Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Grow Old ... I Grow Old ... My Fav Garden Tools

Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
         -- T.S. Eliot - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The idea for this post came to me this morning when I was digging out bermuda grass with a spading fork because it is easier on an aging back than a grubbing hoe which requires some bending and pulling that is quite uncomfortable compared to pushing and levering. I rarely use a regular hoe and was reminded of that when I read (a blog) that mentioned our favorite garden tools.

A regular hoe and a rake require a repetitive motion that is hard on the shoulders. My rotator cuffs are intact and I try to keep them that way having endured a spouse who had the surgery. Neither time was a picnic for the patient nor the nurse.

The part about rolling the bottoms of the trousers: We were replacing the polycarb panels that blew out in a recent storm. DH kept pulling up his britches legs as he went up the ladder. I finally reached up and ROLLED them so he didn't trip.

If there is just a flat of plants and a trowel and bulb planter (I use a bulb planter to make little holes for tiny transplants.) I use a little green wagon. If I'm sifting and hauling compost I use a wheelbarrow. 

My little green wagon loaded with favs: metal watering can,
trenching spade, spading fork, bulb planter and short hand rake.

My favorite shovel is a trenching spade with a long slender blade.

My favorite watering can is galvanized metal. Plastic watering cans here have turned into dog toys.

I have an assortment of pruning shears from tiny nippers to heavy-duty loppers with a gear mechanism that makes cutting through limbs and small saplings easy. In a pinch, I can operate an electric chain saw.

I read a blog the other day where the gardener said cheap tools were good enough. I buy good quality tools. I bought a cheap rake last year. As soon as I got it home I realized why the other brand was twice the price. It was twice the rake and I exchanged for a good rake. Even a seldom-used rake needs to be sturdy.

The best garden tool is the computer. Take frequent breaks when the weather is hot. I get some iced tea and read a few garden blogs or work on my own.

Give the video a moment to load, please.
On an extreme day, I enlist the help of He-Who-Mows who has an solution for my every problem.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hydrangea quercifolia Is a Native Treat

This is the Oakleaf Hydrangea that I gave the garden name of 'Sugar'
for the husband of the dear lady who gave me a sucker from her plant.

Transplanted suckers from under my original plant fill the Upper Garden.

Two Oakleafs in the south border of the Oval Lawn.
Out of sight between them is a line of regular mophead hydrangeas
not quite yet ready to bloom with daylilies and true lilies.

This Oakleaf, a sucker from the garden of 'Miss Cassie' has a different habit to the ones above.
It has smaller leaves and spreads wider than it is tall.
On the right is a white Crape Myrtle to carry on white blooms through the summer.
Its crape twin is on the opposite side of the front lawn.
Crape Myrtle is not Native, but have been in the south since before 1800.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fall Planted, Spring Blooming Bulbs A to Z

In some areas of the country, spring bulbs are just coming into bloom. Here they are a very pleasant memory. While that memory lingers I like to plan next year's additions in the cool of the house during the heat of the day when it is too hot to work outside. Orders placed now insure availability. Some vendors are already selling out of the most popular bulbs.

Anemone coronaria. We plant these in the fall. Winter heat zones 3-6 plant them in the spring.

Corydalis of the Papaveraceae family.
Corydalis blooming with yellow daffodils.

Daffodils. You know that poem? I love it, a host of golden daffodils. It fails to mention the fragrance  though. What a treat to stand in a patch of Sweeness or near some clumps of Thalia. I made a daffodils page. Click on the button 'Daffodils, Daffodils' above for a sampling.

Too many are never enough when it comes to daffodils. I plant the common ones; fancy hybrids are for flower shows. Daffodils are the only flowers that I know where the inexpensive ones (cheaper in price from the same vendor, not cheap bulbs) are the best buy. They are less dear because they are plentiful.

About mixed daffodil mixtures: they don't all bloom together. If you want a swath of color buy one kind and plant en mass. If you just want a few daffodils go ahead and get a bag of mixed and deadhead the earlier bloomers when they fade.

I plant bulbs using a post hole digger and plant more than one in a hole. Sometimes I use a mattock to make little trenches like this: / / / / /  so they don't march in a single row. In the fall, planting 2 dozen seems like such a chore. In the spring I wish I'd planted 200.
Hermodactylus tuberosa. I'm always surprised when these bloom and wonder why I don't buy more. They're hard to photograph and need pale companions.
Snake's Head Iris Hermodactylus tuberosa

Hippeastrum is used for forcing for Christmas or late winter color indoors. I plant out my forced bulbs and they bloom in following springs. My peach colored Amaryllis from 2 Christmases ago now in a flower bed outside has a bud! Amaryllis almost make up for the tulips that I'm not going to plant.

In colder climates Hippeastrum can be kept potted, given a rest, given water and fertilizer, and bloom again. Mr. Loran used to bring them back to bloom every year. 'Appleblossom' was the prettiest.

Peach Amaryllis from 2009 'Exotica'

Hyacinthoides. I bought mixed Bluebells. I ended up with Pinkbells, the only color that persists. I forgot to take pics this spring but they did show up.

Hyacinthus. My favorite of the spring bulbs. If I had to choose between having only one spring bulb, it might be hyacinths instead of daffodils. Butterflies agree with me.

Lilium. Lilies can be planted in spring or fall. Fall planting in the south gives the bulbs an opportunity to either develop strong roots before spring or be eaten by voles. I try to plant enough to share, just in case. Lilies here have fat buds now.

Muscari. A river of muscari is not in my future. A tiny trickle is the best I can muster as most of them disappear. I tried all the suggested muscari as well as Bellevalia pycnantha. If you can grow a river, do so and please let me know when they bloom.

Narcissus. All daffodils are Narcissus. However the Narcissus to which we in the south refer are the Tazetta 'paperwhites' often forced for Christmas. My Mama always tucked a bowl of narcissus into the fruit closet to bring out at just the right time for blossoms to open for Christmas or at least in the dreary cold days of January when nothing bloomed outside except January honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima. In warm climates paperwhites are planted outside after forcing. A period of rest and they bloom in late winter outside in later years.

Paperwhites in a container for Christmas, 2009

I'll add a few Paperwhites, Hyacinths and Hippeastrum to my fall order to force. A hyacinth bulb in a coffee mug of stones makes a great little gift that lasts into the worst of winter on a windowsill.

Tulips and Iceland poppies 2007 when I still believed I could grow tulips.

I've about talked myself out of a big order of tulips. Instead I will scatter seeds of Iceland poppies in the fall to bloom at the time tulips would be expected here. Iceland poppies bloom for weeks; deadheaded they continue to rebloom until the weather gets warm. I'm trying not to look at blogs that feature tulips blooming but I can't help myself.

I've listed some of my favorites but not all the spring bulbs commonly planted, like snowdrops and crocus and others frequently seen on blogs. Which are your favorites?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When a Hundred Year Old Tree Falls

We were so fortunate in the recent storms that damage from high winds destroyed only greenhouse panels that were easily replaced and blew down one of the 3 big pecan trees behind the house.

We're finally seeing the end of the pecan tree. Chain-saw woes set us back for a while. Hot weather slows us down. Old people don't spend long periods out in the sun. A little work, a rest and iced tea, a little more work, more tea.

I'm not much help but somebody has to stand by
when an old fellow is using a chain saw.
at the point where you would put your arms around a tree,
this one measured 115 inches around.

The two remaining pecan trees seem to be in fair shape for their age,
kind of like He-Who-Mows and myself.
The green mound at left is the big fig tree.
The green in the distance is corn planted by Farmer Danny.


The center of the main trunk was hollow but the pieces are still very heavy.

I have more videos. How much sawing and hauling did you want to see?
All that remains is the big trunk which has to be sawed in  half before the
tractor can pick it up. Rain ran us in. We had 0.2 inch of most welcome rain.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Every Year is Different

Verbena on a stick in 2008
Not much Verbena bonariensis blooming in this spot this year.
I do see more seedlings emerging. Butterflies will enjoy.

'Yellow' Lantana and a Zebra
Lantana is blooming but there are no Zebras
around. I saw them earlier in the year. Their
host Pawpaw has new growth. Any day now.

'Laura Bush' petunias from another year
These petunias are dependable reseeders.
I'm trying them in new places farther from the
house. When it rains, they smell terrible.
The blooms smell sweet; wet plants are yukky.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Summer Bulbs from A to Z

Spring blooming bulbs have yellowing foliage here, pleasant memories of blue, yellow and white blossoms remain as we wait for hyacinth and narcissus foliage to steal away.

Agapanthus -- blooms Mid-June here. I can hardly wait.

Some of my summer blooming bulbs like Lycoris and Oxblood Lilies also have yellowing foliage. Naked blooms will appear in mid to late summer. Others like Agapanthus and crinums have green foliage with blossoms a month or two away. Not every plant that I call a 'bulb' here is an actual bulb. Some are corms. Some are tubers. Some are rhizomes. All have energy storage capacity for the next season's bloom. I love that bulbs are perennial and most are tough.

Bulbine, shown here the tangerine blooming behind a poppy.

Caladium for color in the shade.

Cannas and Colocasia. A popular bulb vendor has already sold
out of the yellow striped canna. Mine have foliage about 8 inches tall.
Clivia -- easier to grow than an orchid and more unusual than an Christmas cactus, according to the Chicago Botanic Garden. I mean to try this bulb soon.

Crinum -- String Lily, one of a number of Crinums that grow here.
String Lily foliage is appearing from stolons in the birdbath bed.

Crocosmia -- a thug. Butterflies love it. Its grassy foliage is
swallowing other plants and I pull it like grass.

Dahlia -- Sometimes Dahlias bloom in my garden, but they are never really happy, so I stopped terrorizing them by asking them to grow in hot and humid.

Dietes -- African Iris. I noticed new growth today.

Elephant's Ears -- See Colocasia

Eremurus -- another bulb I intend to buy soon.

Freesias -- I've brought these to bloom but they never persist. They like cool but not freezing.

Natal lily -- Gladiolus natali. This is a tough plant. Grows here at an old home site.

Gladioli -- spikes of foliage from previous plantings dot the garden now. I never expect more than first year bloom from new corms. Any subsequent year's blooms are a pleasant surprise. Regular and minature glads and various species glads corms are available.

Hippeastrum -- Amaryllis in my garden are sullen. All refused to bloom, while the forced bulbs that I gave my non-gardening neighbor two and three Christmases ago are happily blooming beside her porch near a water faucet.


Lilium -- asiatic hybrids, oriental hybrids, L. Regale and Longiforum and its hybrids are all beautiful. I can't choose a favorite except to say my favorite is always the one currently blooming. Buds have formed and I hope for early blooms. Some of the older lilies that I planted have disappeared, including the lovely Trumpet, 'African Queen.' Some that dwindled I potted up to try to encourage their return.

The Easter Lilies we see this week are L. Longiflorum, forced for Easter bloom. Planted in the garden, they will bloom in June next year. A better choice for garden use are Longiflorum/Asiatic hybrids, with the best qualities of both parents.

Lycoris radiata -- these give spectacular late summer bloom.
Lycoris squamigera bloom mid-summer and are beautifully pink.

Rhodophiala (Oxblood lily) -- another late summer beauty.

Sternbergia -"In the bulb-beds the bright yellow Sternbergia lutea is in flower. At first sight it looks something like a Crocus of unusually firm and solid substance; but it is an Amaryllis, and its pure and even yellow colouring is quite unlike that of any of the Crocuses. The numerous upright leaves are thick, deep green, and glossy. It flowers rather shyly in our poor soil, even in well-made beds, doing much better in chalky ground. - Gertrude Jekyll
When my Sterbergia from Barbara in Texas failed to bloom after one season in shade, I moved it this spring to a sunny location and gave it a little lime, hopeful of fall bloom this year.

Society Garlic Tulbaghia -- Like the Bulbinellas, these plants with aloe-like foliage do not last through many winters here.

Zantedeschia -- I'm hoping for calla lilies in bloom again very soon. Their foliage is good.
I love the history of Calla lilies, known as pig lilies in their native country. Here they die back in winter and again when the weather is unbearably hot, blooming in cool seasons.

This is not an exhaustive list. I've already thought of four more. How about you?

Bulbs are available in nurseries and from online vendors generally shipping through May.
All pics are my own from previous years' bloom.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

California Poppies Make New Friends

It's California Native Plant Week. My post honors native California Poppy Eschscholzia californica which performs very well here in South Georgia's loamy sand until the summer gets so hot and humid poppies faint. A few young seedlings may survive the summer and live to the next spring. Mostly they reseed where the long narrow pods split and throw seeds everywhere.

These reseeded themselves in the lawn which was overseeded with rye grass for the winter.
Now the ryegrass is heading out. The whole edge will be mowed when the poppies finish,
leaving Purple Heart and Chartreuse alternanthera to define the border.

Poppies and poppies. Despite the different name,
Eschscholzia is a member of the papaver family.
Poppies and Roses

Salvia and poppies.

California poppes blend well with our
native Venus' Looking Glass Triodanis perfoliata.

California boasts at least 20 species and subspecies of Eschscholzia.
Experts recommend not sowing E. californica seed in gardens with naturally occuring Eschscholzia.

I gather seed when the pods begin to look tan. Seeds secured in a large brown paper bag 
explode as they ripen, startling a gardener who is reading a book. 
November is the ideal time to scatter poppy seeds here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pomegranate: Madame Legrelle ornamental

Punica granatum 'Madame Legrelle'
Some years back I dug and divided Madame Legrelle from under a live oak
that came up years after the original flowering pomegranate was planted.

These flowers were illustrated in a drawing
from an 1858 hort journal I saw online at
antiquariaat Jan Meemelink antiquarian
botanical and horticultural books.


Pomegranate bud before bloom. This pomegranate forms no fruits.

Curiously, not all start to flower at the same time. The one on the right has buds
forming but no flowers. The bits at orange beyond it are roses. 

A mediterranean plant requiring no irrigation or fertilizer once established.

These shrubs bloom in the upper garden with orange roses and orange gerberas after the big flush of loropetalum and azaleas are over and overlap late spring shrubs like oakleaf hydrangea and 
spiraea bumalda just coming into bloom.

Monday, April 18, 2011

This for That, or, Peonies Like Chill

Some plants I would really like to grow just will not perform in sandy soil under hot, humid conditions without a certain amount of winter chill.

It is a challenge to replicate an effect using plants that will grow in our southerneastern zone 8b. Here are some of the substitutions I make.

Lilacs: substitute Loropetalums. Crape Myrtle is often suggested, but Crepes bloom mid-summer. Neither of these suggested substitutes have the fragrant effect of lilacs, however.

Delphinium: use annual Larkspur Consolida ajacis.
Tulips: Iceland poppies for early, Hippeastrum for late combos.

Sedum Acre with Laura Bush Petunias

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s mantle) –- For chartreuse color effect use:  Margarita sweet potato vine, Lime mound spirea, Sedum acre, Alternanthera ‘Chartreuse,' Duranta.

Campanula (bellflower): use Ruellia instead

Native Baptista
Lupine:  Baptisia

Peony: Hibiscus -- again we're substituting a summer plant for a late spring Peony. Double Papaver  somniferum might be a better 'Peony.'

Primula: substitute Violas, winter to spring.

Native azalea 'Alabamense' from Neel Garden
Rhododendron: Clerodendrum bungei is a summer substitute. Native azaleas, also in the Rhododendron family are good spring alternatives. Camellias are another substitute if a large shrub is needed.

This for That, from Schoolhouse Rock: