In my generally unkempt backyard, a new trio of fall planted shrubs for part sun, part shade.
Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet') has beautiful fall color and it's spire-like spring blooms attract early-season butterflies.
Moonshadow Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei 'Moonshadow') is a low speading evergreen with nice variegation.
Lots of little baby seedlings coming up! So exciting! Here are a few Larkspur (Consolida ambigua), which I sowed from a packet in fall.
Nearby is a hoard of Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damescena), self sown from a transplant I put in last spring.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) came up volunteer as well. I hope they'll retain the brown color of the type I planted last spring, but it's likely they'll revert to plain yellow.
California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), sown from a packet in fall, have popped up in several places, but this one is the most robust.
And one of my favorites from Wave Hill: Verbena bonariensis!
According to my loose plan mentioned earlier, this fall I dug out the beds to connect the small shrubs planted in spring, thus extending the long border and ever so slowly reducing the giant lawn.
Both budgetary constraints and summer's high temperatures, which hit just after the first shrubs were planted, delayed this project. Though still very low and narrow, the connected bed appears more deliberate than the poor little shrubs all alone in the lawn.
One-gallon-gardening has its positive side. To watch plants grow from small babies into large vigorous shrubs is satisfying.
Though we all love instant gratification, I appreciate the beauty in a small new planting, especially while simultaneously imagining its future glory.
They grow quicker than you think!
A one gallon cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) planted last fall is gorgeous this year.
Our tiny bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) is slow growing, but still useable for cooking at this size.
I'm looking forward to future comparison shots of this beauty berry (Callicarpa americana), which is currently lost in a bed of iris and leaves.
Pittosporum 'Wheeler's Dwarf,' planted early spring, sent out lots of new growth this fall.
The practice of gardening regularly teaches patience, delayed gratification, and humility.
Primarily due to financial constraints, I purchase most of my plants in the least expensive size. Sometimes I start with perennials in a 4-inch pot or shrubs in a little container called a "one gallon."
This creates a landscape design challenge: one must imagine what the tiny plant might look like if it manages to reach full size and of course, patiently wait for it to grow.
Since I began working on this garden last October, I've been slowly extending the long border beside my neighbor's driveway. I had dug it out to this point (and also moved the dug up pieces of turf to fill in the patchy back yard lawn).
My niece Arden helped me plant the little shrubs in late May: Grayleaf Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster glaucophyllus), Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora), and Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens 'Desperado').
Later, I extended the border to include the Texas sage.
The plan is to slowy extend the border in a curve along the edge of the lawn, creating an enclosure with low to medium sized shrubs and perennials which will partially obscure our view of the road.
Did I ever show you this little Cleyera (Ternstroemia gymnanthera 'Jade Tiara') I planted in early spring? I didn't think so. It wasn't exactly a significant planting. Being only a little one gallon plant, it barely stuck up above the iris, but I imagined it slowly growing large enough to softly fill this area with shiny evergreen simplicity and tolerating both the sun and shade which this area provides.
Well, it's dead. Yep. I killed it. Not on purpose, of course. It started looking like this and I carefully clipped off all the dead stuff in hopes of it's recovery, but it just went ahead and croaked. I'm pretty sure it got overwatered and stayed wet and smothered from lack of oxygen in this mostly shady bed. Sometimes we tell our customers at NHG that this type of loss is caused by an "inadvertent watering problem."
It's no fun to watch plants die and I'm always hesitant to show my failures, but it's part of gardening. Bleah.
We never had to worry about lawn while living in Brooklyn. Our tiny yard at first had some weedy grass which I eventually eliminated. However, now we have an urban field of green and I spent a little time working on making it greener this spring.
Using a hand-held aeration tool, I poked lots and lots of holes all around the dead patches and in the decent looking areas too. Many times I just left the thing sticking in the lawn so I could go back to it later. With 2 year old August always playing around the yard as I work, there are constant stops and starts with every project.
To make the patches more inviting for the St. Augustine runners, I added several bags of Humax Turf Soil Builder which is finely screened and easily trickled into the lawn by hand.
Just outside our back door was a muddy area with no plants. I covered it with leaves for the winter.
The soil there was compacted and held water so I knew I have some work to do.
Loosening the old soil, I added expanded shale, and acidified compost as preparation for a hydrangea.
The new planting has impatiens, holly ferns (Cyrtomium falcatum), a dwarf pittosporum (P. tobira 'Wheeler's Dwarf), Mahonia fortunii, Hosta 'Summer Music,' lamium (L. maculatum 'Beacon Silver'), one little painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum)...
... and a lovely silver blue variegated hydrangea (H. macrophylla 'Mariesii Variegata')!
August says: It looks like broccoli.
I'm happy to report that my star jasmine a.k.a. Madison or Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is alive and well. Planted late last fall, this little one gallon plant was hard hit by severe winter temperatures. I spotted these badly damaged vines all over town and was afraid mine had croaked.
Holding out hope, I cut everything back to a little stump and applied root stimulator. It was very exciting to see tiny green leaves breaking from the stump.
Two windows of our house look out to this narrow and mostly empty section of the back yard so I'm slowly working on making it a little more interesting. Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica), another affordable one gallon planted last fall also looked doubtful after the winter freezes, but recovered quickly and is now thriving.
In June, Brandon had a chance to see and photograph our old garden in Brooklyn.
June was always my favorite month in New York, but the garden already looks wild and overgrown. We left a number of projects unfinished and my short-sighted plantings are certainly in evidence.
It's weird to look back after a just a few months and see the garden living on without us.
A brief, but powerful July storm tore off the top of one old post oak tree (Quercus stellata) and smashed it down on top of another already weak old blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica). This all happened in the front yard at my mother's house, where we were staying until September.
While rocking August to sleep for an afternoon nap, lightning flashed and thunder clapped so loudly and simultaneously, I was sure it must have hit right outside.
Out the window, we saw that our neighbor's tree across the street had been sliced longways. We stared out at this for a long while before finally wandering to look out the front door where we were shocked to see that our own trees had also been struck by lightning.
Strangely, just before we moved back to Texas in March, another old post oak (the stump of which I showed you earlier and which you can see here in the foreground) was badly damaged by a winter storm.
The trees did hit our vehicle, but fortunately, aside from a few minor dents, only broke the windshield.
Most of the ivy that was growing under the two trees fried in the resulting sun and these recently planted elephant ears that were receiving afternoon shade now need a new home. It's amazing how quickly everything can change.
While we are staying with my mother in the house I grew up in, I've been working on the yard. The first thing I did was trim up these two crepe myrtles that I planted back in the early 90s. They were supposed to be dwarfs and stay somewhat shrubby, but they appear to be headed toward full size trees. One was moved when they added wheelchair accessible sidewalk corners and I'm not particularly happy with the placement. Not sure what exactly, but I'm considering adding some shrubs near them.
We used to have a wood fence behind where I planted this little fig tree — a cultivar called 'Celeste.' When the fence got terribly old and rotten, Mom just had it taken down, which made our backyard visible from the street. It's a surprising improvement and eventually the fig will provide a little natural screening.
It already has several fruits on it!
Next I began to work on gaps in the flower beds.
Mother has a weird way of expressing dislike towards her shrubs. She decided this cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana) was "out of bounds" and started hacking it up leaving stumps protruding from all sides. Every time she passes she rips off another small section by hand. Looks weird, doesn't it?
I cleaned it up a little and put in artemisia 'Powis Castle,' lemon balm, golden sage, blackfoot daisies, moss rose and sedum 'Autumn Joy' below. Later, thinking it looked too sparse and green, I added gomphrena 'Strawberry fields,' which I remember fondly from when my friend Gelene grew it from seed at Wave Hill. Along with plenty of organic fertilizer, I also dumped in a big bag of cotton burr compost to amend her cement-like clay soil.
There are two other cherry laurel shrubs which have also been hacked to heck. I'm planning on removing this one here on the left. Our friend Carlos works for a Dallas landscaping company and has plenty of experience tearing out old shrubs so he offered to assist me. Then I'll have a whole corner to fill in next to her Ligustrum hedge.
Below the hedge there is a strip of lovely yellow Iris which bloomed beautifully this spring. I decided to fill the gaps with some other perennials using a color scheme of yellow, white and a little blue.
'Stella D' Oro' daylilies and Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida).
Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), yellow columbine (Aquilegia hinckleyana), and Salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue.'
My nephew Ray helped me plant three large elephant ear bulbs which are coming up nicely.
Near the front sidewalk corner there is a large patch of various ground covers. I added three variegated liriope and some star zinnias to brighten up the edge.
In this shaded corner near the hose, I added some caladiums. I probably should've gone with white and green to better match the varigated pittosporum, but I couldn't resist the cultivar called 'Carolyn Wharton.' I have plans to place another dwarf pittosporum called 'Mojo' in the corner in front of the boxwood.
Another gap gets some hot afternoon sun so I used Salvia greggi 'Violet,' Nepeta 'Walker's Low,' mexican heather and lavender periwinkles.
Had to have a few containers on the porch. Obviously I'm staying busy here and making good use of my employee discount at North Haven Gardens where I am a garden advisor.
Here's my little garden helper, August who loves to be outside and eat dirt.
A big winter storm left a large tree leaning against the house so we had it taken down just after we arrived in Texas. I'm pleased that they left this lovely stump.
Living far away in NYC, I longed for some time to do these kind of small improvements on the yards of my family. Soon I'll be working on my father's and sisters'.
My dear friend Johnette has been working on adding perennials to the large garden bed in front of her house.
A big winter snowstorm tore up a large yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) that was shading this side of the bed. It looked horrible so they had it removed, creating a new area with more sun.
She got all new soil with compost as well as mulch in bulk.
I'm watching with interest to see how her "Endless Summer" blue hydrangea will perform. So far it looks beautiful.
We house and cat-sat for them while they were on vacation and I put a few annuals in pots for them. They looked a little skimpier that I hoped initially, but they'll fill out.
One of my mothers-in-law (I have two) recently asked me about Chinese Pistache, a non-native, but well adapted shade tree for Texas. I told her about 2 or 3 large specimens we have at North Haven Gardens, where I work, which are in the $300 range. She said she'd think about it.
About a week later, we drove down to visit my other mother-in-law near Cedar Creek Lake. Stopping into a grocery store for milk, but ever on horticulture alert, I quickly scanned the various plants and hanging baskets they had on sale outside the store. I was surprised to find a Chinese Pistache tree in a little 3 gallon container for 12 bucks! I couldn't pass it up!
But I did. Considering that we were in a hurry ... how will we get it in the car, etc. I left it behind. After our visit, we started home passing by the store again without stopping. I began to regret not grabbing it.
Minutes later my phone rang with my in-laws letting me know I had left my purse at their house in all the baby-loading confusion. We had to turn back, so I had my chance to adopt the little tree. I squeezed in the backseat with sleeping Augie so the tree could sit in the front floorboard. Mother-in-law was pleased.
For a dinner at Wave Hill, I was asked to design some table arrangements from materials gathered from around the property.
My co-workers, Molly and Gelene assisted me in gathering, cleaning and preparing the branches and twigs as well as putting the arrangements together.
Since it was just after a hard freeze, there was nothing left in flower. Everything we used had either colorful foliage, winter berries or grass plumes.
These gorgeous, bright purple berries came from a bush aptly called Beautyberry (Callicarpa sp.)
We all enjoyed the process and everyone seemed very happy with how festive and seasonal they looked.