Sunday, February 27, 2011

Shady Happenings: Late February

I have been slowly removing and trimming back remnants of this winter's damage.   Cast Iron Plants (Aspidistra elatior) are tough, but there is always some damage even during milder winters.  But our unusually extreme cold snap seems to have hit the Milky Way Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra lurida 'Milky Way') even harder.  I had to trim away almost all its leaves, though it should grow back just fine.

One of the aspects that I enjoy about the Red Dragon Knotweed (Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon') is the coloration of its new growth when it emerges in spring.  The two-toned deep burgundy color is very attractive.

I overwintered two Gold Dust Plants (Aucuba japonica 'Variegata') in nursery pots as I have not yet determined exactly where I want them in the garden.  Both ended up doing something I had never seen before: they're blooming!  They have clusters of tiny green and reddish-brown flowers.

Another plant that I rarely see bloom, but is currently doing so, is the Wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina).  Kept in the pop-up greenhouse over the winter, its little lavender flowers make its relationship to the yard's  spiderworts quite obvious.

Have also been doing some planting of recent purchases.  Though likely it will want more sunshine than I can provide, I couldn't pass up the amazing foliage of the 'Mrs. Pollock' Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum 'Mrs. Pollock').  Even if the plant, due to insufficient light, never produces any blooms, I'll be pleased if it just produces leaves!

Another new plant added to the garden is Red Billbergia (Billbergia sp. 'Red').  In the past, I have enjoyed my Friendship Plants (Billbergia nutans) though this past hard winter certainly caused them some serious damage.  But if this Billbergia, with its attractive reddish foliage, can do as well - then I'll be quite happy.

Planted in the Ground
  • Rosemary 'Lockwood de Forest' (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Lockwood de Forest'): Planted in the utility side of the garden where a fallen tree opened the canopy; though wasn't enough sunshine for a Rose to make it there.  Here's hoping a Rosemary can.
  • Seeds of Dill, Parsley & Thyme

Monday, February 21, 2011

We Have Discovered Life

One thing about viewing the cold-crisped, brown landscape from my window, one only sees the wider view.  But with time and warmer weather permitting, I've been able to get out in the garden and start trimming away some of the winter damage.  And this closer view allowed for the discovery of new green growth.

Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) have been popping out the ground and growing fast.  Hope they set some blooms this year.

Lady Tulips (Tulipa clusiana) did well last year and this year the number of sprouts has increased (I really like their blue-green color).  Hope I have even more of their lovely flowers,

Toad Lily (Tricyrtis lasiocarpa) have begun to emerge.  The potted one has added over a foot of growth already, but the ground-bound plants are just now emerging.

Missouri Violet (Viola missouriensis) got seriously beat up by tree trimmers and their subsequent brush removal.  But new tiny leaves are appearing.

Texas Gold Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana) came through the long freeze fairly well, and now its even putting out plenty of new leaves.

Southern Wood Fern (Dryopteris normalis) is relatively new to my garden.  As expected, the fronds got freeze-dried.  But tiny (only about a quarter inch) fiddleheads are sprouting from the leaf litter.

Sparkler Sedge (Carex phyllocephala 'Sparkler') is another plant that handled the winter quite well.  It too is already putting out new growth.

Even though in a fairly shady area, the Anthony Waterer Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda 'Anthony Waterer') is already putting out new leaves.  Just three feet away and receiving more sunlight, the Goldmound Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Goldmound') has yet to make a showing.

Though the entire pond was covered with a sheet of ice for several days, it didn't take the Aztec Arrowhead (Sagittaria montevidensis) long to send up its first leaf.

Several of my scattered Amaryllis (Hippeastrum sp.) have already sprouted the beginnings of their strap-like foliage.

Two of the three Friendship Plants (Billbergia nutans) were left uncovered and may be a loss.  But one, due to its location near some Aloes, got some cover.  Though also damaged, it is rewarding this extra attention by already starting to produce some bloom stalks.

Though still early, hints of spring are certainly in the air...and in the plants.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Confessions of a New Garden Blogger

A little over a year ago, on February 16, 2010, I wrote my very first blog posting for The Lazy Shady Gardener.  This was all unexplored and unknown territory for me as just a month earlier, I had never even read a blog posting of any kind.  As the year progressed and my journey continued, I jotted down several facets of garden blogging that crossed my mind.

  1. Etiquette: Initially I didn't know what the accepted protocols were for any aspect of blogging.  Should you reply back to every comment or only to questions?  It appears some reply back to all, and some don't reply to any.  I certainly didn't want to accidentally be rude to someone.  This is but one example of the questions I had, and there seemed to be no source for ready answers.  Eventually, it occurred to me that one should simply go with what one felt comfortable doing - and hope that visitors would understand.
  2. Blotanical: This one site likely had the greatest initial impact on my garden blogging experience.  Without it, I'm not sure I would have as easily discovered my local gardening community or would have developed the contacts that have guided me in my endeavors.  Though I have utilized its aspects less as the year progressed, its impact in the beginning can not be overtstated.
  3. Photography: My initial garden blog postings tended to be predominantly text, typically accompanied by small photographs.  But after viewing many other blogs, and examining ones I highly respected, it quickly became apparent that a picture really is worth a thousand words.  I concluded that a garden blog without pictures is like a garden without flowers - visitors want the shared information, but they also need to see.
  4. Memes: I did not even know that scheduled blog activities (Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, Foliage Follow-up, Picture This, etc.) existed until I saw them on other people's garden blogs.  I quickly found that I had to be selective in my participation as these activities could easily consume my entire blogging energy.  But the one discovery that participation brought to me was the way these activities helped one to "see" their garden; to actually view it through a fresh set of eyes. (A good list of garden-related memes can be found at Gardening Gone Wild: Memes and Contests for Garden Bloggers)

  1. Inadequacy: When I started blogging, I also started reading other garden blogs - and this quickly led me to wonder: What the hell am I doing wrong?  It seemed that everyone's garden was magnificent, and the gardeners so knowledgeable.  Even their blogs looked snazzy.  Everything about my gardening experience seemed dull & shoddy in comparison.  It is easy to quickly become intimidated and overwhelmed when one begins a garden blog.
  2. Vulnerability: Posting one's trials and tribulations for all to read, and showing pictures of one's garden certainly makes one feel "exposed".  When I view my garden, my eyes tend to gravitate to the empty spaces, the struggling plants, the work not yet completed.  And now I'm supposed to post pictures of this for all to see?  Garden blogging requires that one allow oneself to be vulnerable to the eyes and opinions of others - and that is no easy task.

  1. Discovery: Blogging has allowed me to see what others are thinking & doing, to see their creativity and design.  Because of this, I have been able to look at my own garden areas with fresh eyes and new ideas.  None of us can think of everything.  And we certainly don't have time to be reinventing the wheel.  Participating in the garden blogging community has helped me to expand boundaries and overcome obstacles.
  2. Sharing: I am no longer alone.  When I have a problem, there are individuals out there who can point me to the solution.  When I can't identify a plant, another will readily provide not only its name but information about its cultivation.  Nearby gardeners (discovered through their blogs) have shared information about nursery sales, provided tours of their gardens and gifted me with pass-along plants.  The camaraderie I have discovered through garden blogging has made the entire gardening experience even more enjoyable.

  1. Responsibility: Oh my goodness...people that are not even related to me are reading my garden blog.  What do they want, why are they here, who are these people?  Discovering that your blog has followers is quite inspiring.  And eventually, you begin to feel a responsibility to them, to provide something of value for the time they take in visiting your postings.  It is, of course, a balancing act as blogging is likely not the only responsibility with which one is dealing.  But once your blog has followers (even just a few), one feels pressure to produce.
  2. Reason: At times, that responsibility can take what was initially an enjoyable activity and turn it into a tiresome chore.  And that is when one needs to revisit the primary purpose which led them to garden blogging.  What was it that drove the blogger to begin?  I think it is important that we occasionally return to that question.  For me, it was primarily a digital method for replacing my hand-written gardening notebooks - which never seemed to quite work because they were always so hard to search.  It has, of course, evolved beyond that - but at its heart, it is as the banner says: a diary of my shady garden.
Everyone's blogging journey is uniquely their own.  Each will have experienced their own lessons and challenges.  On my blogging anniversary, I wanted to share those that had impacted me the most during this first year.  And I'd love to hear what you have discovered as you've traveled along your own path.

Planted in the Ground:
  • Wall Iris (Iris tectorum): Was on my Gotta Get list; planted a one-gallon and two 4"; have an additional two 4" that I'm holding on to as possible replacements for my Ground Orchids (Spathoglottis plicata) (just in case they don't recover from the winter's extreme lows)
  • Crimson Queen Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Crimson Queen'): This will be my second attempt at a Japanese Maple and my first at planting one in the ground.  Had decided that they were too much trouble for my garden, but after seeing pictures of them in other Austin gardens - I just had to try again.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Foliage Follow-up: February 2011

The sixteenth of every month gives us the chance, through the Digging blog, to show off the leafy aspects of our gardens by participating in Foliage Follow-up.  After 60+ straight hours of below freezing temperatures (extremely unusual for central Texas), my foliage is feeling the pain.

The Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) couldn't stand up to the extended cold.  All of them are cold-burnt husks of their former selves.

The leaves of the Dwarf Barbados Cherry (Malphigia glabra) suffered during last winter's 18 degree lows; so it didn't fare any better during this winter's 17 degree low.

Where once the leaves of my several Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus africanus) created green waves, I now have a flattened mass of pale yellow.

Initially looking as if it had only suffered minor damage, the unprotected Foxtail Fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyersii') has turned a rather lovely tan shade.  Though I certainly hope it returns from its roots to its former green glory, I'm presently enjoying its brownish cast. 

Of course, one of the harder hit plants was the Soap Aloe (Aloe maculata).  Though it looks like at least a few have hardy pups, the large specimens have all begun to melt away from exposure to the severe cold.

Long ago, I actually planted some Australian Sword Fern (Nephrolepis obliterata 'Kimberly Queen') out in the ground.  Inevitably, it always gets knocked back to the ground but returns the next spring, putting out a few scattered fronds here and there.  Then winter returns and once again turns its fronds a brownish hue.

But not all is decaying.  Amongst the leaf litter I discovered some sprouts from the Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica).  They had originally been planted into a pot, where all they did was produce foliage.  I took them out of the pot and hung on to them over the summer and eventually put them into the ground - believing they were likely no longer viable.  But some of them are coming up!

And the first of my Lady Tulips (Tulipa clusiana) has broken ground, just beginning its growth up towards the sunshine.  This will be its second spring in my garden, so I'm very interested to see if they bloom as well as they did last year.

Be sure to visit Digging to see what leafy delights can be found in other gardens.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flower Power: GBBD February 2011

On the fifteenth of every month, May Dream Gardens gives us the opportunity to share the plants that are blooming in our gardens.  February looks to be a very bleak month for my shady garden.  None of my ground-bound plants are actually in bloom, but color can be found in the berries and the protected potted specimens.

Potted Plants

The three Ground Orchids (Spathoglottis plicata) that were planted in the ground are now brown, crispy critters.  But the one I potted and kept indoors has been in bloom for over a month.  Many of the blossoms have faded, but there are still some unopened buds.

Not sure if one can really call it a flower, but this is as close as Cherokee Sedge (Carex cherokeensis) is likely ever going to get.

Indoor Plants

The only indoor plants I've ever had consistently bloom are the hybrids of the Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis sp.).  One of the orchids we have had for quite a while is producing a bloom stalk, but has not yet developed it's flower buds.  So I'm cheating a little bit by showing three recent purchases that were already in full bloom when bought.

Flower Wannabes

Though my ground-bound plants are lacking in blooms, they are making up for it with their bright red fruit.  One of the consistent performers is the Nandina (Nandina domestica) which are thick with clusters of bright red berries.

Small clusters of the berries decorate the glossy leaves of the Dwarf Buford Holly (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii Nana'), though I seem to have fewer on the plant this year than in seasons past.

The prickly leaves of the Dwarf Chinese Holly (Ilex cornuta 'Rotunda') sometimes hide its small groups of red berries.  Though never thickly adorned, I have had more than usual this year (likely due to more sunshine reaching the plants since a tree fell and opened the canopy).

Another whose berry production can vary widely, the Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) can still catch the eye even with just a few of its bright red orbs.

Be sure to visit May Dream Gardens to see what is flowering in other gardens.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Unprotected Results

I previously reported on the protected plants and the results of our prolonged freeze here in central Texas.  Now its time to examine the plants that received no protection which showed damage or which looked bad but appear to be recovering.

The Gold Dust Plants (Aucuba japonica 'Variegata') originally looked quite sad, but after a couple days of warmth, they have completely recovered.

The potted Bear's Breech (Acanthus 'Summer Beauty') initially looked sad, and now...well...sad doesn't even begin to describe its condition.  Will have to see if it recovers from the roots (presently, I am hopeful).

The Formosa Red Azalea (Azalea indica 'Formosa Red') has also bounced back looking no worse for the exposure.  I had though it should be able to handle the conditions, but its droopy look a couple of days ago had me worried.

No surprise here.  I had not anticipated the Palm Grass (Setaria palmifolia) foliage to make it through even our regular winter lows.  The plan was for it to return from roots - now I'll just have to wait and see.

The Coral Bells 'Caramel' (Heuchera villosa 'Caramel') looked a little tired, but is another that bounced back strong once the temperatures warmed up.  I had suspected that this plant should be able to handle the lows, but since it is new to my garden, there is always doubt.

Another new plant to the garden is the Butterfly Iris (Iris 'nada').  It has handled all previous freezes without showing any damage (even putting on some new growth during the warmer spells).  But it also was one that looked rather sad - but it has bounced back with only some minor damage.

The forgotten Gasteraloe 'Midnight' (meant to cover it - though I'm thinking it would not have made a difference) might look healthy in the picture, but every piece of green is soft and mushy.  I'm afraid it may be a complete loss.

I have never protected my Manfreda 'Macho Mocha' (Manfreda x Mangave 'Macho Mocha') (even during last year's 18 degree lows), but they certainly got hurt by the extreme length of this winter's cold exposure.  Much of the plant  is soft and mushy - can't yet tell if the center is still firm.  Time will tell.

The Variegated Flax Lilies (Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata'), another plant that can handle our typical Central Texas lows, has certainly been knocked back to its roots (much like last year).   But it should return.

Blooming just days prior to the serious freeze, the Variegated Abutilons (Abutilon pictum 'Thompsonii') & Marilyn's Choice Abutilon all have freeze-dried leaves (and blossoms).  As  this is my first winter with the Abutilons, I will have to wait and see if they return from the above-ground stems, the roots or even at all.

With day after day of below freezing temperatures, the Texas Gold Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana) had finally laid flat on the ground.  But with warmer temperatures, it has begin to look much healthier.

Two of the garden's three Friendship Plants (Billbergia nutans) were left to fend for themselves without protection in the cold temperatures.  It is really difficult to tell the condition of the plant.  It isn't soft or mushy, nor has its color faded or darkened.  Will have to give it time to see the effects.

Of the two Foxtail Ferns (Asparagus densiflorus 'Meyersii'), one is potted and one is in the ground.  The protected potted one received minor damage whereas the unprotected soil-based one certainly has more of its stems showing the tell-tale brownish tint that likely will lead to that portion being lost.  But the plant should pull through.

Last year's 18 degree low hammered the Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus africanus) almost completely back to its roots.  So this years lengthy freeze (and 17 degree low) will certainly cause a repeat of last year's results.

Also a repeat low temperature victim is the Pink Rain Lilies (Zephyranthes rosea).  Their foliage typically withstand lows in the mid-20s, but temperatures in the teens lead it to lose everything above ground.  But spring should see it sprouting once again.

A couple of others that appeared a little upset with the cold, but have survived with only minimal damage include Joe Pye Shrub & Cast Iron Plants (Aspidistra elatior).

Of course, there are several other plants that did as expected.  Evergreens continued on in their foliar ways.  Deciduous plants had lost their leaves long ago.  The usual perennial culprits disappeared back into the ground, but will return with the spring.  Likely, some that presently appear undamaged will begin to show signs as the months progress, and others that looked to have received mortal blows will bounce back.

For now, its a waiting game.