Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fairy Tea Party

Another View of Rabbit Tobacco

Rain showers have kept me off the internet today except for brief glimpses. I was looking through files and found this photo from late October when we had a bit of fall color. Those are Oakleaf Hydranges on the right. The smaller, brighter yellow shrubs are Sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus), another native.

On the left is self-planted rabbit tobacco with white bloom clusters, growing up around a small rooted camellia bush. I've never seen rabbit tobacco grow so tall!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Camellias

I forgot Mathotiana, which blooms early to late. Planted by Daddy Senior's sister about 35 years ago, it grew too large in a sheltered corner of the house. He moved it and it died in drought a few years ago. It grew back in the original site from a piece of the root. Right now the leaves are plagued with tea scale, but the flowers are still beautiful. My experience is that camellias out in the open are not plagued with disease and fungus as are the ones in sheltered areas where air circulation and sunlight are not adequate.

Here's a view of a little bird nest in the center, visible out the window. The birds have flown.

Blooming Outside on Christmas

Except for the white blossoms on Camellia sasanqua, there isn't much. One gaillardia bloom, three physotegia (obedient plant) -- it didn't start to bloom until November and now hangs one despite a heavy frost. A handful of nicotiana, it never gives up. Two Gerbera daisies; maybe I should take them up and move them to the greenhouse where they could bloom all winter. Some of the Gerberas here are more than 30 years old and have a sentimental history. The Camellia japonicas are full of tight green buds, it won't be long. I forgot to look for buds on Taiwan cherries. They bloom in January, bright magenta.

Red pentas just keep trying. Some are totally toast. There are still bright red blossoms on the south side of some of the clumps. Yesterday I saw a gulf fritallary butterfly sunning on an echinacea leaf, near the red pentas still open.

I didn't make photos but here's a photo from a different Christmas of pentas still blooming in December. Temps in the teens in February will destroy the tops, but at least half of them usually come back from the roots, a favorite of the butterflys' and mine all summer. I've tried to grow some from saved seed. This year I'm saving the whole seed head and will plant little pieces of the whole thing. I noticed that the seed catalogs offer 'pelleted seed' and I can see why. It appears that there is a good sized seed when everything is still green. When they dry, the seeds are hard to find and the capsules are dry and hard.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A River of Blue

Photo from 3-30-2006
I've always hankered for a river of muscari like in the photographs of the displays at Kuekenhoff in the Netherlands. My plantings have always run more to a trickle and my muscari have never reseeded, increased and been the glorious display I hoped for.

I do notice that the trickle along the inside of the rock wall bed does have good foliage this year, behind the orange roses.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Notes about Early Spring Bulb Plantings

1) The earliest daffodils bloomed pretty much ahead of everything last Spring except a few violas. Blooming with later hyacinths and daffodils were Iceland poppies and Lavender Lantana in open ground. The beds have more plants this year and more seeds were scattered; we'll see.

2) Best foliage was Sweet William, Rose Campion, Bath's Pinks. California poppies and Calendulas. Mulch was a good idea, too. Plants of larkspur, silene and Black Eyed Susans were still tiny when the bulbs began to bloom. Daylily leaves were still reticent, too.

By mid-April only bulb foliage was left and violas and Iceland poppies were fading fast. California poppies, Bath's Pink, Sweet William and dwarf snapdragons were in bloom.

Some notions that I have are to put California poppies under and around the grape arbor on the end where Peace rose bloomed by mid-April and Red Corn poppies around the red rose on the other end, possibly with some Sweet William. I read about poppies in a California Winery garden featured in a Chelsea garden show. They also used other small wildflowers like five spot. I'll start with poppies.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Stick House: Sweet Peas

Stick House
The Stick House is built of Cedar (juniperus virginiana) limbs. It is about 9'x12' in size. Eventually the Cecile Brunner rose on the west side will climb that side.
On the east are sweet peas for spring bloom:

Sweet Pea Blooms from last May.

Sky Watch Friday

The Stick House today, against a blue sky with fluffy clouds. We had more than an inch of rain last night, for which we are most thankful. Cur posed briefly. There are tiny sweet pea plants on the right side protected by pine straw from the wind. I'll show you them tomorrow.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Red Star Clusters from Spring to Christmas

Pentas are still blooming here, but the foliage is tattered after the drought. Light frosts took out one that was exposed, the more sheltered ones are still going. Butterflies love them.

Winter Solstice Saturday

For him in vain the envious seasons roll
Who bears eternal summer in his soul

Oliver Wendell Holmes

February is a short month, Mama always said, as if it contained fewer weeks rather than just 2 or 3 days fewer than the others. Meanwhile she was planting bits of lettuces in a tub in the chimney corner on the south, or behind a field terrace in the sun.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

History of the Drop Dead Red Bed

Actually it's less of a history as it is a sad tale. Prolonged drought didn't help, some of the plants were better suited to a shadier spot and had to move. There were minor successes and I learned a lot. I should have started earlier, too.

Early May, Silene and Red Corn Poppies did well. I had great plans for a stunning Red Bed, with tiny plants growing in the greenhouse. Some worked, some failed.

Among the near failures were dark leaved red begonias, reputed to be sunfast. They nearly croaked before they could move to the fairy garden on the north side of a live oak.

Coleus not only failed completely in the sunny Red Bed, they were not happy in the herb garden in part shade. These were grown from seed.

Red zinnias were happy companions with verbena bonairensis until drought brought them down in late summer.

Zinnias were also good companions with 'Sammy Russell' daylily, a dependable little landscape red.

Later I'll show what worked and where. Plans for 2008 include converting the Drop Dead Red Bed to a Tropical Fiesta Show and growing more reds in part shade where they're happier.

Sharing Seeds

For years, we've tried to get larkspur to grow in Nurse Sue's garden because her Mama always grew larkspur. New seeds from the dollar store failed last; mine grew, so I told her I'd bring her some. Naturally, her office mate, Nurse Barbara, who introduced me to the Iron Lady, wants some too.

Little packets of seeds are filled and await delivery to Home Health when I next go to town: Larkspur (blue), Silene (bright pink), Sweet William (mixed dianthus), and two kinds of poppies. Red corn poppies and orange California poppies make a grand show in May and June following the Sweet William in late April. Oh, I almost forgot Rose Campion, another easy, bright magenta beauty with grey foliage that lasts all year.

I love to have a reason to play in the seeds, measuring out spoonfuls into little manila envelopes and dreaming of how they'll look in the spring.

The Iron Lady? Her name is Wanda. She used bring all kinds of garden treasures from trips to Mexico: wrought iron gates and garden seats, pottery urns and other rustic garden objects. They haven't seen her in months now, I hope she's okay.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

When the Weather Gets Cold, Plan!

Castor Bean, Pride of Barbados, Zinnia bud, Tithonia foliage; all from seed.

Not plan for cold -- that should already be taken care of. Plan for next summer when we'll be complaining about the heat, so we remember this is just temporary, this freezing weather. I think I'll start crocheting with that fluffy yarn I found at the dollar store. Some little fluffy scarves to go around the neck would be so comfy, in bright colors that rival the tropicals we grow in summer.

After the Storm

From what I can determine, several tornadoes touched down across this general area last night. We had wind and rain, but I can see no damage this morning. The lights went out as we were finishing supper. We were without electricity from about 7:30pm until after 10:30 this morning.

Tonight's low is supposed to be 28 degrees, repeated tomorrow night and then on Wednesday night either, 23 or 35, according to whose forecast you choose to believe. We wrapped all exposed outside faucets and I suppose we're ready.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More Gifts for Gardeners

My first hummer feeder was a Christmas present. I've had several since, and 'Best One' is my favorite: a quart bottle that looks like the bottles that vinegar comes in and a screw-on bottom that comes apart for easy cleaning. Feeders must be kept clean and free of mold, the nectar changed every second or third day, depending on the outside temperature.

I make my own nectar using 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, let cool and fill.

Oh, yeah, hummbers leave in October and return sometime in March. If the feeders are not up when they return, they will let you know they are back.

Stocking Stuffers at the Dollar Store

My favorite diversion is to shop in a dollar store, especially the ones where everything is just $1.00.

Dollar Stores have all kinds of baskets and containers. My fav are the plastic coated wire mesh flat baskets and trash cans. Wire trash cans with plastic coating can be upended over transplants for part shade until the transplants are acclimated.

  • black permanent marker
  • narrow plastic trays to hold manila coin envelopes full of saved seeds
  • garden gloves -- the cheap ones are just to supplement the more expensive pairs that a gardener needs
  • cute little wind chimes
  • ball of twine
  • vases in glass and ceramic in classic shapes
  • flower pots (make sure they have a drainage hole unless you're using for cachepots)
  • plastic shoe boxes to make propagation chambers
  • shears -- the ones intended as kitchen shears are handy in the garden.
  • bubble envelopes for mailing seeds
  • clear plastic sealing tape
  • bungee cords

    Depending on the dollar store you visit, they may have many items specific for the garden and sometimes seeds and/or bulbs. I've had success with ordinary seeds like marigolds, alyssum, radishes, lettuce, larkspur and the like. Bulbs vary, lately they've been smaller and fewer, but I've had good luck in the past with daffodils, gladioli and freesias. I've found bone meal in the dollar store, and some wonderful garden stakes.

    Skip the cheap garden tools, like trowels, they bend at first use.
  • Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Green and Red, near Christmas

    I hand scattered 25 pounds of rye grass seed. Not nearly enough to make a total lawn all over, but some green when the bermuda and centipede finally fall victim to the inevitable killing frost. The first frost that we had that killed back the bermuda didn't kill back far enough -- it put out green again, healthier than ever.

    Fresh green always looks so pretty in the dead of winter. I put some where I can see it from the kitchen window after the front was more or less covered.

    Found a dead cardinal this afternoon. I buried him. Later Cur was sniffing around the spot where I found him, and by the way, the bird was somewhat mangled when I found him. When I went to let Cur in the side door a while ago, there was a very tiny fluffy white feather with a red tip stuck to the glass at dog-nose height.

    Rabbit Tobacco Revisited

    One of the most frequent searches of this blog is for Rabbit Tobacco (Gnaphalium obtusifolium). I propped a dried bunch against the toolshed wall and made a photo. Cut before it dries in the field, it retains a stronger fragrance. Chamomile is the only thing I can think of that it resembles. I set a little bunch of the leaves on fire and sniffed. Smelled like any other leaves burning to me. The herbal books I've read did not advocate using this plant for anything, just mentioned uses handed down for generations that were possibly not a good idea. I think the best use is probably as an ornamental plant with roots in folk history, as a conversation piece.

    Frequently I pinch leaves of rosemary, sage, thyme, cardamon ginger and oregano for visitors to the garden to sniff. This is another that has a distinctive fragrance to the leaves, very pungent. Common cudweed has no fragrance. When I'm weeding, I often pinch leaves to distinguish whether a plant stays.

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Raking Leaves is Still a Lot of Work

    Wordless Wednesday:

    We're mechanized, but they don't fling themselves into the shredder without help. Sweeping is easier with equipment.

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    I Carried a Butterfly on my Finger

    A Gulf Frit was frantically beating his wings against the greenhouse walls, inside. They just will fly through the open door and then can't figure out where is the exit.

    I grabbed a wire basket and reached around a pipe to shoo him into the upturned basket. Instead, he lit on my finger and hung on when I went to the door. I stepped out in the sunshine. They usually fly quickly away, higher and higher in their freedom. This one was too tired, I guess. I carried him on my outstretched finger through the carport to the nearest flowers, a clump of periwinkles by the ruins bed where bunch onions are growing. I gently eased my hand down beside a pink blossom and he stepped off. I could see him probing for nectar.

    Later when I returned, he was gone. A yellow sulfur was nectaring on the same flowers.

    Some paperwhite narcissus I had forgotten about, came up beside the bunch onions. I do know which is which!

    Sunday, December 9, 2007

    Hothouse Rose

    Gene Boerner

    This blossom is so much more delicate than the brave buds in the first photo in the post below. This was rooted sometime last spring, or maybe in the summer. This is my favorite of the floribundas, except when Livin' Easy blooms, it's hard to say.

    Roses in December

    Gene Boerner in bud

    Thursday, December 6, 2007

    Hyacinths Are Planted

    I planted 30 Delft Blue, a cultivar nearly as old as I, divided, on each side at the end of the front walk. The blue beds are hardly larger than a bushel basket. I planted shallow and added lots of compost, a new trial for me.

    Eighteen China Pink hyacinths, a sport of the old Delft Blue, are just tucked along the front of another bed in small clumps to bloom with Bath's Pinks.

    I waited until the next to last day to order, after bulbs went to half price. They were here in four days. Amaryllis were not on sale this year. I always wish for thousands, grateful for having few when I'm actually digging and planting.

    I held back two pink bulbs to put in frosted glasses with an interesting shaped neck -- sort of like a modified hourglass with an open top -- called hyacinth vases. The pinched neck holds the bulb out of the water so it won't rot. The bulb will send down roots seeking water. They're tucked away in a dark little cabinet in the unheated utility room.

    Mama used to put her paperwhites in the fruit closet in the corner of the back porch among quart jars of peaches and half gallons of grape juice.