Saturday, December 03, 2011

Late Season Stress

Mother Nature was most benevolent today, allowing me to finish nearly all of my lingering outside duties in 65° weather before the rains hit later this afternoon. This gives me great relief, as there's nothing worse for a gardener than facing the doldrums of winter with chores left undone.

By my count, I planted something in the neighborhood of 115 bulbs (and a few other stragglers) today with the help of my trusty new auger. I'll never plant bulbs without it again. Here's the line-up of what hit the dirt today:

10 Tulip acuminata
16 Allium schubertii
10 Anemone coronaria bicolor
2 Dracunculus vulgaris (Dragon lily, Voodoo lily)
10 Dwarf iris histrioides 'George'
5 Dwarf iris winogradowii
10 Dutch iris 'Rosario'
20 Dutch iris Apollo
10 Ornithogalum nutans (Silverbells)
10 Chionodoxa 'Blue Giant' (Glory of the Snow)
12 Daffodil centannees

1 Eremurus Shelford Hybrids (Foxtail Lily, Desert Candle)
1 Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'
1 Bearded Iris 'Wench'
1 Bearded Iris 'Anaconda Love'
1 Bearded Iris 'Aggressively Forward'
1 Japanese Iris 'Picotee Wonder'

I still have a few plants in pots on the patio that will most likely end up in either the greenhouse or the garage, but either way I'll find a comfortable temporary home for them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - November 2011

Well, the fall of 2011 has been nearly as strange as the summer. Record heat and drought are being followed by mild temperatures -- and unusual bloom action  -- just a week before Thanksgiving. Flowering plants that went dormant due to the heat have been tricked into thinking it's spring again. I'm concerned some of them will suffer quite a shock when winter does get here, even if we do get the mild temperatures that are being predicted for our area.

This is Passiflora 'Lady Margaret.' I waited all summer for this to bloom. The vines grew and grew...but no blossoms, until we had 3" of rain in one week. Oy. Gorgeous, though, isn't it?

Clematis 'Crystal Fountain.' This is one that usually blooms in late March/early April and is showing its confusion by blooming again now.

Lilac 'Sensation.' I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted new leaf growth and flower buds emerging on this 8' lilac shrub a couple of weeks ago. Sure enough, it's blooming. Lilacs are pretty cold-hardy, so I think it'll be ok.

I don't think this Blackfoot Daisy, growing on a sunny, dry slope in our front yard, has ever stopped blooming all summer. A great, carefree native plant.

A scattershoot of Mexican Mint Marigold. These plants are consistent fall bloomers, but they do get a little raggedy.

My ever-reliable heirloom rose 'Midnight Blue.' Nothing fazes this thing. Totally disease- and pest-free, smells great and carries its wonderful deep purple color even in the worst heat.

A mystery plant coming up in my side yard flower bed. It looks sort of hibiscus-like to me, but has those weird, lobed leaves. If anyone can positively identify, please email me!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pepper Population Boom

I knew many of my plants would bounce back once the rains returned and the temperatures cooled...but my peppers have something else in mind. I think they intend to take over my gardens.

Not that I would mind. After the dismal summer we had - especially for virtually any kind of veggie gardening - my booming peppers are a welcome presence. Here's the rundown of who's doing what. The seed sources I used are linked for each type.

Antohi Romanian, an Eastern European frying pepper. Gorgeous pale yellow color turns to orange and then flaming red. First prize for production, strength and longevity, even through the hot, dry summer.

The Merlot sweet bell also did pretty well, but really stepped it up when the weather cooled. Stunning purple color fades to red as the fruit sweetens. I ate one today that had a reddish blush to it and my heavens, it was like candy.

Anchos/Poblanos always do fairly well in the Texas heat, if given enough water. Mine's growing in a half whiskey barrel, so adequate irrigation was a constant challenge. With all of this recent rain, it's really kicking butt.

I love the so-called "bull's horn" sweet peppers like Marconis and Cubanelles - they are easy to grow, generally, you get a lot of pepper and not a lot of seeds, and they are extremely versatile in that they can be eaten fresh, baked or fried. These Biscayne Cubanelles have really come on strong lately, although I hope they get just a bit bigger.

Here's a rare site: purple jalapenos growing next to purple cabbage. The jalapenos should be done by now, right? Uh, no. This variety is especially handsome and I'm so glad to see them re-emerge after the rough weather.

Yes, go ahead and ask "So, where are the peppers in this picture?" They're coming, believe me. This is the beautiful, variegated Fish pepper - the fruits are striped too. Unfortunately, this plant got totally munched by a hornworm caterpillar but is now making a remarkable recovery, with flowers starting to emerge. Read a fascinating story about the origin of Fish peppers here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A New Family Member

I've long considered Dotty Woodson to be somewhat of a rock star. She is - after all and officially - Dr. Dotty Woodson, and has appeared on numerous locally- and nationally-televised gardening shows to share her expertise and great advice. She serves as Dallas' Extension Program Specialist for Water Resources and lectures frequently around the metroplex.

In mid-September, the City of Allen sponsored a water catchment and rainbarrel-building course that I enthusiastically attended, knowing it would be both fun and a good way to get more Master Gardener hours. I also knew that, for $50, it was an economical way to add to the two existing rainbarrels I already have around my house, which cost nearly $100 each several years ago. Plus, you know...I'd get to meet Dr. Dotty.

After speaking for 30 minutes or so on the interesting and sometimes scary facts surrounding local water usage and conservation, Dotty got to work. I watched with combined horror and fascination as she drilled holes, applied caulk and pretty much built my barrel for me from start to finish. (I felt compelled to tell her I was a Collin County Master Gardener, which didn't seem to raise my acclaim any, but that's ok. It's like introducing Bon Jovi to Beethoven, you know?)

Anyway, with Dotty's "help," my barrel turned out beautifully and, with recent rains, it appears to be functioning perfectly as well. These barrels start out as ugly, dirty bright blue food containers and then find a new life as water catchment systems. Dotty advised decorating them by lightly sanding, priming and painting to better fit into your landscape.

The best part about the new barrel is that the City of Plano will recognize my water conservation efforts by offering a $25 credit to my next water that means the total cost was only a couple of hours and $25. But I got to do something worthwhile and meet a legend in the meantime.

Here's Dotty doing what she does best: educating.

Catch Dotty's next water conservation and rainbarrel workshop this Thursday at the AgriLife Extension Center at Coit and Campbell. More info

Monday, August 29, 2011

Six of the Most Beautiful Words in the World...

..."Your Garden Crossings Order Has Shipped"

Half of my order is a dwarf pennesetum called 'Piglet' who could resist that?

For added contrast, I also indulged in several Spilled Wine™ Weigela (shown at left) and Sunjoy Gold Beret Berberis.

And it's a four-day weekend coming up. And the forecast is for high temperatures under 100°. Life is good.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cool Season Vegetable Gardening in Hell

Triple digit temperatures remain around DFW in late August, but the end is in sight. My lustful fantasies about working comfortably in the yard in a sweatshirt are becoming closer to reality as the calendar marches forward.

And, as Marianna Greene correctly stated in a recent Dallas Morning News article, as gardeners, we can't pay attention to anything but the calendar, especially when it comes to vegetable gardening. We must put a gloved thumb to our nose and get on with it, even if it is bloody 105° outside.

Here's what I started in Jiffy jumbo-sized peat pots today:

Cabbage - Deadon (Savoy)
Cabbage - Samantha (Savoy)
Mustard - Purple Wave
Mustard - Tah Tsai
Broccoli - Belstar
Beets - Gourmet Blend
Bak Choi - Red Choi
Radicchio - Red Surprise
Radish - Round Black Spanish
Nasturtium - Mahogany
Nasturtium - Peach Melba
Nasturtium - Variegated Queen

Most of these varieties prefer cooler weather and, when they sprout, we'll all be hoping fall is just around the corner.