Wednesday, December 31, 2003

2003 Blog Archive

January 12th - Wow, it's been two weeks since my last entry. The only problem with waiting two weeks is trying to remember what has happened. Well, first we have a nice new limestone driveway, finally. We had another light frost but so far we have made it without a single freeze. I am knocking on wood. Most of the work had been in bed structure.


The rose bed is nearly finished with 14 of 16 plants happily in their new home. We added Mr. Lincoln and Our Lady of Guadalupe to the mix. In the two remaining spots will go first the found rose from the cane field dump and probably Iceberg or Belinda's Dream, whichever I find first. I also mulched the driveway arbor rose again and the Monkey Puzzle Tree which I thought was dead. We also transplanted Scarlet Mediland to the center of the Rose Bed where we hope it will become the large shrub as in the picture on the right which I found on the web.

The Monkey really got whipped into a frenzy with Hurricane Lili. The non-stop month of rain afterward didn't help either but it seems to have stabilized. This tree, known to be temperamental, has done well at a few other local sites although one which must have been about 30 years old was lost to the hurricane. I also finally found got that Parkinsonia at the Plaquemine nursery that I have had my eye on for over a year. They were moving a put everything on sale for 30% off. It was planted in the new Pond Bed. We also picked up a Weeping Mulberry which was planted near what will become the guest parking spot. We also got a 2nd Monkey Puzzle Tree fearing the first one was not going to make it along with a nice Camellia, a Kumquat, a Sweet Olive, and a Louisiana Sweet Orange all of which have not been planted. A change in house design meant a major change in one of the bed and four plants that will need transplanting.

The barn bed in moving along. We transplanted 3 Rose of Sharon, 3 Sago Palms, several Peacock Iris divisions from Cel's mother, and a third miniature rose. We have one more miniature rose to plant there and a baby Sago that I have been nursing along for 3 years. I moved 3 Hydrangea to the front of the barn bed and mulched it in with compost. We also picked a new location where we will put the Yellow Lady Banks which prompted several plant moves. The Climbing Jasmine was moved to the temporary power pole and the Yellow Cape Honeysuckle more from the center side was to the corner where the Jamine was formerly located. This leaves the center free for the coming Lady Banks. I also put out a pickup truck load of sand for the seating area under the oak and brought over the old garden tiles which will have Ajuga planted between them.

January 17th - Old man winter finally caught up with us. A light freeze hit last night with lows around 30. My Castor Beans stood their ground while the Papaya fell, but I am afraid tonight with lows expected near 24 will bring them all down. We still have healthy Gingers alive although most had gone dormant but no more after tonight. The Schefflera still stood defiant. In anticipation of their move I have dug and potted all of the Citrus shy of one large Grapefruit. Tonight that Grapefruit and my large Australian Tree Fern are covered with cloth, then plastic with lights underneath. The tree fern stands about 5 ft high with a trunk about 6 to 8 inches and fronds that spread at least 6 feet. I am sure it will sustain frond damage but recover as it did last year. The Phoenix Robellini are also in pots pending their move. Next year I will be back to protection game for them as well. After tonight we have a couple more nights of freeze with Saturday nigh projected to be near 30 and next Tuesday as well projected near 30. Winter here in Gulf South Louisiana is about 60 days from mid December to mid February with occasional exceptions such as the late freeze last year. Those late freezes really mess things up. Our average last freeze date is in the first week of February. Liking to take chances I always plant out on that date. Two of the last three years it has been a good gamble. Last year it did not pay off, but that won't stop me this year. We have just enough winter each year to make one long for spring. I can't wait.

January 18th - For many years I was an avid fisherman. It was during that time that I realized just how inaccurate weather forecasters were with rain and winds. Now that I have traded fishing for gardening I also realize just how inaccurate they can be with temperatures as well. That forecast low of 22, then 23, then 25, then 24 turned out to be more like 29. Might not seem like much but to a zone pusher like myself it is all the difference in the world. At 24 things like Phoenix Robellini palms and Australian Tree Ferns tend to die. At 29 they complain a little but take it in stride. For me it means the difference between spending a hour covering with cloth then plastic and using the envergy ($$) to keep a light bulb burning under all of that covering all night. It also means getting up once or twice during the night to make sure the greenhouse heater is still working. I lost several plants one year when it decided to fail in the middle of the coldest night of the year. Anyway, I guess the weather folks try but man is it frustrating when they miss.

Today was not a busy day, but a few things were accomplished. First I uncovered the plants bright and early so they would not cook under the coverings once the sun came out. Next I dug the hole for the garden pond. It is a 275 gallon rigid plastic model. I did find the hole which I suspected when the water level dropped a bit too suddenly and repaired that. I am thinking of what plants might surround it. It'll come to me. I also finally got around to digging up all of the Asiatic Lilies. Look like about half or more were lost to rot in the extremely wet fall that followed Hurricane Lili but we've still got 20 or more good looking bulbs. I also found a couple of Dahlia tubers and a Gloriosa Tuber. Dug up one of many Passion Vines and potted that. Not being all that good at visualizing I tend to look at lots of books and magazines for inspiration. Tonight while having supper at my mother-in-laws I found a picture that finally got me going on where to plant our Camellias. After all of that rain we have now gone over 2 weeks without a few new plantings are looking a bit dry. Relief might be on the way on Wednesday. At least that is the weatherman's prediction. :-)

January 19th - Another day when I didn't get motivated until after lunch. This afternoon we moved the two Taiwan Flowering Cherry trees which were 6 and 8 feet tall respectively. The one in the front came with an OK root ball and soil was added from the barn with it's horse manure. The rear had a nice root ball and little dirt was added. The small Confererate Rose (8 feet) was transplanted and came up nearly bare root. Some barn soil was added along with lots of compost. I also found the tag for what I have been referring to as Scarlet Mediland which is correctly spelled Scarlet Meidiland. It was produced by Weeks Roses. So back to the garden I unload the half a truck of compost which has been riding around in the back of my truck since last Monday. That is just how unmotivated I have been. To finish the afternoon I moved the Iron Grate Arbor. The Cornelia Rose which was about 8-10 feet tall was transplanted on the side. In spite of 3 nights below freezing that rose was putting out new clusters of blooms. I also turned over half of the soil in my soil prep area with a shovel to full shovel depth and tilled it up. The soil for Cornelia came from there. Tomorrow if I can find them I will add the two Clematis to the arbor along with the red climbing rose with the miniature flowers.

January 20th - It's MLK day and a Monday off. I have a little motivation in the morning for a change, but this afternoon may be a bust. Winds are about 30mph from the south. With our land being mostly open it just zapped the energy right out of you after a couple of hours. I did get the climbing red rose with the miniature flowers on the other side of the arbor from Cornelia. It, like Cornelia was blooming in spite of the cold weather. I also found both Clematis and transplanted them to the inside of that same arbor. Love and Peace was planted as the second to last rose in the Cross Rose Bed. The last will be the found rose from the cane field dump which is currently potted. New Dawn assumed her delegated spot in the driveway arbor roses. Look like there will be a fourth arbor since we bought Madame Alfred Carriere and Climbing Peace on sale at Walmart last week. The last effort of the morning was a Thibodeaux special. The utility company is clearing road side right-of-ways under their utility poles under which are many Eastern Red Cedar seedlings in the 3'-4' range. I rescued one and hope for two more before they are bush hogged to the ground. Now about this afternoon? I think I'll take a nap.

Well, so much for the nap. It was replaced by a quick trip out of town and back. The only thing done in the very evening was to transplant the Yellow Lady Banks rose onto a makeshift arbor. That is all of the roses save for two potted roses (cutting from Aunt Helen's rose and small found rose) and the large found rose that is still in the ground. The large found will be grown as a specimen rose somewhere.

January 24th - The big chill has arrived. Low last night was 23, not the near record breaking 18 that was predicted but devastating enough with an amazing sixteen hours below freezing. As I write this at 9:30PM we have just dropped below freezing again with a project low of 26. Some of the newly transplanted roses are complaining but I suspect will come through just fine and might even appreciate the rest. The only thing accomplished today was a watering a few plants and looking at mushy tropical foliage. Oh well, it will be easier to move them dormant.

January 26th - The cold has passed. I suspect no real damage was done. The Australian Tree Fern lost the tips of most fronds. Most citrus, due to be transplanted anyway were dug and put into pots. Following the cold was rain and other obligations so in spite of a 3 day weekend not much was accomplished in the garden. I did plant the new roses Climbing Peace on the west side of driveway arbor 4 and Madame Alfred Carriere on the east side of same. The fourth and final miniature rose was planted along with the others. More new beds must be designed and built. The number of plants remaining to be moved in daunting.

February 4th - This past weekend saw many move in shade garden. The two large Acanthus, three Ardisia, two Aralia, and large tree fern were all moved to their new home. The last rose in the cross bed, a found rose from the cane field dump, was planted as well. Although we might still get a frost or two and maybe a light freeze, the odds are any seriously cold weather are behind us.

February 8th - Saturday comes this week after several days of light rain and boy did we need it. I had run out of all sources of water on the land. Even though we live on a bayou getting to the water would mean getting though several feet of mud so unless we are in extreme desperation that is not an option. Taking the more conventional route I finally got our water service hooked up. It goes straight from the meter to a water hose mind you but at least its water. Now all I need is 500 more feet of water hos. :-)

OK, so what happened today? I moved the remaining found rose, or roses as I found out. It came up as two roses. I planted them on each side of Aunt Helen's Rose. Aunt Helen's Rose was a cutting I took last year about this time. It has grown well and began flowering about 3 months after rooting and has flowerd continuously ever since. The bed on the left side of the future guest parking is complete. I also dug up the big Yellow Flag Iris from the front of the house and place them on each side of the driveway in the low area. That's is for this Saturday.

February 14th - This 3 day weekend started off with a busy Friday, but with rain predicted tomorrow it needed to. All remaining 7 hardy Hibiscus were moved. Most had good root balls. Unfortunately, my large Confederate Rose twisted and blew out of the truck. When it hit the road much of the root ball disintegrated leaving its survival much less dependable. It was just starting to wake up from dormancy. We'll say a prayer for it. With the exception of some seeds and Asiatic Lilies the bed is finished.

We also bought two new antique climbing roses today for yet another arbor to come. Clothilde Soupert which I have been looking for over a year now and Climbing Iceberg is the 2nd. This is going to get a little hairy in a month getting these structures build as things start to wake up. With a couple of warm weeks now that waking up process has begun. According to averages we have just passed out last frost date so "SPRING IS HERE."

We also moved the Iron Sugar Kettle from its old location in the front to its new home near the large Live Oak where it will anchor the largest and most ambitious bed to date. This bed will be a semi-circle about 60 feet in diameter with the large Live Oak on one end, a Water Oak on the other side, with a Pecan on a rear corner. Camellias, Azaleas, Banana, etc will make up this bed.

February 15th - Rains arrived today as promised and it was a good one I might add. Didn't check the gage yet, but my estimate is a good 2 inches. Cracks were opening in the clay soil so it was needed. I brought the flowering maples to their new home today, but was rained out before they could be planted. We did get the transplant Asiatic Lilies in the ground amongst the Hardy Hibiscus. The area of Hollyhock seedling that I had killed with the compost was reseeded. Also, the Night Blooming Jasmine seeds were planted in the last section to the left on the rear of the barn. The Flowering Cherry transplants are looking great. The Acanthus are struggling to get a hold and will likely loose their large leaves but the new leaves in the center look dark green, strong and healthy so I think the plants will do fine. I also took the last of the oak leaves, about 12 bags scavenged after someone put them to the road, and mulched most of the twin Pine bed with them.

February 16th - I am a good guestimator. The rain gage measured exactly 2 inches. Everything looks better for the rain although some cold came with it which will keep most things dormant for a bit longer. Sunday low was 37 and 35 predicted for Monday night. Cloudy skies kept any frost away on Sunday but Monday will be clear and windless. We just passed our average last frost date, but then again I guess that is why they call it an average. Covers will be placed on sensitive items. I guess the greenhouse heater will run another couple of nights. Not much happened on Sunday except for planting the 3 Flowering Maples. I found some more bags of leaves destined for the trash and finished mulching the Twin Pines Bed. It will be interesting to compare this bed mulched with 4 inches of leaves to the other beds mulched with 4 inches of compost. I will also compost a bed or two with sugar cane bagasse later as well. Many beds, soils, compost etc here are experimental in nature, not only due to my inquisitive nature but also due to necessity and low budget.

February 23rd - Finally, although rough the first garden room (over 1/2 acre) is starting to come together and beginning to look like something. All of the roses, save for Lady Banks, are awakening. With everyone being transplanted this spring this will be a subdued year for blooms, but the early growth looks very healthy and vigorous. Lady Banks was the last transplant and came with a small root ball so her sluggishness was expected. The only rose looking unnealthy is Madame Carrier. We also layed out the Live Oak Circle Bed

Planted - Acidanthera (batch 2 near pond), Gladiolas (other side of Sesbania), Asiatic Lily (Hibiscus Bed), Purple Fountain Grass.

Transplanted - Cypress, Yucca, Weigelia, Mimosa.

With another week of mild weather predicted everything came out of the greenhouse. To my delight it looks that all Hibiscus with one exception survived being dug up from the ground this fall and over-wintered in the greenhouse. This is their last year to endure that. It is permanent pots from here on out. The Morning Glory Tree is blooming away.

March 1 - Day one of vacation today. Sleeping late cost a bit of time but a productive afternoon followed with the planting of 9 trees. A quick run to low Lowes broght home a two Peach Trees, one Nectarine, and one Apple. They were planted to create a new garden room in the front along with a Sweet Kumquat. The Jung's Apple will be planted in the morning to complete the row.

Planted - Ein Sheimer Apple, Diamond Princess Peach, Sugar Princess Peach, ?? Nectarine, Sweet Kumquat

Transplanted - American BeautyBerry, Yellow Budleaia, the Ebay mistery grass, and Dwarf Pomegrante.

March 2 - Temperatures continue to be cool 50 -60's during the days and low 40's at night. The Cypress seedling planted near the bayou last fall is budding out. Things are slowly waking up for the summer although most tropicals and Citrus are still looking dogged. They need the warmth of April to kick in. Today we moved more Asiatic Lilies. Every time I think we have them all a few more pop up. We got 4 of the 8 Citrus plants in the ground. The Tangerine is looking a bit sad and mostly leafless. If it can hang on for another month it might make it. There will be a total of 8 Citrus, maybe 10 in the orchard.

Planted - Ponderosa Lemon, Louisiana Sweet Orange,

Transplanted - Tangerine, ??, Aztec Grass, Asiatic Lilies, Dept of Ag Seedlings (2 Bald Cypress, River Birch, Black Gum, Cherrybark Oak, Chinese Elm)

March 3 & 4 - Well nothing ruins a vacation like 7 straight days of rain and a call from work. Actually it has rained 2 of the first 4 days with 7 in a row predicted to follow. The first can't be helped in good old Louisiana but the second can. Anyway after 4 days I am heading back to work. Anymore vacation like this and I will need a lobotomy. A little was accomplished. The arbor that Hurricane Lili destroyed was resurrected. Just about every other part is new but the round top, the hard part to make, was virtually undamaged so my amateur carpentry skills sufficed. It was installed as the entry from the future guest parking area. Other than that I did a little back breaking work straightening up our new limestone driveway were the dump truck went a little off the path and filling in some already appearing low spots.

Two more Citrus were planted leaving two remaining. We put a little pack of 5 double white Gladiolas around a small piece of granite in the pond bed. Cel and I were counting and the total was 20 trees planted over 4 days along with other miscellaneous stuff like Asiatic Lilies.

March 7,8 & 9 - Rain, rain, rain. We finally got break from weeks of nearly daily rain. The new driveway is in need of repair already. But on the positive side. All citrus are now in the ground. The grapes are planted but will probably be moved slightly. By Sunday we finally had 3 days with only a small shower over one night so we mowed with the exception of the low area which will have to wait. One the planting side we planted the Pothos, the Monstera, and the Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

March 15 - 19th - This the last entry in this format. From here forward will be a weekly summary. It is a constant learning routine, that is how to balance a website that serves both to forward information to the Gulf Coast Gardening public and to serve as a personal log for my records. Anyway, I am trying.

Weekend - Work this weekend sent me to a retreat at Cypress Bend Resort in Many, Louisiana. I don't have enough good things to say about this place and this area. What a relaxing place. In spite of the fact that I was there for work, my cares seem to fade away as I looked over the bluff at Toledo Bend Lake. The Redbuds complimented by several white blooming plants ranging from Pears to Baby's Breath made for some beautiful landscapes. Many plants were still dormant. Of course, on the way was Forest Hill, Louisiana a nursery hotspot. We picked up a Forsythia, Flowering Quince, and a couple of other items. Note these items are rated for Zone 8, not 9. So what!. There are several Flowering Quince in this area that are outstanding each spring. Haven't seen Forsythia.

Yesterday, I picked up two Zebrina Malva and two Artichokes each of with did well hear last year. Today, I found a deal on a Red Japanese Maple, a Blueberry to pollinate my Rabbit Eye blueberries, some Tomato plants, and some mints to eventually become a ground cover in the Hibiscus bed. The Tomatos went in the ground around the tomato cage, the Japanese Maple went into its spot in the Live Oak beds, and the mints went in. The Blueberries will have to wait for tomorrow.

New Links - Before I add recently found links to Gulf Coast gardening I will feature them here for about a month.

http://www.angelfire.com/bc/eucalyptus/treeferns/index.html - This is a great cold hardy tree fern links with a sub-link to a winter protection article. If you cheat like me it's worth a read.

http://www.aces.edu/department/extcomm/publications/anr/anr-1057a/anr-1057a.html - This is a Alabama Co-op Extension service article of freeze protection of fruit crops.

http://msucares.com/newsletters/coast/index.html - Here is a link to the Mississippi University Service Extension Service weekly Gulf Coast Gardening column.

April 2003 (and last week of March) - Here we go in the new format. It should save both of us some of the minutia that I some times write. April has passed, short of a day or so with little rain as is usual. For an area that gets upwards of 50" of rain each year we can go through some spectacular dry periods. April is traditionally dry here. This year with only 1.5" is no exception and it fell all within a day or two. With our silty clay loam this is not an issue for our established plants but New Dawn is mostly new plants some of which have only been in the ground for months, weeks or days. They could use a good rain about now.

A vacation to Gulf Shores Alabama netted a few new plants such as a Corkscrew Willow, Russion Heather, Grancy Grey Beard, a neat Conifer whose name escapes me, and nice variegated Century Plant. With rain predicted last week I fertilized all of the roses and fruit trees. The rain didn't come so I came along with the watering hose. We also repotted up the house plants and the Hibiscus from the greenhouse and a few other goodies like the Carnation of India. We 14 survivors and 3 casualties among the Hibiscus.

May 2003, Week 1 - I tried not writing all that minutia but that is just not going to work. Writing is therapeutic. So here we go again. Another weekend, and Mother's Day is gone, and with it no rain. It has been almost six weeks with no appreciable rain fall. The ground is hard as a brick and cracks as wide as 1' have appeared in some places. I finally saw a description of our local soils on an agriculture extension website. We have silty, clay loam. It is wonderfully fertile stuff with pretty decent drainage for soil with a lot of clay content. Anyway, back to the mini-drought. I finally decided where to plant the new Corkscrew Willow. After watering for 3 hours I was able to hack a whole in the dirt. Actually, the willow told me where it wanted to be planted. :-) Cel always looks at me funny with one of those "are you crazy" looks when I say that. I am definitely not of the type that designs, decides what to buy, and then gets the plants. When I see an interesting plant, I buy it and bring it home. I keep it in the pot until one day I just look at a spot and see the plant there. Then it gets planted. I like to think that the plants tell me when and where they want to be planted.

This afternoon was wonderfully peaceful in the gardens. The eternal wind finally backed off. I hope that means some relief for the midwest as well. Our humidity and rainfall was bee-lining up there to feed those awful thunderstorms and tornados. Back to the peaceful afternoon. We sat under the liveoaks and watched a few birds visit the feeders. Even though well hidden the doves stayed on the powerlines. Only a Cardinal Couple and Blackbird dared to drop by the feeder, but there was a lot of fluttering about and chirping in the trees nearby. A hummingbird came by to work over the Mimosa which is in full bloom. With the dry heat of the last few weeks the narcissus are all but gone. The hardy glads are on their way out for the year while the regular glads are coming into bloom. A solid white patch near the pond is especially magnificent. We have many that have not been planted. We only got the caladiums in last week which is a month late. Some from last year didn't make it due to our tardiness. Shame on us.

Well, we have some rain in the forecast this week. Make a wish for us. In the meantime we will try to get those glads in the ground.

May 2003, Week 2 - Another week has passed with still no rain. I am beginning to see serious issues throughout the garden as my ability to keep things watered is being stressed. And if that wasn't enough something has again eaten the bottom out of my second ripe tomato. I am beginning to wonder when I will get that wonderful taste of the first ripe tomato of the year in my mouth, the mouth that was watering when I saw that bright red tomato down low on the bush. In anticipation I lifted it up only to discover it had met the same fate as the one last week. Dangit, dangit, dangit. Is it a rabbit, what? At least the next few on the bush are higher. I hate to think of picking them early to ripen inside but that would be shame.

May 2003, Week 3 - Another day, another hour or two of watering. It is amazing how these dry periods soak up my time. And did I mention I am sick of watering. Well, we are well into the week with no rain in sight. Anyway, the apples are doing OK, the figs are making a tiny crop, the peaches and nectarines look alright, the citrus look like poop, and two of the four blueberries look even worse. The Rangoon Creeper seems to be getting its grip. The Coral Vines are catching on also. Most of the driveway roses vary from OK to good. What they mostly need are the supports to grow on which I still have not installed. It is on the schedule for the weekend. It is most frustrating to see the vision of these gardens five years down the road, to be imprisoned by the present, and nature seemingly determined to fight me each step of the way. Patience I tell myself. It will happen and in nature's way, I tell myself "just be patient."

Our Vitex is blooming well. It is not the dark blue that I thought I had bought but rather a more full light blue flower. My apple tree actually has a single apple this year. Before you sneer remember this is coastal Louisiana. We don't have Apples or at least not many. Not enough chilling hours for many fruits down here you know. Anyway I have an Apple. St. Joe's tower stands tall tonight. I got tired of waiting for rain and just put the sprinkler out to soften the dirt enough to dig. The actual standing of the tower was hilarious. After breaking the rope trying to reposition it I decided to stand it exactly as it was. Cel was nervous but after some jockeying and handy work, up it went. The I decided to try to reposition it again. It was hardly a tug and crashing down it came. I watched in disbelief out of the back window of the truck. All of that work and worry standing it up, and it was down in a few seconds. Cel didn't talk to me for nearly an hour, she was so mad. It was just a tug, really. It wasn't damaged, just heavy and on the ground again. We went to eat with my in-laws while we each brewed over the situation. After a full stomach and a fresh perspective I again stood up the tower. We each took pictures on it.

I have complained a bit about the lack of rain in recent writing and the relentless watering. As I was driving into work this morning the weatherman confirmed what I already knew. This was far beyond our normal dry spring. In this third week of May we are 9.45” below normal rainfall amounts for this time of year. Cracks in the soil now exceed 1.5 inches in some extreme spots.

On the pleasant side, the Orange Trumpet vine in the front yard has started to flower while the Mimosa is starting to show signs backing off from peak bloom. The smell underneath is wonderful and the tree is beautiful in bloom. How can anyone not like the Mimosa? Some say it is messy, but gardeners nowadays want plants the plants without the work. If you don’t get dirt under your fingernails are you really a gardener? Landscapers do great work, but although I find many of the gardens of today attractive; I also find them quite boring. The cookie cutter approach is quite evident.

May 2003, Week 4 - Another month, the last one of spring, is almost past. Maybe it is global warming but it seems nothing is normal anymore. So far since beginning New Dawn Gardens we have endured a tropical storm with a month of rain followed by Hurricane Lili and another month of rain. Next came a relatively cool spring and a drought. Just a few miles north in New Iberia over an inch of rain fell while we got maybe one 20th of an inch, not even enough to evenly wet the soil. Watering is such a chore just to keep things alive. The most devastating thing of all however was the vicious, incredible, unprovoked, well ok slightly provoked attack of the coco grass, otherwise known as nut sedge. Feared by Louisiana gardeners as far back as in the newly translated 1838 book "New Louisiana Gardener" originally titled in french "Nouveau Jardinier de la Louisiane." In Jaques-Felix Lelievre words "The bitter coco has for long years been the despair of growers in Lower Louisiana; it appears that all methods used up to this day to destroy it have been fruitless." Indeed my entire lawn for the most part is made of coco grass and wild bermuda, the two most fear weeds of South Louisiana gardeners. It may takes years, but in those most famous words "we shall overcome."

Due to the facts mentioned above, not much looks good but there are a few notable exceptions. Some of the hardy Hibiscus are coming into bloom. Disco Bell pink is outstanding opening 5 blooms at a time. The large clump of Zebra Grass also looks fabulous. By the way, it is quite hardy here in Zone 9. Three different species of Passion Flowers are in bloom. We are overrun with mint which will soon take over the world. Thank goodnes it doesn't get as tall as Kudzu. Volunteers in the garden are always neat. We have baby Sesbanias everywhere.

It is nearly the end of May, shy of a day. My neigbor, Mr Picard blessed me with two grape vines today. He originally thought they were Champanelle, but says now they might be Muscadine. He is not sure. Not an issue, either way is good. He also gave me a cutting from his Mulberry Tree. His is around 20 feet tall and has been producing for nearly 6 weeks. I am excited about this having tasted the fruit for the first time today. Looks and tastes much like a Blackberry but without the seeds. We still have had no rain, but the weather forecast next week shows a chance nearly every day of the week. I and the plants desperately need it. Cel says I have been grouchy lately and wishes I would return to normal. I tell her that I need some rain. It is so hard to water, water, water, and only to see not yet established plants that are struggling to survive. Walking across the lawn the grass literally crunches beneath your feet as your walk. And the dust. At least I got the sugar kettle leveled today, and the lawn mower fixed, and the tiller fixed. Well, I guess there is some use to the beautiful but dry days. The Raspberry patch is fading but I still gather two handfuls every other day which makes for a nice afternoon snack.

Some of the gingers are coming back nicely, others are barely doing anything. I have a feeling that with the first good rain things will pop up all over the place but only time will tell.

June 2003, Week 1 - This week comes in as May ended, dry. The weather service says there is hope ahead. Let's pray they are right. We made a short road trip at the beginning of this week. First stop was St. Patrick's Graveyard in Patoutville, La. The graves here go back to the late 1800s. It was an interesting site. No heirloom plants to be found here, however on the way back we did stop by Backyard Plants and Things in Patoutville. This is one of my favorite plants nurseries. Always deals to be found here along with some propagated material, some heirloom, some not. I never leave here empty handed. Today we got handed 3 Jackmanii and 3 General Sikorski Clematis complements of the house. To add to that we bought a Cotoneaster and a ?. What can I say about the ?. I liked it. What does it matter what it is. I marked out several new beds with landscaping paint and sprayed herbicide to sanitize them. Sorry, organic purist. I tried it that way last fall and spring. Coco grass simply cannot be stopped without chemicals. Of that I am totally convinced. Many of the beds from last year will have to be rebuilt in the fall. My vegetables, those foods I eat are still grown organically though. To finish off the weekend I planted a bed back at the old house. A real hodgepodge. A purple Angel's Trumpet in the center. A Tibochinia on one edge. Other small thinks such as a Turk's Cap on another edge. By the way, the one I had lost in a jungle of Castor Bean and Papaya last year has come back fine now that those plants are gone. Back to the bed, there are many seeds throughout the bed. Some Cosmos, Purple Cone Flower, 4 O'clocks along the back and some Sunflower in another back corner. As I said, a real hodgepodge. Those are the most fun anyway.

Rain, sweet rain. I could smell it before it arrived. Then I heard thunder, and then it came, and came, and came some more. Not a heavy rain, only about an inch over the last 6 hours. A perfect garden rain, slow enough to soak in and not run off. While others in the office saw raindrops, I saw freedom. No watering for a few days, what a joy. A little after midnight and lightening still flashes in the distance. From the radar pictures at weather.com it appears that the rain is done for the night, but more is forecast for tomorrow and later in the week as well. We need it all. I will greatly appreciate the break from watering.

You know when it's dry in Louisiana, its dry, and when it's wet, it's wet. Over the last 4 days we have had the lightest of the area with 1.5", 0", .7", 1.2, and 1" on the gage this week. I empty the gage each morning, so my day rainfall calculation starts at 7:00AM. Some areas just north of us got 6" on the 1st 2 days alone.

So that was between 4" and 5" last this week. Not quite enough to close all of the cracks in the soil, but many plants are responding in a very positive way. Figs, Junebugs, plantings Plum Bugloss, Alabama Plant, pond plant, Grancy Greybeard, Oakleaf Hydrangea, bed markings,

June 2003, Week 2 - A great Father's Day Weekend has passed. My father, Cel's father, and other fathers (brother-in-laws) came to the gardens for a wonderful morning and afternoon. Nature accommodated perfectly with with partly cloudy skies and a cool breeze. Fittingly thunderstorms rolled in and the first drops of rain began to fall as the last car pulled away. All together this week another 3" of rain fell. Although I we still have not made up for the 3 month drought, things are a lot more comfortable now.

June 2003, Week 3 - Another 1-1/4" of rain so far this week with a possibility for more every day for the rest. We have gone straight from drought to monsoon season. I guess that should make the tropical plants right at home. The plants that I got a couple of weeks ago at Backyard Plants and Things have finally been identified as a Cotoneaster, a Pink Glossy Abelia, and a Blue Butterfly Bush. Note this last plant is not a Buddleia. The flower is in two shades of light and medium blue and shaped like a butterfly. It was stated to be a hardy periennial. We'll see.

June 2003, Week 4 - Mostly just rain. Tropical Storm Bill had a dead zero aim for us until it hit the coast when it just spun right off to the east and headed to New Orleans. Talk about much ado about nothing. I was out grilling burgers in the middle of it. Still in all, that is two Tropical Storms and one Hurricane in less than 10 month. Jeez. What gardening god did I offend?

I did get some planting done. The Cottoneaster, Abelia, a conifer that sounds like Kryptonite :-), white orchid tree, variegated Tapioca, Variegate Siberian Bugloss, Chinese Pagoda, some found Crinums, Variegate Century Plant, and Burgundy Plum. All plants but two came from the local backyard nursery. Exceptions were the Burgundy Plum which made its way from a nursery in New Orleans and the Variegate Siberian Bugloss. I saw it sitting at the nursery around the corner from work looking really bad. I though to myself, let me by it before they kill the thing. Well I finished the job. Shortly after planting, like a week after, it is a goner. Not sure if it was the relentless daily rain and sweltering heat, or just heat. I guess the word Siberian in the name should have clued me off. They don't call our climate "humid, sub-tropical" for nothing you know. Oh well live and don't learn. I will always be a sucker for a plant I think I can recouperate. My new homemade compost tea brewer is working great and the plants are attesting to that fact.

I finally have some pictures which I will start putting online in the next week or two. I think I will just filter over time in the logs. Should be fun. Here is a sneak preview.

Check out our Mimosa in full bloom, and the smell. Well I can't upload that, but it is awesome. Who cares if it is messy. Good oriental look, filtered shade, great scent, easy to propagate. A classic of the south. I played in a pair of these in my grandmother's yard as a child. Yes, there will always be a Mimosa in my yard. Actually, there will always be several. To the right is the tree that went down early this spring.

July 2003, Week 1 - All of a sudden I just noticed how everyone's tropical plants are looking so great. The pictures below are some Ginger my neighbor gave me. On the left is early May as they are breaking ground. To the right is a couple of weeks later. Today they are 6 feet tall. Don't you just love nature.

By the way, a new column has been added to the right called Bicycles with content coming soon. A good friend, only a few years older than me, just had a heart attack and two new splint added to his resume. It was a wake up call for me and reminder that gardening is not exactly an aerobic sport so I dusted off the bicycles. Cel and I rode 2 miles the first ride, 4 miles on the second and six on the third ride. Round trip from Thibodeaux Gardens to New Dawn Gardens is 8 miles so that is next. Maybe we will try that this Saturday. I just hope I didn't start too late. I'd like to reserve my first stint for my late 60s or early 70s.

Here are a few more pics. Check out the last of the Asiatic Lilies and one really late, but quite pretty Amaryllis. These pictures were from early June. I have to get that Digital Camera to get the pictures synced up with the log. Right now I have to shoot them with the 35mm, get them developed and then scan. What a pain, although it makes for a pretty photo album at home.

Oh yea, one last thing. I think we finally can call the drought over, haha.

Book Review – Southern Gardens, Southern Gardening by William Lanier Hunt. I have read nearly 100 garden books. Most are like those commercial landscapes, same old same old. Not only is this book different, it has had a profound impact on me and my garden. I have always paid little attention to native plants having an attitude of why bother to plant what Mother Nature would do for free if we just left things alone. Sometimes I noticed native plants when they were in bloom, but rarely paid attention other than a casual glance. I wanted things that were different. The more different the better, even different than the other different plants that I saw in other yards. I wanted things nobody had. Well, after reading Hunt’s book I still want that, but I also have a completely different appreciation for native plants and more natural arboretum type settings. Month by month Hunt takes you though a year of gardening with a lifetime of experience and knowledge tossed in for free. Add some side trips as well and you end up with a most well rounded journal which draws little distinction between native and non-native plants. For Mr. Hunt it does not seem to matter whether a plant is native or not, only that it is fascinating, and he seems to find fascination in just about every plant with an enthusiasm that is contagious.

Some new plants made it home today. A Burgundy Plum, Climbing White Dawn rose, and other small misc items. This week I fertilized the Hibiscus. Oh yeah, the wind finally died so I could spray the beds for weeds.

December 2003, Last Day - First, Happy New Years to everyone. After a long absence, I am back. Updates to the site will follow in the coming days. By the way, the first of the Paperwhites have begun to bloom in the last week. So far this winter we have had an abnormally high number of light frost, but no freezes. Keeping my fingers crossed for a mild winter. Cel and I have dinner and a New Years Eve party to attend so it is bye for now. See you next year :-).