i’ve been a bad garden blogger

if it weren’t for my insistent friend ms. slotharium, i’d probably never get this post up. i know, i’ve been a really bad garden blogger lately, but i just haven’t been able to spend  (i.e. distract myself) for a minute longer at the computer as this is the time of year to be outside in texas! surely you understand, so i won’t waste anymore time giving excuses. besides, it’s the bloom day before the garden bloggers meetup in asheville, so i really need to post something or else the powers that be might not let me participate.

here’s the prettiest blooming thing in the garden, bespeckled with the day’s constant drizzle. it sure makes me smile.

Hemerocallis ‘Big Smile’ (daylily)

no time to post photos of each individual blooming plant right now, so here’s the larger view what the front yarden is looking like. a little wild, yes, but over the past couple of months it’s been host to dozens of metamorphosing butterflies, color shifting anoles and even a few molting snakes seeking refuge.

driveway garden view
garden view to left of driveway
right side garden view
view from the top of the driveway

moving along towards the back yarden, here’s a little project mr. grwhryrpltd put together to support our enthusiastic grapevine.

new grape trellis over the garden gate. concrete footers and enlarging the gravel threshold are all that’s left to do (until i overhaul the gate itself ).
one bountiful cluster of Vitis labrusca ‘Black Spanish’ (grape). this is its first year of fruit production.

speaking of bounty, we’ve been harvesting plums the past few mornings from the front garden. they’re so tasty. i’m going to attempt to make plum jam this evening.

Prunus ‘Methley’ (plum)
beautiful and delicious!

oh right… we were heading to the back garden. here’s what it looks like with somewhat frequent rains (every 10 days or so).

a chair full of drying coriander, now probably lost to the rains it just sat through. oh well, i bet cilantro will be growing here come fall.
a nice place to sit with a glass of wine in the evening, particularly when the cushions are dry
while the vegetables haven’t been too productive this spring, the “native” sunflowers sure have shot up like a rocket. they’re everywhere, but i don’t mind too much. it gives the neighbors something to look at over the garden fence.

i’ve limbed up the sunflower’s leaves as they grow to support the tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers growing underneath them. the upper leaves should provide a bit of shade to get the veg through the heat of the day as well. the patch of sunflowers in front of the raised bed was a little experiment to see how big they’d get under competition from bermuda and st. augustine grass. they doubled in height after the last rain.

did i mention we’ve been visited by critters lately? here’s a few of the highlights.

a handsome anole on Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ and Fig
a non-venomous yellow bellied racer or yellow bellied water snake (i think? snake id is not my forte), unfortunately found dead in the garden. i buried him/her and s/he’s now growing a hearty patch of zinnias.

scare ya? ha! only a gardener would pull a (confirmed dead) snake out of sedges to see just how long it was – 10 wine bottle width’s worth. i wonder how many more might be sneaking around.

now, onto the critters for more gentle souls…

Danaus plexippus (monarch) caterpillars denuded this Asclepias (butterfly weed). it’s since recovered and ready for the next batch of larvae.
a freshly spun monarch chrysalis. you can still distinguish the caterpillar stripes on it.
another monarch chrysalis. safely located under the fence stringer for protection from weather, with lots of room for wing development available underneath.
a monarch chrysalis ready to break open…
she’s free!
even the kitties got to see the butterflies hatching. creaker johnny max (our +1 kitty) didn’t even bat a paw.
first year we’ve had Polygonia interrogationis (Question Mark) butterflies. guess it takes having a few Buddleia (butterfly bush) on hand, but somehow i don’t think these shrubs will survive the texas summer heat.
the Buddleia also attracted these Junonia coepia (common buckeye) butterflies. they may be “common,” but i find them stunning.

on the domestic critter front, the kitties have been, well, kitties. i’ve been playing nurse to puma for the past several weeks as she got into an altercation requiring surgery. while healing from that (with plastic cone collar on, of course) she went downhill fast due to another mysterious reason (stroke? aneurysm? tumor?), to the point we thought we were going to lose her. it’s a looong story, but she’s doing fine now and we’re so glad she’s still with us! dude and max did their best to avoid her, lest they catch what she had.

ms. pretty paws (puma) and mr. fence jumper (dude)

how’s that for an update? i could go on, but i’ve got some things to tend to before taking off for asheville. looking forward to catching up with the garden blogging community while there; and for those of you not going, oh how i wish you were! i probably won’t blog from there, but check out my twitter/instagram feed for pictorial updates enroute.



who needs to buy flowers…

when you can grow your own?

Rosa 'Spice' and 'Belinda's Dream'

while i did support the floral industry for yesterday’s big event, i had to supplement the arrangement that arrived on our doorstep with a few of these fresh beauties from the garden. there… that’s better.

alstros, roses & panicum arrangement, finished sweater & cheddar beer mustard bread.

my sweetie was particularly lucky. not only did i make him cheddar-beer-mustard pull apart bread (which was good even for someone who can’t stand mustard…), but the sweater i’ve been knitting him on/off for the past three years is finally DONE!

i hope cupid was good to you. happy belated valentine’s day everyone, and happy bloom day.

holiday greens on bloom day

i’ve missed the last few bloom days… but i’m not going to miss this one, even if most of what’s growing on in the garden is greenery right now. speaking of greenery, i haven’t updated you on the holiday greens lately. here’s how the harvest wreath has changed into a holiday wreath, minus the holly that is:

october's wreath - oh yea, this was the one i gave to the sorghum breeder, a bit different from the one shown at our front door, below
late november's wreath with grasses, vines and burrs
december's wreath with fir boughs added
and then pomegranates and ball moss were added
and then pine cones and a ribbon were added
see why i picked a blue-green ribbon? because the kitties like it!
and just today i added purple beauty berries

see what fun you can have with bits and pieces of garden gatherings? i’ll probably keep adding to the wreath, as i’ve seen a couple of birds and anoles taking bits and pieces of it away… and that must explain why the kitties are being so good, staying on the porch…

happy bloom day everyone.

september bloom day

here’s a quick pictorial view of what’s blooming in the gardens at grwhrypltd. at first glance you wouldn’t think we’ve been in the midst of an historic drought with wildfires raging all around us, but believe me, we have. and before you think we’re some of “those people” that water all the time, please think again. we’ve subscribed to the “voluntary” landscape water restrictions of twice weekly since we first found out about them, over two years ago. i’m amazed they haven’t been made mandatory for our fair city yet. so see, some things can survive such extreme conditions. afternoon shade definitely helps.

sunrise view of the back garden, looking southeast
view looking northwest. new canvas & burlap chair covering by the sewing department of transplant studio (yours truly).
closer view of Cassia alata (candlestick plant), finally in bloom.
detail of Cassia's flower and leaf structure, newly unfurling from evening's prayer position.
a safely nested green spider amongst the white Zinnia 'Polar Bear' petals.
Hemaris thysbe (clearwing hummingbird moth) feasting on Clerodendron ugandense (butterfly bush).
the front garden's not so robust but adequate plant display. we're looking forward to renovating this planting this fall. maybe it will rain by then. doesn't sound likely.
a rogue Sorghum survived a front corner planting where Zea mays (corn) wilted from the reflected light and heat from the street.
a nice textural composition when looked at closely. Panicum virgatum (switchgrass), Rosa 'Spice', Quercus virginiana, Rosa 'Knock Out'.
another nice composition at sunset. Muhlenbergia capillaris, Eupatorium havanense, Rosa 'Knock Out', an abundant Pomegranate 'Red Silk', and Quercus virginiana.

happy bloom day everyone. head over to may dreams gardens to see what else has survived this summer’s weather conundrums.

august gbbd: unplug

it’s august 15th, and bloom day is almost done and over. kind of like most of the perennials in my garden right now due to the heat that we’re all tired of talking and reading about. i’d tend to them, but i’ve been at the computer waaaaay too much lately, working on yet another volunteer project that wouldn’t pass my perfectionist tendencies with any mercy other than my time. so in light of that, i’ll post a few brief images from my garden, so as to not appear that i’ve forgotten about my garden blogger friends. i’ll really miss seeing you all at the garden writer’s association annual symposium in indy next week, as i seriously contemplated attending it after our trip to seattle. instead, i’m heading to the mountains with my honey for a while, where the only thing i’ll plug in is my camera’s battery charger to a hand-hewn log wall. i hear the views are breath-taking up there. i hope to share them with you when i return.

the raised beds of summer lie in wait for fall planting
Tithonia (mexican sunflower) crisps in situ
maybe it's not so bad after all. this heat-loving corner is thriving, on limited water too.
treasures amongst us. boutineers i made for a sweet friend's baby shower, using items from the garden. citrus leaves, mexican beauty berries and zinnias. one for her, one for her hubby. yes, husbands were invited, and seemed more interested in the baby items than the ladies were at times.
speaking of hubbies, mr. grwhryrpltd gets his daily dose of heat and sunshine, taking me along with him to gather a diverse array of corn and sorghum.

happy bloom day. go unplug yourself and enjoy life outdoors for a while. there’s good stuff out there.


garden view: july

so as not to give the impression that nothing is blooming in our garden right now, here’s the view from our back porch. consider this a subsequent garden blogger’s bloom day post. in spite of the drought, life surrounds us and we are glad.

grow where you're planted

p.s. we received a whopping one-tenth an inch of rain yesterday evening. the blue buckets in the left of the image above have about two inches of yellow-green rainwater in them, as the rain conveyed the roof’s accumulation of dust and pollen along with it. guess we’ll consider that solution a fertilizer treatment for the non-edible container plants.

july gbbd: dormant and dying

an easterly thunderhead

this is as close as we’ve gotten to rain lately, but not a drop has fallen from the sky. for several weeks, temps have been in the high 90’s to low 100’s, with heat indices well over 100. plants in the yard & garden are starting to show the effect of a slow-bake oven.

Tagetes lemonii (copper canyon daisy) L: somewhat shaded location, R: full sun location
Cynara cardunculus ‘Green Globe’ (giant artichoke) L: january, R: july
Eupatorium fistulosum (joe pye weed) L: june in back garden, R: july in front garden
Mahonia 'Soft Caress' (grape holly) L: newly planted in may, R: in havoc of july
Cucumis melo 'Charentais' (melon) L: pre-rodent & critter harvest, R: cripsy remains
L: Salvia x fruiticosa ‘Newe Ya’ar’ (silver leaf sage) in march, R: Salvia x fruticosa 'Nazareth' in july
Sophora secundiflora (texas mountain laurel) L: full tree shot, R: detail of webworm damage. this plant is toxic if ingested. these critters must be pretty desperate. i wonder what they'll turn into...?

now, i realize plants deal with stress in their own special way. many of these plants are just going into a summer dormancy period, sending whatever water and nutrients they receive to their roots and other storage structures. i expect many of them (well, some of them anyway) to come back whenever the temps decline and it rains again. i’ll patiently wait with my umbrella turned upside down. as for the critters, if they want to belly up to our botanical bar, so be it. i won’t be applying chemicals to prevent them from the feast.

speaking of chemicals, that brings me to a touchy subject that recently came to my attention: Imprelis, a pre-emergent herbicide used to treat broadleaf turf grass weeds (dandelion, plantain, clover, ground ivy & wood violet) is now showing injury & damage to the root systems of trees and shrubs (mostly conifers) across the midwest. since it’s a pre-emergent herbicide, the chemical remains persistent in the soil profile for a longer period of time. since it’s a systemic herbicide, the chemical translocates to stems and needle tissues causing browning, twisted growth and needle drop. mind you, these symptoms were NOT the intended effect nor the intended target. a statement from DuPont to its customers was distributed here, along with a guide for how to managed stressed trees here. stressed trees, huh? obviously, this product was not tested to the fullest extent prior to release for the commercial trade, and that’s a damned, irresponsible shame. in this day and age? really?? really!!!

allow me to take you to my parent’s garden in southeast michigan for some personal proof. my mom’s just sent the one picture on the right so far, but yes, there’s more.

Pseudotsuga menziesii (douglas fir) L: august 2009, R: detail of needle browning in july, 2011

a recent new york times article was published about this debacle. one of the landscape service companies mentioned is the very one my parents use (Underwood’s), and they’ve since been out to the farm to “document” the damage. the disappointing thing (among many issues surrounding this unfortunate event) is that my mom found out about it by just happening to mention the browning of her trees while at another retail nursery earlier this summer. the landscape service company didn’t contact her about it – she called them. only to find out that they knew about it, and had been applying a “neutralizing” chemical to try to lessen the potency of the chemical on the trees’ roots. for full disclosure, i’m a former member of the michigan nursery and landscape association, and don’t really hold anything against the landscape company itself, as i’m sure they were applying the herbicide as instructed on the label, but come on people – open & transparent communication is essential for sensitive issues like this! not only between the chemical manufacturers and the landscape trade, but between the landscape service companies and their customers. good thing my mom was home when they came to survey her property last week, as she was able to point out more *potentially* damaged specimens they might’ve overlooked. Pseudotsuga menziesii (douglas fir), Picea glauca var. densata (black hills spruce), Picea sylvestris (scotch pine), Chamaecyparis obtusa nana (dwarf hinoki cypress), Cercidiphyllum japonicum (katsura), Syringa sp. (lilac shrubs)… i’m pensively waiting along with my parents to see what else Imprelis affects – hopefully nothing else, but it doesn’t sound promising. even if the landscape company is able to replace the trees, as mentioned in the article, they won’t be able to replace the same size & stature of tree (or shrub), nor the personal attachments we have to those particular specimens. family and friends gifted and helped plant many of those trees, some of which are all we have left to remember them by. we even buried cherished members of our pet family under their branches. pardon me for the idiom, but that’s obviously adding insult to injury. and i haven’t even told you about all the Fraxinus (ash) trees they’ve lost to the emerald ash borer, EAB. guess i’ll save that for another post.

my alma mater, michigan state university, has published a fact sheet on Imprelis herbicide injury here, and articles on the issue here, here, here and here. i’ll continue to follow this issue, and will keep you posted as i learn more.

happy bloom day everyone! sorry for the bummer of a post, but i’m really looking forward to some fun & inspiration in seattle during the garden blogger’s fling next week. i’ll happily bring an umbrella.