Friday, December 30, 2005

December 11, 2005 - Not a lot of action today, but I did move 20 to 30 Alstromeria and assorted bulbs into the Escape Under the Oaks West Bed. I did a little marking for some new plants that need to be transplanted which are Rain Trees, Mimosa, and Loquats. It seems that the local Rain Tree is actually a Chinese Rain Tree or Formosan Rain Tree. They are fast growers here and the climate seems to suit them perfectly. As far as I can tell their only natural enemy locally is the hurricane.

December 12, 2005 - Holiday, shopping, warm feelings. That about sums it up. Little things here and there in the garden getting done. Yesterday, I forgot to mention that I did rescue about 10 to 20 Iris' which were moved to the land. Last year, Cel mowed down the Iris beds and let the Saint Augustine grass have its way. Throughout the summer the beds were mown. The grass looks wonderful and I feared that all Iris had been lost. There were many special Iris there. Some real beauties purchased from a nursery near Gonzales years ago. Many that were dug from ditches across South Louisiana including a small native Louisiana Red Iris. Actually it is more like brown. I am carefully watching as the grass has stopped growing and fall rains have brought the Iris that survived back to life. The corms I am finding are small but healthy. I spotted a few more today to get tomorrow. Today, I made two small additions to the flock. One was the second purple flowering Firespike (Odontonema strictum) and the other was is known locally as a Mamou Tree (Erythrina herbacea). Actually my new Mamou Tree, is a one foot tall cutting. Such small tender plants usually meet a bad fate with me, but I will keep trying. It seems Cajun Louisiana always has some interesting stories. Here is one about the Mamou Plant.

"The Mamou Tree - What we Cajuns call la plante Mamou (rarely called un arbe Mamou) is the Coral Tree of the genus Leguminosae which comprises about 100 species. It is native to the tropical regions of the world. The coral tree was probably first called la plante Mamou because they grew abundantly on La Grande Prairie Mamou. Although found throughout Louisiana, and other parts of the southeast United States, early settlers of southwestern Louisiana probably learned of the medicinal properties of the plant from Indian tribes - the Chitamacha, Coushatta, Choctaw, Houma and the supposedly canabalistic Attakapa tribe. I was told years ago that two species of the coral tree grows on the Mamou Prairie. The first specie, Leguminosae of the genus Erythina, grows from six and a half feet to eight and a half feet. The second is the E.herbaacca of the same genus, and grows four to five feet tall, with large clusters of scarlet flowers. Both species are bushy plants, with a strong woody rootstock. Branches are spiny and the leaves are composed of three leathery green leaflets. The large Vermillion flowers (bright red) grow in spikes from mid-summer to mid-fall. The spikes later form pods where the beautiful scarlet seeds are. After the flowers become pods of seed, the branches die after this. The Indians taught the French-speaking people how to boil the red seeds and the roots of the plant to make un the d'Mamou, or sometimes called un sirop d'Mamou. The seeds and roots had to be boiled with water over a hot fire on a wood stove or open fireplace for a long time, stirring it and adding sugar to make the syrupy brew. The finished product was good pour ouvert les narines (to open the nostrils), la congestion de la poitrine (chest congestion), le rhume et la fievre (cold & fever) and other health problems. It worked, and doctors today agree that many of the old herbal remedies were really good. The Indians had also shown the Cajuns and Creoles how to pierce the hard seeds to use as grains a colliers (NECKLACES), bracelets and even chapelets (rosaries). There was a strong superstition among Cajuns that when boiling les grains Mamou for du sirop Mamou an odd number should be used, never an even number. A few years ago, my late aunt, Enis Tate, had a Mamou plant in her back yard, and I gave many people some seeds. Remember reading about the fellow that was called Johnny Appleseed who went around the country planting and donating apple seeds. I WAS A SORT OF Pascal Mamouseed giving and sending des grains Mamou. I remember sending some to a lady in Texas and to Jacqui Michot (sister of Louis Michot) in New Orleans. My friend, Jude Feucht was sort of my adviser and distributor. To grow and cultivate the colorful plant you should choose open soil in a very sunny position and frequent watering is advised in summer. You can propogate by seed after soaking for 24 hours, and germinate using bottom heat. Or you can take cuttings of young shoots with a heel and plant in a sandbox or sandy soil in spring with some bottom heat. But, probably the easiest way to assure success is to take shavings of the roots and plant in sandy soil in late January or early February. Bonne chance! (Reprinted from the Bonnes Nouvelles)

December 17th, 2005 - Well, our traditional wet cool winter seems to have set in. Got a break yesterday, but it has rained constantly since last night. The lows have been manageable in the upper 30 and low 40s. I left the Sunroom plants out of doors. Cool and wet is still better than warm and dry for most of them. The other will just go dormant and need the rest anyway. With low projected near freezing in a few nights they will come in anyway soon enough. The picture on the left shows the rear acre of the gardens near the bayou. The big lump of clay in the foreground is the pad for the house. Since the picture most of the form board have been put into place. The whole area is rapidly becoming one big mud hole. Kind of distressing, but I keep visualizing what it will look like when done. In the rear on the right is the reassembled greenhouse doing its job one more time. One the left the little green lumps on the lawn are the Narcissus coming up where I have been naturalizing them. The first few blooms are beginning to open, but we are still way ahead of the peek bloom. Behind them is the Iron Sugar Kettle. To put things into scale it is actually 6 feet in diameter. The black pots behind the greenhouse are 20" nursery pots holding my poor climbing old garden roses. This is their third move in so many years. I have a new idea which would place them their with the Church idea. I even have a name, "St. Joseph's Church of The New Dawn." The idea might stick, might not.

Well, no gardening today, but is a good day to look at websites and seed catalogs. Was just going through my newly received Park Seed catalog. There a few little things in there I would like to get. Let me slip one more picture in. Here, next to the old garage our Rice Paper Plant bloomed with one of the prettiest blooms I have ever seen on one of these plants. This is right next to where Hurricane Lili destroyed the end of the garage and attached greenhouse.

December 15th, 2005 - Well not much for the log, mostly wet, cool, and my day job. I did get in a Paw Paw Tree that i bought off of ebay. Judging by the root structure of the bare root plant that arrived, I will be amazed if it survives. I essentially has most of one tap root, bent in half, with not a single small or hair root originating from the tap root. Perhaps that is normal for a Paw Paw Tree, but it is sure unusual. I have it heeled in right now and will plant this weekend. I'll say a prayer. I already have one Paw Paw, but read somewhere that is needs to be pollinated by different type. So I figured one from across the country might be dissimilar enough from one propagated locally. Scientific enough, right? Don't hold the laughter I am laughing too. I made a few more impulse plant buys on eBay, really small stuff like bulbs. More rain, and more cool on the way, but it is a great time to plant hardy plants here, much better than spring.

December 18th, 2005 - Well it was another "putter around" day. After a solid day of rain yesterday came a beautiful day today, but everything was far too soggy to get into anything big. I did get a few thing on the to-do list done. From the Twin Pins bed I dug up and potted a Variegated Hibiscus, a Jatropha, and Pride of Barbados. All were fairly small and now reside in the greenhouse. There are many other plants in that area to be dug and potted, but I have not pots big enough. Fortunately I passed a new commercial construction site and in the large trash pile were quite a few really large 20" nursery pots. Hopefully they will still be there tomorrow. Hey, I am not to proud to dig in the trash. I do live on a budget till I win the lottery. Speaking of scrounging, I finally went over to right of way on the side of Hwy 182 where some 24" inch native Magnolia seedlings were growing. I dug them up and potted them. They were just missed by the weed killer this year and surely would have been done in next summer. One came up with a nice root ball and should make it fine. The other came up a little rougher so we will see. There is a third one there and a small Eastern Red Cedar that I will dig up. The last plant item dealt with today was repotting the large Norfolk Pine I picked up from the road side dump.

December 26th, 2005 - As would be expected, didn't do much gardening over the Christmas. My friend did bring me back two Avocado plants "Wilma" variety from Fanick's Nursery in San Antonio. I have a nice protected spot scoped out for one, will have to decide on a spot for the second. I also have a Hass seedling in the greenhouse. Since it seems from reading that the hardy Avocado out there to date are just chance seedlings that demonstrated some cold hardiness I will continue to randomly plant Hass seedlings and hope to get that one in a thousand. Since I love to eat Avocado's the experiment is free anyway. Most plants in the greenhouse as doing OK, but we have had no major cold weather. My parents over in Baton Rouge have had several freezes and low down to 28 one night, while here we have had two light frost with a low of 34-35. All of my plant are back out of the sunroom and onto the patio for at least a week as this mild winter is projected to continue. My Pride of Barbados looks dead again. The one I tried to dig up last year died. This one was much, much smaller, but apparently they really, really don't like to be transplanted. Cel and I took a walk through the gardens today. The newly moved Alstromeria look good. The Schefflera is doing great. The newly planted purple flowered Fire Spikes are doing OK. The American Beauty Berry and the False Indigo need to be moved and the bed reshaped. The Cross Bed needs some slight reshaping to align it with the house.

December 30, 2005 - Mostly work and not much gardening, but for lack of nothing I will put a few items in here. I replace the GardenWeb Message Board Link with the overall link which provides links to several message boards of interest to Gulf Coast Gardeners. I also picked up a new book which I haven't had time to read. I'll give a mini book review later. For now, I am just publishing its availability. I also picked up a new book by our local garden columnist Ann Justice entitled "Ornamental Gardening in Acadiana & the Gulf States: Questions and Answers." This book is simple compilation of the questions and answers from several years of her gardening column in the newspaper. I have read this book. There is quite a bit of unique and hard to find information in this book, particularly as it relates to heirlooms, localized common names, what might be doing well in particular micro climates, plants that should do well here but do, etc. It will certainly be a reference book that I pull off the shelf on a regular basis. Maybe I should get a second copy. Last item up for the night, this message board,, is not specific to the Gulf Coast, but it is fairly easy to pick out item relevant to our zone and of interest.