Saturday, December 01, 2007

Still Here...

Good gosh, has it really been over two months since I posted here? Apparently so.

The Year of Weird Weather continues in North Central Texas. Flowers are still in bloom, and leaves remain on many of the trees. Some areas had a few snowflakes on Thanksgiving, but that's been it for the cold weather. To borrow the McDonald's tagline: I'm lovin' it.

I did find a great (and organic) landscaper to do the "big stuff" mentioned in an earlier post. It's been wonderful to have a new holes to fill and, of course, I've been doing just that. A gorgeous purple smoke tree now stands where the ugly mean yuccas once were. My bearded iris -- all 60+ of them, dug up and divided from the original 14 I'd planted three short years ago -- are now back in the ground and rebounding nicely around the new smoke tree. The Hakonechloa macra Beni Kaze is/was in the spot previously occupied by a large holly bush, but sadly it has since been munched to the ground by rabbits and/or rats.

I was worried that ripping out so many dense shrubs would discourage my winter bird friends from returning, but I've seen nearly all of them so far. The ruby-crowned kinglet has been enjoying the suet, plus a pair of chickadees and a white-throated sparrow are all back from last year. Haven't seen the downy woodpecker couple yet, but I'm sure they're just as mystified as us humans about the balmy weather.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Know An Old Lady...

"I know an old lady who swallowed a fly;
I don't know why she swallowed a fly!
I guess she'll die!"

A lot of children still read Rose Bonne's story "I Know An Old Lady" -- surely one of the grimmest children's poems in existance. It's been cutesy-fied and cleaned up, of course. But a couple of years ago, my brother presented me with a fabulous gift: the 1961 hardback version that we had in our childhood, a book filled with the strange, abstract and wonderfully grotesque illustrations of Abner Graboff.

I look back on things like this and wonder how they influenced my life today, especially in my appreciation for creatures that so-called normal people find abhorrent.

For instance: I love spiders. Currently, we have a fabulous, gigantic cross spider on the outside of our kitchen window that I could watch for hours. I've dubbed her Shelob for her intimidating size (although she's only about 3" at full stretch and doesn't seem to have a taste for Hobbits).

It kind of breaks my heart to think of all the people who are scared enough by spiders to instantly squash or gas them at first site. These are incredibly beneficial insects...not to mention fascinating, strong and gifted. I think lately there are many times I would like to have eight appendages and eyes. And a pair of venomous fangs. heh.

But I digress. I have carried on to the point of boredom about how great spiders are. For you guys, it's like singing to the choir, right?

I am less loving of house flies, for sure. But that hasn't stopped me from stealing from the nasty pests for my Halloween costume this year; my husband and I are going to a party as the two morphed characters of the classic 1958 movie The Fly: the lab-coat wearing, claw-flashing, fly-headed creature (me, probably), and the fly-bodied man-headed being (hubby).

Believe it or not, I got the idea about a year ago after stripping off my black bra, tossing it toward my husband, and watching it land on and straddle his head like - you guessed it - a pair of fly's eyes.

Inspiration comes from the strangest places, doesn't it?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Recent Orders

While I obviously haven't been doing much gardening blogging lately, (too busy fretting about whether a certain mortgage lending company I now work for is going to stay afloat), it doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about gardening. And having a regular paycheck means I can buy plants again...woohoo!

Here's a look at some orders I've placed lately:

Dutch Gardens - I know...I am a bigtime sucker for ordering from these guys yet again...
Fire Of Love Tulip
Ginger Ale Heuchera
Coconut Lime Coneflower
Sumatra Amaryllis

Bluestone Perennials - The Centranthus aka Jupiter's Beard isn't available until Spring, which I'm really bummed about.
Agastache Apricot Sprite
Nepeta Subsessillis
Achillea Terra Cotta
Achillea Walter Funke
Digitalis Obscura
Kniphofia uvaria Flamenco
Salvia East Friesland
Muscari Golden Fragrance
Gaura Corrie's Gold

White Flower Farm - I've never ordered from WFF before; they're a little pricey, but I had to have both of these coneflowers.
Echinacea purpurea Green Envy
Echinacea Tiki Torch
Grass Hakonechloa macra Beni Kaze
Festuca glauca Boulder Blue

Garden Crossings - The current special is great: free shipping on orders $75 and up. I like this company a lot anyway - their plants are always large and healthy and their website is simple but efficient.
Origanum Kent Beauty
Clematis Avante-Garde
Viola Black Magic
Echinacea Summer Sky
Itea Little Henry
Hosta Hanky Panky
Campanula Pink Octopus

It should be a busy fall. I've decided to go ahead and have some "big things" done in the yard around November 1. Namely, the removal of all of the remaining yuccas by the swimming pool, the holly bushes in the front, and a fairly large but nasty garbage-tree that got a horrendous case of bagworms. The bagworms were a pretty common problem around Dallas this year, but this particular tree has been the bane of both my neighbor's (it's apparently blocking his dish reception) and my existance for some time. So out it goes.

I'm not looking forward to the bill for any of this, but... *sucking in a deep breath* needs done.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

On Dasher, On Skimmer, On Darner...uh...Blitzen?

Reading aloud the names of several common dragonflies sounds kind of like an Insect Santa calling his reindeer. All he needs is Rudolph, the Neon Skimmer to lead his pack...

This little fella -- a Blue Dasher, I believe -- was perched in the backyard and let me get close enough for this great shot:

I got this book as a gift a couple of years ago and really love it. Check it out, if you're a Southern gardener and a fan of dragonflies.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Jungle Fever

Yeah, I'm in Texas.

For awhile there, I was in doubt. It's been 100° for a week, and we've got at least another week more to go.

That's all right, though. Everybody was expecting the heat to come. Sure as Karl Rove's resignation, we knew it would happen eventually.

Ok, here's a picture that begs a question similar to "do these pants make my butt look big?"

I'm wondering: does my backyard look jungle-y? I think it kind of does. (Although it's still not as obnoxious as it was a couple of years ago.)

The crossvine has gone crazy. The coleus are out of control. And I went a little nuts when I saw Home Depot finally got their Plumerias in.

Again, I'm pretty much fine with it. The drought is officially over in North Texas and I seriously doubt we will experience this kind of lush growth again for awhile. So, jungle-looking backyard? C'mon down.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

New Nepenthes

Well, I might actually get some gardening in today...once the rain stops. Yes, more showers graced the Northern areas of the Dallas metroplex this morning. Temperatures had started creeping into the more August-like 90's lately, making for a bit of wilting among the smaller container plants, so a little drink from Mother Nature was welcome.

Since I start my new bigtime high-paying job on Monday (yey!), I allowed myself to splurge on this magnificent Nepenthes 'Miranda' that I spotted in Calloways. Actually, $26 wasn't a bad price for such a big specimen.

I always see the 'Alata' pitcher plants in stores and, being me, I wanted something a little different, especially after visiting Dotty Woodson's greenhouses recently and seeing her absolutely HUGE pitcher plants dangling spookily from the roof.

My Texas Star Hibiscus is doing pretty well despite being in a big pot. Once it's done blooming, I think it'll need to go in the ground. A few things in the Front Yard Garden Project have perished due to...wait for it...too much rain. Can you believe that? My 3'x3' rosemary bush is now a crisp brown. Two artemisias, an echinops and a kniphofia are gone too. Dang.

Of course, next year we'll probably return to our regularly scheduled drought and triple digit temps. But for now, I'm thinking swamp plants like the hibiscus might be appropriate.

Speaking of hibiscus, I have neglected to publicly thank my friend and fellow gardener Larry in NC (aka 'Daturapod') for sending me some lovely tropical and perennial hibiscus cuttings back in June. Larry was most generous in sharing these with me. I've got a cutting of that Hurricane Lily Hibiscus going for you now, Lar!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sweet Potato, Sweet Boy

Here's a nice shot of my sweet potato vines and my second best boy...Alf the collie.

Air Traffic Control

Bumblebee Moth Hemaris diffinis

The air is abuzz with life these days. I sit on our patio and watch the activity in rapt fascination...until the mosquitoes find me.

Because of all the rain, the dragonflies are out in record numbers. So, it seems, are the butterflies and moths. The cicadas have started their chainsaw song, which brings the gigantic cicada killers out, swooping through the air with macho aplomb.

We have a particularly precocious hummingbird coming to the backyard this year. If you're anywhere near the feeder, she will hover for a moment, then slowly edge toward you, as if to say "Hello! How are ya? I'm getting a drink, is that ok?"

Miss Hummer and my old collie were practically nose-to-nose this morning as she said her hello's. Oh, what I wouldn't give for a camera in moments like that.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cinnamon Basil Muffins

I am growing some cinnamon basil this year, but frankly, when it started thriving I wasn't sure what to do with it. Well, here's a recipe I found online. These muffins rock.

Cinnamon Basil Muffins

1/4 cup fresh cinnamon basil leaves
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Puree cinnamon basil leaves with oil in blender. Combine with sugar and egg. Sift together flour and baking powder and add to oil mixture, then fold in remaining ingredients.

Bake at 400°F for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 12 regular sized muffins or six large muffins.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Courting Controversy...Well, Just a Little

I've been on an incredible Syd Barrett music binge lately...not sure why. The founding member of Pink Floyd died a little over a year ago at the age of 60.

Before a combination of drugs, psychosis and other illnesses took their toll, Syd Barrett was an accomplished painter and innovative musician. He was also something of a babe.

Syd still painted in his later, reclusive years. Turns out he enjoyed gardening too. (There are reports that Syd briefly held a job as a landscaper for an English estate. Apparently, a sudden thunderstorm caused him to throw down his tools, stomp off in a huff and never return. Buddy, I can relate to that feeling.)

When Syd Barrett's remaining belongings were auctioned off in the U.K. late last year, this hand-painted metal wheelbarrow was among them.

Were I rich and frivolous, I probably would have bid on it. There's something about the jaunty green body and red wheel that carries the same childlike but melancholy whimsy many of Syd's songs once did.

Like many organic gardeners, when I saw RubberStuff® - the rubber mulch made from scrap tires - I automatically raised an eyebrow.

Last week, I bought two bags of it. Now, allow me to explain.

I am fortunate to have a beautiful atrium/sunroom in my house. Palms and dracaenas stretch 15 feet into the air. I overwinter my tropicals in the sunroom too.

Thing is, the plants come up right out of the ground; the border around the tiled floor is pure soil. I rarely have to water these plants (especially lately). However, the organic mulch I had was presenting a problem.

As organic materials are supposed to do, the mulch was breaking down. It was also holding in a lot of moisture, as it supposed to...but with that came some really moldy and musty smells.

For outside, that's fine. You want the organic breakdown to occur. But for my indoor sunroom, I found that rubber mulch was just the ticket.

The manufacturer - American Rubber Technologies (ART) - claims RubberStuff is non-toxic and 99% wire-free. It doesn't smell and it looks great. And if I ever need to remove it, I imagine the job will be a heckuva lot easier than it was to scrape off the old moldy bark mulch. Yuck.

We'll see how things go. If all of my plants die, you'll hear about it...and so will ART.

Does anyone know if Raid has discontinued its Earth Options product line? I don't see any of them on their Web site anymore.

The products were supposed to be "plant-based" i.e. derived from clove oil. I was, and still remain, skeptical.

Two things I did come across on the Raid site which I found completely disgusting: the use of the phrase "Family of Products" - as in, gosh, we're family-friendly!

Even more appalling: The "Raid® Fun" page. Games and wallpapers for the kids to enjoy while Dad's busy poisoning the environment. Woo-hoo!

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Hearty Breakfast

I'm sure this isn't the biggest tomato you've ever seen, but it's probably the biggest one I've ever grown.

During my Master Gardener training a couple of years ago, our guest speaker on growing veggies suggested 'Kellogg's Breakfast' - a large, vigorous orange tomato. I tried them last year with little success, but this!

I'm sure our constant rainfall has helped. No cracking and not much catfacing, conditions both caused by irregular watering.

The taste and texture of 'Kellogg's Breakfast' is marvelous too - sweet and firm. Yummy.

I haven't been down to the Community Garden in several weeks. The truck-sized mosquitoes scared me too much last time. I imagine my plot is a jungle by now...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bite Me

The mosquitoes are horrible around DFW at the moment. Heavy, continuous rains have saturated the ground, thus creating the perfect environment for the little beasts.

I have been diligent in putting BT dunks in the birdbaths and emptying plant trays. I even sprinkled some BT crystals around the foundation of our house, where the skeeters really seem to congregate. But the BT takes awhile to work, and I want these bastards gone now.

I'm surprised the organic business hasn't come up with more to kill adult mosquitoes. Most are just repellents, like the awful-smelling garlic spray. I like the clove oil mixture, but it can hurt beneficial insects.

Bioganic is offering a peppermint oil-based flying insect spray at select Wal-Marts...but I imagine it is toxic to beneficials as well.

Tomato Gratin

Your tomatoes are ripening faster than you can eat 'em, right? Here's a great recipe (recently printed in The Dallas Morning News) that will help deplete your rapidly expanding crop. Be sure to use fresh basil from the herb garden too. I increased the cheese recommendation because I seem to be part mouse.

Tomato Gratin

9 or 10 tomatoes, any variety (red, green, etc.)
1/4 cup chicken-flavored stuffing mix
1/2 cup diced red onion or sliced green onions
10 leaves fresh basil, snipped with scissors
salt and pepper
1/3 stick butter, melted
3/4 cup 2% milk Kraft Italian cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Rinse and core tomatoes, then cut into medium-sized slices.
Butter or spray an 8- or 9-inch square Pyrex dish, and arrange a layer of tomatoes in the pan. Sprinkle each layer with dry stuffing mix, onions, basil, salt and pepper. Repeat layers until you've used all the tomatoes. Drizzle with melted butter and top with dry stuffing mix and cheese.
Bake about 20 minutes or until hot. If using all green tomatoes, bake about 45 minutes.
Makes 4-6 servings

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bean Soup

This is a great recipe I adapted just slightly from The Menopause Diet; it's also good for all you low-carb dieters out there. Very high in fiber and pretty high in lean protein. Substitute cubed chicken for pork, or leave the meat out entirely, and it's probably still really good.

3 cans of different beans (butter, black, kidney, etc.)
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 can 14-1/2 oz. chicken broth
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup cubed cooked lean ham
2 or 3 average-sized tomatoes, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
1 tbl. fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tsp. dry basil leaves)
Black pepper, to taste

Drain and rinse the beans in a strainer. Put beans and all remaining ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and allow to simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. Add more water if necessary.

Veggie Notes: I used my first harvest of fresh tomatoes for this recipe. I also had a couple of leftover leeks from my spring harvest (they keep quite a long time in the fridge) and they were excellent in this soup as an alternative to the usual onion-and-garlic combo.

Of course, you could also use your own homegrown beans, basil, and if you're really talented, celery.

Lamenting the First Generation of Indoor Children

This is just sad. And I think it's safe to assume there's a link between the facts in this story and the rising statistics of child obesity...

Getting Lost in the Great Outdoors
- Washington Post (may require registration)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Making the Cut

I am not a fan of cutting gardens. That is to say, I do not generally grow flowers for the sole purpose of cutting. Too lazy for that, you see; it's much easier to just let things bloom, watch them die on the stem and then say gosh, maybe it's time I dead-headed that thing...

The scissors come out when the gladiolus start to emerge in late May, however. They flower, they flop over...and they're just too beautiful to not be appreciated by somebody. The nature of their existence is that they're top-heavy and therefore perfect for snipping and sticking in a vase.

I've planted a few glads about my property since moving in a couple of years ago. Other strange glads have popped up in random places, though: along the alley side of our fence, behind the five-foot impassable sharp yucca...obviously, one of the former owners of our yard was a glad enthusiast, and the bulbs have lived on. I really need to dig them up and move them so they get the proper treatment for later years, out of simple respect for a past and fellow gardener.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Double Trouble

I apologize for my absence here. Job hunting has taken precedence over blogging and gardening, unfortunately. My goal is to be a paid gardening Web hey, online editors? Email me.

We are continuing to get more rain than usual here in DFW, which is keeping the mosquitoes fat and happy. I unwisely went out to the community garden unprotected after a recent rain and was mercilessly chewed. It was nearly as bad as September in Belize at dusk. And let me tell you, that's bad.

Lots of huge hummingbird moths are active at night now (think of Buffalo Bill's collection in Silence of the Lambs). However, I've only seen one actual hummingbird. A large female suddenly appeared over the patio a couple of weeks ago, alternately dive-bombing our bewildered collie and sniffing the hot pink Salvia Greggii.

The second Dracunculus Vulgaris is blooming in the backyard at present - and thankfully, it's not nearly as stinky as the first one was. Not quite as big either. The first quickly shriveled after blooming and now the entire plant is going. Someone asked if this plant dies back to the ground each year and I'm guessing the answer to that is yes. I do hope they return next season!

And here is a Double Tiger Lily (Lilium lancifolium 'Florepleno') that's going strong in the backyard now. Besides the gorgeous orange double flowers, this heirloom offers bulbils in the leaf axis along the stem. I'm going to try to harvest them and plant some for next year once these guys are done showing off.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lord of the Flies

Isn't this spectacular? I don't know who's more agog, me or the flies. They are swarming around this thing, and it's no wonder. The stench is gag-inducing. Even my dogs won't go near it.

But my heavens, I've been waiting years for this. The flower itself is over 18" long.

I am squelching the urge to show it to my husband. He might get a complex.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Worshiping the Devil

Seems that the Louisiana Iris show is over for now. I expect more will bloom next spring, and I remain pleasantly surprised at how many emerged for me this year.

Pictured below is a plant I've been trying to grow for a long time without success, until now. It is Dracunculus vulgaris, commonly known as Devil's Tongue, Dragon Arum, Voodoo Lily, and a host of other colorful common names.

I estimate that the spathe is still about a week from opening. When it does unfurl, the first day's stench is supposed to be comparable to sewage...! (This flower is pollinated by flies rather than bees, so that makes sense.)

Unlike all the times I tried to grow it before, the two Dracunculus in this bed are getting complete shade and are in the richest of yummy, rich soils. And, like everything this spring, they're receiving plenty of rain.

More pics to come as the Grand Opening approachs...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More Louisianas

Are you sick of seeing these yet? :) We've still got a ways to go before all the different kinds have bloomed...stay tuned!

Louisiana Iris 'Creole Flame' (I think...or might be 'Frank Chowning')

Louisiana Iris 'Danza'

Louisiana Iris 'Festivals Acadian'

Louisiana Iris 'Fiesta Gal'

Louisiana Iris 'Sea Wisp'

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More, But Different

Thanks to everybody who wrote with photos and suggestions about the "mystery bearded iris". I'm still not positive what it is, but certainly enjoyed its huge and numerous blooms. I also enjoyed hearing from some of you readers out there. :)

The bearded irises are about finished blooming here now. I missed some of the show while vacationing in Florida for the past week. I also apparently missed more wild weather; DFW had some hellacious storms while we were gone. Evidence of hail remains in the form of ripped petals on a few things, but the damage isn't devastating, thank goodness.

I am now being rewarded with gorgeous Louisiana iris blooms. Again, I can't say enough about the fans I received from Iris City Gardens last September. A great company with good prices, great service and an incomparable selection of healthy plants.

Louisiana Iris 'Willow Mint'

Louisiana Iris 'Black Widow'

Louisiana Iris 'Our Dorothy'

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Iris ID

Anybody know what the name of this iris (the big one on the left) is? It's not one I've ever ordered. At first I thought it was 'Starship Enterprise', which I do have.

The second photo below is my 'Starship Enterprise' blooming last year. However, the falls on this new one are much more burgundy than purple, the beards are more orange than yellow, and the standards are a definite peach, as opposed to white.

Thanks in advance!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Little Birdie Told Me

I am not ashamed to admit that I'm a bigtime weather weenie. Indeed, most would consider my continual level of interest in the surrounding atmosphere to be borderline obsessive. I check temperature forecasts at least once a day. When it storms, I watch the online Doppler radar. (Although I don't think anybody anticipated the severity and duration of the hail we had a few nights ago...!)

So when I noticed recently that the Cedar Waxwings were still hanging around, making those sad peeping noises from their perch in some nearby treetops, I figured they knew something the rest of us didn't: it was gonna get cold again. And sure enough, we're looking at a slight chance of snow this weekend. That's right: snow.

I'm super-glad to have held off on planting my summer veggies, both at the house and in my Community Garden plot. Most of the tropicals on my patio are in pots and can be brought inside no problem. However, I did plant the beautiful 'Lady Margaret' passionflower (pictured here a few weeks ago) and that is a concern, although a layer of chopped leaves should protect her enough.

I guess it pays to be a weather weenie...and a birdwatcher too.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Great Timing...Sort Of

Ok, so...I got laid off from my job. Mixed feelings abound. But at least they let me go during the busiest part of the gardening season.

Truthfully, the time off has been glorious so far. I hope to really re-organize this site, but in the meantime, here are some more great pictures of what's happening around the yard.

This is Syringa 'Sensation'. I've been waiting two years for this gorgeous lilac to bloom...and it's been worth it. I wish you could smell it. Beyond divine.

Colorful Poppies

The Crossvine that I bought at last year's Texas SuperStar Plant Sale. It didn't bloom hardly at all last summer, but is covered with flowers now.

Tiarella 'Sugar and Spice'

Part of my shade garden, with various heucheras, toad lily and shredded umbrella plant.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Early Bloomers

I'll save the best for last...

This Louisiana Iris was blooming back in January, after we had a bunch of rain. I've no idea what cultivar it is - strange-looking, eh? (It may actually be a Siberian iris...if anybody can ID this, please let me know!)

This is Euphorbia 'Tasmanian Tiger' and it's been blooming for well over two weeks. Love the variegated foliage.

I mentioned in a previous post how Nature Hills Nursery accidentally sent me somebody else's order of crocus bulbs and then told me to just keep I planted 'em. Not bad, although I'd probably never buy these.

Many daffodils don't naturalize here in Texas, especially the weirder kinds, but these double daffs I got from Bluestone back in late 2005 are even prettier this year.

Between the rain, a good trimming and some fertilizer, this Mexican plum tree is blooming like crazy, much more so than in previous years. The honeybees are all over it already, and the smell is divine.

Wow, wow, wow. Say hello to Passiflora 'Lady Margaret'. What a babe! I just received this plant from Zone 9 Tropicals about a month ago. Temps aren't quite high enough to put her outside yet, so she got potted up and kept in the sunroom...where she seems quite happy for the time being. Can't wait to see my back fence covered with this lovely lady later in the summer!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Speak Now, Or Forever Hold Your Trowel

I can say with relative confidence that Spring is here in North Central Texas. The forecast has us staying above freezing the next 10 nights at least, with daytime temps reaching into the 70s. Hallelujah - it's been a long winter, even for us Dallasites.

While the juncos and Cedar Waxwings are still here and busily stuffing themselves for their flights northward, the adorable little ruby-crowned kinglet and the pair of downy woodpeckers are gone. I'll miss them. Sitting by the kitchen window and birdwatching while enjoying a hot cup of coffee was a nice way to pass the colder days...when I wasn't stuck in a chilly office building, of course.

Several of my plant orders are starting to arrive. It's funny...I don't feel as giddy about gardening as I used to. In fact, I was thinking the other day that gardening has become a lot like my marriage.

Now hang on...before all of you divorce lawyers start writing to me, let me explain.

My feeling about gardening now is that, like my marriage, I'm comfortable. Content. I've been doing both for awhile. I'm familiar with them, and confident in the proven techniques that make each seem to work.

I've matured. I don't have heart palpitations when my husband calls me, or squeal like a teenager when a big box of plants arrives in the mail. (Well, ok, sometimes I still do.)

I miss both my husband and gardening when they're not around. Even during the doldrums of a regular day at work, I miss Mark, but not in stupid girlish way. It's like that with gardening too. I pined for better weather, and grumbled about the cold in polite conversation. Such complaining seems pointless anymore, though; like the warmth of my husbands arms awaiting me at the end of an arduous day, the sun always shows up before long.

Of course, over time, you also come to accept certain...shortcomings. I'll probably never be able to grow dinnerplate dahlias here in Texas, and my husband will probably never pick his clothes up off the bedroom floor without being told. But that's ok. You learn. You adapt. You grow.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Almost There...

Sorry for the long lull, everyone. We've been enduring an unusually cold and wet winter here in Dallas -- making NOAA's predictions half-right -- and I try to keep my whining to a minimum during such times, since it really isn't that bad here compared to where some of you are. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, so believe me when I say I know what a really shitty winter is like.

It's nice that we've gotten so much rain in DFW over the past couple of months, however, as some of the reservoirs have actually rebounded to acceptable levels. The Palmer Drought Severity Index for North Central Texas is even registering at "slightly wet". Wow!

I did manage to get to the Community Garden before some really nasty weather hit in January, and was shocked to find the huge purple broccoli pictured at right. The plant tag was gone, but I'm pretty sure it was a 'Violet Queen'. Really beautiful (and delicious...ahem), and nearly a foot across. I haven't been out to the plot since. I expect everything else is dead by now.

Online winter plant shopping has been kept to a minimum this year. I've really cut down on the number of retailers I use too. Annie's, Big Dipper, Burpee, and Bluestone will all get some of my money as a repeat customer this year, but few others will. I'm trying Zone 9 Tropicals for the first time, as they have great prices on a couple of passiflora I wanted. If you have a bad experience with an online nursery, let other gardeners know by leaving your opinion over at Garden Watchdog, a great site run by the folks at Dave's Garden.

It's already time to start tomato seeds here in Texas, but I haven't gotten around to it just yet. My enthusiasm for tomatoes seems to wan a little every year. The plants at the Comm. Garden got really big and did well for the most part, but the naughty mockingbirds love toms just as they're ripening....and when you're not monitoring the fruits every day, the birds tend to have a party in your absence. Also, tomato plants shut down here around July due to the heat, (but usually rebound in September for a weak second crop), so you spend a couple of months waiting for them to wake up. I guess some bird netting will be in order, at least. I'm not trying any new tomato types this year, though. I think I've learned my lesson in the "That's Really Cool, I Wonder If It'll Grow Here..." department.

Not much else is new plant-wise at this point. I've been running two humidifiers in the house almost constantly and have not seen one single spider mite on anything.

For reader "emmat" who commented on my last post about the ZZ Plant: I know ZZ's are supposed to be really difficult to kill, unless you overwater them. They are considered a tropical houseplant, very rubber/jade-like with a water-holding tuber. Mine actually didn't put up a spath (yet) but is sprouting new leaf stems like mad. I guess it really likes its spot next to Capt. Jack...who wouldn't? :)

In closing...I can't wait until Spring. There, I said it!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

No ZZZzz's Here...

The ZZ plant I have on my desk at work (guarded by my 18" talking Capt. Jack Sparrow doll) is putting up a bloom, I think. Actually, Zamioculus Zamiofolia is an aroid, so the bloom may be more like a spath. Cool!