Saturday, December 31, 2005

Eat Bread & Get a Free OG Sub

Time to start making some "sammitches", as my friend's little boy likes to say.

Roman Meal will give you a free 1-year subscription to either Organic Gardening, Organic Style, or Prevention magazine with six proofs of purchase from any of their bread products. The promotion runs through all of 2006. Click here for more details.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

At Least the Aliens Were Organic...

By far, my favorite blockbuster movie from last summer was "War of the Worlds".

I've always loved sci-fi, and the cheezy 1953 version was one of my faves. This year's Steven Spielberg interpretation was absolutely terrifying, especially the tripod machines with their slow, giraffe-like gait and cold, whirring noises.

Unlike the old 50s film, the infamous Red Weed was revived from the original H.G. Wells story for the new movie. As the admittedly gorey story goes, the aliens use human blood to fertilize their native weed, which grows voraciously across the land and chokes out everything in its path. The aliens do this in an apparent effort to make Earth mimic their own planet that has since been stripped its resources. However, the triumphant ending comes when the weed and the aliens both eventually succumb to our planet's bacteria and viruses, as neither has adequate internal defense mechanisms to fight them.

My theory? They just over-fertilized. Heck, you know how too much nitrogen can burn things...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fantastic Plants

Let's hope they're fantastic, anyway. I got a hankering to buy a couple of dwarf-ish conifers and came upon their site. (They have an outstanding rating with Garden Watchdog too.)

The two worn-out mophead hydrangeas by the back patio look awful and have very few signs of new growth on them, so I'm replacing them with two lacecap types. The poor mopheads are probably as old as the house; after 25 years, they deserve to be buried in the dignity of the compost pile, I think.

I also broke down and got another Japanese Maple. The ones I have are usually fried by August even in the shade, and this one is supposed to be more sun-tolerant. We'll see.

Here's what I ordered with links to each item. Everything is scheduled to arrive Friday, just in time for a long weekend of planting in what is supposed to be mild (upper 60s to upper 70s) and sunny weather(!)

Sherwood Frost Arborvitae
Thuja occidentalis 'Yellow Ribbon'
Acer palmatum 'Matsugae'
Hydrangea macrophylia 'Lanarth White'
Hydrangea macrophylia 'Tricolor'

Thursday, December 15, 2005

2006 Seed Spreadsheet

Good intentions abound. :)

2006 seed spreadsheet (so far)

All Dead, All Dead*

* "All Dead, All Dead" is the title of a strange little Brian May-penned Queen song from way back, for those who care...

Well, hopefully the garden isn't all dead. It certainly looks terrible, though, and I'm curious about what will rebound, come springtime, from our recent overnight freeze that apparently reached around 6°.

My biggest concern is for the two Red Sensation (or maybe Purple Tower) Cordylines. The one at the front of the house is now flat. The one in back, which gets the benefit of being next to the fence, is still upright, but looks burnt. I'm not sure why I was convinced these semi-tropicals would survive single-digit temps...

Most of the perennials look terrible. Why am I saddened and surprised at this? After all, it's their job to die every year. The freeze we had was just so...abrupt. I guess I'm having a hard time saying goodbye to my little friends for the season.

Everybody, altogether: "Awwwwwww...."

So, what still looks decent? Well, the columbines are absolutely pristine. So are the prickly pear cactus and the agaves. My lavender looks more beautiful than ever (the Goodwin Creek is actually blooming), and even the Spanish variety is perfect, though I thought they were fairly tender.

The irises looked bad for a day, but quickly rebounded. All of the stuff I protected with row covers -- the lettuce, and heucheras, lady's mantle and ferns in containers -- are just fine.

I am a little worried about the plants that I had just put out in Front Yard Garden Project. Obviously, they were probably in a bit of transplant shock to begin with, and then got smacked down with a freeze. Here's hoping they come back in the spring.

We are supposed to hit 22° early next week, so I guess I'll be dragging the frost cloth out again. Sheesh, what happened to our supposedly milder-than-usual winter?!? The days just before Christmas are supposed to be pretty decent, though, so I should just quit whining and appreciate the fact that I can get outside and work at all.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Twelve. It's going to be 12° tomorrow night. We're getting freezing rain now.

*sigh*...what Hardiness Zone am I in again?

I've done what I can protection-wise, bringing some stuff inside, grouping other outdoor container plants together and covering with sheets, etc. and pulling mulch and leaves around stuff in the ground, but honestly, I don't think a lot will happen. We were at 80° on Saturday; the soil must still be pretty warm.

I do expect to lose my small lettuce crop by the driveway, but eh. That's ok. If the rabbits didn't want it (they chewed all the cauliflower and broccoli sprouts to the ground but left the lettuce) then it probably ain't too good.

The Front Yard Garden Project got 95% done on Saturday too, so everything out there is nicely nestled in a 3" layer of cedar mulch. I'm trying not to fret.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pushing It

I wonder how much longer I can keep delaying The Front Yard Garden Project. The weather is alternately defying and teasing me.

Of course, since I took extra days off over the holiday weekend with the intent of finishing The Project, the past two days here in Dallas have seen wind gusts up to 50 mph...not the kind of conditions that are favorable for laying down newspaper and mulch in the yard, for sure.

Temps have hovered around 55°, and with the wind, it's probably cooler than that. I did manage to skim our backyard swimming pool of most of the big leaves and by the time I was done, my ears were cold and scarlet. Brr.

The wind has been really scary at times. It's a testament to the strength of plants and trees when they can withstand such a beating. Several powerlines and poles have apparently been felled in the area (and caused brushfires too) due to the wind. It's subsided a little since yesterday, but not much.

All in all, let's just say I'd rather stay inside, eat turkey and stuffing leftovers and sip hot coffee.

Besides, the forecast for the coming weekend is calling for temps in the lower 70s. So again, I push the front yard finish line back a little further. Just because I can.

Speaking of trees, our Chinese pistache is just gorgeous right now. I figured I'd better take a picture of it now before the high winds strip it bare. (And yes, that's the unfinished FYG Project beneath the tree.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

No Rest for the Wicked Gardener

I took this past weekend totally off from gardening. And I feel guilty for thinking it was kind of nice to not be dragging bags of mulch around the side of the house or digging holes in black gumbo soil for once...!

How is the front yard project coming along, you ask? Pretty well. In fact, I hope to finish it over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Well, maybe most of it. I haven't decided what materials to use for the path, and my main concern is just getting the remaining plants in the ground before we have consistently cold weather. Usually that's not until January, but still.

It's both nice and sad to see several plants (like heucheras) thriving in the cooler temperatures. They really suffer in the Texas summer heat; I pretty much have to keep hostas, heucheras, tiarellas and ferns in total, constant shade for them to live, let alone do well. The bloody sorrel looks really good now too. I'm amazed the rabbits haven't chewed it to the ground. They have certainly enjoyed the ornamental kale I put out a couple of weeks ago, which has been reduced to a gnawed, purplish, ridiculous-looking nub sticking out of the ground.

Friday, November 18, 2005


We've had frosty conditions for the past three nights now and some of my annuals are starting to bite it. Specifically, all the coleus looks awful, my basil is crumpled and brown, and the pepper plant by the driveway looks like somebody took a blowtorch to it.

Strangely, though, my banana tree in the corner still looks pretty good. It is protected under the umbrella of a yaupon tree, so that could be saving it for now.

I'm hoping the rest of the hardier annuals make it at least through Thanksgiving weekend. I want to pot up some of the sweet potato vine and Persian shield and overwinter them in the house, for one thing...then I can use the vacant holes for the 200-odd bulbs currently snoozing comfortably in the veggie bin of our garage fridge.

It seems I can never resist the Last Chance plant and bulb sales typically held by online nurseries this time of year (and in late spring too). was offering free shipping, so I picked up three lovely looking Siberian Iris 'Dance, Ballerina, Dance', a Daylily 'Spacecoast Starburst', a Daylily 'Startle', and a Stokesia 'Blue Danube'.

I was never much for daylilies until witnessing the ones that bloomed in front of our new house this past spring. Wow...what a show. They can seemingly take the Texas heat pretty well, too. I'm sure the ones already in my front beds are in need of dividing. Add that to my list of garden chores for Thanksgiving'll be good to work off all the mashed potatoes I plan on eating!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Just Like Clockwork...

Mother Nature seems to be right on schedule with our apparent first freeze this year. Temps in my neck of the woods are expected to drop to 32° tonight. Brrr.

We had a good downpour this morning too that amounted to around 1/3". I dragged my tropicals in containers into the sunroom this morning as the wind was seriously picking up. I could feel the temperature dropping just in the few minutes I was outside.

Unfortunately, our furnace is on the fritz, and the repairman isn't coming over until Friday. Sounds like a good night for a fire in the bedroom fireplace and some serious cuddling!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Welcome, Mrs. Popple

She's only been around my place for about a month, and already I love her.

This is Fuchsia 'Mrs. Popple', a plant I received from Big Dipper Farm. It had small flower buds on it when it arrived, and has continued to thrive, not even missing a beat after transport, being held over in a container for a couple of weeks, and then put in the garden.

Overall, I really can't say enough about the plants I've received from Big Dipper. All (so far) have been exceptional. They have a fantastic selection too.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

My toad lilies are flowering now and I'm really enjoying them. They certainly brighten up shady spots in the fall when virtually nothing else is blooming.

Speaking of blooming in the fall, though, my rosemary is doing just that. I've been growing rosemary for awhile - this present plant has been mine for about 3 years - and never had one bloom until now. It feels like a victory and I'll relish it like one!

Well, there's only one session left in my Master Gardener training. I'll miss my classmates, our super-enthusiastic Extension Agent, and the current MGs who have been so helpful and supportive.

One of our final projects was to capture either actual specimens or digital photos of plants, plant diseases or insects. I opted to do photos of insects; I've posted some of my reject photos in the Flickr folder for your enjoyment, since I think once I turn in my good pix, they become the property of Texas A&M or something. Maybe not, but anyways...enjoy! - House suspends Alaska drilling push - Nov 10, 2005


The efforts of environmentals have paid the playing field beginning to tilt a little in Washington now? Let's hope so...

Congrats to the NRDC and other groups for helping to make this happen! Those petitions we sign really can work.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Suite No More

Well, my writing career with was short-lived. The company abruptly notified all of its writers that they were being "fired" (can you fire someone who's not being paid?) and that after the site is revamped in a month or so, all writers could re-apply -- along with the rest of the world -- for any existing positions.

Of course, they've kept the year's worth of stories I wrote and will continue to generate hits from them. I was getting several thousand clicks a month on my topic. A 'thank you' would have been nice.

To be honest, I had a feeling this was a cheezy organization from the beginning. All I really wanted to do was write about gardening, whether I got paid or not. I kept my expectations low, and I didn't exert much energy into managing discussions, exchanging links (much to the chagrin of a cranky old German lady garden writer) or hosting chats on my topic. It just wasn't worth my time.

Now I'm glad for my apathetic approach. Hopefully, anyone who enjoyed my writing there bookmarked the link to this page at some point.

To be fair, while writing for Suite101 was mostly frustrating, it also provided me with a wider audience. Perhaps I should take this as the kick in the pants I need to actually start sending out queries and writing for money.

I'd love to hear tips from any of you writers and/or fellow bloggers who have published garden articles, books, etc. Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Color Purple Pt. 2

Reading Jane Perrone's excellent U.K. garden blog reminded me about gardener/author Karen Platt and her knowledge of purple/black plants. Jane recently conducted a Q&A with Karen that you can read here.

Karen occasionally appears on HGTV's Gardening By the Yard to discuss and display unusual plants of unusual color. Her website can be found here.

And I've just added her wonderful-looking book Black Magic and Purple Passion to my Amazon wishlist...hint, hint, friends and relatives!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Color Purple

Ask me what my favorite color is, and I will never say purple. In fact, I wouldn't even name it as my second favorite. Various shades of greens and blues, definitely. But purple?

Well, you'd never know it by looking at my surroundings. I drive a purple Mustang (a hue officially called 'Deep Violet' in the Ford record books), my workout bag is purple. Many years ago, I even wore violet contact lenses, if you can believe it.

And now, I seem to have overdone it with purple/lavender/violet plant colors. We're talking both foliage and maybe it's time I quit resisting and admit that, despite its association with Prince and an old Oprah Winfrey movie, the color purple is pretty cool.

Here's a list of some of the purplish plants going into my garden this fall that particularly excite me:

Astrantia 'Moulin Rouge' from Dutch Bulbs - I'd never even heard of Astrantia before, but wow...this really popped off of the page at me.

Phormium Tenax Atropurpureum from Big Dipper Farms - The two phormiums I had in my backyard this summer both died, so I'm not sure why I got two more. Yeah I do...they're gorgeous. And I'm planning on putting both of these in the front with more moisture and a little less sun exposure. We'll see.

Sambucus Nigra 'Black Beauty' from Digging Dog Nursery - This is a black elderberry that apparently has all of Europe in a tizzy. I had to hunt over a few online nurseries to find it, as several ran out of stock pretty quickly. This tall shrub ranks as one of my most anticipated plants in the garden now...even though the one I just planted is only about 6" tall at the moment. Just look at those leaves, though...gorgeous!

Sedum 'Black Jack' from Wayside Gardens - Sedums almost always do well here in Texas, due to their drought- and heat-tolerance. I like this one because it is just unabashedly least, according to the picture.

Echinops Ritro and Taplow Blue - I love Echinops for both its thistle-like prickly hardiness and its alien-esque globe flowers. I'm not sure what the diff is between Ritro and Taplow Blue, but I have plenty of each.

Besides these highlights, I have more purple plants in the form of a purple smoke tree, several Black Gamecock Louisiana irises, a few lingering lavenders, an Agastache 'Black Adder', an Ameria 'Rubrifolia' and a few other scattered things that will either bring continuity to my overly-violet garden or will convince myself everyone that purple really is a wonderful color.

(Or maybe I'll change my name to Violet, like the gum-chewing girl in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory..."You're turning violet, Violet!")

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Forget Growing Rhubarb...Again

NOAA is calling for a good chance of warmer and wetter conditions for Winter 2005-06 here in North Texas.

I welcome both, frankly, considering the escalating cost of fuel, and the drier-than-usual conditions we've suffered through all summer.

What's your winter outlook?

Name That Compost

Here's living proof that I'm a total gardening nerd: our city was sponsoring a compost-naming contest to better reflect their products, now that their composting program has expanded into a cooperative effort with several neighboring cities in the area.

The prize? Free delivery of three cubic yards of any of their products. Yeah, baby! I'm all over that. Although my entries mostly sucked. You stupidest one -- North Dallas Doo -- will be the winner.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Highs and Lows

Incredibly, our high temperature is predicted to drop from 90° on Wednesday to only 68° on Thursday. Highs over the weekend are expected to hover somewhere in the mid-70s. Now that's more like it.

The overnight lows will remain above 50° for the most part, so I think my outdoor container tropicals should be ok for now. (I just wish the mosquitos would kick off.)

In other news, yesterday was a disappointing class in my Master Gardener Training. Two men from this place came to talk about fruit & nut trees and raised bed gardening.

These two Okies shall remain nameless; by simply saying they were both idiots is being kind.

The Fruit & Nut guy's presentation was aimless and unfocused. He started off by saying that you really can't successfully grow peaches in Texas, then spent the next hour talking about growing them. Whenever someone would ask him a question, he would grip his head with both hands as if a migraine had suddenly befallen him. He reminded me of a shorter, more weasley-George W. Bush, if you can imagine such a creature. What a useless waste of time and space.

The Raised Bed guy was much more organized, but his message was flawed and impractical, especially to the average gardener. And his advice was downright insulting to the organic gardener.

Now, I'm all for raised beds, but this guy spent three hours demonstrating several eloborate set-ups calling for underground piped drip irrigation, black plastic covering, and way too much fertilizer. ("Look at the instructions on a box of Miracle Gro...It says 'Fertilize every week and gradually increase the amount with each application until the end of the growing season.' Those guys stole my idea!")

It was all about maximizing your crops, with no consideration of the environment. Take, take, take and give nothing back.

I guess I should have seen this coming, however; they were exhuberant over the fact that the Foundation (a family of rich oilmen looking for a tax credit, apparently) had awarded them with a brand new Suburban to travel in.

P.S. - Via further research, I've also found these guys were significant contributors -- to the tune of $7,000,000 -- to the ultra-rightwing Heritage Foundation. Does it strike anyone else as odd/suspicious that Noble - an organization supposedly formed to promote agriculture - would hand over so much money to a political organization, but could only find $25,000 to contribute to the Future Farmers of America?

Friday, September 30, 2005

Seldom Seen

Isn't this a beautiful picture? It's a painting by Phoebe Brunner called "Seldom Seen".

I am a big fan of John Brosio's tornado paintings, and his home gallery - Sue Greenwood Fine Art of Laguna Beach, CA - often sends me promotional postcards for the other artists whose shows are coming up. Ms. Brunner's exhibition is October 6 - 31.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Fall 2005 Plant Roundup


As my husband giddily plays wireless Halo 2 on his new X-Box in the next room, I figured it's a good time for me to take stock in the many plants I've ordered for fall...with images of a full front yard garden dancing in my head. I know I've listed the bulbs here previously, so this is kind of a full-on inventory for my purposes too. Thanks for your goes:

Bluestone Perennials - Received in very good condition
Hosta 'Frances Williams'
Perfect Partners: Daffodil Colorful Cupfuls collection
Tulip Yellow Emperor
Tulip Triumph Jackpot
Tulip Triumph Shirley

Wayside Gardens
(I'm trying to avoid Wayside for the most part these days due to their high prices. These plants were obtained with previous credit I had on my account. Ditto for Park Seed, their affiliate.)
Sumac Tiger Eyes
Sedum Black Jack
Sedum Samuel Oliphant
Tiarella 'Crow Feather'
Tiarella 'Jeepers Creepers'
Echinops 'Taplow Blue'

Park Seed
Heuchera 'Frosted Violet'

Big Dipper Farm
Received in very good condition
Rudbeckia 'Black Beauty'
Ratibida Columnifera 'Yellow'
Ratibida Columnifera 'Red'
Heuchera 'Sparkling Burgundy'
Heuchera 'Peach Flambe'
Tiarella 'Neon Lights'
Artemisia 'Silver Mound'
Artemisia 'Silver Brocade'
Alchemilla 'Thriller'
Actaea/Cimicifuga 'Brunette'
Trifolium 'Dragons Blood'
Trifolium 'Dark Dancer'

High Country Gardens
Received in excellent condition
Allium Azureum
Solidago 'Golden Fleece'
Agastache 'Black Adder'
Agastache 'Desert Sunrise'
Agastache 'Shades of Orange'
Penstemon Virens 'Blue Mist Beardtongue'
Castilleja Integra - Indian Paintbrush
Marrubium Rotundifolia
Agave Havardiana

Garden Crossings
Received in excellent condition
Hosta 'Inniswood'
Echinacea 'Harvest Moon/Matthew Saul'
Heuchera 'Green Spice'
Armeria 'Rubrifolia'

Digging Dog Nursery
Sambucus Nigra 'Black Beauty'
Tiarella 'Iron Butterfly'
Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues'
Helictotrichon sempervirens 'Sapphire Fountain'

Spring Hill
Gawd forgive me...
Early Hybrid Kniphofia
Echinops Ritro
Louisiana Iris Collection

And, uh...that's it. I think. For now.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Brain Wrinkles and Random Thoughts

Well, I'm halfway through the Master Gardener training and it's been an absolutely kickass experience thusfar. Every week we learn so much interesting and cool stuff. It's really been fun, and everyone involved in the program is incredibly nice and encouraging.

Following each week's class, however, I find myself going home and getting mildly depressed at how much work my own personal landscape needs. The lectures we had on trees and other woody plants yesterday convinced me that I need to do some serious branch trimming this weekend. And we won't even talk about what the Turf Maintenance discussion did to my horticultural confidence.

To be fair, the weather has been truly awful here in N. Texas -- mid- to upper-90s every day -- and everybody's lawn looks pretty charred. We got about 10 drops of rain from Hurricane Rita. I've been running the sprinklers every three days, but certain patches of the yard just aren't getting enough water. So...I'll be hauling out the soaker hoses this weekend, I guess.

Other updates:

  • The SW front yard conversion has begun! I built a circular bed around the Chinese Pistache tree and put some ferns in. It was so easy; I laid several layers of newspaper, making sure they overlapped, then watered well. I then applied 80 lbs. of top soil, 80 lbs. of humus and 40 lbs. of cow manure. (This sounds like a lot, but isn't.) Then I topped it off with three big bags of shredded cedar mulch.

  • The lone hummingbird I had coming to my feeder has departed. The window for hummers around North Texas is surprisingly short. Makes me kinda sad.

  • I'm developing a serious ornamental grass obsession. Already, I'm establishing a border along our property and the next yard. I've got a pampas grass, two purple fountain grasses and a lemon grass in a line (you can kinda see them in the pictures above). I also picked up a Red Yucca and put in further toward the street in a dry, sunny spot in the yard. These look really pitiful at the moment, but they'll fill out quickly. I have a Pink Pampas grass coming in the mail as a replacement for one that died last year. (Actually, it got plowed over during our 4th of July pool party and never recovered, but that's another story.)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

From One Jungle to Another

Hi all - sorry for the recent silence. Hubby and I spent 10 wonderful days in Belize and I'm still recovering. (Looking at my neglected garden, I'll be spending a lot of time this weekend helping my plants to recover too.)

I hope to post some pictures of the beautiful tropical plants we saw down there. It's amazing what will grow in pure sand.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Front Yard Fantasies

We had our first Master Gardening training session yesterday, and it was a lot of fun. The current crop of MGs in Collin County are certainly an organized and enthusiastic group. We even took a little preliminary test to see where everybody's level of gardening expertise is at; I think I did pretty well, but we won't get the results back until next week.

Anyway, one of the MGs was speaking to the group, and happened to mention that her entire front yard is a garden. No grass.

Needless to say, a little lightbulb started blinking above my head.

You see, half of our front yard is nice, lush, green St. Augustine grass. The other half, however, is a mixture of crabgrass and a bunch of sickly looking other grasses making an unsuccessful attempt to take over.

Wouldn't a front yard garden be wonderful? Think of all the plants I'd have to buy...(picture me rubbing my hands together with glee.) Think of all the extra space I'd have to collect different species...woohoo!

And, although it would mean less mowing, the idea was not met with particular glee by my husband.

"Are you sure that's legal?" he asked after a long silence.

Well, there's a lot to do before starting anyway, so I guess I'll add "check city ordinances" to the list. In the meantime, I've ordered this book, which should really get my creative juices flowing.

Here's a picture of the part of our front lawn I'm talking about:

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Hummer Cafe... open for business! I was afraid the feeder hanging outside my bathroom window would be too close to the house, but this little female rubythroat seems to like it just fine.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Making Herb Vinegar

When my organic herb garden went ballistic in the heat of summer last year, I made lots of herb vinegar with it. Since moving to our new house, I've kept herbs in containers so they're more under control. However, I recently had to pot up my variegated lemon thyme, and the thick, fragrant foliage is just begging to be made into salad dressing.

Before making last year's batch of herb vinegar, I searched the Internet far and wide for herb vinegar-making techniques, and settled on this nice lady's method, shared as an inspiration from her grandmother. Thanks Alleta, and thanks Ethel!

Alleta recommends Sunburst Bottle Company for purchasing corked bottles. I found some gorgeous (and super-cheap) colored bottles over at Specialty Bottle, but they don't seem to carry the ones I bought anymore. There are some comparable small corked colored bottles available here for under $2 each.

Friday, August 05, 2005

My Cantaloupe Wears Pantyhose

See? Well, I'm using it as a sling, not to hide the appearance of ugly lines and bumps. There's another melon forming on the same vine...this is 'Superstar', a good performer I've grown from the same batch of old Harris Seeds for the past three years.

Betcha haven't seen many of these - it's a pepper called 'Fish' with beautiful variegated leaves. The peppers themselves are supposed to be very good in seafood dishes, but I have't gotten any from this plant yet. Nice to look at, though. Seeds are available from Tomato Growers Supply.

A common site throughout Texas right now - the flowering of the big yuccas, otherwise known as Spanish bayonets. This flower stalk is at least 3' tall.

The latest addition to the family, as I continue to feed my growing passionflower obsession. I picked this beauty up for $6 the other day. It is Passiflora 'Incense' and smells wonderful.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Photo Update

Passiflora Blue Horizon

Ok, I can take credit for the passionflower in this photo. Looks like an alien being, doesn't it? The vine is loaded with buds, but they seem to only want to bloom one at a time.

Juliet Tomatoes

My first harvest of tomatoes - an Italian variety grown from Johnny Seeds called "Juliet" - continues to grow. These should make nice sauce or salsa...or both! The plant is massive.

Also grown from seed (, this is a Rosa Bianca Eggplant bustin' loose. There are four of these forming on the 2' tall plant.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A Big Bulbous Lie

It happens every year.

I tell myself I'm not going to order bulbs for next spring. I'll just stick with the perennials already in the ground and be happy with what I have.

But, inevitably, it's all a big fat lie.

The lie happens in stages. The catalogs start showing up displaying tulips in varying shades of glorious color, and my mind drifts back to the spring a few years ago.

When you see those first tulips start to poke through the ground in late winter, it's such a wonderful, reassuring reminder that better weather is on it's way. By early March, I had a rainbow of hyacinths lining the sidewalk, lily and parrot tulips dancing across the was lovely. Cars slowed down as they passed my house. People walking by would stop and nod in appreciation. Ah, how it made my head swell.

What's funny is that you'd think tulips and hyacinths would perennialize ok here in Texas, but they really don't. Daffodils do well, but I don't particularly care for them. So, each year I've set about buying new bulbs...and have had terrible luck ever since my big-headed experience of a couple of years ago.

Thankfully, I do keep better gardening records than I used to. After my husband and I moved late last summer (almost a year!), I ordered a modest amount of bulbs -- tulips and daffodils -- for the new landscape, not knowing what might already be there. Well, the ones I ordered did horribly. Most didn't come up, and the ones that did were not the color I'd ordered. So I'll be avoiding that particular company for bulbs and trying another this year.

Here's what I've ordered so far (from Van Bourgondien):
Tulip 'Ballade Dream' (shown at right)
Tulip violacea 'Pallida'
Muscari 'Dark Eyes'
Muscari white
With my order I'll also get 10 free red species tulips.

(Lots of people have given VB a bad rating over at Garden Watchdog, but I've been ok with them so far.)

I'm looking to pair the 'Ballade Dream' with some solid yellow lily-flowering tulips. A black/purple Triumph Tulip variety called 'Jackpot' has also caught my eye, and I think they would be lovely paired with some solid white, similar-shaped tulips. So, credit card in hand, here I go...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch here in Texas:
  • It is a miserable 97° with a "feels-like" temp of 102°. The remnants of Hurricane Emily are spinning northward from South Texas as I type this, but I doubt we'll see much of anything in the way of rain.

    We have had weird, individual stormcells strike various parts of DFW over the past 10 days. Last Friday I couldn't even leave my office at 6 p.m., the rain was so torrential. When I got to the house just 11 miles away, we'd barely received a drop. The next day was a different story, though. My two 75-gallon rainbarrels got a good filling.

  • Just one passionflower has opened on my Passiflora 'Blue Horizon' plant so far. My reaction: slack-jawed wonder, followed by the uttering of "that's the coolest thing I've ever seen", followed by a frenzied Internet search for a place to buy more, even cooler passionflowers. The search brought me to Grassy Knoll Exotic Plants, from whom I ordered four more passiflora.

    Incidentally, my 6' Blue Horizon vine is now covered in forming flower buds, so I'll be taking the coolest picture ever in a couple of days. Will be sure to share, of course. (The picture at left is not from my plant.)

  • I picked up a Brugmansia Double Purple at North Haven Gardens on Friday for the bargain basement price of $9. It is about 4' tall and was in desperate need of repotting, which I did this morning. Once it recovers a little and the blooms resume, I'll take a picture of that too. It's breathtaking.

  • The tomatoes have been late in forming this year. Usually I enjoy two harvests here in North Texas -- one in June and a smaller lot in late October -- but our rainfall has been nothing short of pathetic this summer. Plus, we had a run-in with a family of rodents a month or so ago, and they especially loved my tender young tomatoes as they were forming. One rat also apparently liked chewing the stem of my eggplant...until I found the creature dead under a hydrangea. All parts of eggplants except the fruit are highly toxic, so I'm just speculating here, of course...

    I enlisted the help of a Rat Zapper to get rid of the rest of them. Usually I am very welcoming of animals in my landscape but with rats, it's a different story. We ended up zapping two adults and two babies, in addition to the adult who encountered Death By Eggplant.

  • I have been accepted for the Master Gardener program of Collin County. Class starts Aug. 15. I feel honored and excited to be participating in this program.

    It is interesting to walk around the Test Gardens at the Texas A&M Research Center where our classes will be held. If a plant survives the test period (four years, I think they said) without any pesticides or fertilizers, it is declared a Texas Superstar.

    While walking through the test garden, I of course found myself rummaging through my purse for pencil and paper to write down the names of plants that caught my eye.

    It's an addiction, you know, this gardening thing.
  • Monday, July 04, 2005

    Project: Whiskey Barrel Water Garden

    I don't know why or when it suddenly struck me to do it, but I dove into creating two whiskey barrel water gardens this weekend.

    The whole project was a study in perfectly-timed bargain shopping. Garden Ridge had the foam/lite whiskey barrels on sale for $19 each, so I scooped up two of 'em, along with a bag of polished river rocks. Lowe's had their water plants at half price, and I also found two large Black Magic Elephant Ear plants on a clearance shelf for $5 each. (Both looked a little abused, but each had new leaves emerging and healthy-looking white roots.)

    Also, I had bought three gorgeous variegated irises at Home Depot last week and inserted these in the barrels as well. They were only $3 each, and were tagged with a Latin name of Iris Pumila 'Argentea' and the common name Variegated Sweet Iris, but those names don't match...Variegated Sweet Irises are generally bog plants falling under the Latin name Iris Pallida, so I'll be watching these carefully, in case they shouldn't be bog plants at all.

    Needless to say, I was way pleased with the score: about $30 for each barrel, including plants!

    I drilled a small runoff hole about 1-1/2" below the lip of each barrel, filled the barrels with water and placed the plants -- pot, dirt and all -- in the water, weighing each down with the rocks. The finishing touch was 1/4 of a mosquito dunk.

    It'll take awhile for the other water plants to get going, as they were sitting in boggy water in the store and not receiving any sunlight, but I think the barrels look pretty good already.

    A few minutes ago, I broke down and ordered three ultra-cool (and carnivorous!) Sarracenia leucophylla pitcher plants from my friends down in Florida at Sun Coast Orchids. They are great people to deal with, especially if you're looking for some cool orchids.

    On another note, thanks for your patience the past month as I got my new domain up and running. Happy Independence Day, and be sure to look for a new Organic Gardening column over at in the next couple of days.

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    Transferring Domain

    Please bear with me as I transfer to a new web hosting service...thanks!

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    More Photos From My Garden

    Rudbeckia Goldsturm

    Daylily (these are huge!)

    Strawflower - feels like crisp paper...thus the name.

    I'm not crazy about hydrangeas in general, but these do brighten up the back yard.

    Couldn't resist this Pitcher Plant at Lowe's for $10.

    The dahlia bed is looking good...

    Pelargonium Vancouver Centennial - one of my new favorite additions.

    Orange Meadowbrite Echinacae

    Some kind of clematis...Hagley Hybrid, maybe?

    Friday, June 03, 2005

    Mistress In Training

    Well, I got the magic letter from Collin County the other day...the invitation to attend the Master Gardener Training Program this fall. Woo-hoo! (Can I be a "Mistress Gardener"? It doesn't sound as commanding as "Master", but...)

    This program is only offered once a year to a few people. It doesn't mean I'm special or anything, believe me - it's just that my name came up on what is apparently a very long waiting list. Each applicant is just that; you must be accepted into the program.

    The class is every Monday for 13 weeks. Luckily, my employer is super-cool about this sort of thing; I met with my two immediate bosses this morning and they were very supportive.

    I've wanted to get involved in some kind of volunteer work for quite some time, and this will be perfect. You see, once the training program is completed, Master Gardeners are expected to perform at least 65 hours of community service each year thereafter to maintain their status. They do everything from assisting the County Extension Service with phone questions to giving plant presentations at schools and garden clubs. I figure I can help out with the website when needed too. Fun!

    Sunday, May 22, 2005


    Yes, it's 97° here today, with a "feels like" temp of 102°. Lovely, eh?

    This is quite unusual, even for Texas, actually. May and June are routinely our most comfortable and enjoyable months until Fall comes.

    Yeah, tell that to my poor plants. I rushed out yesterday morning to put mulch on all the flower beds and got about 80% done before I had to come inside. Just too darn hot.

    On the plus side, I had my first swim in our "new" pool today. First one I've had since we moved in, anyways. Still a bit on the chilly side (surprisingly), but it felt mighty good.

    In flower news, I've been taking advantage of some of the online nurseries' end of season sales. Wayside Gardens, in particular, had some great prices on summer flowering bulbs like Cannas, gladiolas, and callas. I even got a large (and I mean LARGE) arisaema bulb for only $3.95.

    Gardeners, be sure to sign up for various newsletters and other alerts from these online retailers in order to take advantage of what rock bottom prices they may be offering this time of year.

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    Greener Choices

    I just ran across a great new website put together by Consumer Reports - it's called Greener Choices, and it's a fantastic, free resource for shoppers to find more environmentally-friendly products.

    Just recently launched on Earth Day of this year, the Greener Choices site also has a lot of information about how to recycle phones & appliances, economical automobile choices and what the auto industry is doing (or not doing) about fuel alternatives, and more.

    Sunday, May 08, 2005

    Where No Iris Has Gone Before...

    I've written and posted a new Organic Gardening article over at here to check it out.

    After a 1.5" downpour last night, things are looking lovely around my garden.

    Behold, the 'Starship Enterprise' iris which just bloomed. The loveliest iris I've ever seen in person, I must say.

    Also, my chives are beginning to flower with their pretty pink/purple blooms:

    And, last but not least, the first of probably very many Round French zucchinis to emerge:

    Monday, May 02, 2005

    More Photos from My Garden

    A Wild Yellow Ladyslipper Orchid I recently bought from

    Iris 'Stellar Lights'

    Iris 'Earl of Essex'

    Daylily (bought bareroot from Wal-Mart!)

    Tiarella 'Crowfeather'

    Mom (bottom left) and baby (top center) ladybugs doing cleanup duty of some aphids

    Clematis (Jackmanii...? Not sure, as this was here before we moved in. Beautiful, yes?)

    Thursday, April 28, 2005

    Say No to Arctic Drilling

    Contact your state's representatives and voice your disapproval over the shady, dangerous, inaccurate and unnecessary drilling effort into the Arctic Refuge:

    Wednesday, April 20, 2005

    Call Bayer on 4/21!

    I just received this notice from the NRDC - please spread the word.

    Although it is most famous for making and selling aspirin, the chemical giant Bayer also sells the highly toxic pesticide lindane, even though the chemical has been banned in more than 35 countries around the world. Please join a national call-in day to urge Bayer to stop selling this dangerous pesticide.

    == What to do ==
    Join a national call-in day to Bayer's Crop Sciences North American headquarters tomorrow, Thursday, April 21st, from 9am - 5pm eastern time. The call-in number is:
    where you can leave a message for Wayne Carlson, the Vice President of Regulatory Affairs (please note, this is not a toll-free call).

    Please tell Mr. Carlson that you are calling to urge Bayer to stop selling lindane. You might also mention that:
    -- lindane is an old, dangerous and unnecessary pesticide;
    -- lindane has been banned in more than 35 countries, including Germany, Japan and Brazil;
    -- any of your own reasons why you think Bayer should stop selling lindane (see below for more information about this toxic chemical).

    == More about lindane ==
    Lindane is an old, dangerous pesticide that targets the central nervous system and can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, seizures and coma. The chemical builds up in our bodies, and is found in blood and breast milk in people worldwide (children are especially vulnerable to its toxic effects). Lindane is also highly toxic to wildlife, including fish, bees and birds.

    More than 35 countries have already banned lindane -- but the United States isn't one of them. Bayer distributes lindane for agricultural purposes here, despite threats to our health, environment and food supply.

    Please call Bayer tomorrow at 1-919-549-2828 and urge it to stop distributing lindane immediately.

    Please also forward this message to others, and urge them to call Bayer tomorrow as well.

    Thank you!

    Go Organic for the Butterflies

    If you need an additional reason to stop using toxic pesticides, here's a good one.

    Monday, April 18, 2005

    Cake or Compost?

    Our environmentally-conscious friends over in Scotland have recruited one of my favorite entertainers, Eddie Izzard, to narrate composting advertisements to be broadcast across the U.K.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2005

    Celebrating the Wonder of Life

    Yesterday, our friend Mike made a couple of small, purposeful movements. Doctors are taking this as a good sign, at least for now.

    Life is truly a gift, isn't it? As I bask in this good news about my friend, I will also take a moment to once again share the beauty of life around me.

    Please, everyone...don't ever forget to stop and smell the roses, ok?

    A nice shady corner of my East side/front garden

    Magnolia 'Jane' (if only you could smell this too...)

    Flowers that will eventually find their way into my front beds

    Cirrhopetalum Elizabeth Ann X putidum orchid