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!