Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 Blog Archive

2004 Blog

February 1st, 2004 - Well, I guess I'll just ease back into gardening and the website here. Last year, as the heat of summer rolled in, the heat of work rolled in harder. Six months later, here I am determined with my New Years Resolution to get some balance back into my life. It is going to be tough because work is red hot, but so is the stress. I need to garden to keep my sanity and health. This is my journal, so here we go again.

Today, I turned over the soil in the old vegetable garden bed in preparation of reshaping in the bed. At one end I made a permanent planting of a Japanese Thread Leaf Maple which my stepmother gave us for Christmas. I prepared the bed by double digging the whole area and working in some Osmocote pellets. I also spread some Osmocote pellets around some of the plantings including the Grapefruit, the Satsuma, Bottlebrush, Bridal Wreath, Loquats, etc.

Over at New Dawn I fertilized all plants in the front of the property with Osmocote and with Epsom Salts. Some of the roses never went dormant and put out a winter bloom. The most outstanding rose all year was Our Lady of Guadalupe which dark green and starting to bloom. All of the roses look great with the notable exception of Seven Sisters which just doesn't seem to want to get a foothold. Most other are fair to outstanding. Non-performers in the rose bed will be replaced with more Our Lady of Guadalupe this year.

February 2nd, 2004 - Quick update, finally after all of this time I have ordered a digital camera. This should make for a much more personal and up-to-date website. I moved the candy lilies from the old pond bed and mowed down the Sesbania seedlings. The Candy Lilies, seen here don't look like much but it is a really nice clump considering it started with one tiny 4" plant from a nursery less than 2 years ago.

Today is the first frost free date here. You know the one for gamblers. One of every 10 years here we will get no more frosts. Actually, it is more like 4 of every 10 years for the last decade. Anyway, I might risk it with some early tomato plants this year. Not this weekend but next they will go in the ground.

A few days ago, when I pulled my little Mantis tiller out for the upcoming planting season it did not rise to the challenge. Don't get me wrong it is a great tiller. I have never regretted my decision to purchase it, but this year the carburetor needed a little help. Not bad after 4 years and too little maintenance I suppose. Anyway, it is back in business.

February 7th, 2004 - Since the projected low tonight is 30, it is a good thing I didn't gamble on that early planting. I have a feeling it won't get that low. Hey, the digital camera came in. Finally after all of these years I can keep a very current site. It is a modest one but it should do. It is so much easier to add pictures. Here are the first.

I fixed the broken links in the Photo Gallery and Journal Sections. There is still a lot of work to do updating and correcting the site.

One of the fun things in the garden is seeing what will come up in the bone pile, which is the area where I dispose of old plants and debris to let it compost down. Usually we have to wait for spring for surprises but this year we already have a Hollyhock and what looks like some kind of ornamental cabbage.

In the plan for this spring is a complete redo of the fountain. I took this shot just so I could do a before and after. It is doesn't look too bad here, but the liner leaks, isn't deep enough to support Koi in a healthy manner, and it isn't large enough which causes excess water loss from splashing. That is enough reason for a re-do, right. Beside I really miss the sound of the fountain in the spring and summer. In addition to soothing humans, the birds and bees love it. We lost the Koi due to the liner leak so I can't wait to replace them as well.

How about a shot of some early blooming narcissus. This is just one more example of many rescues we have made before new construction took its toll. I know a place in Baton Rouge slated for construction where literally thousands of these bulbs and an equal number of hardy Gladiolus Byzantinus could be lost next year. I will inquire on permission to save some or all.

I am planning the veggie beds. This year I again promise myself not to plant more than I can keep up, ha ha. We'll see. I have a friend who cleans out the old seeds from the stores to put in the new seed lot each year. Result, I have enough seeds to start a commercial nursery and two or three vegetable truck farms. They germinate very well also.

February 9th, 2004 - Well, isn't this fun. The Photo Gallery is corrected, now the counter is broken. Arghhhhh!

I am attempting to correct errors on the site, but might be breaking more than I am fixing. The Guest Book is not working, nor are many of the sections of the Photo Gallery. I have added a few new links and corrected a the log sections.

Today, I added Hydrated Lime, Ironite, Ammonium Nitrate, and Peat Moss to the veggie beds. Heavy rainfalls here leave our soils in a constant state of low nitrogen. If it will just stay dry for another day or so I can till it in.

Back at New Dawn, I pruned all of the Hybrid and Grandiflora roses. I also pruned the roses on the arbor near the barn. The front roses still need support and the roses on the iron grate arbor still need a touch up. I harvested a Pak Choi that had self seeded from last years vegetable garden which was already going to flower. I dismantled those beds and there is lawn there now, but the Pak Choi didn't seem to mind. I have several more to harvest in the next month. Next year I need to remember to plant those in October. Some Poppy also self seeded. I just love stuff like that.

February 11th, 2004 - Flash flood warning tonight and rain predicted for 6 of the next 7 days. Won't be much gardening going on around here folks. Guess I'll just look at all of those seed and plant catalogs arriving in the mail daily to do a little dreaming and drooling. Ever wonder how they get a plant to look and bloom so perfectly? When you find out let me know. Till next journal entry.

Febrary 15, 2004 - Sunshine finally. Today is the first day in the last 5 days in which I have seen sunshine and boy was it sweet. I made it out to New Dawn today. I fertilized all the rest of the plants on the back of the property. The roses all have new growth everywhere and look like they want to explode. We still have about 4 weeks before we are in the clear.

Back at Thibodeaux Gardens, the Bridal Wreaths have awakened. Little green leaves and flower buds everywhere. Not much else happening, but we are just two or three weeks away from everything bursting into life. It is my favorite time of year. Every morning as I walk the garden before going to work, something new provides the feast for my eyes.

February 18th - Sun is still shining, but we are a long way from drying out and preparing garden soil. Maybe this weekend if all stays dry.

February 21st - We missed the rain on Friday so finally the ground is dry enough to till, barely. The rest of the veggie area was tilled, although it won't be for veggies. Last year I had lined the rose beds over at New Dawn with daylilies. Big mistake. The bed were invaded by Bermuda grass and Coco grass. I was not able to spray for control. Today I dug all of the daylilies to bring them back to Thibodeaux Gardens. The veggie bed area will have to do as no other area is ready to receive them. I will still be able to plant 4 tomato plants and a couple rows of veggie.

I finally got the Apple Tree at New Dawn straightened and staked. Buds are swelling on all of the fruit and other trees. The Mulberry cutting my neighbor gave me made the winter in the ground. The buds have actually broken on it with green showing. Although only a foot tall right now I hear they are fast growing. Can't wait to see what it will look like by year end. My Ponderosa Lemon did not make the winter nor did my Cumquat. They were both weak and diseased by end of summer. Even with this mild winter it is no surprise that they did not make it. I will replace each with hardier Satsuma this year.

Other good news is that it appears all of my grapes made it through the winter including those in the pots my neighbor gave me. I believe those are Champanelle. The other 4 are Flame. The Flames didn't do much at all last year, but that could be due to the fact that I don't have a clue as to what I am doing. This springs I will try to prune them correctly, at least. It is very hard to find information on this Champanelle grape. This listing below is one of the few references that can be found. At least I now know the family and have some supporting info that it will grow in zone 9. Other than Muscadines, there are not many grapes that can make it in our wet, humid climate.

American & American hybrids (Unless otherwise noted, all can be grown in zones 5-8 and are cane pruned.): Alden; Beta; Blue Lake; Buffalo; Campell Early (Island Bell); Canadice (zone 5-7); Captivator; Catawba (z. 5-7); Champanelle (z. 5-9); Concord (hardy in z. 4); Delaware; Diamond (White diamond); Edelweiss; Fredonia (Early Concord; z. 4-9); Glenora; Golden Muscat; Himrod; Interlaken Seedless; Ives; Kay Gray; King of the North; Lake Emerald (z. 7-9); Mars (Mars Seedless); Moore Early (hardy in z. 4); Moored; Niabell (z. 5-9); Niagara (White Concord; z. 5-7); Ontario (z. 6-8); Portland; Price; Reliance; Schuyler (z. 7-9); Seneca; St. Croix; Steuben; Stover (hardy only to z. 7); Suffolk Red; Van Buren; Worden.

February 27th - Another 4 inches of rain. Too much rain. I planted a few more daylilies today. There is just no end to these things. I have transplanted around 100 so far. There is room for 18 more in the bed, but I have more than twice that many still to transplant. So much for the veggies. Guess I'll have to plant some things over at New Dawn. I also planted our new rose, Our Lady of Guadalupe. The one at New Dawn bloomed last year to the point that it was hard to see green on the bush and it did that all spring, summer, fall, and most of winter so we got another for Thibodeaux Gardens this year. I hardily recommend it as a rose for the Gulf Coast. I bought 3 bags of Professional Rose Soil at Lowes and dug it in for the planting area.

February 29th - Well, the Daylily Bed is finished with a count of 111 daylilies. I also grabbed around 20 Asiatic or Oriental Lilies from the land and the old mound bed and placed them in the daylily bed. As well, I found 4 St. Joseph's Lilies and 4 Amaryllis around in the bed and moved them to an area in the Daylily Bed.

Over at Lowes, while buying the rest of the Pine Bark Mulch for the Daylily Bed I could not help but to pick up a Forsythia and a Thompson Seedless Grape. Now, if I can just get the grape trellis' up. We have four Flame Grapes, two Champanelle, and one Thompson. I guess I need one more to get them even. Maybe a Concord when I find one.

March 6th - Spring has arrived in full force here on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. Just about every plant is either flowering, braking buds, making leaves, or all three. Noted in bloom are Carolina Jessamine starting to flower, Lady Banks starting to flower, Flame Grape buds breaking, peach tree flowering, citrus leafing and flowering, blueberry leafing plum buds breaking, Variegated Japanese Maple buds breaking, Japanes Magnolia full bloom, Weigelia breaking buds, Live Oaks dropping and replacing leave, Confederate Roses leafing out, Plum breaking buds and others. I'll try to add more in a few days. Oh yea, the buds broke one the Fig Trees and the Fire Ants are releasing queens from the mounds, yuck.

I got the grapes pruned and planted today. There are two rows with row on the inside of the property being Flame, Flame, and Thompson. Row 2 on the outside is Flame, Flame, Champanelle, Champanelle. Three Flames were in the ground last year. All others were in pots and planted today. The Flames performed horribly last year, but that was all my fault. I stuck them in the ground, gave them no care or fertilizer, let them become infested with weeds, and did not prune them. And I call myself a gardener. This year I am making up for old sins. All have been pruned, stakes and fertilized. I will remove the weeds, give them proper support, keep them pruned, and mulch the rows. That is my promise to myself and the grapes.

Back at Thibodeaux, I found 3 more Amaryllis and moved them to the new Daylily Bed. The Daylilies are doing marvelous. The growth in a week or two is truly amazing.

April 4th - First, my apologies for the lack of pictures. My brand new digital camera is broken. If you are in the market for a digital camera, do not buy a Minolta G400. After having my problem, I checked the web only to find out I am the member of a growing club of G400 owners to have this problem. Poop.

Compared to the last 3 years this is an uneventful spring. No hurricane last fall, mild winter, no late freezes, and regular rain. We are a tad on the dry side, but that is the norm for April in South Louisiana. The Pecan trees began to leaf out this week. They are usually the last to break out each spring here. My spring vacation started on Saturday (it is Sunday night as I type). It took my wife and I all day Saturday and Sunday or last week and all of yesterday and some of today to whip New Dawn into shape. It had been totally neglected since May of last year. Life had simply become too busy with work and other things to pay attention to it. I am happy to say, that the bones of the garden at New Dawn still look great. Everything is established and doing well. I was able last month to fertilize and prune on time so all of the plants are showing pretty for the spring. This is going to be a big journal entry so get a cup of coffee if you actually read all of my rambling. I'll start at the front and do section by section.

Front and driveway. The first four, Old Blush, Climbing Cecile Bruner, Tausendschon, New Dawn, and Souv. de la Malmaison are awesome. In spite of the fact that I have never erected their climbing supports they are large shrub roses bull of blooms. Maybe on this vacation I will get them up. Seven Sister and Climbing Peace look awful and I don't think they will make it. White Dawn which had an accident with the mower and was the last planted is making a comeback. I think it will be fine. The Rain Tree still looks rough and Cel wants me to take it out. I have begged mercy until the fall at which time if it has not revealed its beauty, I will happily remove it. It is a sad story. It was a seedling from Cel's parents house planted at Thibodeaux. For two years it did good and then was damaged by Hurricane Lili. I cut is back and transplanted it at New Dawn. These trees are normally very resilient and fast growing. Just before the spring last year right as it was beginning to wake up we decided it was in a future construction zone, so I had to dig the poor thing up again and move it. Needles to say it was one unhappy camper last year. Having now had a summer, fall, and winter in one spot I am hoping that it will take off this spring and summer when the rains come. They don't call them rain trees for nothing you know. They grow like weeds when it gets rainy, which it does ever summer here. The 4 foot Eastern Red Cedar I dug from a fence row is looking good up near the road. Even in the end of its first year as a transplant, I put on a foot of growth last fall. Last up front are the 2 Monkey Puzzle Trees. These guys went from looking like death to flushes of new growth this spring. I was really worried about them. Things are looking up.

The Orchard. The two fig trees, a Texas Everbearing Fig and a Celeste Fig are looking great. All of my plants are so happy to just spend a couple of years in one spot. Many, like the Texas Everbearing were transplanted from Gonzales to Thibodeaux and then a year later to New Dawn. Even the Celeste, a gift from my neighbor Mr. Picard spent its first year at Thibodeaux and was transplanted to New Dawn. I decided to add a third Fig this year. The LSU Purple Fig got planted today. In the Citrus Area even the unprotected Lemons and Limes made it through the winter. All of the Citrus look great save for the Ponderosa Lemon which was diseased and died during the winter. I planted a beautiful healthy replacement today. Also diseased and perishing last winter was my Kumquat. I new it was sick when I bought it. Thought I could bring it back. Foolish me. I gave up on the Blueberries this year and mowed them all down. My neighbor planted a row that looks good. Maybe I'll ask where he got such pretty plants, or maybe I'll just watch this year to see if his flourish or meet the fate of mine. He started with far larger and healthier stock than I did. The Peaches and Nectarine look spectacular. I had to stake my Ein Sheimer apple which looked OK, but just couldn't handle the wind. Maybe a year with stakes will let its roots get a sturdy start. My other apple looks great also. After further reading on Plums I decided my plum would do best with a partner so I added a 2nd plum tree which I planted 2 weeks ago. Both of my Avocados perished in the winter. No real surprise here. I takes a special plant and at least 2 very mild winters in a row to get one established here. I keep hearing of a nursery in San Antonio that has cold hardy varieties. Maybe one year I'll make it up there. I am thinking of adding another row (4 plants) of citrus which would all be Satsumas. Cel will fuss when I tell her. Maybe I'll wait until next year. Also in this area was my Rangoon Creeper. Seems it should have made it through this fairly mild winter, but I don't think it did.

Back Roses. We have some success stories here. The Yellow Lady Banks which was transplanted last spring struggled all summer which it had every right to do since it was transplanted nearly bare root. This spring it looks wonderfully healthy and put on a great show of bloom. I can't image how good it will look next year. A couple of years ago I found an old pink wonderfully frangrant rose growing around a fallen down house in the cane fields that was being us as a dump site for the last decade of more. The poor thing had reached out over 10 feet to find a little light. It came up rough, nearly bare root and with 2 root balls. I got it at the perfect time of year, though. I cut it back, put down some root stimulated and planted it at Thibodeaux where it flourished in its new luxurious environment. Last year I dug it up, this time it came with 3 root sections and transplanted it as 3 planted at New Dawn. Last year it grew at an unbelievable rate into 3 beautiful shrub roses. The flowers and an old fashion pink, born in large numbers and wonderfully fragrant. Between the two large ones is a rose which came from a cutting I got from my Aunt Helen's rose 2 years ago. It grew there between 2 large Azaleas where it had to compete heavily. They told me they had tried to kill it a couple of times but that it had come back so they just decided to leave it. Anything that hardy deserves a place with me for sure. I made a small cutting which rooted and grew nicely the 1st year. Now, only 2 years later it is 2 feet wide and nearly 3 feet tall. Medium size red rose with some fragrance. It is a hit with Celeste who wants me to take a cutting from it for a 2nd rose back at Thibodeaux. The roses in the cross bed, including some that did poorly last year are looking much better. Part of this is my problem. Last year the bed, which was poorly prepared to start with had become overrun with weeks. I have weeded and sprayed it this year, pruned the roses at the right time, and fertilized at the right time. Only a couple look like they will not cut it. So be it. I give them another year in a proper bed replace them next year if they still look bad. Maybe it is an evolution of a gardener. I am getting less forgiving with plants. They make it or they get pulled.

My grapes are all in and looking good. Grape arbors are also on the program for this week. Around the Live Oad, the Redbud made one tiny little red flower before leafing out very late. The Wisteria blooms again even though quite small. The Cypress and Mimosa look fine. The Grancy Greybeard made one tiny little flower. It is deformed at the junction of the root and trunck. Why do I buy these things? We'll see if it takes hold this year. The little plant I dug up behind the Chinese restaurant in Fairhope, Alabama seems to have gotten its stride. There is no end to my quest for a plant, including walking into the forest edge behind a Chinese restaurant with a spoon to dig up a seedling of a neat looking plant that happened to be blooming at the time. The little OakLeaf Hydrangea which I had given up for dead is coming back. The White Azaleas looks like they are taking hold in spit of the fact that one had to be tied upright after Cel trounced it with the wheel of the riding mower.

The Queen Palm survived the winter just fine. The two Althea are looking exceptionally well this 2nd year since transplanting. I took out on of the small Hawthornes with the weedeater and cell mowed a Sago. Yep, this year the plants had better look out for themselves, but when a place is neglected for as long as New Dawn was, one must be a little bullish to get it back. I don't like killing plants, but after too full days in 80 degree heat non-stop with mowers and weedeaters it is like "get outa my way or else." Actually it is just that weeds were so high that we forgot they were there and could not see them.

More to come

April 6th - Rain today, which is always a nice treat in April, a traditionally dry month here. The plants will definitely appreciate it. I got 4 new roses yesterday. Mr. Picard, who gave me several plants and my Champanelle grapes has retired and move to Toledo Bend. We will miss them. The young couple who bought the house were concerned about the very young child and 4 rose bushes with very aggressive thorns. I volunteered to take them off of their hands, big smile, and they accepted. The are new transplanted at Thibodeaux gardens. The ones which were blooming have a light scent, bloom pink which fades center first to a platinum white. It is a pretty neat looking roses with 3" flowers. I think one will be different due to its bright red thorns which are decidedly different from the other bushes. Other than that I have been working with carpenters, plumbers, and painters here at Thibodeaux. The old home, a Craftsmen style bungalow, which was essentially untouched for the last 20 years needed a lot of rot along with years of "rigged" plumbing fixed. The slate grey is now a delightful cream yellow. I cannot believe the metamorphosis. Still much work remains, but the light at the end of the tunnel is now visible.

I have a few plants still to plant at New Dawn, but with the rain that is now put off till Friday at best. I was going to fertilize this month with 8-8-8 this month, but since it has only rained once since putting on the ammonium nitrate last month, I have decided to wait until mid-April to early May. Later in the summer I will do soil test to determine further action. To run down, in February I put down Osmokote around all plants followed by Ammonium Nitrate in March. There is a method to this seeming madness. My plants have never had a general purpose fertilizer applied. 6-month fertilizers typically last only 3 months here with all of our rain fall. This also related to our normal nitrogen poor soils which is leached away by the same rains. Many experts here now recommend that we fertilize on a monthly basis from February to August, at which time we back off so as not to encourage too much late growth that will not harden off for our 2 month winter. I have still not fertilized by trees, but maybe this fall I will get to that. I am also eyeing some Allee Drake Elms to line the driveway. Maybe?

April 19th - Time flies in the spring and so does business. This year I have been able to keep up with garden while making a living, but my website updates are suffering. Combined with waiting for my digital camera to come back from the factory, this is a dull website. Regardless, I need to keep up with things for myself, so here go my notes as best as my memory recalls the last 2 weeks.

I am finally putting in the arbors at New Dawn. I rented a post hole digger over this last weekend and drilled 35 holes. Post went in for the grapes, a trellis, front porch on the old mobile home, and driveway. Many post remain to be concreted in for the driveway arbors, 16 in all, but a least the holes are there. That was the hard part even with a mechanical post hole digger. Man am I sore. The grape trellis are awesome. It is funny, I wanted to move St. Joe's Tower since last summer. Weekend before last, we had a crawfish boil out at New Dawn. With all of that labor, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Sure enough we slid it right into place, exactly the right place or so I thought. After putting up the two rows of grape trellis' I stood admiring them, looking down the center towards the bayou and then it hit me. The tower would look perfect centered down that row. Now we have to move it another 6 feet to the left. Did I mention this thing is 8' x8' x17' tall and made of old fashion heavy pipe. We are planning another crawfish boil. :-)

It has not been a bad April so far. Dry, but not too dry. Certainly no drought as we had last year. We have one more good rain since the 6th. Every week would be nice, but every 2 weeks is not bad for this traditionally very dry month. We have also had unusually cool nights and a few cool nights. Blooms are lasting longer than usual and running late on other things. The Hardy Glads are blooming wonderfully. The Amaryllis are opening quite casually, some over a month ago, others such as in my yard are just opening. No Daylily action yet either, although the Stella d' Oro have visible bloom scapes. Now bear in mind that I moved my Daylilies very early this spring so they might run a bit late. My first Asiatic Lilies opened up yesterday. All of the roses are putting on a nice show. Still to open the spring flush are New Dawn, While Dawn, Cornelia, Scarlet Meidiland, and the miniature red climber. They are full of bud though, so any day.

The replacement Ponderosa Lemon is planted along with a newly acquired LSU Purple Fig. This fig has neat very purple figs and unusually large leaves. Poor thing, with its spindly stem, is being beat to death by our windy days. Even with stakes it looks more like a flag than a plant. I also ripped out the diseased Taiwan Cherry and replaced it with a seedling which my stepmother gave me last summer. After looking at the area, it dawned on me that 4 in a row would look good in that area so I asked for 2 more seedlings. They self seed readily here and my stepmother is an avid gardener, so she happily complied. It is funny how things look different after a year. It is now apparent that my Redbud and Wisteria are in the wrong place. I guess that job will be queued for the winter. That is enough writing for one day. Till next time.

Oh, before I go. My Pride of Barbados is returning from the root with 2 nice 1" stalks right at ground level. The Peaches and Nectarine are full of fruit also. I need to thin them for sure. All of the Citrus are looking great, but could use another rain. I may water them this week. Back at Thibodeaux, the Ruby Red Grapefruit is enormous with an uncountable number of small grapefruits. I am sure it will drop some as time goes on, but it will still be a bumper harvest.

April 24th - Looks like rain will come today, and it is time. Over the last week and today I have almost finished the vertical pieces or the rose arbors down the driveway. Wish I could say it looks awesome, but it just looks strange. It will come together in the end. Today, I planted a Duranta at home that was supposed to be white, but instead turned out to be yellow, which is even better. I also planted our Anna Apple tree to pollinate our existing Apple tree.

August 15th - Well, after another hot summer, and yes I know it is not over, we have had two extremely unusual cold fronts here in mid August, I am again working in the yard. How was that for a run-on sentence? Lows in the low 60's in South Louisiana in August are truly unusual. Everyone is working in their yards. Usually at this point the mid summer rains are coming to an end and the weeds have won the battle in most gardens. They certainly have in mine. Fall here is usually wonderful for a 4 month period of outdoor activities from September till December. Maybe we'll get a 5th month this year. Of course, it is an active year in the tropics and that is always of concern here on the Gulf Coast.

I have declared New Dawn's fist attempt a failure. I designed the gardens are too high maintenance and did not get the weeds under control before building them. This weekend, I have already torn down 3 beds and will continue. Gone are the Planter Bed, Twin Pines Bed, Parkinsonia Bed, and Mimosa Bed. Today (Sunday) I have hope to dismantle the Rose Bed and start on the Barn Bed and Confederate Rose Bed. It is hard work.

Garden Journal For November 2004

November 30th - Added more new sites like Rosedown Plantation and the Galveston County Master Gardeners, the second of which has tons of good articles.

November 29th - Back to normal, leave before sunrise and get back after dark. I am a 2 day a week gardener for the next few months, yuck. Anyway, I continued to clean up the site. Finally found a decent site to make the first addition under Native Plants which I moved down under Plants. I also moved Heirlooms down Plants as well. Move Live Oaks and Citrus under Individual Plants. I added a new link under Tropical - Tropical Links. I added a section under Reference entitled Garden Wildlife with a first link for Texas Butterfly attracting plants. That is enough for one evening.

November 28th, 2004 - Well, this afternoon I am fairly well worn out, but it was a very productive day in the garden. First I dug and potted the two variegated Hydrangea. The I tilled out the remains of the barn front bed and spread the dirt out. It is no more.

Next came transplanting the four roses from the cross bed. The Lady of Guadeloupe, Sunsprite and Found Rose went to the bed on the other side of the arbor from the barn and the Scarlet Mediland went across the yard near the grate arbor. Then I finished tilling the cross bed and began hauling the edging block back to the bed after carefully measuring. I moved the first 6 inches of dirt in the center of the cross bed in a 10 foot diameter circle. This is where the fountain will go when moved onto New Dawn. I began hauling the edging blocks back to the cross bed. All done I figure I moved about a ton of material today completely by hand, not even with a wheelbarrow, which I have to get back from my brother-in-law. Imagine 10 pounds in each hand, a hundred foot walk, done 30 times. Combined with the transplanting and digging, it was a full day's work.

Well, tomorrow it is back to work at a new job. My week's vacation, or at least the 4 days without the rain was spectacular in the garden. Great progress was made in the rebirth of New Dawn.

Oh, I added some new links to the site under Other Gardens - Private, Specific Plants, and under Advice Columns.

November 27th, 2004 (PM) - Well, what was I saying earlier. I had a great day in the garden. Now that we have picked a permanent spot for the house and garage so many things have come into focus. We have room for a circular drive in front. Today I moved the Weigela and the Althaea to their new homes and was actually able to drive route of the future driveway. I also was able to pull up the 4"x4"x12' along the driveway in the failed rose experiment. Those 16 posts worked me hard, but they came up clean so they can be reused. I can begin moving roses next. Then we will again, have a clean driveway in the front. It looks better already.

I dismantled the bed in from of the barn. I potted up the large, six foot Pride of Barbados, a Stromantha, a Coontie, and a Blood Lily, then tilled and leveled the bed except for one corner where two variegated Hydrangea live that are salvageable. I'll get that in the morning. The bed had great morning sun and shade for the rest of the day, but got no moisture and was always extremely dry and always troublesome. It looks a lot cleaner.

I remember getting that Pride of Barbados as just a twig from a woman who invited us to New Orleans after seeing our garden on the web. Cel and I have a great time and we traded several plants. She was more than generous letting us be the big winners in the exchange. I have always felt guilty because I lot track of her name before crediting her generosity here on the site or even sending her a thank you note.

Today I began rebuilding the cross bed which I tilled it day before yesterday. I took the blocks from the old barn front bed and began re-framing the cross bed. In the center will be the fountain, which was given to me by my step-father who is no longer with us. I brought it here from Gonzales and it will follow us to New Dawn. Maybe I'll name the bed Sam's Bed. I began thinking earlier about naming areas after family members. St. Joseph's Tower could be renamed Joe's Tower. The barn could be renamed Rose's Barn, both for the roses which now surround it and for my mother-in-law Rose. I am just thinking out loud on this. Might not do it, or I might, we'll see.

November 27th, 2004 (AM) - Lots of rain last night will limit any real garden activities today. Maybe a run to Lowes later for some potting soil will allow me to grab some volunteers from the ground to be saved for next year. I updated the Other Gardens section with a new category of Private. Each section has a description.

November 26th, 2004 (PM) - Not much new this afternoon. Couldn't quite get into things, but I did a lot of dreaming. The new circular drive I envisioned will require moving the Weigela and one of the Althaea. Each needed a move anyway so that is no big deal. Other than that the new house layout needs no gardening changes. After many deliberations on the fountain, it appears that is should go at the center of the cross bed. I thought for a long time it would go in back of the house between the house and the bayou, but in the end the bayou scene is so peaceful, that the fountain would just interrupt the serenity. I know it is hard to image a flowing fountain interrupting the serenity, but you have to watch the flow of the bayou for a while to understand. Today I started to see the new gardens in my mind's eye. They should be outstanding if I can bring the vision to life. I tilled out the grass laden cross bed today. There are still 4 roses to be moved, but due to this warm November they are still in active growth so I have not moved them yet, nor have I moved the fruit trees. Tales of a horrendous winter worry me, but I cannot let it stop me. If I lose some stuff, I just lose it. Although I do have a few irreplaceable plants, non are due to be moved this fall.

November 26th, 2004 (AM) - Added a new site under the Other Gardens - Personal section called Houston & Gulf Coast Gardening by Bob and Lana Beyer, here a pic of their gardens and their description of their site. "Welcome to our world of horticulture. Our yard resembles a miniature botanical garden with a diverse collection of over 500 different rare and unusual plant cultivars and varieties. Included in these collections are tropicals (bromeliads, orchids, bougainvillea, gingers, hibiscus, plumeria, flowering and foliage ornamentals, palms and cycads, etc), edibles (pomegranates, citrus, guava, bananas), cacti & succulents (agaves, yucca, euphorbia, etc), rare and unusual plants from around the world, hardy perennials, unusual cultivars of holly and other commonly known hardy ornamental shrubs and trees, and aquatic plants. Azaleas, Camellias, ferns, and companion plants adorn the front yard for spring color. With a 1/3rd acre residential lot, this type of plant collecting requires much discipline (e.g. limits on the number of plants in each type), landscape planning to allocate space according to plant needs, and consideration of and provision for over-wintering tender plants. We have a small 8x12 ft lean-to greenhouse which is filled to capacity each winter. Bob has a particular fondness for plant cultivars that are variegated or unusual growth forms and in continuing learning about a broad variety of plants. Bob is a Master Gardener in Harris County, TX. Lana has developed a specialty in bonsai, and uses traditional techniques to begin and cultivate a wide variety of specimen plants (adaptable to the Houston area). She also enjoys a wide variety of flowering plants and garden designing. We are both fully retired and enjoying time to pursue hobbies and interests full time. We both live a very environmentally friendly life-style (e.g. drive a hybrid vehicle, recycle everything that is possible, avoid using chemicals in the garden, and encourage wildlife into our yard). Please consider doing the same. Thank you for visiting our site. "

November 25th, 2004 - Added a new site under the Other Gardens - Personal section call Deb's Garden. This site will show the destructive power of a hurricane on a garden. It will be fun to watch it come back in time. I corrected the broken links on the site and gave it a general update over the last couple of nights, which was long overdue.

On the home front - This week I pulled out dead fruit trees and marked the spots where the living ones will be moved. Lost were a plum, a peach and a nectarine. Incessant winds last year were the culprit. Having only gardened in suburban back yards, I was not prepared for the wind of an open acreage site.

November 24th, 2004 - No rain, no business, a few errands and a peaceful day. It was one of those days where some of the magic of New Dawn peaked its head around the corner. It was around 3:30 in the afternoon under bluebird skies. A cold front had come through last night, so it was breezy and around 65 degrees. After doing my chores I sat down on the "rigged" deck in front of the trailer.

Just soaking up the perfect weather was enough. My neighbors came over to visit. Not the two-legged ones, the four legged type. I am not sure the breed, but they are small dogs, Chihuahua to Poodle sized and very friendly. Usually, they are over as soon as the see me arrive, but today it took them a few hours. Maybe they saw I was busy. After a little loving they were on their way to survey the changes resulting from my chores. I popped the top on a cold one in the rocking chair when two ducks came cruising up the bayou heading north. I wander if they were two of Jack's ducks. Jack moved across the bayou about a half mile south. His ducks and geese stayed behind a while, but I suspect he found a way to lure them south to his new place. Maybe they were homesick and took a quick flight back to their old stomping grounds. There is just something way cool about seeing two ducks flying up the bayou at an altitude of around 10 feet in super stealth mode.

Another beer later I could hear that familiar sound that I can only describe as super deep vibrating thudding sound that usually indicated a tug boat and a barge or two coming up the bayou. This time it was a large tug-like offshore work boat named Ms. Christine that looked almost new. The deep rhythmic vibrations that come from the engines on those big boats at near idle has a very soothing effect.

Another beer later, ok so who's counting, my ex-intern Chris D'Amico stopped by. He graduated a little over a year and a half ago. We took a climb up onto St. Joe's Tower to survey the view of the bayou while drinking a cold one, then I showed him around the property to survey my projects, both failed and successful. It was a short but nice visit.

November 23rd, 2004 - A new beginning, or another New Dawn. It's Thanksgiving Week. I have a lot to be thankful for. This has been a magical year in my life with accolades, awards, and friendships. Although I might say my garden has paid the price, it was really my psyche that paid the price. Something in my life was missing, time with my wife and peace of mind that comes from gardening. I am getting a little of an early start on my New Years Resolution of correcting both shortfalls. I have the greenhouse ready to go for spring seedlings and a nice 40' doublewide row of vegetables planted for a winter crop. We have 2 varieties of beets, carrots, and lettuce, along with Swiss chard. The seeds, all 3 years old, have sprouted after only a week. Many gardening supplies things were stashed away year before last when Hurricane Lily roared through destroying the greenhouse and severely damaging the garage. I was truly amazed at the amount of stuff that I had acquired and forgotten about. Seed starting kits, peat pots, fertilizer, stuff, you name it. It is all in one place now so spring will be relatively inexpensive.

It Just wouldn't be right if I didn't include some tropical plants, right. In the first picture is my Variegated Banana, Variegated Monstera, and very healthy regular Monstera. The Pothos climbing this Sweet Olive has leaves that are at least a foot across. The Morning Glory along with the Elephant Ears isn't really tropical, but it was a pretty picture, so pretend. At least it looked tropical.

November 14th, 2004 - Hi, I am back after another long hiatus. I have some new pics. These are all hi-res, as I have decided to move this site to pure hi-bandwidth. Here is a pic across the bayou showing our heron that has been a regular fixture this year. I get great comfort when I see him cruising down the bayou in the late afternoon to his favorite hunting ground which is right across the bayou from us.

The pic above is St. Joe's Tower. This old steel tower was once used by St. Joseph's Elementary School to judge rodeos each year. It sat on my father in-law's farm for many years before coming to rest at New Dawn as a gift from him.. Joseph is also my wife's grandfather's name, which is a major reason we relocated here. We were able to spend Joseph's last days together, a memory which I will treasure forever. Today we live in Joseph's home and we will keep his memory alive when we move onto New Dawn. We have several heirlooms which we will bring with us to remember Joe.

St. Joe's Tower needs to be moved a few feet to the rights to center between the grape arbors which are pictured below. We have entertained many options for its permanent status, but at this point I think an enclosed room at the top with a hammock underneath sounds very attractive as a get-away by the bayou. I have water down there already, but the biggest challenge will be getting power also. It will be high an dry at its current location except during hurricanes and storms, which would work well for the purpose of a hide-away. I know Cel and I would use it heavily during the spring and fall.

It is definitely a long term project. This fall I hope to move it into its permanent location and to cement it in place so that it is stable during the hurricanes, storms, and spring floods which we occasionally endure.

Here is a shot of the grape arbors along the bayou on a good hillside. I have a couple of grapes growing which are Champanelle and were given to me by Mr. Picard. My neighbor Walt, who lives in Mr. Picard's old home does not care for the grape vines which Picard left so I will have fully mature grapes vines to occupy my arbors next year along with these small ones which he gave me directly. I have one other living grape vine from the original experiment, which I consider a failure by the way, and it is a Flame grape supposedly good to Zone 10. I originally had 3 which did very poorly. I will must confess that I did everything wrong with these vines, so in the spring of 05 I will do it correctly. Later this year I will till so that they may flourish.

This year marks a transition for both Cel and I. Each year we have looked forward to spring considering it the most beautiful time of year, but this year I have reconsidered. I have come to think that maybe fall is indeed the most beautiful time of year in Acadiana.

The Rose Barn - Here is my newest project. The roes along the driveway wi9th the arches has proved two troublesome and too expensive for the current times. As a compromise I have decided to move all of the roses along the driveway save for one to the barn. Here is a pic of the barn with Yellow Lady Banks doing fabulously on the end. This rose which was moved with hardly any root ball struggled last year, but obviously by the picture is flourishing today. I can't wait to see it flower this spring as it is easily 12 feet across and 10 feet high.

The arbor pictured sits next to the Rose Barn and transitions to the Rose Bed. Roses are a challenge down here due to moist humid summers but some do quite well as can be witnessed by the Climbing Iceberg to the right of the arbor. It would happily take over the world if I just let it go.

We put this old bench at the foot of our Live Oak last year. It is barely holding together and needs to rebuilt, but I can't complain as I got it for free when some property was being redeveloped. The view in this picture is back past the large Live Oak and towards the Rose Barn. In the distance would be Hwy 182 about 500 feet in the distance. To your rear is Bayou Teche. A project for the spring will be the rebuilding of the bench.

Want to see past entries, check the old garden logs in New Dawn Journal. This area is updated frequently, many times it is updated daily as it serves as a journal of our garden successes and failures adding to the knowledge base for other Gulf Coast gardeners.

The Garden Journal for December 2004

Week 52 of 2004

Well, it did get cold, but not nearly as cold as first indicated below. The lows were more like 35, 30, and 28, but even more outstanding was that Jeanerette had the first and probably last white Christmas in my lifetime. Yes, snow fell all Christmas Day and was even measurable. Here are a couple of shots. Snow also fell across the Gulf Coast at one location in Texas it was the first snow fall in 104 years. In my past I remember measurable snow only a few times. Once around the early 70s when it fell heavily. We actually spent Christmas Eve night and most of Christmas Day in Baton Rouge which saw no snowfall. I came home around 4:30 and was amazed. The further I drove south the more snow fall I observed. By the time I got the Jeanerette the yards still have about 50 to 75% cover of snow with drifts in spots that were not in the open. Last night, the night after Christmas we had a very hard killing frost to top things off. The tender stuff is gone, but the freezes were not enough to prevent anything from coming back from the trunks and roots, but alas, it is only December 26th. God only knows what is yet in store for us on this projected cold winter. Certainly the weathermen have been correct thus far.

Today (Monday morning), the weatherman missed it. The projected low, when I went to bed last night, was only 34. I awoke to 30 this morning with another hard killing frost on the ground. The frost today was probably the heaviest I remember in my lifetime. Absolutely everything was covered in ice. Still some things amaze me. The Shefflera was still standing tall under the twin Live Oak trees. This Shefflera is particularly tough and cold hardy. It began life as a house plant back in Baton Rouge, but never particularly like being inside. I tossed it out on day and planted it on the edge of the woods next to our house. It did well there surviving two winters. When we moved I dug it up, though it in a pot and planted it in the shade garden in Jeanerette. There is did well for another two years before being dug up again and planted at New Dawn two years ago. This plant is safe at least down to the mid twenties. It survived 24 degrees three years ago.

Hey its Monday afternoon, guess what, projected high temps are 80 by the weekend. Ah, life on the Gulf Coast. We have an old joke, we don't have seasons down here, we have weather. If you don't like the weather, just wait a few days and it will change. Checked on the Scheflerra today. Only the newest and tenderest foliage was bothered. Here is another snow picture. My Mesclun Mix in the vegetable bed is a bit chilly.

BTW - For those who have explored the other non-gardening parts of the site, my big Arowana expired yesterday. This Brazilian Arowana was 5 years old an approx. 18 inches long. Although he has not been healthy for quite some time, I think it was my Australian Arowana, seen left in a picture from 2002 along with some fresh daylilies, that sent him to visit his maker. We will miss him. He was kind of part of the family.

Week 51 of 2004

Zone Cheaters Beware - Nothing illustrates the frustration of gardening on the Gulf Coast better than this forecast from 73 to 22 and back to 71 in a week. Confusing and aggravating for gardeners, confusing and deadly for plants.

Today Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu
Dec 21 Dec 22 Dec 23 Dec 24 Dec 25 Dec 26 Dec 27 Dec 28 Dec 29 Dec 30

Partly Cloudy T-Storms Partly Cloudy Showers Sunny Sunny Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy Scattered Showers

73°F 68°F 48°F 39°F 43°F 51°F 62°F 67°F 71°F 71°F


This is why plants die here and live further north even though it gets colder. Our falls are so mild, especially after very hot summers that many plants think it is spring. It is not uncommon to see spring flowering plants bloom sporadically in the fall with everything having lots of tender new growth. In a normal winter this is no problem at all. We even have winters with no freezes at all every few years. Then every decade or so comes the Artic Blast with no precursor at all. One day its seventy, then a few hours later it is in the teens. The plants literally get caught off guard here by bitter cold before they go dormant. Fortunately, the light freezes in the last two weeks have stemmed some of the new growth.

Sure am glad I dug up the Rangoon Creeper near the old horse trailer. It surely would have perished in that location. I have a few other plants to rescue before this freeze hits. Thank god I am off half a day on Thursday and all day on Friday. On any other weeks many of the plants I will save would have perished.

Week 50 of 2004 (December 12,2004) - Yesterday was a sunny Saturday. The second day in a row of sunshine in what is so far a soggy winter. The weather has been mild, but predictions of a cold winter weigh heavy on my mind. My morning routine is to check's gardening forecast and today told the first story that the cold winter might be true. Forecast for Tuesday night is 28 degrees. We have yet to have a frost, which is not uncommon, but this year we will get a hard freeze a bit early. Usually we don't get our first freeze here till Christmas or later. There is tender new growth on everything thanks to the so far mild winter. Al least it has been a little cool, but the shock will hit some things quite hard. With news of the first freeze I begin picking up tropicals so that was the bulk of the work yesterday and today. With an early freeze and considering March 15th as a safe date for spring, the three months of waiting, normally it would be 2 months. are now here.

To pass this winter, I'll be reading the seed catalogs. This winter I also plan to re-read my favorite gardening books. First up is The Southern Garden by Mary Stewart which I plan to start tonight. Maybe I'll even start my own month-by-month page tuned for Gulf Coast Zone 9. As a last measure of keeping my sanity, I also find this to be a great time of year to pick up a plant bargain or two, at least if you have a spot and are committed to keeping that bargain alive over winter. Oh, and there is the vegetable garden. Unless we have an absolutely horrible winter, it will do well with carrots, beets, and leafy vegetables.

Well, its Wednesday. This big freeze has come and gone so to speak, or maybe not. There are two pastimes that one can take up to illustrate that weather forecasting is anything but an exact science. One is fishing. I was once an avid fisherman. The second is gardening. The forecasted low temperature, depending on which weatherman you believed, was to be as low as 26 with up to 6 hours below freezing. The actual event was maybe 2 hours below freezing dipping to 30, maybe 29 for a few minutes. A non-gardener might say what is a couple or three degrees. A gardener who stretched the limits of their zone know that just a few degrees are the difference between life and death, for a plant that is, although watching some gardeners fret over such things would have you wonder if it was life and death for the gardener.

I am truly thankful for the misforecast though. Yes, I know that misforecast is not a real word, but you knew what I meant didn't you. Anyway, back to the point. Last night the vent in the greenhouse didn't close all the way, sticking with a 4 inch opening and the heater in the greenhouse failed. Fortunately with this being the first cold snap, the ground being warm, and a well insulated greenhouse it looks as even the tender things did fine. That is not my greenhouse or a member of my family by the way, but it is picture of my little greenhouse model, 6' x 8', that we bought from Gardener's Supply Company. I heartily recommend both the company and the greenhouse. It is just used to overwinter tropicals and to get an early start on seedlings for the vegetable garden, which it is well suited for. It is amazing how much you pack into that little greenhouse. One day I would like to have something much larger.

Rain is forecast for 2 of the next 4 days and 29 degrees for Sunday. Oh well, its winter.

Weather forecasting is an amazing thing. I have had four hours of sleep since that post. The two days of rain have been re-forecast to cloudy and the projected low of 28 is down to 26. Funny thing is they are not nearly that accurate several days in advance. Wouldn't mid to upper 20s suffice.

Over at New Dawn, the small greenhouse is full. The extension cord is run. The heater stands at the ready. Tomorrow we will fire it up. The Pride of Barbados looks horrible. All leaves have turned brown and dropped. I cut it way back, which I had to do anyway to accommodate more plants in the greenhouse, and the stems are still alive, so I am holding out hope. The variegate banana also looks terrible and is fixing to lose its last leaf. I am hoping to see a new one peaking out, but this cold may further complicate matters. At least the Morning Glory Tree seen left is quite happy here with a bloom showing and many buds.

Today, I dug and potted up the tai plants in the picture below which had flowered, and the big Monstera, and the Anniversary Plant (a big purple arrow leaf Philodendron), and many plants of which I do not know the name of. The back area is literally filled with plants waiting go onto the back sunroom. The low tonight is only 55 with clouds and rain tomorrow so I will let them enjoy one more night out before they come into the warm dry environment.

December 8th - Yep, it rained again today. Good news is that this might be it for a little while. There is no real rain in the forecast for the next 6 days. It seems like forever since we even had 3 days in a row without rain. Should be an active weekend coming. There is a lot to get done in the garden. Here are a few pics I forgot about. From left to right, first is our variegated ginger which seems to be appreciating the rain. Next is a shrimp plant which also does very well here in So. Louisiana. The narrow picture is my Rangoon Creeper which is "going over the wall" in an attempt to escape its bed. The two roses are a Lady of Guadalupe which I have found to love this climate and a "found" rose which my neighbor was sending to the trash bin before I interjected with a shovel and offer of free removal service in exchange for the rose. On the bottom left is a Cassia which has taken over the back corner of the yard. Its dimensions are probably 12 feet by 12 feet by 10 feet tall. Its bloom here is nearly over, but in its peak, its is a sea of yellow. Bottom left is the Grapefruit, which has over 100 grapefruit on it this year. That cold winter being predicted will probably take it out, since it is now far too large to cover. The last picture are tropicals along the side fence which have survived neglect, partial digging up, all kinds of other abuse, and two winters. That Pothos is showing up everywhere. If that predicted hard winter shows, I will probably dig and pot these guys. Anything that tries that hard to live deserves a little help.

December 7th - Rain, rain, rain, yuck, rain. If its not raining, it is too soggy to do anything. Not much action. I repotted the Variegated Banana and Variegated Monstera. I also dug and potted a couple of volunteer hardy Hibiscus. Mostly just piddled around. Forecast calls for sunny clear skies for Fri, Sat, and Sun so maybe I'll get a little done, but mostly it will still be too soggy for serious work as the forecast still has rain for the next two days. That is Louisiana, drought or drowning, take your pick. No pictures yet this month, there a few in the November logs.