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.