviculare) green berries have begun to transition to red.

        Be sure to visit  May Dream Gardens to see what is blooming in gardens everywhere.