Friday, December 26, 2008

Better Late than Never?

Today I went out to plant the pansies I got for Christmas. They're beautiful purple ones. I love pansies, what a great way to add some color for the winter!

M. was concerned, though. I planted them in the flagpole bed, and she noticed for the first time that the zinnia was gone (I finally harvested the last of the seeds and pulled it up a few weeks ago). I assured her that by the time these flowers die back in the spring, it will be time to plant our saved seeds.

So I cleaned out the rest of the bed and planted a dozen pansies (I have a dozen more to go in other beds). Cleaning would have been a breeze, if not for the masses of fire ants that have taken up residence (with no hills to give them away!). I decided against spreading ant killer and now and planting later. I was in the mood to garden NOW, and that hasn't happened much lately. So I worked around the ants, and managed to come away with only one sting!

On the way out of the garage to the flower bed I noticed a plain brown paper bag sitting on a shelf. "Oh, no", I thought. I had forgotten all about my bulbs. I bought them in October, dutifully putting them in the fridge for two weeks before planting. But then Mom got sick, and everything happened so fast, and I haven't thought about my gardens in two months. Somewhere along the line they got removed from the fridge - probably to make room for funeral food - and stuffed away on a shelf, forgotten.

I can't even remember what they are, now. I have a box of 6 purple iris rhizomes, labeled, so those were easy. There was a bag with 10 light brown bulbs - I think they're yellow daffodils. Another bag had 4 purple bulbs that smelled slightly of onion for some reason. If I recall those are amaryllis maybe. I remember my friend Dawn was with me when I bought them and she talked me into those even though they were much more expensive. "The smell will make it so worth it!" Two are pink, I think, and two are purple, maybe.

I've been planning since last spring to start some bulbs. My grandmother had such lovely spring gardens full of daffodils and lilies and irises. I'm sure I actually had a plan at some point, probably even when I bought them. Now, I confess I didn't really feel like planting them. I sure couldn't remember any kind of plan. I can't even remember what's what. But I felt obligated to get them in, somewhere.

I put 3 irises around the flagpole, with 4 of the daffodil-ish ones a bit further out. If they grow, those should look really nice when the pansies are gone and the zinnias are not there yet.

The rest, I took into the back garden. I decided to plant all of the "smelly" ones back there where the scent is most likely to be enjoyed. By the time I got to that part of the planting I had really had enough. It was hot outside - we've had record highs all week here, in the upper 70s - plus it was incredibly muggy. I was tired of dodging ants. I didn't want to look at the mess the garden has become after two more months of neglect - still better than last year, but not where it was supposed to be. There were also several large holes made when the kids accidentally locked the dog in the area. Ugh.

Looking around I had no memory of any kind of plan...I just wanted to get back in the house and get a drink of water. So I started digging little holes, all around the water feature, which I have always envisioned with lots of greenery surrounding it. All around and among the other plants are now 4 amaryllis, 3 iris and 6 daffodils. I have no clue what it will look like, how it will all fit together, but as I dug it suddenly seemed fitting to have it all thrown together willy-nilly. Hopefully, if I didn't wait TOO long to plant, they will grow...and by the time Easter comes, there will be new life out there. Easter is the season of new life, and the reminder of everlasting life, and I think it will be especially meaningful to see those willy-nilly plants come of age.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whiteflies

I had to ditch the pretty croton that I had in the sunroom. it had the WORST case of whiteflies that I've ever seen, and it just wasn't worth the risk to me to have them spread. I was also not willing to expend the effort to get rid of them - they were THAT bad, and I was THAT busy, and frankly the plant is just THAT cheap. So, buh-bye, croton. I'll probably replace it - I love them, and it looks so nice in there.

I was in such a hurry to get it out of there that I didn't think to take pictures! Suffice to say I hope I never get the chance to take them again. Yuck.

Now, of course, I wonder where they came from!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Butterflies!

We enjoyed watching 15 - 20 butterflies fluttering around in the zinnias earlier today. This video doesn't come close to doing it justice, but it's still cool!

video

And a few more pictures. I'm loving this little flower bed! I can't wait till next spring to have more!







Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Trumpet Tree

This is an interesting plant I found on sale at the Garden Center this summer. They called it Trumpet Tree. Looking online, it seems like it's probably called "Angel Trumpet". It was so cheap, I bought it, but I was unsure what to do with it so I just put it in a pot. She did tell me to save seeds for next year, and to wrap the pods in pantyhose because they would just explode and let loose when they dry out. So I have 2 dried pods saved for next year. It's a beautiful plant, and I hear it grows like a weed. That could be good or bad - good, because my thumb is not all that green yet. So we'll see!




Closeup of the flower:



Then I walked out the other morning and something had spent the night eating every single leaf off the plant! I knew iut was eaten because there were NO leaves or any kind of waste anywhere around the pot. "It" even ate most of a seed pod! But left the other. Hmm...curious.



The brown you can see there is not a leaf. It's the piece of pantyhose from where I cut off the seed pod. NO TRACE of leaf was left anywhere! Just that lone seed pod!

So I have NO clue what ate my plant. I don't know if it will resprout, but I'll just leave it. Frost will kill it, anyway.

The jury is still out on this one - it's gorgeous, a showpiece. So maybe out front. Weedlike, I think I can handle...stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Giant Zinnia

I wrote this a while back for my other blog:

(August 21, 2008)

In the spring, on impulse, I picked up a packet of mixed flower seeds. Why, I don't know...I've never, ever, even once, had any luck with seeds. Normally they're just an expensive gourmet bird food. Razz But I had the new flagpole surrounded by little plants, and there was a bit of space left, and this variety pack said "Easy Grow! Tolerates Neglect!" Well, that's all I needed to hear. Laughing Once home, I dumped them into the dirt, covered them up, and forgot about them.

The flagpole is in the side yard, and I've been focusing on the back, so I hadn't paid too much attention. I took this picture on July 29, and called it "The Zinnia that will Take Over the World".



This is the same plant, a little over three weeks later.



Yes, I need to mow. Yes, the portulaca isn't quite as neglect-tolerant as advertised. Please ignore those; I'm trying to think of something else for next year. Confused

Here are some kids in front of it for some perspective. The Boy is exactly 48 inches tall, and they are standing on a 2 inch thick stone.



Hubby says the tallest blossom is at 51 inches. The info I found says they grow around 3 feet tall - possibly bigger if treated with "tender care". Wow. I wonder how big it would be if I didn't completely ignore it? Laughing

So I'm saving the seeds. Who knows? I would love to have a row or two of those next year. Cool



By the way - that is the ONLY plant to grow from that entire packet of seeds.

/end part one
____________________________________________

Interestingly, the very next week a storm roared though, I forget the name...the named one before Gustav, I think. It gave us a minimal amount of rain and a pretty stiff wind. The next day I went out and found this:



The thick stem (more like a trunk) of the zinna had split. Three ways! I was sure it was a goner. I cut off all the pretty flowers to put in a vase. May as well enjoy them while I could....and I pulled off the few dried seed pods to save for next year. I started to pull up the remains of the plant, but I left it. I was feeling lazy, and more than a little bit dejected, thinking to myself that nothing lives for long in MY garden.

I forgot about it for a few days. When I finally noticed it, I was amazed! The broken stems had curved back up to meet the sunlight, the buds that were left after I cut the blooms were blooming, new buds had formed. I hadn't touched it, other than to cut the flowers off with a long stem.



Yep! The main parts of the stem are STILL broken. I can't see how they could possibly still sustain life. Look at all those blooms, all those smaller side shoots popping out.

I can't explain it. It seems miraculous to me, because it looks impossible. It seems like there must be a message there, something spiritual maybe...maybe it's that God can take what looks impossible, and do great things with it. God can take something broken, and make of it something beautiful, even while still broken. And then add butterflies and hummingbirds (see header picture) to it for good measure. There must be a message in there somewhere. Cool

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Weed Blocker

I heard about using newspaper for weed blocker a long time ago. I've done it here and there for years, but couldn't remember where I heard it - which caused a few comments from doubters! But I recently found this article, where I learned that I could use cardboard, too! So I've been cleaning out the back garden, and covering it with a nice blanket of newspaper for the winter.

This



turned into this



I'll just let it sit for the winter, adding fallen leaves to the blanket as we rake them. In the spring it will be all ready for planting. I'll have all winter to measure and web-surf and dream of what I want to plant! I do want to plant a few irises this fall. I don't have a lot of money to spend, so that will limit me to a few, plus after reading up on how fast they spread I think a few is a nice start. Maybe a few more for the front beds. Heehee.

I am pulling up most of the weeds first, even though it says I don't have to. For one thing, it's sort of a therapeutic thing at the moment. When I get tired of pulling, as I did this morning, I leave most of it to be smothered. Another reason is that the ground is still very uneven. So in the process of weeding I use the hoe and shovel to smooth it out a bit (which should also help the paper stay put).

I'm very pleased with my progress! :)

I do have some nice boxes I'm reserving for the stubbornest area on the other end of the garden. That is on next week-or-two's list.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hummingbirds

We've had a LOT of hummers this season! I'm not sure what makes this year different from the past but they've been coming steadily and been a great source of entertainment. I've enjoyed sitting out on the patio with a cup of coffee and my camera just waiting to catch them...hard to do with our slow camera but I've been lucky a few times! My current header picture is one I took - that is the zinnia out front. I have more to post later but for now the laptop has a broken fan, and that's where they are.

I think this is the first year we've had to refill feeders before the food had time to spoil! So I was looking up the recipe for the umpteenth time just now and figured it would be a good idea to just post it here.

Artificial nectar:

  • Use one part ordinary white cane sugar dissolved in four parts water.

  • It's not necessary to boil the water. The microorganisms that cause fermentation don't come from the water; they are transported to the feeder on hummingbird bills.

  • Store unused syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

This mixture approximates the average sucrose content (about 21%) of the flowers favored by North American hummingbirds, without being so sweet it attracts too many insects.


The recipe was taken from this site, which has a lot of great info on hummers, plus a really cool video of hummers at the feeders.

Enjoy!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Old post, 9/17/07, Secret Garden

Note: I love looking back on my old posts! I especially love that there has been progress since this was written. I'm so glad I took pictures and recorded my thoughts.

****************************************************

We woke up to some beautiful fall-like weather yesterday morning! So as long as it lasts, my early morning will be spent with coffee on the porch rather than here at the desk. Don't worry, it won't last long - it never does! Rolling Eyes

But it's great while it lasts. I was out in the back yard yesterday and decided to pull a few weeds on my way to do something else, and got completely sidetracked!

The background - our back yard is an odd shape. There's an interesting little area right behind the sunroom, then the shop juts out to separate that area from the main part of the yard where we have the pool, trampoline, shed, vegetable garden, etc. My plan when we bought the house was to make the small area a lovely butterfly garden. I was working on it before the hurricane, and parts of it actually survived! However, in the process of removing the pine tree and rebuilding the fence, what survived Katrina was devastated. The area has been ignored for 2 years, other than the dog digging holes in it. Every once in awhile someone mows a path through the weeds to the gate. I've put working back there on hold while I concentrate in the front porch area, mainly because the pine tree pushed the concrete patio slantwise and it needs to be removed first (lest it all be destroyed again!). The insurance money for that was long ago spent while H was unemployed, and it's not high on the list. So there it sits, a jungle of weeds and mud puddles. Sad

So I passed through yesterday. My plan was actually to mow a path, but it didn't need it too badly and I was lazy, preferring to join the kids in the pool. But I stepped into a small area of the garden where there is still a lemon tree. We had placed a small garden fence there to keep the dog from watering it...LOL. At first glance there was nothing left there but the tree and some elephant ears. Everything was tangled in some kind of vine that seems to have taken over! My initial thought was to kill everything but the tree and start over, so I went in to ruthlessly yank some things out. Once I got the big stuff out, I could cover all but the tree with plastic and kill it off.

But I can't do that! You see, once I started pulling, I found all kinds of treasures down in the weeds. Just like the potted plants from the ruined patio that I couldn't believe were still alive. Everything buried under weeds 2 to 3 feet tall. There are actually lemons on the tree! Lots of lemons! Cool A little creeping plant called "Ragin' Cajun", with gorgeous bright red flowers that attract butterfiles and hummingbirds, is right under the tree where I planted it.


There is an interesting plant my parents brought me from Hawaii - I don't know the name of it. I planted it after the storm; it lived through Katrina forgotten, in the nursery pot next to the house. Didn't even topple over, LOL. It's there and has spread as well.


There's a beautiful fern that apparently grew wild, and a couple of nice shoots of the lantana that was destroyed when the fence was put in.


I couldn't believe it. The beginnings of a great garden, hidden in the weeds and vines, just like in the book! Shocked

So I got into it, and spent a couple of hours back there! Rather than ripping things out as I had planned, I had to be careful not to disturb the good plants. The vines could easily pull lemons off the tree, so I had to cut, untangle, cut, untangle.

I have to admit, it felt great. Garden therapy at its finest. I hope I can get it looking good again. This spot should be far enough from the patio that it isn't harmed when that gets chopped up with a jackhammer. I still won't put effort into finishing yet, but I can get it cleaned up. Cool

So, here are pics! Click on the thumbnail to see it big if you're really interested. Razz

This is a view of the whole little side area where I worked. You can barely see the tree! Shocked


The tree tangled in vines


Lemons on the tree. I counted 10, which is a lot for this tiny tree! I can use them in my Mulligans. Wink


You can't really tell how BIG this pile of pulled weeds/vines is. Just trust me. Rolling Eyes


This is the outside corner by the roses. Shocked


That used to look like this:




This is what the dog has done by the sidewalk:


View of the cockeyed patio and remains of the pine tree stump from both sides:

The archway trellis was an anniversary gift and will be used as a divider between the garden and the rest of the yard when we finally get to work.
(This one was right after the stump was removed)


Another view of the side garden


Found these under the weeds near the roses. It's vinca vine.


A surprise lantana by the roses. I don't want it there so I'll probably remove it, though I hate to! Laughing


Vine covered roses


Yep, they sure do need a trim. Shocked


Ick. Not looking forward to this. Sad


The possibility is what motivates me.