Friday, January 14, 2005

Monday: Had the day off for Martin Luther King Day, but no gardening today. A leisurely morning, followed by a drive and afternoon visit to see Mom. Got in just before dark. This evening I did some reading, mostly picture gazing in a few gardening books looking for inspiration. My minds eye continues to focus along a path for the gardens now that I have a good feel for what the eventual house and garage will look like and where the will be sited. I also have a single Crape Myrtle that has been dogging me on what I should do with it. It is the old purple style. I am thinking of putting it as the center plant in an arch at the head of the crucifix bed with two white Crape Myrtles on each side. It would look to be a halo at the top of the crucifix bed. That bed, approx. 6 feet wide, 45 feet long, and and 30 feet wide will have a fountain at the intersection. The new bed seen above will be a sitting area at the base. This crucifix bed will have low growing annuals this year. Sitting at the base looking over the annuals with the fountain running and the Crape Myrtle arch at the top should make a great vista. Due to the sloping land these plants will need to be placed on a berm. There should be a base planting as well. Might be a bit too hot for Azaleas which would look great. Maybe Indian Hawthorn, but surely I can get something a little less ordinary. Two to three feet tall, evergreen, spring/early summer bloom cycle to complement the late summer/fall bloom cycle of the Crape Myrtles. Come on, think! Just went to the Recommended Plants List at www.houstongardening.info for some ideas. A few things stood out, but nothing that quite hit my fancy. Loropetalum would be great, but the purple might make me want to limit my color choices in the large foreground crucifix bed. My mind keeps wanted to think of something with a sword type of leaf. Agapanthus look a bit too ugly in winter when a hard freeze burns them down. Most trouble free would likely be a Dwarf Chinese Holly or Japanese Holly. I'll figure it out eventually. Lets close this out with a shot of some of those bulbs going to New Dawn for naturalization. I have at least two more truck loads to dig, carry over in the truck, and plant. Yep, it is back breaking work. It is a lot harder to re-plant them properly than it is to dig them up.

Thursday: Back at home, I dug up 3 Camellias, 3 Loquats, and a small patch of Alstromeria and potted them up for eventual transplanting at New Dawn. The amount of plants to go is mind boggling. Unfortunately, it looks like the digging and potting killed the Bottlebrush. If I had read how poorly these things transplant and the high failure rate I would have just left it in place.

Saturday: Hey, its only Friday night, but I am already thinking about the busy day planned for tomorrow. The cold front is coming in on Saturday night this week.

Ok, now it is Saturday. Cold front coming through as I write. Today peaked out around 70, by 7:00AM the projected low is 29. There is tender new growth on many plants that will be zapped tonight. Tomorrow's project low is 28 and by Wednesday we will be back to highs in the 70s. Oh well, the plants will suffer, but we can't let that stop us, now can we. I moved the New Dawn rose from the failed driveway project to the new rose pavilion. Another New Dawn which was in a pot was planted on the other corner. The plantings are now complete. I pruned the remaining roses today and the fruit trees. I went ahead and watered everything in anticipation of the freeze, both outside and in the greenhouse. The new temperature monitor is giving me a much better feel for temps in the greenhouse with the new heater. This will be the first hard freeze where I get to monitor the temps. It sure is nice not to guess how the heater is performing

I moved the Crape Myrtle today to the top of the cross bed as I had envisioned last week. Now I just need to find 4 Natchez Crape Myrtles and move the two remaining driveway roses to complete the scene. In the picture on the right is sits, all alone. The bed that it will be a part exist only in my head. Just in front of that bed will be a pair o columns to match the 4 columns at the bed of the cross bed. Rose 1 will be Old Blush and rose 2 will be Seven Sisters. I will still have one last rose, White Dawn, which needs a home. This two only exist in my head as this spring I focus on the base plantings. By fall these beds and the accompanying hardscape will be finished. Can't wait to get them out of my head and onto the grounds. With each of these planting I am digging out the location for the new fountain pond, which will form the center intersection of the cross bed. This soil is amended to provide the soil for the new plantings. The liner for the fountain pond is my Christmas present, but I vowed not to order it until the hole was completely prepared.

Walmart got in the first shipment of plants this week. Lots of citrus, fruit trees, and some ornamentals. No annuals or bedding plants yet. The first ants are already in high gear for the spring so I picked up some. We got back from Walmart about 8PM and it was still nice and balmy around 66 degrees. Just now, 10PM, I let the dogs out for their evening ritual and the cold front had arrived with brisk winds and the low already down to 56. I don't think we will see the projected low of 29, but I do think it will drop below 32.

Last, but not least we have a new gardener in the house. TaiTai even promised to help with the website, but fell asleep on the job.

Sunday: This is such a contradictory time of year. A great time to take a look at the bones of the garden with most trees being leafless, to move things around with a little transplanting, look at catalogs with cool things that could be planted, do a little pruning, all on mostly sunny and mild days. At the same time, those artic blasts come rolling through every couple of weeks with gloomy weather, the threat of killing cold, and a worry of death for plants held dear if it dips just a few more degrees. And while worrying over those marginal plants, here come the winter weeds that keep everything green. While some folks say we have a 12 month gardening season here, one thing I can assure you is that we have a 12 month weed season. The only good thing about winter weeds is that they tend to be low growing and won't swallow your entire garden in 2 or 3 weeks as will our summer weeds. If you are reading this from afar I am not kidding nor exaggerating. Three weeks of continuous rain, which is not unusual, in mid to late summer brings on a little plant (grass) we have here called Johnson Grass. From nowhere to 3 feet before you know it. Gardening here is a constant vigil. Add a couple of things called Coco Grass and Wiregrass. Whoa, stop, where am I going with this? Those problems will be here soon enough. Tonight I have to worry about the cold. As I thought, it did not get to 29 last night, 31 maybe, but tonight looks more like 27. Looks like I need to water everything again today just to be safe.



Well, it is 7:15PM and already 35. Tonight will definitely be a hard freeze with a least 8 hours below freezing. Today, I tended to minor things at New Dawn, watered a few things then shut down the water, picked up hoses and mostly clean up. Found another tropical in a pot in a flower bed that we still alive, barely. Back at home, I dug and potted more plants. Today I potted up 4 Acanthus, 2 regular Shrimp Plants and 2 Variegated Shrimp Plants, 3 Hollyhocks (volunteers), 1 Jatropha and 1 Rangoon Creeper which were frozen back to the roots, although there was already a green tip emerging from the Rangoon Creeper, 1 English Ivy split into two plants, 1 Tai Plant which had died and was sending a shoot from the root whose tip had frozen back last night, and 1 Japanese Maple. I laughed with Cel telling her it was like I had just gotten back from a shopping trip at the nursery. Still lots to dig and replant though. At least a truck bed full of paperwhites and naked ladies. Several truck beds full of gingers. Hundreds of other bulbs, Crinums, Amaryllis, etc. Man, I get tired just thinking about it. It is gonna be a busy spring and summer.

Just checked the Chill Hours for the year. We have accumulated 311 chill hours to date, which means we should top out at over 400 for the year.

Getting an Early Start on Spring

Monday: No stress on the new fruit trees today. Today started out with a heavy fog. The roofs dripped as if there were a light rain falling. This is not uncommon here in the spring and fall. The picture at right was taken this morning. It looks a little eerie, but when you are there it is actually very peaceful, even a bit surreal. It was the same on Saturday and Sunday while I was planting and transplanting. Moist cool evenings and mornings. It actually makes for ideal great planting and transplanting weather. Temperatures have been running in the mid to upper 70s. However, winter is due to return in the next 4 or 5 days with lows in the mid 30s and high in the 50s. We need a few chilling hours you know even those super low chilling hour varieties like I just planted, otherwise we won't have any fruit. I passed by Walmart today to see if any spring plants were coming in yet. They were busy getting ready in the garden center but no plants quite yet. I did pick up some Jiffy 7s and a bag of seed starting mix. It is time to start some tomatoes and a few other early things. Grabbed some good looking Dahlias as a surprise for Cel. They are not good as perennials here because of the intense heat of summer, but they make dandy annuals. Maybe we will try these in a container to see what happens. As I was driving today I started making list of some border plants that I could use, both heirloom and modern. I need to id some natives as well. Now that I have a good idea in my head as to where the paths should go I am increasingly thinking of the 1000' of border and the money I don't have to plant it, or the time to keep it up till it gets going. Oh, well I can dream for free. I have tons of new great links to add to the website, but I am just not motivated. Winter doldrums I guess.

I did find the neatest old greenhouse pictured above in North Lafayette. There is some evidence that the 2nd floor has something going on. There is a modern looking window air conditioning unit and a table visible through the window, but for the most part it looks disserted. What a wonderful structure. It is obviously going into disrepair and should be saved.

Saturday: It was a busy week at work, not much time to even think about gardening. At this time of year, due to daylight savings time and my commute, I leave just after sunrise and get home after dark, so there is not much time to garden even when I wanted to. Today, would be a different matter, but like last week, cooler weather with its fronting rain came late in the week. It is a beautiful sunshiny day, but with fully waterlogged soils so it is a day for piddling at best. I'll head to New Dawn in a few minutes to check out the fruit trees after the winds of the arriving cold front. We'll see how the new staking system performed. Poor staking was a primary reason for my dismal tree performance first go around. Hey, its time to plant some tomato seeds in flats in the greenhouse. That is something fun I can do today.

Sure enough, didn't do squat today. Walked around the gardens envisioning things to come. Took a look at plants here and there. Watered plants in the greenhouse. Picked out some tomato seeds to plant, gathered up the pots, and seed starting mix. And there it still sits. Read a couple of seed catalogs. The fruit trees seems to be doing well in their new locations with their new stakes. Maybe this will be a good year for them. I did notice that the Flowering Quince started to bloom this week.

Sunday: Moved 3 big climbing old garden roses. The largest went into the middle of the old horse trailer as planned. I have been trying to dream up a structure for the other old roses. I think I have it. Last year someone removed the old wrought iron, or faux wrought iron porch post popular in the 40s and tossed them to the road. Being the unashamed scrounge that I am, I threw them in the back of the truck. What my friends must really think, but keep unsaid. I get a big grin when I think about it. I knew I would eventually think of something to do with them. Now I have it. Here it is, under construction, ugly would be a good way to describe it at this point. But this will be a good picture to do a before and after later this summer. I think the roses I moved today were climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison which went to the horse trailer with Climbing Cecile Bruner and Tausendschon going to the new arbor complex. I went though the old jounals and am pretty sure, but spring blooms, which will be sub-optimal with the transplanting, should still be enough for a positive ID.