Thursday, December 8, 2005

November 19th, 2005 - Slowly started to get this site back into my routine. Have some pictures to put up next week. Damage from the hurricane is slowly coming along. The greenhouse is completely repaired and reassembled, save for one roof panel which is missing. Originally I thought I had found all of the parts, but final reassembly revealed my miscalculation. This panel probably wound up in Bayou Teche so could be anywhere between New Iberia and the Gulf of Mexico by now. I inquired about a replacement from Gardener's Supply Company by email, but have received no response after 2 weeks. Normally their service is good, but this one found the proverbial crack and fell through it, I suppose. I might just replace that panel with an opaque panel (read 1/4" plywood) anyway. The panel faces southwest and heat is always an issue in the summer. Winter is finally peaking around the corner here with a couple of nights recently in the mid 40s. As this is the greenhouse where I over-winter my tropical plants I will have to make a decision soon. I will also take the opportunity to move the little greenhouse.

Still no bull dozer or dirt, but the surveyor came by and put in the stakes to mark the location for the dirt work to begin. It is unlikely I will see any work next week due to Thanksgiving, but hopefully the week after that we will be in business.

Fall, along with the move has also triggered a lot of projects. Back at the old house I have begun digging and potting the last of the plants I want to take with us. I think I finally have all of the crinums, elephant ears, narcissus, and lycoris. Or at least I did think that. Seems like every few days something else starts to come up. Just found a new batch of narcissus and a few more lycoris just came up around the crape myrtle. I also have the ginger up with the exception of the large patch of shampoo ginger by the Grapefruit tree. Shame I have to leave that Grapefruit. Beautiful, but way to large to move. I did buy a new one for New Dawn which will be planted after the house is framed and the exterior work completed.

November 23rd, 2005 - Hurricane Rita tore up the Citrus trees along with a semi-drought. THat stress on my still young trees caused most of the crop to drop last month before the fruit were ripe. Although badly bent the Tangerine Tree held onto its fruit. They are small and definitely tart. Not up to peel by hand and eat, but the do fine being juiced. I had my first fresh glass today. The Moro Blood Orange is exceptionally healthy but produced only two fruit. My Louisiana Sweet Orange has a dozen or so oranges that are still far from ripe. The Variegated Orange, which is really strange hybrid did poorly this year even before the weather, but still holds close to a dozen fruit. All Satsuma fruit dropped, every last one. All of these trees are either young or transplants so next year, barring we don't have a harsh winter, they will begin to come into their own.

After a dry spell, idea and renewed energy for New Dawn's gardens are again flowing. Most of the bulbs have been planted into 4 major areas. Three are bed and the forth is a naturalization effort begun last year. It is getting really hard to describe the different spots over the 3 acres so I have to come up with a naming scheme to describe the various beds and areas. Loquat Ally may be one, which is two large beds with a walk way cutting right through the middle. Each bed today has two Loquat Trees and one fig tree. I have been searching my mind for a plant that was cheap enough for me to afford en masse and also tough enough to out compete the weeds and grasses that I battle all year in those beds. Today, the idea of 4O'Clocks came to mind. I have quite a few and tons of seeds. Once established keeping them in bounds will likely be the issue. Another plus is the smell which, in that quantity, should fill the entire middle gardens from mid summer till frost.

November 25th, 2005 - Lots of work today, mostly in the layout and planning stage. Today, I finally put all of the bulbs in place in The Grate West Bed. Although I did not count them, at least 50 and probably closer to 100 crinum were planted. Odd and ends including some Lycoris Radiate and Daylilies. I usually refer to the Lycoris Radiata as Naked Ladies, but from here on will refer to Lycoris Radiata (lower right) as "Hurricane Lilies and to the Amaryllis Belladona as "Naked Ladies." I have both in the garden, but most are Hurricane Lilies and only a few are Naked Ladies. I have had a time with the later finding them a home which they enjoy. The west bed is now finished. The arbor crosses the walkway between the The Grate East Bed and The Grate West Bed. In the West Bed are basically two Crinum species, one being Milk and Wine (upper left) and the other being Crinum x Ellen Bosanquet (upper right). This pretty much concludes the bulb move for now, although there bulbs seems to constantly be popping up at the old place. A very large patch of Narcissus just popped up and several small patches. I think that I may never get them all, but I guess that is kind of a good thing really. There is so much still to do.

November 26th, 2005 - Finally got a really good slow rain this evening. I don't remember a good rain like this since before Hurricane Katrina. I got very little done today garden wise although I did pop up the bulbs that had newly surface under the pecan tree. I don't think I will ever get them all. Probably found another 50 or so Narcissus bulbs and about the same number of Lycoris Radiata. It will be too wet to get anything done tomorrow so I get to relax, yahoo.

Over the last couple of weeks I have really enjoyed the bird life. The huge flocks of little swallow like birds that swoop in to eat the insects, were around for a couple of weeks on their way to somewhere, but have now continued on their journey. The way they would fly over the bayou less than an inch for the water was awesome. The raptors have been in for a while now. The come in each fall and can be seen on the powerlines lines that border the cane fields. The cane cutting runs the rodents from the field into the ditches between the powerlines and fields making for easy pickings for the raptors, but also means quite a few raptors will fall victim the fronts of cars as the rodents with bird in chase attempt to make it across the road. On the more pleasant side, the high pitch sound of the Mississippi Kite, one of our largest raptors, is very distinct and be heard from a great distance. Sometimes I never do see this very large bird, but I always here them when they are around. Blue Jays and Cardinals popped in and out today. Late in the afternoon a couple of Blue Herons came flying up the bayou and landed on the bank across. A white heron was in the same area early in the days. The north wind tends to drive water towards the Gulf and the resulting low water exposed large mud flats on each side of the bayou which I guess makes for easy pickens for the herons. I could also heard geese somewhere on the bayou, but I never did see them. One of our old neighbors two houses over to the north had geese. He now lives about a half mile to the south on the opposite side of the bayou. I think his geese like to visit their old stomping grounds sometimes. I see them and the Mallard Ducks occasionally, but I hear the geese frequently. I plan to have some of each myself in time and also plan to put in some Wood Duck houses in hopes of attracting them. One bird I have rarely seen are woodpeckers, but since we still don't live at New Dawn perhaps I am just missing them.

November 27th, 2005 - Great rain for about 6 hours yesterday. Nice and slow so it soaked in rather than just running off as harder rains do. Today, as expected is too wet to do much and the winds blowing at 30mph from the south are reeking havoc on a few trees. By tomorrow they will be blowing with the same ferocity from the North as our next cold front arrives. Makes it really tough to get trees and shrubs established due to the stress on the roots. I had just removed the stakes, after two years, from several fruits trees. The came Hurricane Rita and not they are bent over at a 60 degree angle. Now I will have to pull them back straight and re-stake.

Back on the pleasant side, it seems that two of my climbing roses are finally recovering from the Image Herbicide that I applied without reading the label. Cornelia looks good and the little Miniature Red look as good as it has ever looked with a tremendous fall bloom. One nice surprise today came when I was looking over some small pots where I have placed some small Crepe Myrtle seedling. In one pots a foot tall plant had come up, but I didn't know what it was. Cel said it looked like an Avocado. Pushing my finger into the soil revealed that is exactly what it is, but I have no recollection at all of planting the seed in the pot.

Got a little second wind this afternoon. I stood up the Vitex which has been down since Hurricane Rita. Not that it hurt it much as it continued to bloom and didn't lose a hardly a leaf. I think it will do fine. I planted all of those new bulbs I found with exception of one large bunch of Narcissus. I will leave them to bloom in Jeanerette and move later in the spring. I put the racks back into the greenhouse and began moving in plants for the winter. Still have to replace that roof panel, but that operation is done from the outside. I also straightened up one of the sweet olives at the barn. Pruned the Sour Orange tree into a nice form and straitened it up also. Other than a couple of Citrus, the straightening from jobs created Ms. Rita are complete. Now that the house is sited, I am afraid that most all of the Twin Pines plantings must move, again, with exception of the Azalea which leave, and the Poinsettia which will be taken by the first hard freeze. The others will be placed into pots until the home is complete. I sure am glad that plants are fairly tolerant of transplanting. More bulbs are popping up every day both in the naturalization area and under the Mimosa. The rains, and the bulb fertilizer I put down a couple weeks ago should stimulate things quite nicely. Can't wait for the smell of the Narcissus.

November 29th, 2005 - A late appointment in the right direction meant actually seeing New Dawn in the daylight on a weekday. A rare treat. And one that I took advantage of. Stopped by Hebert's Nursery and picked up a FloridaKing Peach to replace the one from Lowe's that didn't make it. I suspect it might not have been suited to this climate. Due to our low chilling hours care must be taken in choosing fruit trees. I also stopped by Iberia Gardens for a load of what they call potting soil, but it is sold by the cubic yard. I also picked up a Fire Spike that makes a purple flower instead of the usual red, which now means that I have one of each. With a new supply of potting soil I dug and potted the last of the Angle's Trumpets in the back. They are primarily whites and pinks, but I don't remember which is which. That one leaves the very large yellow one to be moved, but it is too large to go into a pot and will have to be moved directly along with the large Duranta Repens which sits to its left. Straightened up the last two Citrus trees. I am enjoying the fresh fruit again. The Tangerines are hard to peel and full of seeds so I just juice them in my hand squeeze. Four tangerines, a couple of lemons, and a grapefruit. Don't know what you call that drink, really tangy, but I like that. I don't have near the grapefruit crop that I had last year, but it will still be more than Cel and I can eat in a season. They really need another month to ripen. The only thing remaining that needs a pull back to straight is the Eastern Red Cedar in the front. With the rains, it seems that more Narcissus are popping up every day. It seems that performance in my naturalization area is a bit disappointing, but I really have been able to check on more established groupings to compare. It will be interesting to see how the hardy glads come back as well. I have high hopes for them and will add many more if they do well. With the Aprium coming in January, the only fruit tree left to add with me another Mulberry species. I have one picked out from TyTy Nursery in Georgia, but have yet to order it. That is, if I keep the two pathetic looking apples.

December 4th, 2005 - Now, on the weather side, it appears winter is arriving tonight. Low tomorrow night will be around 35 and predicted low of 33 for Thursday night. The first hard frost will take down most of the great view on the photo to the left. The pair of Cassias in the photo is about 10 feet tall by 20 feet wide. Next to it is a 12 foot tall Ruby Red Grapefruit. The two blend into each other and are quite a site when the Grapefruit begin to turn yellow and the Cassia go into full bloom with their see of yellow. This site goes on for a couple of months. Actually this is early for us to get down this low, but I am certainly ready for the summer weeds to depart. I loaded most of the greenhouse plants today. It will be easy to finish from here. Biggest problem I have is that there is still a roof panel missing which must be corrected tomorrow. I think I have found a source for the corrugated polycarbonate panel in Lafayette. Got to get there tomorrow. Otherwise it will be something like poly sheeting and duct tape. Either way, got to get it done tomorrow.

At right is my new Blue Butterfly Plant. Big changes at New Dawn this week. First, the pad (dirt) has put in for the foundation of the home. Height was added to the natural slope ranging from 20 inches in the front to nearly 3 ft in the back. Standing in the living room to be has a completely changed perspective looking at the bayou from nearly 2 feet higher. It is a change for the better too. The landscape challenges due to this seem a bit overwhelming right now, but I know it will fall into place one the house is closed in and I can see it. I am a bit visualization challenged so I will not see what I need to do until that happens.

This little bed has taken on a great look. Boston Fern surrounding a central mound of Acanthus, with a small Variegated Gardenia in the front. It is delightful combination of shapes and colors. I moved the climbing roses to the proposed spot for the Rose Church. I picked up some wrought iron columns on the side of the road that were being thown away after a remodel. They sat around for a year before I figured out that I could create a structure for the climbing roses. Essentially it will be a 12 foot by 8 foot frame. Later I will put a pitched open roof from the same material in a gable end formation so that is will look like a Church. The old iron cross I found in Pa Joe's garage can be welded on the front peak. Should be pretty cool and finally a place for these poor roses to grow. I am amazed they are still alive after having been moved twice before and never being given something decent to grow on.

December 5th, 2005 - Low's tonight were reforecast down to the lower 30's so I had to get off of it on the greenhouse. Luckily, a local greenhouse manufacturer has some corrugated Lexan sheets in stock. It is a little clearer than the polycarbonate, but not a big deal. It is also slightly thicker, like maybe 5/16ths inch instead of 1/4 inch. That was a problem. I had to beat the edges with a hammer to compress then enough to get it into the grooves. Yes, with a hammer. That stuff is tough. By the end of the day, the panel was replaced, the heater installed, and all plants loaded. Only problem is I can fit into the greenhouse once it was loaded up. The plants back in Jeanerette were also placed into the sunroom there. At this point most things are at an OK spot. Still many things to be moved.

December 8th, 2005 - Finally got over the The Rose Garden Center on the West Bank from New Orleans. They made it through Hurricane Katrina just fine. As a matter of fact, there selection was better than ever. I picked up a few plants of course. In the truck went (3) Strawberry Guava, (2) Pineapple Guava, (1) Cape Honey Suckle, (1) Orange Justica "Justicia spicigera", (1) Cinnamon Ginger "Alpinia Nutans Narrow Leaf", (1) Olive Tree

Other unique items came into possession today. A friend of Cel's just coming back from a visit to Tampa brought her a Reed's Patio Citrus "Orange." This plant was just a few inches tall. Upon closer inspection is was actually two small citrus trees. I separated them and repotted each. Pretty cool. Also, Cel got a small, 1 foot tall living Christmas Tree. Not sure what it is, but we will grow it. Hopefully it will thrive in the gardens someday. And last, one the way home taking the scenic route up Hwy 182 I passed an abandoned homesite. A neat swing caught my eye which I hope to find out how to get ahold of some day. While going to look at it, I spotted a discarded 6 foot tall Norfolk Island Pine laying on its side in the weeds. Certainly not the first plant I have picked up on the side of the road, but probably the largest and best condition. It was doing fine, so probably had not been there too long. Through it in the truck. Can't wait to pamper it a little.

What's up with the weather. Guess this is going to be a cold winter, at least it is starting that way. Some of the plants I bought today are on the tender side, so I decided to look at the weather to plan for the week. It is going to be 34 tonight and 32 tomorrow night. Guess I will have to redress in a few minutes then go out to put the new plants in the sun room. At least the greenhouse is doing fine. I checked on it again today. Looks good. I'll get the batteries back into the temp monitor this weekend so I can keep closer tabs on it, but looks like it will do the job once again after having been resurrected from the pile of debris that Hurricane Rita left.