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'.
Part of our fall cleanup included bringing my plants in pots back indoors before the temperatures drop too low. We've already had some nights in the upper 30s.
We placed them all on the living room coffee table at first, where they made an interesting arrangement. I've since dispersed them to various windowsills around the house.
Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri) has moved outside for the summer. Just as it began blooming, I made a new hanger for it with jute string. To encourage it to bloom I move it near a cool, north facing window in the winter, but I didn't put it there until mid-January so it's flowering a little late this year.
Wow! Look at this fabulous Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis).
Last year I bought this at the farmers market in a pot already up. I felt a little silly about it, not having planned ahead and ordered the bulb less expensively. It's been a favorite of mine since falling in love with a botanical illustration so I couldn't help myself when I saw it.
Last fall's planting was a distant memory so it surprised me when it sprouted. We've been enjoying watching it grow the last few weeks.
While sorting through a bunch of old seeds, I found a number of packets for which I had no specific ideas. I sowed a bunch in the ugly alley behind our house to clear out my stash and see if any thing nice comes of it. I hate to get my hopes up since most of the seed was old, but it would be great to see some improvement in the view from our bedroom window.
It's time to pay attention to my indoor plant friends again since everything outside is more or less finished. Here's a pretty little lithops bloom.
Also, finally got some blooms on this begonia that was a gift from my neighbor. This plant is indoors now too so we'll see how it does this winter.
If anyone is still checking, please forgive my long absence! I could make any number of excuses, but my garden journal from last year reflects the same pattern of late-season laziness. Though certainly messy, the garden is looking rather exuberant despite my neglect. I haven't been posting but, I have continued to photographically document what's going on in the garden. Without further ado, here's what's been happening in the last month.
The most exciting aspect is definitely tomatoes. The regular rains and nice hot days of July and August were perfect for growing these plants. Of the six types we grew, (including Sun Sugar, Double Rich, Lemon Boy, Early Girl) only Garden Peach was a disappointment. All others have been a wonderful success. We've enjoyed extras from our farm share as well.
The tomatillo plant (on the left side just above the marigolds) is large and has attempted to take over the path, but there are few fruits so far despite the many flowers. I hope we'll get something before a frost.
There are several tall plants looming over head when you sit on the steps and drink coffee. These 6 foot sunflowers were effortless. The yellows were originally planted by a former roommate. Now each year the birds help sow them so we have a new crop.
These lovely browns I grew from seed for the Flower Garden at work, taking a couple of seeds home. Folks have asked me — what is that flower? — not recognizing the old favorite in this more sophisticated hue.
I think they are fantastic and so does our resident squirrel. He has infuriated us by climbing the stems and tearing down any flower even before the seeds are ripe. Brandon constantly throws objects at the squirrel. I've resorted to making cut flower arrangements on the porch.
Next up would be the cute little dwarf dahlias I planted at the end of June. Again, effortless requiring no staking and adding a bright spot of color in two areas. I adore the combination with the self-sowing orange celosia. Thanks again, Betsy, for your generous donation. They are delightful!
Though a prominent position is deserved, these glorious acidanthera were placed off to the side where they can't be seen from the path.
Both of these lovely vines, love-in-a-puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum) and cypress vine (Ipomea quamoclit) have been dueling it out on the front fence. I think the red flowered cypress vine is winning, which is fine since we have love-in-a-puff in another area where it can climb on to our Taxus shrubs.
We inherited morning glory and spend much of the spring and early summer fighting back the billions of seedlings which are thankfully easy to spot and rogue out. They are lovely, though, in the a.m. hours so we left a bit on this small portion of the front fence.
When we were in Texas in July, Brandon's great aunt and cousin gave me pieces of several cactus that I potted up once we were home.
In other plants-in-pots news, I cut the top off my Dracaena marginata for the second time. This low-maintenance plant was originally acquired for my desk when I worked in an office. A co-worker christened the plant "Herman" since I had not named him. I went along with it, so when I first decapitated him I called the rooted pieces the Sons of Herman.
The Sons have done quite well and I gave that plant away to a friend (who later left the country temporarily leaving the Sons in my care again). Now I have the Head of Herman rooting in a new pot with plans to give him away. The original Herman has resprouted from the base and will remain mine as always. I'm not sure if that made any sense.
Euphorbia marginata has been going strong for weeks and we've used lots of it in indoor arrangements as well.
This beautiful gladiolus bloomed one more time after I had cut back the early blooms.
I saw Bulbine planted in the ground and blooming at Stonecrop last year and tried it myself. I'll have to dig it up before a frost arrives.
Brandon took these pics of this unidentified, amazing insect.
Lots more Monarch have visited this month.
We got a new Monkey Puzzle tree!
Brandon and I are both fascinated by this plant (Araucaria araucana). As you might've noticed, I am partial to many odd, spiky plants. Its kooky common name caught Brandon's interest when I first showed him photos in a wonderful out-of-print book I found at Larry McMurtry's amazing book store: Booked Up, in Archer City, Texas. (If you love books, you must visit this place).
When we traveled to France last October, we saw this large specimen in a garden. I argued to plant ours in the ground, but since we are renters it seemed a bit risky as we would definitely want to keep it if we ever leave this house.
Brandon took this amusing photo of the tree when we first took it out of the box.
Sad to say we actually had one before, but it weakened significantly when it dried out while we were in Texas for Christmas a few years ago and met it's demise soon after. I found it's carcass when I sifted through the compost bin. I promise we'll do better on this new one.
Not forgetting about my succulents! Today I mixed them up a nice batch of compost tea with a touch of fish emulsion fertilizer and gave them all a fortifying drink. In the warm months when the windows are always open, I water them by placing them on the outer sill so the water can run out.
Not that you care, but to make the tea I put a big blob of compost in this disgusting jug and let it steep for 24 hrs. Then I strain the contents into a watering can and dilute it by at least half.
Started a big compost project – dumping out the contents of one of the wire bins, sifting and spreading finished product and looking for worms. At least 30 worms (!!!) were unearthed and relocated to the tumbling bin. Notice I said started. Still need to return the remaining contents to the bin which should now have a lot more room for more garden debris.
Hey look!!! One of the plants that my pal Uli gave me is blooming! It's a Mammillaria plumosa which is native to Mexico and also called feather cactus.
I hope this means I'm providing a good home for his plants.
Took a bunch of indoor plants out to the porch this morning for a shower and drink of collected rain water. This one is blooming for the first time under my care. I bought it a couple of years ago at the laundromat on the corner where the owner's mother likes to grow a few random plants. I'm pretty sure it is Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri which is called easter cactus – similar to christmas cactus.
My indoor plants probably get the most attention right now. Winter fatigue has faded. I'm dying to get outside, but it's too early so I dote on them in the meantime. My small succulent collection lives on a south-facing windowsill in our bedroom so I look at them every day when I wake up.
Once spring arrives, I tend to focus my energy and enthusiasm on things outdoors so I have to remember to water my poor reliable dears inside. They withstand my torture quite admirably. Of course, if they don't they're soon dead and out of the collection. I have quite a few more plants in other parts of the house, but these are my favorites.